EDITOR’S NOTE - PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s accord w
EDITOR’S NOTE - PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s accord with Israel is favored by some Palestinian guerrillas but bitterly opposed by others. What follows is the story of one veteran fighter who, shocked by the peace plan, has turned against his longtime leader.
Undated (AP) _ By DONNA ABU-NASR Associated Press Writer
SIDON, Lebanon (AP) - Inspired by a man he had never met, Munir Makdah left school at age 10 to fight for a land he had never seen.
In the next 23 years, this Palestinian refugee grew from child guerrilla to military commander of all the fighting men in Lebanon loyal to his boyhood idol, Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat.
But the pride that came from serving Arafat turned to shock, then bitterness, when he learned Arafat was concluding a deal with the Israelis that calls for only limited self-rule and that over only a small part of his beloved Palestine.
Two weeks ago, Makdah publicly called for Arafat’s resignation. Since then, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin have exchanged letters of recognition, and the PLO has renounced terrorism and acknowledged Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.
″It seems that Abu Ammar has forgotten what he taught us,″ Makdah said, using Arafat’s guerrilla name. ″But although he has deviated from the true path, we will continue armed struggle as if no agreements have been made until all our lands are liberated.″
The Palestinian-Israeli autonomy agreement calls for limited Palestinian self-rule in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and Jericho before the question of the rest of the West Bank and Jerusalem, all captured by Israel in 1967, is taken up.
The agreement has no provision for the old Palestinian-populated areas in Israel itself, like the Makdah family’s mountain village of Ghabsiyyeh near Acre.
The deal has angered many of the 317,000 Palestinians in Lebanon’s 13 refugee camps. Most belong to families that fled Palestine in 1948 at the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli war, which created the modern Jewish state.
Arab leaders then said their armies would push the Israelis out of Palestine in 15 days. Instead, millions of Palestinians ended up in shantytown camps like Sidon’s Ein el-Hilweh, where Makdah’s grandfather, Khalil, his wife and eight children settled.
Khalil Makdah, then a 25-year-old milkman, left Ghabsiyyeh with the three possessions he cherished most: his Palestinian identity card, the key to his house, and documents issued by the British in the 1940s for Palestine that included tax receipts and deeds for his home.
So sure was the family of their imminent return that Hadiyyah Ward - Khalil Makdah’s second wife whom he married in Lebanon - recalls her father, Mustafa, saving the seeds of Lebanese watermelons and tomatoes in jars to plant when they returned to Palestine.
Two years later, he threw the seeds away.
″Our parents thought they were going to Lebanon on a picnic,″ said Hadiyyah, a heavy-set woman with a shy smile, as she adjusted her blue scarf. ″We thought we would be pampered and spoiled by our hosts. Instead, we got camps, tragedy and pain.″
Khalil Makdah lost his house key and identity card. But the documents, yellowed and crumbling, have survived 45 years.
Makdah, now 70, hides them in a small cabinet next to his bed. He keeps the key to the cabinet, wrapped in newspaper, in his pillow case.
″Every time a child is born, I calculate how much he will inherit,″ said Makdah, a tall, slighting stooping man with white hair and 18 children and 109 grandchildren. Two of his children were killed and three wounded while fighting Lebanese militias in the 1980s.
″But after this treacherous agreement, I wonder whether anyone of my family will ever see our land in Palestine,″ he said. ″I gave Yasser Arafat two martyrs. What did I get in return?″
The Makdahs heard from travelers that the family house in Ghabsiyyeh and their four shops in nearby Manshiyyeh were destroyed in the 1948 fighting, but the 45 olive trees and eight acres of land are intact. They’re unsure who tends them now.
Munir Makdah, disillusioned commander of Arafat’s Fatah guerrillas in Lebanon, refuses to consider the family property a ″phantom inheritance.″
″We will take it back, in 10, 50 or 100 years,″ the bearded 33-year-old said, sitting under an inscription of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, at a Fatah office in Ein el-Hilweh.
His first mission as a boy fighter was learning to fire mortars across the Lebanese border at Israeli settlements.
″We were Fedayeen (men of sacrifice) then, fighting to regain all of Palestine,″ Makdah said, his brown eyes shining with pride.
″Palestine is my land. Whenever I slipped into Israel to carry out operations there, I found it hard to leave. I couldn’t believe I was in Palestine,″ said Makdah.
He declined to give details of these operations, except to say that he once reached Nahariya, a coastal town 5 1/2 miles south of the Lebanese border.
Makdah said he has already set his five children, aged 1 to 9, on the path he has followed.
″I give them hand grenades and revolvers to play with so they will get attached to the revolution,″ he said. ″They love it.″