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Waiting for an exile's return. Palestinian wife shares deported husband's ordeal

By Joel GreenbergSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / February 22, 1988



Ramallah, Israeli-occupied West Bank

DO the Israelis really think they can have peace by getting rid of certain people?'' For Hiba Rajoub, a Palestinian, the question has a very personal dimension. On Jan. 13, Israel deported - permanently exiled - her husband, Jibril, along with three other Palestinians it accused of inciting riots in the occupied territories.

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Mrs. Rajoub spoke a day after learning that a mine blast in Limassol, Cyprus had damaged the Sol Phryne, a ship bought by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The ship was to serve as the ``Ship of Return'' for bringing more than 100 deported Palestinians to Israel's port of Haifa in protest of Israel's use of deportations.

Her husband was to be on the ship.

Now, the PLO has announced, the voyage is indefinitely postponed. But for Mrs. Rajoub, the boat stands for her husband's struggle to return home.

``The boat is a symbol. Those who were kicked out illegally must be allowed to come back the way they want to,'' she said.

The 25-year-old secretary had been married for six-weeks when, at midnight on Dec. 28, Israeli security personnel came to their apartment and arrested her husband.

``It was on a Monday,'' Mrs. Rajoub recalled. ``We had gone to sleep at about 11 o'clock, very tired after a long day of receiving friends who had brought wedding gifts. The soldiers broke through the door, woke up Jibril, and told him he had 10 minutes to get dressed and come with them. There were soldiers in every room, on the roof, on the stairway, and surrounding the building. Jibril was handcuffed and blindfolded, and taken away on a bus.''

She believes her husband was selected for arrest because of his past, rather than any alleged current activities.

Rajoub, 34, served 15 years of a life sentence for membership in a Palestinian cell that carried out armed attacks on Israeli targets. He was released in May 1985 in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command.

``Where is the evidence?'' asks Mrs. Rajoub of the charges that her husband recently instigated unrest as an operative of Fatah, the mainstream guerrilla group in the PLO.

``If what they claim is true, why didn't they charge him and bring him to court? They said he was behind the uprising, but it has continued despite his expulsion.''

Rajoub's deportation was ordered Jan. 3, at Jneid prison near Nablus. His wife first heard of it from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

``I was shocked,'' she said. ``We had been planning our life together: settling down, furnishing the house, and having children.''

The four Palestinian detainees decided not to appeal the expulsion order to the Supreme Court, saying they had no faith in the Israeli justice system. The authorities moved quickly. On Jan. 13, without prior notification of Rajoub's lawyer, the four men were flown by helicopter to Lebanon and released on a country road.

``I heard about it on the 5:30 p.m. Arabic news bulletin on Israel Radio,'' Mrs. Rajoub recalled.