Solidarity Movement for Free Palestine Work in Lebanon
Author: Katie Leslie
Date: October 2016
[In late 2013, some of the Palestinian leadership of ISM in Palestine created their own nonviolent resistance organization on the same model, calling it the Solidarity Movement for Free Palestine (SFP). We at NorCal ISM decided to support both groups, which we have been doing ever since. The Israeli government came down hard on the new group, so a lot of our support in Palestine has consisted of paying fines and legal help for imprisoned leaders. But this is not the only support that we have given, as you will see below.]
In early June an international volunteer of the SFP visited the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to show solidarity with the refugees of Palestine. The visit included touring the medical facilities built and run by the Palestinian population of the camps and learning about the vital role they have played in securing dignity for the residents during their exile, awaiting their return home to Palestine.
With help from NorCal ISM, SFP provided funds over the summer to the Nahr al-Bared maternity hospital project
Home to nearly 750,000 Palestinians, victims of the 1948 Nakba (‘Catastrophe’ in English) and their descendants, the tragedy but steadfastness of the Palestinian people of the Lebanese refugee camps endures. Nahr al-Bared camp exemplifies this more than many. Home to over 30,000 Palestinian refugees it was the scene of one of the latest examples of the continuing Nakba Palestinian refugees face in Lebanon.
In 2007 the camp came under siege by the Lebanese Army, whose stated goal was to end its use as a base by Islamic extremists. The Palestinian population was subject to continuous weeks of bombardment until camp leaders were able to secure the safe passage of the residents out of the camp. The Lebanese Army then demolished the camp. However, many of the residents state that the extremists were in fact given safe passage to Syria before the outbreak of the Syrian war.
Upon returning to the camp the residents found it completely demolished. Since then their steadfastness has been inspiring. Unlike the massacres and demolitions that occurred in the 1970s such as Tel al-Zaatar camp, the residents were able to rebuild the camp, in the face of Apartheid Israeli pressure on the UN not to rebuild. This aligns with Apartheid Israel’s continuous policy to try and disenfranchise Palestinian refugees of their refugee status, and therefore their international right of return.
Since then the rebuilding of the camp has been mired in bureaucracy and delays, including withholding funding by international donors at the suspected behest of Apartheid Israel. Nevertheless, the maternity hospital is a beacon of hope and resilience. Built by the refugees themselves, the hospital, when it is finished, will span 3 floors and provide vital antenatal and emergency maternity services for the women of the camp, a service that would have previously them to take the one and only ambulance for over an hour to the local Lebanese hospital, through several Lebanese Army checkpoints.
With help from NorCal ISM and other donations, SFP provided funds over the summer to the Nahr al-Bared maternity hospital project, and continues to support other projects in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, including the Social Development Centre at Ain el-Hilweh camp, which teaches skills to children and adults. The Centre supports the entire community, including the thousands of Syrian refugees to whom Palestinian refugees have opened their doors.
SFP welcomes your support, either directly or via NorCal ISM, toward our activities in both occupied Palestine and Lebanon. In both cases you can send your check to the same address. You can also donate on line at solidaritymovementsfp.wordpress.com. If you would like to make a donation specifically for Nahr al-Bared maternity hospital please mark your donation “Nahr al-Bared Hospital”.
Katie Leslie is a Trade Unionist and activist from the UK that has participated in local led direct action and strikes in Palestine and across the Middle East.