‒ A letter from our correspondent in the West Bank ‒

AT 1:45 AM I stopped reading, brushed my teeth and went to bed. About a quarter of an hour later, the door-bell rang non-stop for two or three minutes. I looked out of the window of my small flat and saw four Israeli military vehi­cles with many soldiers.

My younger brother opened the door. The two of us have made it a rule that he should always answer the door-bell in such cases, and try as far as possible to keep the Israelis out of my flat. If they enter, they may destroy my library, as they did in 1978, when they arrested me as an opponent of the Camp David Agreements.

“Who is living upstairs?” the officer asked.

My brother replied that it was a widow from the United States with her daughter and son.

“Where is the home of Abu-‘lssa?”

He realized that they were looking for a man whose wife is a Pales­tinian living in Jordan and who does not have a permit for family reunion. So he decided to show them the home of an old couple living in a simple room.

It took the old man ten minutes to unlock the door. At first he kept saying, “You are thieves, and I have nothing.”

A Druse soldier replied, “No, we are the Jewish army and we want your daughter-in-law, who hasn’t got a permit for family reunion and whose visitor’s permit has expired.”

“But I have no sons, only daugh­ters!” the old man protested.

When he finally opened the door and they could see him, they real­ized that my brother was being uncooperative. The Druse soldier swore at my brother: “Kuss okhtak! [your sister’s cunt] You are deceiving us.”

“Look, this is not really my busi­ness. I’ve only been living here for a few months. Why don’t you ask the Mukhtar [headman]?”

“And where does he live?”

“I have no idea.”

The officer uttered a long list of curses and threats, which the Druse soldier was ordered to translate into Arabic. Then he told my brother to go back home.

For twenty minutes they kept banging at doors indiscriminately, until someone showed them the Mukhtar‘s home.

We sat on the roof of our house. The Israeli cars were careering up and down the village main street. We realized that they were collect­ing the identity cards of husbands whose wives had not renewed their West Bank visit permit. Most of these women have children ‒ one, two, or even three.

The Israeli authorities allow these wives to stay for one month only, as low-rank visitors. (Palestinian visitors from the US are allowed to stay for three months.) At the end of that month, the woman must go back to ‘Amman, and the husband must re-apply to the Mili­tary Governor for a fresh permit. In most cases, the Governor re­fuses several times before granting a permit. This is the main reason why these people overstay after the expiry of their permits.

When a husband asks for a visi­tor’s permit for his wife, the Israelis usually demand from him to become a collaborator.

On that particular night, the Israelis arrested the women and collected the ID card of their husbands. The latter were told to present them­selves in the morning at the Mili­tary Governor’s office. If they failed to turn up, their ID cards would not be returned, and without those they cannot go out to work.

Then the husbands would have to apply for new permits for their wives. Life is too hard without the women, especially if the young father has under his care two or three infants, whom he must drag along with him when he goes out to work in Israel or in his own farm. This in addition to the fact that most men in West-Bank so­ciety have lacked the habit of looking after children ‒ this is supposed to be women’s domain.

Later we found out that eight young women had been arrested that night and deported to ‘Amman the following morning.

Eight women, representing eight families in a village of 60 families. A great suffering for the women, for their men and children and for many of their relatives.

Nor is this the only suffering dur­ing the intifada.