The Guardian’s G2 feature today is on the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. It is not a great piece, but worth a look. It comes in light of the fighting taking place between the Lebanese army, which has the backing of the UN Security council, and the Fatah al Islam militants in the country’s refugee camps.
Its main flaw is that it states the problem very early on, but then proceeds to ignore it completely.
In many respects, Ain al-Hilweh and other camps are the microcosm of a failed Arab state and its anger and politics: packed, crowded, frustrated, hot-housed and surrounded by guards. They reflect the politicisation, the Islamisation and the radicalisation of Arab youth all over the Middle East. Their inhabitants are oppressed and kept poor by badly managed and corrupt regimes; they are hemmed in by visa restrictions and borders that are almost impossible to cross.
After this the feature moves quickly on without any examination of these “badly managed and corrupt regimes” who you would think after decades actually want to keep these people in these camps. That can’t possibly be true.
The piece gives us more tales of the jihadis and their exploits. Yawn. Before descending (unintentionally, I think) into a ‘Life of Brian’ style comedy commentary on the different factions and how they operate.
A few metres down the main road there is the military HQ of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Marxist militant group that was responsible for spectacular attacks in the 1970s, such as the Leila Khaled hijacking of an El Al plane.
“It’s so easy to form a faction and a militia here,” he says. “We are poor, our parties are not paying us, we can’t leave here and we can’t travel, so if someone pays a young kid $500 a month, of course he will join any movement. Most of those jihadis were once fighters with us and other Palestinian factions.
“If you come to me and give me a $100,000, I will split from the PFLP and form the PFLP: Believers’ Army. It’s so easy.”
Small joke aside, the Arab world while it protests and proclaims the Palestinian cause, does very to help these people when it comes down to it.