Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memorium: Lutfi Abdul Rahman Al-Abed

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memorium: Lutfi Abdul Rahman Al-Abed

Article excerpt

In Memorium: Lutfi Abdul Rahman Al-Abed

He was a child of barely eight when he last saw his Palestinian homeland. He remembered sleeping on the ground, cold and hungry, as he fled northward with his family toward refuge in Lebanon.

The April 9, 1948 massacre of 254 Palestinian men, women and children at Deir Yassin village near Jerusalem by Jewish terrorists had spread fear throughout the country. That, plus leaflets and radio broadcasts in Arabic by the Jewish militias threatening a similar fate for all Palestinians who did not get out of Palestine, triggered the flight of 750,000 Palestinians from their ancient native land.

Among the refugees were the Al-Abed family, from Safourieh village near Nazareth, and the Kiblawi family, that of his future wife, from the village of Tarshiha near Acre. No radio broadcasts from Arab sources urging Palestinians to flee so Arabs could fight Jews without endangering civilians, as Israel and its supporters have falsely claimed, were ever heard either by the Arabs of Palestine or the British authorities monitoring the airwaves. The Palestinians fled under threat of death, or were prodded at gunpoint out of their homes and into exile.

As the hundreds of thousands of refugees fled their country, the Stern Gang of future Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and the Irgun Zvai Leumi, led by future Prime Minister Menachem Begin, perpetrators of the Deir Yassin massacre, knew that the calculated slaughter by their two Jewish "underground" armies and the grisly parade through Jerusalem of a handful of bewildered Palestinian survivors had accomplished the "ethnic cleansing" from Palestine of three- quarters of a million of its inhabitants. Fifty years earlier in 1897, the father of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, had committed to his diary the aim of emptying Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants. Herzl had not specified that it should be done by massacre and horror. But that is the way it was done, as attested by the published memoirs of the Israeli generals who carried it out, and the vivid recollections of survivors like eight-year-old Lutfi Abdul Rahman Al-Abed.

The Al-Abed family's next home was a cold tent at Ein al-Helweh refugee camp near Sidon in south Lebanon. Lutfi's father had died young, and everything the family had possessed now was lost.

Like most Palestinians of the past two generations, however, the Al-Abeds sacrificed everything for education. For Lutfi, this meant enrolling first in an elementary school inside the camp run by the (U.S.) Congregational Church. Later, he won his high school diploma at another church-affiliated school in Sidon.

No money meant delaying his university education, but not abandoning his dreams. Lutfi was a teacher for the next 10 years, saving as much as he could. By 1965 he had accumulated enough to enter the American University of Beirut as a freshman. Scholarships he earned as a top student over the next four years financed B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science and public administration.

When a Qatari friend and fellow student at AUB said he might find a job for Lutfi, the young Palestinian left for Doha, Qatar's capital, in 1972. He remained there the rest of his life. In Qatar he met and married his wife, Basma (Kiblawi), a teacher in the Qatar school system. Their two boys, Amr, age 17, and Tameem, age 14, both of whom hope to study at American universities, were born in Qatar. …

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