February 24, 2009

Lebanon's Palestinian Camps: Problem, Discussion, Recommendations

I feel bad for posting on top of Charlie's rather amusing State Department transcript (see below), but Crisis Group has a must-read report on Lebanon's Palestinian camps:

Palestinian camps are another instrument in the regional tug of war. For the West and its Lebanese allies who currently hold power, challenging the status quo in the camps is one way of advancing both Lebanon’s sovereignty and the cause of disarming all groups, Hizbollah included. The internal Palestinian conflict opposing Fatah and Hamas also manifests itself in the camps. For Syria, some of the Palestinian armed groups are cards to be used both in the context of negotiations with Israel and as allies on the Lebanese domestic scene. Finally, the spread of militant Islamist groups within the camps suggests they are becoming recruiting grounds for international jihadist movements.

The trick here, of course, is in the recommendations. (The report mentions tawtin -- a word virtually guaranteed to cause panic in some circles in Lebanon, especially in the run-up to June elections.) But the person I assume to be the lead author of the report, Sandrine Gamblin, is the author of an influential Crisis Group report on the Sinai that provided much-needed nuance on the terror attacks that have crippled Egypt's tourism industry. So without passing judgment on the policy recommendations put forth at the beginning and end of the document, I'll just say that this report is worth your time if only for the discussion of the problem.