Tunis extends nationality to 34 Palestinians; experts say it will help in struggle for right of return and self-determination
Tunisian President Kais Saied signed a presidential order this week offering citizenship to 135 people from Arab and African countries, including 34 Palestinians. He noted that Tunisian law permits dual citizenship.
A source in the Presidency said that Monday’s grant of citizenship to the Palestinians “comes within the framework of the president’s keenness to support the Palestinian cause and doesn’t violate the Palestinian right of return,” state radio in Tunis reported.
Mahmoud al-Aloul, vice chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization − the dominant faction in the Palestinian Authority − stressed to The Media Line that Palestinians through history had used numerous means to facilitate their movement and go about their lives. “They used passports from many countries in this context,” he said.
Aloul affirmed that the Palestinian leadership had reviewed the issue of the naturalization of Palestinians in other countries, and considered it a tool to facilitate their lives there. “It has never and will never affect the association of Palestinians with their land and homeland,” he added.
“Their homeland and legitimate rights have always been a priority for all Palestinians, regardless of nationalities and passports given to them,” Aloul said.
Nizar al-Makan, a political analyst and instructor at the Institute of Press and Information Sciences in Tunis, told The Media Line that Palestinians acquiring Tunisian nationality did not mean that they could not obtain Palestinian nationality as well.
“On the contrary, granting Palestinians Tunisian nationality comes to help and enable them. Tunisian nationality is an acquired right for them, as some of them are married to Tunisians and have kids, not to mention those who came in the ‘80s and worked in the country for over 30 years,” he said.
He added that the dual nationality helped Palestinians living abroad to settle down with their families, and empowered them to continue their struggle to achieve a just solution to their cause, including their right of return and establishing an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to fighting the so-called deal of the century proposal published by the US in January.
“The Palestinians case isn’t subject to a statute of limitations; obtaining a nationality doesn’t mean that Palestinians have lost their rights to their nationality and the right of return,” Makan said.
Oraib Rintawi, a Jordanian writer and political analyst, told The Media Line that there was no need for Palestinians in the diaspora to live in misery and in isolated camps like in Lebanon in order to demonstrate their determination to exercise their right of return.
“Most of the people who are [active in] demanding their right of return are Palestinians in the US and Europe, as their finances and living conditions are good and they carry nationalities of key countries, where they can fully exercise their rights as citizens,” he said.
Rintawi said that the narrative that viewed the naturalization of Palestinians as a mechanism to get them to forget about their cause and their rights had been proved wrong. “It was used to justify the permanent neglect of Palestinians abroad and in the diaspora,” he said.
Each country had had the right to decide whether it would grant citizenship to Palestinians, he said, but what was unacceptable was to impose restrictions on these people in terms of work, travel, education, health, residency and other important matters.
“Take for example Lebanon: It has issued Palestinians special documents to maintain their original nationality, but Beirut should have kept the door open for these Palestinians to exercise their basic rights, excluding the right to vote,” Rintawi continued. “I understand the sensitivity of the naturalization issue, but that doesn’t justify racial and discriminatory treatment, which is completely rejected.”
Mideast activists and analysts indicated that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were still treated like outsiders, despite their presence in the country since 1948, when they fled their homes in historic Palestine during the establishment of the State of Israel in what is known to the Palestinians as the Nakba (“the Catastrophe”).
Last year, thousands of demonstrators from the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon took to the streets of the capital Beirut, to denounce moves by the Lebanese labor minister against “illegal foreign labor,” after a series of inspections across the country led refugees to lose their jobs and their only sources of income. In early June 2019, the minister gave business owners one month to obtain work permits for any non-Lebanese working illegally in the country, including the Palestinian refugees.
Additionally, Rintawi pointed out that the Tunisian step came within the framework of the North African country’s implementation of a human rights regime, which it had fully adopted after its December 2010-January 2011 Jasmine Revolution.
“I’m confident that the step didn’t aim to have Palestinians forget their legitimate rights of return and self-determination, but to help them achieve them, as when Palestinians are able to live comfortable lives, they can continue their struggle to achieve their political goals,” he said.