Mapping the Rift

Raja Shehadeh in Guernica:

On the verge of arrest, a Palestinian lawyer and author recounts the flight from arrest of an ancestor active during the Ottoman years.

Palestinemap “They’re coming to arrest you,” Hanan, my sister-in-law, called to warn me in her strong, matter-of-fact voice. “Samer is on his way.” My mother had just called Hanan in a panic to dispatch my brother to my aid, convinced that the Palestinian security police would be at my door any minute. She was frantic. An anonymous official from the office of the Attorney General had rung her to ask about me because they did not have my phone number. Prudently, she refused to reveal it. “Don’t worry. We’ll find him,” he had menacingly said before hanging up. I wasted no time. I quickly put on thick underwear, tucked my toothbrush in a pocket and pulled on an extra sweater, prison survival tips learned from experienced security detainees I had represented in the past in Israeli military courts. Jericho, the site of the new Palestinian security prison and the old Israeli military government headquarters, can get very cold at night. On that evening of September 18, 1996, I sat huddled in the courtyard of our new house and waited for the knock on the door, trying to pretend I was neither worried nor angry.

Those first years of the transitional rule of the Palestinian Authority were strange times.

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