3But I wonder if they realise the full extent of the suffering they cause. One example willperhaps make my point. In time it begins in 1948; it came to my attention in 1965 when Iwas at the Jordanian Embassy in Cairo and its end, as known to me for perhaps it stillcontinues, comes in 1967. As I opened the window of my office one day in 1965 1 saw a car draw upoutside. Hurriedly, an old man clothed in a long Arab dress with his head covered by akuffiyah stepped out. I saw him rushing towards my office. Depsite the heavy burden ofage he ascended the winding stairs of the building with astonishing agility, lie entered theoffice and emotional threw himself at my feet. I found he was crying, with tears fallingon his long thick silver heard. I felt perplexed and overwhelmed by this dignified manwith tears flowing from his eyes. His look was that of a distracted heart-broken humanbeing, lost in a world full of cruelty and pain. I began by calming him. He started telling me a tragic story. In the next hour I heard a tale which filled mewith diverse emotion: sometimes calm, sometimes
The Massacre of Kufr Kasim and the Shooting in Bedrusrebellious. His name, he told me, was Ahu Falah. He said: “My tale opens at the momentPalestine was lost on 15th of May 1948. The area around my village. El-Sheikh Muannis,was occupied. Words reached us of savagery, assaults on women, and the murder ofchildren. We panicked. Our tribe started to move out. Evacuating the women and thechildren was our first duty. “It was fated that my pregnant wife should at that moment give birth to a girl,Alia, My wife died a few hours later. I was lost in a whirlpool of tragedies. My wife musthe quickly buried in her birthplace. The child in the cradle was in immediate need ofnursing. There were also other children awaiting departure. And there I was standing indespair. not knowing where to start and how to find a solution. What to do? Where to go?My mind was going round in a vicious circle. “My neighbour. an Egyptian Haj Husein, who used to come annually during theorange season and live on my land free, while in search of a livelihood, came and said:„Do not worry. Attend to the burial of your wife and give the child to me. My wife willcare for her and consider her as her own child, for she is mother to another nursinginfant.‟ “He then repeated: „do not despair. Do not be sad. God is bountiful. Yourkindnesses toward me have been many. I assure you that Alia will receive the best of careand supervision. Whatsoever God wills for us will be for her, too. Now go. God be withyou.‟ “I kissed Alia who was wrapped in a half-metre of black cloth, and gave her tohim, “A few hours later, pressure had increased. Word of murder, torture, and terrorismfound its way to us. We escaped and scattered. Later saw me in the refugee camp inNablus. No more than three days had passed since my wife‟s death, but I knew absolutelynothing of where my daughter Alia had ended up. “For years I lived the life of the tents, of humiliation and of need. I awaited newsof Alia, my daughter. Where was she‟? How was she‟? I would wake up at night and talkof my woe to the stars scattered in the skies. I would ask in the night‟s darkness: Whereare you. Alia? And how are you Alia?‟ And I would talk to myself in the darkness ofmany things. I would end up by saying that one place could reunite me. my village ofSheikh Muannis. There we had parted and there we would sometime meet again. “Our stay away from our homeland was prolonged, our return delayed. Mydaughter Alia was growing up in a world I knew not. I was lost not knowing where toturn. I knew, of course, that she was
Years of No Decisionwith the Egyptian family somewhere in the Sinai desert. I therefore spread word amongall those leaving for the Gaza area, adjacent to Sinai, to enquire about my daughter. “Finally, after fifteen years, a refugee came to inform me that my daughter Aliawas in Egypt living in a farm called Axe in Mansoura. He told me that he had met heradopted father in one of the cotton fields, lie had seen her there collecting cotton withsome other refugees who had come to earn their bread, just as Ilaj Husein, the Egyptianstep-father, used to do in the orange groves of my own beautiful country. I found myselfjumping to my feet joyfully embracing this herald of good tidings. “I collected my clothes and took a little money from my son, then a soldier on thebattlefield, and prepared to leave for Egypt. Suddenly, however. I found myself in adilemma. The relations between two countries in one Arab homeland did not allow travel.The journey must he postponed. I then considered authorizing someone to bring the girlto me. I thought that it was that easy. “I sent a proxy to a relative of mine. After receiving permission to cross theborders and to overcome impediments, he made use of the police, and my daughter wasbrought to him under police protection. It disturbed her that her first contact with herfather should he through police and security forces. She pictured her father as a merciless,cruel man who knew no affection. Immediately upon her arrival at the police station shedeclared that she had no other father hut her adopted one, and that she wanted nosubstitute for him. Being mature now, Alia was given freedom of choice. The policeescorted her „back to the farm in Mansoura. “The news of her rejection of her true father reached me and my unhappinessincreased. Sorrows, memories, and despair again shared my life. Again I started living inan atmosphere of pain, amidst the fears and regrets of the past. 1 would look up at thesky‟s justice and say: my wife lost her life, my daughter Alia has denounced me anddecided not to return”. Thus the cruelty of fate had it appeared snatched my land, wife,daughter and all I owned in the world from me.“1 realized that the only chance left was to try again, hut this time by myself. PerhapsGod would will success for me. But this trial needed travel, and travel was tied up by thechange in relationship between two Arab countries in the one homeland. “The days passed and the impact of my disaster increased. 1 would wake up eachmorning to listen to the news broadcast from Cairo and Amman. I would walk around thecamp. Whenever I found a refugee reading a newspaper I would stop and beg him in
The Massacre of Kufr Kasim and the Shooting in Bedrusthe name of God and His greatness to read me what news there was of the relationsbetween the country I was staying in and the country my daughter Alia was in. “Two whole years passed and at long last the first rays of hope began to appear.Things eased between the two Arab countries. I came to Cairo and here I am before you.This is my story. Here is my daughter‟s address. I plead with you, help me for I cannotsojourn here too long. I only have limited funds and do not want to be a burden toanyone. God has deprived me of everything hut my pride. You would not want to denyme this and let me lose my self-respect at this advanced age. I beg you.”This is a literal translation of what the old man. Ahu Falah told me. His story pained me. When the next morning started drawing its first breath, 1 was with this virtuousman driving quickly to Mansoura. In my pocket I was carrying a letter from the EgyptianMinistry of Interior to the authorities in Mansoura to facilitate my mission. The authorities sent for Alia. They were careful to he especially nice to her. Hours passed. We kept waiting. Every time a girl came by, Ahu Falah, Alia‟sfather, would jump to greet her, then say, “this cannot he my daughter!”. Later Aliaarrived and immediately her father recognized her. how. I did not know. Maybe it was the “call of blood” as we Arabs say. She did not recognize him. Herfather broke down crying when he saw her. She rejected him and refused the relationship.She declared that she did not know or want him — he had on the previous occasion sentpolice with rifles to fetch her, she had on that occasion spent several hours among womenof had reputation. The old man‟s tears increased. It distressed him that Alia knew nothing of his ownstory.Alia said: “If you are in truth my father, why did you not seek me previously? Why didyou remain silent for seventeen years before remembering me? Was it because I am nowgrown up and can be of help to you that you now came? No, I do not want you.” Slowly the local Mansoura police officer, a kind and experienced man, familiarwith the peasant‟s mentality, began explaining to Alia what had happened — thesuffering her father had gone through, the long tiresome days, the restlessness, hissleepless nights and his agony. I, too, started telling her of the disaster, of thecircumstances and of her share in it all. I reassured her that she would not be taken byforce or be abducted as she imagined. I told her that I would
Years of No Decision protect her against any violence — the police would not interfere save for her own good. Her father and 1 would not take her except following her full consent and positive willingness, and only after a written guarantee and commitment to secure her safety had been obtained. This calmed the girl tremendously. Then came Haj Husein, the Egyptian step father‟, lie was no longer able to walk without the help of a long stick cut from a branch of an olive tree. He wore a white gallabiyya, his head covered with a woollen cap wrapped in a scarf made of smooth, translucent cotton. He had a long mustache and a short beard. The years had disabled and weakened him; the needs and requirements of life had broken him! His eyesight had become weak, lie could see hut little, he whispered in my ear that he was Alia‟s adopted father. I thanked him for all what he did for Alia. He smiled and said: “Alia is now everything to us. It is she that cares for me, an old and disabled man. She also cares for my wife who nursed her and brought her up. She is the organiser of our life and the one that waits on our comfort. You can see what pain her departure would cause us after she has grown up and matured among us, after we have learned to depend only upon God and her. But despite all this, she is, after all, the trust left in our hands, after the Zionists had displaced her father, the Palestinian Abu Falah. Today she is as my own flesh, blood and honour. She is a trust for whose protection I would give my life. I would not give her up for anything. Every year 1, myself an old and disabled man, would journey to Cairo to renew her permit of residence, for she is a Palestinian. I would save piasters all year round to cover the expenses of the journey and for payment of the fees. I would go through these difficulties, and I am such an old man as you see before you, for no other reason hut to protect her real name and nationality for I expected a day such as this one. 11cr father, Abu Falah, is a kind man; he was generous to me in Palestine in the old days and treated me well. What is the reward for kindness hut kindness? I am happy and joyous for seeing him hut nonetheless I am sad and I feel the whole world with its horizons is closing in on me because Alia‟s departure is now obvious. My one request however is that you should not take the girl against her will. Let her father live with us for two or three weeks. His daughter will see him daily and will grow accustomed to him. He could give her clothing for the Bairam feast, and fatherly presents. Then he should leave and start corresponding with her. She will get used to him and her fear will soften. I guarantee success and God be with you.” I was impressed with this wise Egyptian. He was rather slow of
The Massacre of Kufr Kasim and the Shooting in Bedrusspeech, but had the wisdom of the old. Abu Falah lived with his daughter for a few days,then returned to his own camp, leaving the girl behind. I would take the girl‟s cousin tothe farm in Mansoura once in a while till Alia realised the truth of her situation andstopped asking difficult questions. Strangely enough, this girl, though illiterate, wasworrying all the time that she, her absent father and the whole refugee camp he lived inwould be thrown in the arms of Israeli occupation. She was the victim of fear all the time.Later, she started asking about her real father. She began to miss him. Finally, she askedthat Abu Falah should come back to take her to the camps of the „returning‟. Many other developments added to the complications and I need not mention themhere — problems of identity, passport, visa, departure etc., but suffice to say that AbuFalah came and took his daughter back to the Palestinian camp. Haj Husein refused toaccept any money for the maintenance of Alia all this time. His only request was thatAlia should come and visit them every year during the Bairam. The father promised HajHusein that Alia would come to him during the feast each year. I also assured Haj Huseinthat I would see to it that the promise would he fulfilled. The day that Alia departed was a kind of feast for the little village of Mansourawith mixed feelings to its people. All rose crying together, then singing, and thenlaughing at one another. With sunlight beating down on them, their sad sweet and purevoices cried:“Good-bye Alia, God be with you, Alia, go with peace, Alia, remember us, Alia!” Themayor and the Chief of the Ghafar (the village police), came out, expressing words ofcongratulation and phrases of joy, mingled with the sadness of parting. Everyone wascalling out good-bye to their beloved Alia; the whole farm and the hearts of the goodhearted Egyptians were celebrating Alia‟s rejoicing. The tale did not end at this point. The same year, late 1965, I was transferred toNew York as Ambassador and Permanent Repres entative of Jordan to the UnitedNations. I was still there when, on the occasion of the first Bairam after Alia had left thehouse of Haj Husein, I received a letter from the disabled adopted father, Haj. Itrequested me to fulfil my promise “pledge is a responsibility” the letter said. His step-daughter had not come to Mansoura from her camp as he had been expecting. The poor man did not know that on 5th June 1967 Israeli forces occupied theremaining parts of Palestine, thus making travel to Cairo difficult if not impossible. Whatthat simple, illiterate, innocent, girl predicted had come true. Haj Husein did not know
Years of No Decisionthat Alia‟s residence and the whole area was cut off from other parts of the Arabhomeland; that Alia now lived behind barbed wire, that Israel had committed another actof aggression and occupied more Palestinian land and displaced more people. Haj Husein said in his letter that he wanted to see Alia again before he died. Liewanted me to fulfil my pledge, reciting from the Quran: “a pledge is a responsibility thathas to be met.” I could not answer his request because the Israelis had the answer. Haj liusein diedtwo years later. He never saw his step-daughter and I never told him why she did notshow up. I wanted to explain this to him in person when I visited him. But when I went tohim he was dead. What happened to Alia? I do not know. Hers remains a typical and poignant truestory of a Palestinian child of her day, one of many hundreds. Yet it seems that the effects of their actions leave the Israelis untouched and bysome compulsion they are driven to continue with the policies of their leaders whocannot, or will not, curb their cupidity even though it must he clear that they cannot takefrom the Palestinians their determination to survive.4Toquote Jacobo Timerman, an Argentianian-born Israeli writer: “Nothing can replace the need of a people to organize into a state in the territory in which they live and which belongs to them. The alternative our governmentoffers, no matter how it masks it, is to continue repressing the Palestinian people until we destroy their will to live and liquidate their national identity. It‟s incredible that such a policy is being considered by the very people who demonstrated that this is impossible, that it is immoral, that it is criminal .„„3One wonders if the Israelis want to treat the Palestinians in the same way that theAmericans treated the Red Indians. By virtually eliminating them. But there are fourmillion Palestinians. I don‟t know whether the Israelis who committed those crimesrealise that the children of their victims in Bedrus, Kufr Kasim, Khan-Yunis3. The Longest War. Israel in Lebanon, Jacobo Timerman, Vintage Books. New York.1982. p. 77
The Massacre of Kufr Kasim and the Shooting in Bedrusand Deir Yassin are today grown up. As I predicted in that Security Council debate, manyof these children have joined the Palestinian resistance in South Lebanon.They were united in their suffering, conviction and determination to crush Israeli might,to put an end to Israeli arrogance and liberate their homeland from Zionism so that the 1-loly Land might become a land of peace for Jew and Gentile alike. They realised thatZionist occupation was a new kind of colonialism. They were young and fresh. Some hadonly High School education. Others left their refugee camps. Obtained their universitydegrees and came back to fight for their homeland with better technique and expertise. I hate to see such people die. I hate to see other people die in senseless war. Many young Palestinian fighters have never known a proper home or shelter. Theyhave been born in either a hut or a tent, living on seven cents a day offered by the UnitedNations, while the Israelis enjoyed their homes and farms, picking the fruits of trees theynever planted in lands they never owned. These young men open their eyes everymorning and look across electric barbed wire to see the Israelis trespassing on their land,dwelling in their houses and making a mockery of United Nations resolutions. A fenceseparates them, the owners, from the Israelis the trespassers. If any Palestinian crossesthat fence to pick fruits of which he is the legitimate owner he finds a Zionist bulletwaiting for him. Who, I wonder, is the thief and who is the victim?