Hidden History: Life Inside a Palestinian Refugee Camp

Seven Days in Beirut

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

Al Jazeera has been running an excellent series of documentaries about the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. Seven Days in Beirut is about a British-Italian journalist who spends a week in the Burj Barajneh refugee camp in southern Lebanon. Many Palestinians who were evicted from their homes by Zionist paramilitary forces in 1948 are in permanent limbo in crowded Lebanese refugee camps.

The family the journalist stays with have lived in the camp, which has the appearance of a overcrowded favela or slum, ever since they were forced to flee Palestine in 1948.

Because Lebanon refuses to grant citizenship to the 18,000 Palestinian refugees who live in the camp, they can’t own land outside the refugee camp, work in the professions they have trained for (medicine, nursing, education, etc) or receive free health care and education guaranteed Lebanese citizens.

Electricity is delivered to their tenements via low hanging tangles of power cables that pose a constant danger of electrocution. Finding work is extremely difficult, and residents support themselves by working in shops and cafes, working as cleaners and singing at weddings.

There is one medical clinic (funded by the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees)*  serving 25,000 Palestinian and Syrian refugees. However residents must make advance cash payment ($US 7,000) if they require hospitalization.

The UNRWA also funds a school inside the camp for children.

All the refugees interviewed for the film believe they will eventually return to their homes in Palestine. They place great store in education to prepare their children for this day.


*The future of UNRWA, which relied heavily on US funding, is very uncertain since Trump discontinued it a few weeks ago.