The woman stood in her garden, obviously upset. Her hands moved quickly back and forth, pushed her hair back from her eyes, pulled at her sweater. A friend stood with her, trying to persuade her to talk to a reporter.
Finally the friend returned to the car. "She won't talk," he said. "She's too afraid. She's afraid it might hurt his chances of getting out of prison."
Mr. Jad Makhail is a Virginia-born American married to a Palestinian pharmacist. According to her friends, her husband has been in jail for the past three weeks, in a Ramallah prison she can see from her house. After Makhail's arrest by Israeli police three weeks ago, in the middle of the night, his wife didn't hear a word for a week. She had no idea where her husband was.
She frantically contacted the American consulate, and her lawyer, moderate Palestinian Aziz Shihadeh. Finally Shihadeh was allowed to see him. Then she was allowed to see him. He broke down and cried. They wouldn't give him his glasses at first and he couldn't see.
There have been no charges. Under Israeli law, a holdover from the old British mandate, a person can be held for interrogation for six months without charges. No legal action can be taken.
Neither Mrs. Makhail nor her husband knows what the charges are. Rumors are flying around Ramallah and Jerusalem that he has been framed, that he is charged with being a conduit for PLO terrorist money.
Jad Makhail has one thing in his favor. His wife and two sons are American citizens and though he carries a Jordanian passport he has a green card and is awaiting U.S. citizenship. His wife has written to senators and representatives. The heat is on the Israelis. Still, he remains in jail.
The U.S. Consulate here in Jerusalem confirms the details in this case and says it is not unprecedented. Professor and Publisher
Several days earlier in Ramallah there had been a rather large bombing and the Israeli security was particularly tight. It was dusk. Suddenly, in the center of town several Israeli Army jeeps drove up to a Volkswagen bus, forced everybody out, lined up several young male passengers and some male bystanders, about 20 in all, against the wall, their hands over their heads. While some of the officers frisked them, others went through the bus, tearing the upholstery out from its base, throwing the seat and cushions, the entire interior out in the middle of the street.
Later, in the house of a young leftwing intellectual who refused to be identified, he and his friend would insist that that scene was a normal part of West Bank living.
"Abdullah," for lack of another name, lives in a small middle-class house with his mother. He is in his early 30s, a well-known radical intellectual who has been linked with the PLO. His friend, Adel Samara, 34, does not mind being identified. He has already spent five years in an Israeli prison for his anti-Israeli activities, and has been arrested and imprisoned three times before that by the Jordanians. Samara is a sort of Tom Hayden of Palestine, formerly very active, very militant, now mellowed, more philosophical.
Both Abdullah and Samara take a rather surprising position which they are group in Palestine, especially among the intelligentsia. They hate the Jordanians worse than the Israelis.
Abdullah's mother offers chocolates, then quitely sits in her rocking chair doing her needlework. The two men discuss the anti-Jordanian attitudes.
Many Palestinians, during what they call the "Jordanian occupation" in the late '50s, were in favor of Jordan joining with Egypt and Syria to be part of the United Arab Republic. Hussein refused to join and those who demonstrated against him were persecuted and imprisoned.
"It is worse," says Samara, "to be part of Jordan than to be part of Egypt. The people of Palestine have always thought King Hussein sold Palestine to the Israelis. Now they still think it for sure. Nothing has changed."
"Also," says Abdullah, "the Jordanians are more likely to have more effective control. Arabs can repress Arabs, imprison Arabs, execute Arabs much more effectively then the Jew can. And the world would simply see it as the Jordanians dealing with their own internal problems."
"The important thing about being under Israeli occupation," says Samara, "is that the majority of people would continue to be against them and the incentive to preserve our own identity as Palestinians would still be there. But if the Jordanians came they would never allow us to have our own identity. They would destroy it. "And we need it very badly at this time."
Abdullah is a professor, Samar a publisher. Both have been arrested by the Israelis, Samara for being a the Popular Front.
They can laugh about it now, as they sit and drink beer, philosophizing. "It is matter of some concern to certain people that they have not been arrested," chuckles Abdullah. "It's especially desirable if you can spend a few days in jail. But not a few months."
"I've spend five years in jail," says Samara. "I got out in 1972. It's better to get it out of the way early. Now maybe I'm more rational." Ten years ago Adel Eamara and Abdullah would have been demonstrating in the streets after Camp David. What worries both of them now is exactly what will happen to Palestine and where the leadership will come from.
"Most Palestinians would want to negotiate, but they feel incapable to taking any initiative without the PLO process. The rejectionist front (those wo do not believe Israel should be a state) is not clear on what they want. They have no plan, no alternative. And they are simply not as radical as they must be."
He shrugs in frustration. "They just aren't dependable." Strick Security
In Israel, military security is understandably very strict. All newspaper reports that have anything to do with the military, including this one, must be cleared by a censor before transmitting. Any interview with any military spokesman must be done without attribution. Even then it must be clear by the office of the chief of staff.
This very highly placed military spokesman is furious about some of the questions placed to him.
On the subject of alleged Israeli military harrassment at Birzeit University, where the student body is composed of many young Palestinians, he says, "you have t orientate yourself. This so-called university operates on the West Bank and it has never even been recognized by Jordan.I think we Israelis must be out of our minds, stupid to allow a university to operate even though it is not recognized by Jordan bearing in mind the almost unavoidable problems. The fact that Birzeit still operates makes the Israelis deserve the Nobel Prize. And we even let them open a branch. We did it under pressure from the parents who begged us not to close the university and forced their children to go to other Arab countries where they would come under the influence of the PLO.
"I tell you Birzeit is a snake pit, college sized. Beyond any doubt it is where the ultra-extremist activity is initiated and organized. Soldiers are attacked with stones and bottles thrown from the campus grounds. But never have the Israeli authorities penetrated into the campus of Birzeit. It is because of our sensitivity to public opinion. Sometimes even the teachers demonstrate."
"As far as allegations that Birzeit students have been beaten, this is really nasty. It's so easy to sell a story like that. Except for a few occasions, maybe two or three in the past 11 years which we are very ashamed of, and not in Birzeit college either, this doesn't happen. But if stones are thrown at the soldiers and people are seeking refuge behind college gates, well, anybody who throws stones cannot complain about being treated badly. This story is confused, told in a manner to sell it to journalists. In most cases it is a lie."
On the subject of Jad Makhail:
"I cannot answer about this particular case. But you will always hear terrible stories about people being arrested at night. I can never figure out what they think is so terrible. To be arrested or to be arrested at night. What difference, if you are involved in sabotage, does it matter whether you are arrested during the day or during the night. If this man was wrongly arrested then we deserve to catch hell. If he's involved then I'm very sorry for his wife. They always write things like 'Mother of Five Arrested' in the press when she may be the worst saboteur we have. It's like writing about the Boston Strangler being arrested and calling him 'Father of Six.' People are not grabbed by the police without knowing why. People can be arrested and then charged after 24 hours. But I'll tell you this, nobody has ever disappeared on the West Bank in 11 years. Sometimes, at the first stages of interrogation, because it involves sabotage - as in warning to the network which puts bombs in the marketplace - we are careful not to let information out that the person is arrested or why he is arrested. But listen, we're talking about the dying of little children. And don't believe all the stories you hear. People can be just wishful thinking. People want to place something that is easily digested before the public."
On the subject of deportation:
"For a long time there wa sno deportation. Anyway, legally speaking you are not talking about deportation. You are talking about Palestinian-Jordanian citizens being moved from one Jordan to the other. The British called it 'rustication' in the '20s when they would move an Irishman from one town to the other."
"But again, you're talking about people we have definite clues that they are involved in sabotage and the alternative is prison. But that way we'd have to give evidence in court and reveal our sources. To say by deporting people we are separating families is evil, bad, wrong. They can cross Allenby Bridge any time they want."
On the subject of treatment of Paletinians at Allenby Bridge: "If you show me where, between two countries which are at war there is such a bridge, I'll show you a country which deserves the Nobel Prize. We opened this bridge with no obligation under any law at all. And we undertook a tremendous risk. Everybody who crosses that bridge ought to pray and thank the Lord that we are doing it. If they think about it, it's a gratis, to be able to come through this 'horrible' place. It's air conditioned too. There are 1 million crossings a year. If it's so horrible those people wouldnt come through. These nice gentle women who complain about it have to stand next to any other ordinary Arab. We don't like it. It's not very democratic of them, you know. They are treated just like any other human being."
"If you bear in mind the dangers we risk by keeping that bridge open you would grant us at least a smile. Every time I hear those stories I change colors. It's so unfair. When we opened the bridge we were trying to help thousands of people. No matter what you do some bastard will say it's his bill of rights.It's like the beggar who you half-a-dollar every day. And then one day you don't give it to him and he says, 'Where are my right?'"