On the evening of April 14, about the time that Riad Hamad went missing, he placed a call to Paul Larudee in California via cell phone. The Texas Civil Rights Review has archived Mr. Larudee’s recollection of that phone call under our selected death notices. During the call, Mr. Larudee reported to Mr. Hamad that a donation had been mailed to the new California address for the Palestine Childrens Welfare Fund. “Well, it doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Hamad.
“I wish I had told him that the person who sent the check had also written a letter thanking him for the gifts of handmade Palestinian crafts and other items that Riad had sent as a thankyou for a previous donation,” writes Mr. Larudee. “He had also included handmade thankyou cards from his two young daughters. The older daughter, age 11 had written, ‘Live in peace on the world. Everybody should LOVE! I am sad because people should be nice to you, but they are not.’ The younger, age 8, had written, ‘I hope you start to live in peace.’ “
Mr. Hamad would never see those notes from children, encouraging him to continue his charity work. On April 16, his body was pulled from Lady Bird Lake.
As part of our effort to undestand the last months of Mr. Hamad’s life, TCRR asked Mr. Larudee a few questions about his work with Mr. Hamad:
TCRR: Would it be correct to say that you were instrumental in getting PCWF designated as a nonprofit? Did you have any information about donations or expenses as part of that work?
Paul Larudee: As you may know, in the past, PCWF has had fiscal sponsors like MECA and Kinder USA. In February, Riad asked the International Solidarity Movement – Northern California, which gained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status last September, to do the same. Our way of doing that was to create an account for that purpose under the PCWF name but under our complete control. We (presumably including Riad) originally thought it would be used for very limited purposes, such as company matching grants for their employees. However, it has assumed a much larger role since the investigation and Riad’s death. Nevertheless, it continues the charitable work that Riad started, to the extent that it receives the funds to do so.
TCRR: Also, would you be willing to say a few things about your relationship with Riad? When you met, how you came to assume the responsibility of the PCF address for donations, and how you worked with Riad during the past few months, especially after the FBI raid in late February?
Larudee: As far as my relationship with Riad is concerned, it was until last year the same as he had with many other supporters and purchasers of the goods that he brought from Palestine. At that time he became part of the Free Gaza Movement, as a procurement volunteer, making arrangements for purchases. PCWF also initially collected funds for this project, until Free Gaza got its own nonprofit account through ISM in October, in much the same way PCWF did five months later.
From the time of the investigation until Riad’s death, we were in close contact, trying to interpret events and the best way to respond to them, and especially with regard to legal questions. He very clearly felt that he and his family were being persecuted, but I told him that I thought that he really shouldn’t worry unless he was indicted, because they might find that they don’t have enough evidence for an indictment. I guess he didn’t want to wait for that and especially didn’t want to be arrested. He thought that if the evidence didn’t exist, it would be created.
TCRR: Finally, it would also be interesting to hear a few things regarding your own motivations for working on the cause of Palestinian rights.
Larudee: My own motivations in working for Palestinian rights are not different from those of most persons who discover a gross disparity between the way the Palestinian condition is viewed in the U.S. media and the reality that they experience first hand by visiting the region. The film Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land is a good documentation of the disparity, but no film replaces direct experience. For me, that experience began in 1965, and my activism became more intense after Ariel Sharon’s accession to power in 2001. I’m attaching my bio for further info.
Bio: Dr. Paul Larudee is a San Francisco Bay Area activist on the issue of justice in the region known as Palestine, which includes Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. He was born to an Iranian Presbyterian minister and his American missionary spouse in 1946 and grew up in the American Midwest. He has a Ph.D. in linguistics from Georgetown University and spent 14 years in Arab countries as a contracted U.S. government advisor, Fulbright-Hays exchange lecturer, teacher, training administrator and graduate student.
Paul has visited the Palestinian region ten times since 1965, including four times with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement that applies nonviolent principles to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Paul was among seven ISM volunteers wounded by Israeli gunfire in April, 2002 in an otherwise nonviolent attempt to help Palestinian families. In 2006, he was held in Israeli detention for two weeks while appealing a decision to deny him entry, then expelled from the country. He was in Lebanon during the 2006 Israeli invasion. He is one of the founders of the Free Gaza Movement, which seeks to break the siege of Gaza through seaborne nonviolent action. His publications can be found by searching on his name and at his weblog, www.hurriyya.blogspot.com.
Paul is a compelling storyteller of personal experiences and speaks of justice and equitable solutions for all persons who consider their home to be in Palestine, without discrimination on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity. He offers new perspectives and provides insight into the way the parties themselves view the conflict. He challenges established viewpoints and misunderstandings, and offers innovative ideas for making progress toward resolution. For further information, contact 510-236-4250 or larudee-at-norcalism.org