Palestinian woman with prison legacy feels betrayed by her own

Umm Abdullah, whose husband is on his 14th turn in prison and has been imprisoned herself, is angry with Palestinian officials for cooperating with Israelis to arrest Palestinians. 

Christa Case Bryant / The Christian Science Monitor
Umm Abdullah keeps a photo of her late nephew, who carried out a Jerusalem suicide bombing during the second intifada, on a side table of her impeccable living room in Ramallah, West Bank.

Umm Abdullah’s husband, former Al-Bireh mayor Jamal al-Tawil, was recently imprisoned for what she estimates is the 14th time – although she’s not sure, because she’s lost count. She has also spent time in jail, as has her daughter.

Sitting on the regal sofa of her Ramallah home in February, she said she would like to have joined the protests that were sweeping the West Bank that week in support of Palestinian prisoners in the wake of Arafar Jaradat's death in Israeli custody.

But she’s worried that Palestinian Authority security forces, dominated by the secular Fatah faction, will report her to the Israelis as a supporter of Fatah’s Islamist rival Hamas. The last thing she needs is to give Israel a reason to arrest her again, and she resents the PA for essentially spying on Hamas supporters like herself.

“If we go back to the Stone Age, we do not see any authority acting as spies to the enemy of its own people,” she says.

The West Bank is abuzz with talk of a third intifada, but Umm Abdullah says she doesn’t think it can happen while there is such distrust between the PA and Hamas.

“How can we have a strong popular resistance movement when one side is acting against another? It is only pockets of people acting independently.”

It’s not that she and her family are strangers to resistance. Among the other fixtures in Umm Abdullah’s impeccably kept home is a photo of her nephew, a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a bus station in the Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill in 2001.

How is that justified, if Israeli civilians are hurt as well, I ask?

“They’re killing Palestinian children all the time,” she responds.

She also has plenty of blame for the Palestinian leadership and what she sees as its neglect of Palestinian prisoners.

“In my view, they have forgotten them 20 years ago when they signed [the 1993 Oslo peace accords]. Oslo is a shameful agreement. Everything we try to achieve, Oslo seems to be the impediment,” she says, citing the economic crisis, continued Israeli settlement expansion, and the “claim” that Palestinians are building institutions in preparation for a state.

“The Palestinian people were not asked to explain their viewpoint regarding Oslo in a referendum. Every day Palestinian people are learning the mistakes of Oslo.”

Read more about heightened tensions over the Palestinian prisoner issue here.

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