The Palestinian Arab refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon that was destroyed during four months of fighting between Palestinian jihadists and the Lebanese army would cost $385 million to rebuild. Alternatively, beginning to reinstitute the rights of a much-abused Lebanon would cost nothing.
Instead of rebuilding the house these Palestinians destroyed — as the United Nations is already agitating to do — another choice is to raze what's left to the ground, return the land to its rightful Lebanese owners as compensation, and, most important, begin rolling back an appalling transgression on the sovereignty of Lebanon that, with the conniving of the world community, has gone on far too long.
Under a bizarre agreement worked out by the League of Arab States, for nearly three decades hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arab refugees have lived in camps inside Lebanon where, by law, neither the Lebanese army nor the Lebanese state have jurisdiction of any kind. These "guests of Lebanon," as Arabs so fondly call them, are free to come and go with weapons, to train as guerrillas, and to use their dwellings as sanctuary for legal or illegal acts — no questions asked.
No other Arab country has ever agreed to such terms of shelter. Certainly not Jordan, which has nearly 1 million Palestinian Arab refugees, nor Syria, which is harboring tens of thousands. The secret police mandate runs wide and deep for Palestinian Arab encampments in those two countries. Indeed, back in September 1970, the late King Hussein of Jordan spent nearly a year disarming the camps in his country by burning them down— and won universal Arab applause for doing so.
The late, unlamented Yasser Arafat was undeterred when he fled to Lebanon, from which he once used the camps to stock arms, indoctrinate his people in terrorism, and, eventually, wage war on Lebanon and Israel — until he was kicked out and forced to move to Tunisia.
Yet in the face of such Palestinian Arab irresponsibility — and of a 15-year Lebanese civil war largely provoked by its Palestinians — the rest of the Arab world has insisted that Lebanon remains an exception to the rule of sovereignty.
The mayhem at Nahr el-Bared (which translates into "Cold River"), which cost the lives of more than 250 innocent civilians and Lebanese soldiers, as well as paralyzing a thriving tourist industry and the economy of the northern city of Tripoli, was only the best known of many episodes. It was also a replay of the same sense of entitlement. One would think it would be enough, as far as exploiting Lebanon goes.
What seems to make more sense is taking away the Palestinian Arabs' "toys" — their weapons and ability to run indoctrination centers in Lebanon — and simply have one camp fewer. The camp's land should be turned over to Tripoli's merchant and tourist industries, both of which lost tens of millions of dollars while the Palestinians were having their shooting party.
But there's more to the Cold River episode that speaks to its exploitation by fellow Arabs. During this bloody chapter, the camp was taken over by jihadists who included, among others, Saudis, Iraqis, Syrians, and Jordanians, in addition to Palestinian Arabs. It was left to Lebanon to clean up the mess and pay the price for petty internecine Arab skirmishing on other people's lands.
According to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the camp, which is situated 10 miles north of Tripoli near the coastal road, had a population of 31,023 that since 1950 was largely provided for by the United Nations, primarily its members from the West. These residents have now been resettled in other camps.
Clearly none of the mayhem perpetrated at Cold River advanced any legitimate progress toward an independent and peaceful Palestinian Arab state, or the welfare or the good of those dwelling inside those camps.
The nearly $400 million in new Western funds now being called for to rebuild and return to the previous status quo should be diverted into an effort that includes disarming all the Palestinian Arab camps of Lebanon, putting police patrols in them, and introducing intensive training on the civil rights due the Lebanese on their lands.
Especially from those they are kindly hosting.