Lebanese-Australian Maria El-Hasrouny writes in a local Australian newspaper about how she came to Australia over 15 years ago.
It is an interesting story with a good ending, but it is some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it parts worth pointing out.
We were among the lucky families who had a good reputable family member who signed off on our papers for our migrations.
We came from Lebanon.
My father was a soldier in the army in a territory which belonged to the Lebanese government but which was occupied by the Israeli army.
It was a conflict zone and we had to flee.
We had three choices: go back to Lebanon from which we’d fled, stay in Israel where we were recognised as refugees (being put up in provided hotels) or start the process to migrate to Australia where my uncle and his family were living.
Back in Lebanon we faced being beheaded or being jailed.
In 2002 after two long years we were accepted by Australia and in July that year we stepped foot into this wonderful country.
Besides being a reminder of the barbarity of our neighbors, this also shows how Israel took in Lebanese refugees associated with the pro-Israel South Lebanon Army, in a display of gratitude (even though the SLA believed Israel betrayed them by pulling out of Lebanon in 2000). Even the New York Times conceded Israel’s “generous support.”
Their hope, and Israel’s, is that most of them will eventually be accepted as immigrants by Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden or the United States, or a handful of other countries with large Lebanese communities. So far, though, only about 400 of the refugees have obtained visas and moved on, while the rest remain in limbo in Israel.
It is a situation replete with difficulties for the militiamen, and for Israel, as their alliance in Lebanon runs into underlying realities that always dogged ties between them.
For one thing, Israel, despite the generous support it has offered so far, is not a natural long-term home for refugees who are at once Maronite Christians and Arabs.
Of course, not all these refugees left for Australia and other countries; some stayed in Israel and prospered. And while these examples are of course nor indicative of the experience of every Lebanese refugee in Israel, it provides another example of 1) Israel’s efforts to do the right thing 2) the ridiculousness of claims Israel is an apartheid state or somehow wants a “Jews-only” state.
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