In the southern neighborhoods of Beirut, far from the highways and glass towers that compose this cosmopolitan Mediterranean city’s downtown, sits the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila. The camp is a towering complex of dilapidated apartment buildings, their concrete sides marred by bullet holes and mortar scars that speak to the decades of conflict the Palestinian people have endured.
Unlike in the Lebanese neighborhoods just beyond the refugee camps, the roads between apartment buildings here are only a few feet wide. This is because the street layout reflects the same paths that led between the tents when they were set down in 1948, when more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees were forced to flee their homeland and many found what should have been temporary housing in Lebanon. Most of the refugees expected to return soon to their homes in what is now Israel, a right guaranteed them under international law and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. Instead, they have lived nearly 64 years in a seemingly permanent state of poverty and dispossession, awaiting the day their right to return to their homes will be granted.