Getting Home Upon Leaving On Neighbors and Nukes Patriarchs Strategy Commotion On Cauliflowers Peaceful Disarmament A Little Nuclear Crime Prevention Up the Goil Resistance and Hope Rap Truth Against Truth The Good Samaritan For God's Sake Present Absentees Home Sweet Home The Mount of Olives Visiting Mr. Vanunu On Neighbors and Guns Daily Life The Old City St George's Getting There Picture Gallery

from Chapter 3,
Present Absentees

'It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.' -GOLDA MEIR

Since 1948 the Israeli government has confiscated 93 per cent of the land which previously belonged to Arab Palestinians, much of it under the Absentee Property Law; but many laws have been enacted since 1948 to legalize the expropriation of land.

…my own sister Suad and her husband became victims of one of these laws when the government decided to build Nazareth Ilit. My brother-in-law, Ghassan Musmar, lived as a child with his father, mother and four brothers and sisters on a small holding just outside Nazareth.

… Ghassan’s family had no wish to leave the land on which they had lived for generations. They refused to go. Builders arrived with lorries and bulldozers to start work on the new road which was to link Nazareth Ilit with Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. The road led through the Musmar land. Still the family stayed. They went to court, on the grounds that this particular piece of land provided the earth which they needed to keep their pottery business going, and that their whole living would be threatened if it was taken away from them.

…‘Would it be so terrible if you built your houses on the land you have and we continued to live here?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ came the reply. ‘This is Jewish land and Arabs are not allowed to live here.’

The construction workers started to level the land, their bulldozers flattening fruit trees and burying the fruit. Ghassan’s father and brothers tried to chase them away and stopped them working whenever they could. …A Jewish woman approached them, saying in Arabic, ‘This land does not belong to you.’

‘But my father and grandfather lived and died here,’ replied Ghassan’s father.

A man came over and tried to calm them. Suddenly Ghassan’s mother shot forward, and before anyone knew what she intended, she had taken the man’s watch! ‘Hey!’ yelled the man. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’

‘I’m taking your watch; it’s mine now.’
‘ Oh no, it’s not!’
‘ You see,’ said Ghassan’s mother, ‘I only took your watch, and you’re furious. And you want to take my home?’