FAHME, ISRAELI-OCCUPIED WEST BANK
AGAINST the barbed wire perimeter of this Israeli Army base huddles a cluster of ugly little low-roofed cinder block huts, lit at night by the harsh orange glare of sodium spotlights.
Fahme, once a Jordanian military barracks, is now home to about 400 Palestinian collaborators and their families forced to flee their villages in fear for their lives, and now obliged to seek Israeli protection.
Once, the Israeli authorities settled collaborators of theirs whose cover had been blown in Israeli cities, finding them houses and jobs.
No longer, complains Muhammad Hussein, a Fahme resident. "The Army just gave me this house," he says "and even this I had to repair. But they didn't do anything else afterward. There was no money, and no job."
Mr. Hussein (not his real name) claims that he was never a collaborator, saying that he was falsely accused of aiding the Israeli occupation authorities by Palestinian youths envious of his wealth.
When a group of youths spray-painted the accusations on the wall of his house and broke in to attack his wife three years ago, he says, "I chose the quick way, I sold my house, went to the Army for help, and settled here."
Though several things Hussein said to a reporter suggest that he did indeed work for the Israelis, he protests his innocence and is bitter about how the Black Panthers can ruin a man's life on a whim.
"I can make the biggest leader in the West Bank a collaborator for five shekels," he says angrily. "I just buy a can of spray paint and write on his wall that he is a collaborator. Then he will do any sort of collaboration to get the Army to protect him."
TODAY, Hussein and his family live in limbo, not daring to visit his parents-in-law in Nablus, who themselves are afraid to be seen visiting Fahme. He does his shopping only in Israeli towns but has been denied a permit to seek a job in Israel, he says.
What does he do all day? "We sit and drink coffee and tea and smoke cigarettes. That's it," he answers. "We are here like the Koran says, 'until the last day on earth.' But what can we do? We cannot get on with either the Israelis or the Arabs. We just have to wait."
Hussein sighs. "My blood is Arab," he says. "But my body feels foreign."