Who took Ridha?

“The ghosts of those he annihilated at Dayr Yasin, all those whom he made disappear from time and place, so that through that absence he could impose the conditions of his own presence on the time and the place – they have now pounced on his own dreams and his daydreams. These very ghosts, having heroically gained back flesh, bone and spirit, now have him under siege…… The ghost who was a victim had come back a hero.” Mahmoud Darwish 1995 Memory to help forgetfullness pp 77-78.

Ten years ago Ridha Khalid was taken by Israeli soldiers to an unknown location and beaten mercilessly. After much heartache he was found with help from an Israeli women’s peace group and Australian friends and relatives . After his release, Ridha carried on peace work with UNRWA distributing mainly food relief to refugees. Until his abduction by Israeli soldiers again this week, Ridha lived in a small two bedroom apartment in Nablus with his wife, Weam, and their five children. This is in Ein Beit el-Mai No. 1 refugee camp where Weam grew up with her brothers and sisters. Khalil was the eldest son born in 1942 in al Jamasin. Weam the youngest born in 1962 in Nablus. In the same year Khalil went to Germany to work and send money home to help the family. Later Khalil came to Australia where he now lives with own family.

Weam and her children are destitute again – all their furniture and belongings were destroyed by the soldiers who invaded their house and abducted Ridha for a second time. We can only speculate why Israeli soldiers kidnapped Ridha with such force and menace. They terrorised the children in the nighttime and stole the family’s savings. Ridha had been working with UNRWA distributing aid to refugees.

What does the Israeli government wish to extract from Ridha? He still stubbornly refuses to be an informer.

The refugees are the people who want the right of return to their villages . They are the key to the peace process . When Yasser Arafat was still alive the PLO looked after their interests. Now unity has gone.

The Israeli government bombed a UN school in Gaza in 2009.

Israelis abduct an UNRWA worker. The UN remains passively stoic. Israeli soldiers stalked this simple third storey unit above a shop on the corner of Nablus and Jenin and the Camp roads.

Nablus – a town crying out for unity and freedom. “Come out of your doorways” cries the woman under the Palestinian flag. She is supported by a middle-aged teacher and a flock of younger people chanting “Hey Haneer, hey Abbas, unite to oppose the occupation!”

This is not intifada … not yet.

As they did before, soldiers came into refugee camp no. 1 with helmets and guns. Their boots crushing toys on the floor. Personal belongings were ravaged and torn. The furniture smashed to splinters as if for firewood. By dawn there lay cold silent timbers where there had been chairs and tables only the night before.

Sad rivers of tears, 60 years, river of fear. Ridha took up peace work after torture, now fifty, red-eyed and weary lies in an Israeli jail. The UN gives flour and meat to the needy. The Palestinian poet says: ‘Flour ground at McDonald-Douglas from the bones of our children to offer them back to me as a present in a flour sack to haunt me all the rest of my life.’Weam wonders what can we live on now? By 1962 when Weam was born, her father was going to work in a canvas suit made from the UN tent the family lived in when they arrived in Nablus. It was a family joke that the kids were always well behaved when father was away. But the real reason they seemed so good was they had the benefit of hearing the rustling of his canvas suit as he returned from work down the alleyway.
My friend of many years, Khalil Hamden, rang early last Friday about the Israeli soldiers breaking into his sister’s house in Nablus and her husband being taken to an undisclosed location. Weam’s family came to the refugee camp in Nablus after his family and many of the people from his village, Al Jammasin, fled in 1948 during Al Nakba because of persecution by the para-military group, Hagannah.

Khalil described to me the incident in the following terms:

“Just briefly my husband’s sister is distraught because 25 – 30 Israeli soldiers broke into her small two bedroom unit at 3am in the Camp No.1 refugee camp in Nablus, Palestine. She is the wife of Ridha Khalid and the mother of five children aged 5 – 18 years. Ridha is employed by UNRWA in Nablus.

They smashed the door down and took Ridha away for no reason and his wife does not know where he is. After they took him away they asked his wife, Weam, to get out of the unit with her children and then proceeded to destroy everything in their unit – furniture, electrical appliances including the children’s computer and destroyed the children’s school books. Naturally all the children are traumatised and they are mindful of their imminent school examinations. They took the food from the pantry, freezer and refrigerator and spread it all over the furniture and floor. They removed all the pictures from wall and smashed them. Weam is aged fifty years. She is a good woman and cared for her aged parents and her two handicapped brothers since she has been a young teenager. She is a good wife, caring mother and kind to her friends and has never been in any trouble. She was born in the Refugee camp in 1962. The destruction of the contents of her unit was completely unjust. All her savings and things she did not buy for herself to buy furniture etc. over long years was destroyed in 2.1/2 hours.”

I write out of concern for my friend and his family. Everyday I hear news bulletins about what the Assad government is doing to its people in neighbouring Syria yet I hear nothing of what is being done only a few miles away in Palestine by the Israeli government to Palestinians in the occupied territories. I listen to the hypocrisy of of our leaders decrypt the Syrian troops but never speaking out against the abduction, torture and killing of Palestinians.

Please do all that is possible to help this refugee family.

Justice for Palestine meeting in Brisbane last Wednesday (May 23, 2012), passed a motion of support for the family and urge the Australian Foreign Minister to intercede to have Ridha Khalid released.

Justice for Palestine Brisbane has launched a solidarity appeal for Weam. Please make donations to Justice for Palestine Commonwealth bank BSB 064158 A/c no. 10702789. Please notify the contribution to contact@justiceforpalestinebrisbane.org

Ian Curr, May 2012
Mob 0407687016

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