Pain remains fresh for former mayor exiled in Jordan

January 24, 1993|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Staff Writer

AMMAN, Jordan -- Deportation is watching your son' marriage on videotape months after the event. It is being helpless to go to your mother as she grows old and feeble. It is missing your father's funeral and having grandchildren who are strangers.

It is having a house, and land, and friends you have not seen in 19 years.

This is the pain of exile for Abdul Jawad Saleh, a Palestinian deported by Israel in 1973. When he heard of the expulsion of 415 Palestinians last month, the anger returned.

"Deportation is not right for any human being," said Mr. Saleh, 61. "It's not right for a Palestinian, for a Hamas, or for a Jew. I would cut off my own hand before I would deport even the Israeli who signed my deportation order."

Mr. Saleh lives in a pleasant house in Amman. But he rarely reads Jordanian newspapers. He pays little attention to what happens here, he said. He is focused only on the West Bank.

He was a popular mayor in the town of Al-Bireh, eight miles north of Jerusalem, when it was seized by Israel in the 1967 war. He was too popular, it seemed: On Dec. 10, 1973, he was summarily deported.

Just as in the case of the alleged Hamas activists, there was no formal charge, no court proceeding, no warning to wrap up his affairs. Israeli soldiers came to his house after midnight, blindfolded him, and drove him kicking and screaming to a desolate spot on the border in the desert.

He begged the Jordanians to let him go back, and he even organized a sit-in on the Allenby Bridge to the West Bank. Later, he went to Lebanon and joined the Palestine Liberation Organization for seven years until he had a falling-out with them, and returned in 1981 to Amman.

He now runs a small office that is an information center for the West Bank and occupied territories. He spends long days there, poring over his computer, churning out statistics on the Israeli occupation.

He has not seen his six sons -- young teens when he was deported -- blossom into manhood. One died. He met another son's new wife at an airport in London, where she gave him a videotape of their marriage.

"I cried as though it was a funeral when I saw it, because I wasn't there," he said.

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