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Clandestine diplomacy


Hunting for Said Hammami’s house
Uri Avnery Social activist
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[Q] What was the substance of your conversation?

The substance of our discussion was: a Palestinian state alongside Israel with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. Things that I had advocated since 1949; and we already spoke about Semitic Action and the Hebrew Manifesto, entirely accurate. The viewpoint of course was Arafat's, since Hammami was a diplomat in the service of the PLO and he had no political opinions which opposed the opinions of the PLO leadership. Now I'll digress for a moment. Each of us had also introduced himself to the other. And in a meeting of this kind there is always enormous human curiosity between the two parties, always. It turned out that he was from Jaffa. His father had been deputy mayor of Jaffa. I mentioned a while back that while I was working with a lawyer, I was very often in the Arabic part of Jaffa, once or twice a week, in the courts and in the British government offices. Hammami told me that they didn't flee from Jaffa when everyone else fled; they remained until all of the fighting had ended and then the Jews came with buses, loaded them all onto buses and deported them to Gaza. Some of them boarded ships and sailed from the port of Jaffa to Gaza. He really missed the house where he had grown up - I think he was seven years old at the time of the expulsion. I promised him that when I got home, I would take a photograph of the house and send him the picture. He described to me exactly where the house was. And ever since that time, and for the rest of his life, every time we met I brought him pictures but none of them was right. Only after he was killed, after that I met… at the port of Jaffa there was a very long-established pharmacy − I think it still exists maybe, an Arab pharmacy. There was an elderly pharmacist there and once I asked him: 'Perhaps you remember where the Hammami family lived?' He said: 'Of course'. He led me to a house that resembled neither the location nor the shape of what he had described to me. And that rather reminded me of myself, because even after I had left the house I grew up when I was aged ten, when I saw it again I was surprised as I had remembered it totally differently. I remembered it firstly as being much bigger.  A child will remember the house as being large, even though it is not very large. This story about the Hammami house went on for years. Every time I went, I searched, I asked neighbors. The Arabs neighbors who remained were probably afraid to tell me the truth. They probably thought I was part of some Zionist conspiracy with regard to this house and really, I was never able to provide him with pictures of the house.

התוכן היה התוכן שלנו: מדינה פלסטינית לצד מדינת ישראל, ירושלים כבירת שתי המדינות. דברים שאני דגלתי בהם מאז 49' וכבר דיברנו על "הפעולה השמית" ועל "המנשר העברי", מדויק לגמרי. השקפה שכמובן הייתה ההשקפה של ערפאת מפני שחמאמי היה דיפלומט בשירות אש"ף ולא היו לו דעות פרטיות, להבדיל מהדעות של הנהגת אש"ף. עכשיו אני אקפוץ רגע. הרי גם הצגנו אחד את עצמו בפני השני. ובכל פגישה מסוג זה יש סקרנות אנושית עצומה בין שני הצדדים, תמיד. והסתבר שהוא מיפו. אבא שלו היה סגן ראש העיר של יפו. ואני כבר סיפרתי לפני הרבה זמן שבזמן שעבדתי אצל עורך דין אני הייתי לעיתים קרובות מאוד ביפו הערבית, פעם-פעמיים בשבוע, בבתי המשפט ובבתי הממשל הבריטי. והוא סיפר שהם לא ברחו מיפו כשכולם ברחו, הם נשארו ואז כשנגמרה הלחימה באו היהודים עם אוטובוסים, העמיסו את כולם על האוטובוסים וגירשו אותם לעזה.[ הסיפור מתייחס לאירועים שהיו במהלך מלחמת העצמאות ב-1948]. חלק עלו על אוניות בנמל יפו והפליגו לעזה. והוא נורא-נורא מתגעגע לבית שבו הוא גדל, אני חושב שהוא היה בן שבע בזמן הגירוש. ואני הבטחתי לו שכשאני אחזור הביתה אני אצלם את הבית הזה ואני אשלח לו תמונה. והוא תיאר לי בדיוק איפה הבית. ומאז עד סוף ימיו, בכל פגישה שלנו אני הבאתי לו תמונות וכל התמונות היו לא נכונות. רק אחרי שהוא כבר נרצח, אחרי זה אני פגשתי… ליד נמל יפו היה בית מרקחת ישן מאוד, אני חושב שזה עוד קיים אולי, בית מרקחת ערבי. ושם היה רוקח קשיש ואני פעם שאלתי אותו: "אולי אתה זוכר איפה גרה משפ' חמאמי?" הוא אמר: “בטח". והוא הוביל אותי לבית שמאוד לא דומה, לא המקום ולא הצורה למה שהוא הגדיר לי. וגם זה קצת הזכיר לי את עצמי, מפני שגם אני עזבתי את הבית שבו גדלתי בגיל עשר וכשראיתי אותו, אני הופתעתי מפני שזכרתי אותו לגמרי אחר. זכרתי אותו קודם כל יותר גדול. ילד זוכר בית גדול, שזה בית לא הכי גדול. הסיפור הזה עם הבית של חמאמי נמשך שנים. כל פעם הלכתי, חיפשתי, שאלתי שכנים. השכנים הערבים שנותרו בשטח, פחדו כנראה להגיד לי את האמת. חשבו שאני מי יודע מה איזה מזימה ציונית כלפי הבית הזה. ואני באמת עד הסוף לא סיפקתי לו את התמונות של הבית.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Said Hammami

Duration: 4 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017