Apartheid Wall in Ain al-Hilweh

Written by Ashraf Yazbeck.

Translated by Omar Abbas.

A wall that separates the bodies of roughly one hundred thousand refugees in Ain al-Hilweh. That is the only thing that was missing to complete the dramatic spectacle. And that is indeed what the experts of the intelligence and security branches came up with to “solve the camp’s crisis,” as they say. In addition to the checkpoints, the mistreatment, the deprivation of refugees’ economic and civil rights, and the corruption of the UNRWA, the military leadership have come to us to announce its intention to erect a wall roughly five meters in height, encircling the camp in the aim of terminating the entry and exit of those wanted by the state and to pressure parties to turn them in or settle their legal status. And it is, what a coincidence, the same justifications Israel peddles for constructing its own apartheid wall “to prevent infiltration by Palestinian fighters” from the West Bank in 2002. In both cases, building a wall to isolate residents needs a strong ideological justification, and there is no stronger argument under neoliberalism than the “War on Terror,” to justify these most regressive and racist of projects.

This desperate justification that the army has given us inaugurates the era of the new republic with the election of the ‘orange’ president, Michel Aoun – not Donald Trump – reinforcing the constant in Lebanese politics that set out to, through its exclusionary tools, produce marginalized social groups outside the law, stripped of any rights, and ruled exclusively through repression. There is no doubt that there is someone inside the Lebanese administration insisting on trying what has repeatedly failed. History has shown us that isolator walls have never succeeded in “isolating terrorism,” and no “War on Terror” has produced anything but the rise of fascism and militarization and the reinforcement of the rule of authoritarian regimes.

As for the Palestinian factions, they are up to their noses in collusion and involvement with the sectarian and racist Lebanese regime and its oppressive apparatuses, in harassing the residents of Ain al-Hilweh and legitimizing the dominant narrative on terrorism. They are partners in the oppression of Palestinians and will do all that serves to consolidate control over the Camp even if that were in the form of an apartheid wall. These factions, the leftist ones included, play the same authoritarian role in the Camp as the sectarian parties outside of it. The latest clashes in the Camp which lead to the death of five and the injuring of tens between Fatah and the Hezbollah-supported Lebanese Resistance Brigades on one side, and the Islamist League of Partisans and other Islamists on the other, in addition to the clashes that occurred in Miye ou Miye Camp and lead to the death of two at the hands of the also Hezbollah-supported Ansar Allah, came as evidence of the collusion between these factions and the Lebanese security agencies and political parties to set these events within a general context that serves the regime in reinforcing its racist policies.

The Lebanese media comes to complete this systematic racist policy, as it always promotes the Camp as a black hole of terrorism and terrorists, as if Lebanese villages are calm and not losing their youth due to the war in Syria.

Lately, the factions entered into a negotiation with the military leadership to stop the construction of the wall after the major objections that caused the Camp’s residents to go out to the streets and raise their voices, and indeed the construction has been stopped until the factions can offer the Lebanese Armed Forces a “radical” and “final” solution to the case of those wanted, as if the wall would prevent the smuggling of fighters and weapons that enter under the eye of the checkpoints that bullies all residents but those that are wanted.

Let us ask here who in reality is practicing terror? The residents of the Camp or those responsible for the destruction of Nahr al-Bared and insistent on forcing an apartheid wall? Those who are suffering from humiliating torture in the basements of intelligence centers and the Ministry of Defense or those who pass their political deals by creating security accidents? The women who are harassed at security checkpoints or those who set them up?

Many of these questions and others are evident on the depressed faces of the Camp’s residents and on the faces of the unemployed and the distressed, and those upon whose jaws the Lebanese regime and the factions have clamped down. Nothing remains for them but to resist the status quo or to flee it. No life remains for them but in patience that may manifest into a volcano erupting in the face of the ruling class and the factions. The migration boats cannot fit all.

The project to build a wall to surround Ain al-Hilweh is a continuation of the path being followed by the Lebanese state in trying to erase the poor, both Lebanese and Palestinian, behind walls. Ain al-Hilweh wall will not be the first, but it will not pass this time, if its construction is resumed, silently and without objection. The campaign written on the walls of one of the camps remains the loudest, until now, in the face of the entirety of the ruling class, and all factions, and all intelligence agencies, and all parties: “Don’t speak of the Camp while you are afraid to enter it.”