Liberal and enlightened people believe
that peace in the Middle East is achievable by the creation of a
Palestinian state. Assuming that such a state is created and assuming
also that most of the Jewish illegal settlements will be removed,
a close look at this new state shows that this supposed independent
country will be surrounded by Israel. Such a state will be at the
complete mercy of Israel, and we already know what this mercy amounts
to. The Palestinian State will be totally dependent on Israel: economically,
politically and socially. Since the situation of the Palestinians
is not going to improve, Hamas and similar bodies will go on sending
suicide bombers into Israel.
It's time to realise that the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict is not just a political issue. For Israelis it is more
of a moral issue. The Israeli people must get used to the idea that
they are a part of the Middle East and that they share a piece of
land with the Palestinians. Military power may be important but
it's not enough if you want to live in peace. Up to now the leaders
of Israel, supported by the majority of Jewish Israelis, have been
trying to get rid of the Palestinians. This policy was a hidden
agenda. If anyone suspected its existence, this was fiercely denied.
How then do I know this supposed secret? I know it because I'm one
of them. I'm an Israeli, born and bred in Tel-Aviv, and this idea
of getting rid of the Palestinians was brainwased into my mind from
very early days.
Lately however, this deep secret
has started to leak out. I know that this allegation is serious
but the policies of the Israeli governments since its creation is
evidence of it. Just look at the massacres of whole Palestinian
villages like Dier Yassin near Jerusalem and Tantura on the Mediterranean
coast during the 1948-9 war. This policy continued with the forced
evacuation of Palestinians from the city of Ashdod, and from the
village of Ein Hod and many other places. As long as the Palestinians
didn't revolt, they were tolerated but at the same time quietly
and systematically trodden upon; they were treated as the lowest
of the low, almost as non-humans.
After the 1967 war and the conquest
of the West Bank, we started to move 'settlers' into the conquered
territory with the intention of annexing this territory to Israel
when the time was ripe. It was not only Prime Minister Begin who
carried out this policy but also the "peace loving" Itzhak Rabin
and Shimon Peres who received the Nobel Peace Prize (what for?).
What Ariel Sharon is doing now (what
he did in Lebanon in 1982, when he was the War Minister, you will
find elsewhere in this issue), is nothing new, it's just a brutalisation
and an acceleration of this very same policy. Watch his actions
carefully: when children throw stones, he shoots them. When they
do not throw stones he also shoots them. When people shoot, he shoots
them. When they don't shoot he still shoots them. He is demanding:
'stop terrorism', but the moment the Palestinians agree, he assassinates
"terrorist leaders", so that the cry for revenge will bring the
terror back. This shows that Sharon does not want a stop to terrorism.
What he needs is not the end of the terror but a good excuse to
decimate the Palestinians. We, the Israelis, are not restricting
ourselves to killing people. Next to shooting we also destroy their
houses (If this is done in our jurisdiction, in "Israel proper",
we don't give them planning permission to rebuild. See www.adulah.org/).
The idea is very simple: if they are still alive but don't have
a place to live in, they will eventually go elsewhere (which is
If Israel were a weak state it would
probably have had to listen to international public opinion. As
it happens however, Israel is not only strong and nuclear, but is
also backed by the most powerful military force of the USA. In this
situation it will go on ignoring any moral consideration and, I
must admit, I'm not surprised that a lot of people think that nothing
can save the Palestinians from total extinction except the use of
terror. We know that terror doesn't impress Sharon, but, at the
same time, it spreads panic among the Israelis. This panic has two
prongs. On the one hand it encourages a call for revenge, but at
the same time it makes others think: what motives people to sacrifice
themselves so as to inflict terror on us? This way of thinking might
open their eyes to what they are doing and it may change their attitude
towards the Palestinians as it already has done to a few.
And now, speaking of terror, it is
important also to consider what kind of terror we are talking about:
the Palestinians, facing an enemy that is determined to destroy
them or, at least, to reduce them to the level of obedient slaves,
have very few options. As far as we know, they do not have even
one cannon or one machine gun. The only thing they can do, apart
from shooting from their old rifles or one or two home made mortars,
is to use their own bodies as slow-moving barefoot missiles. Compare
that to the terror that is inflicted on them with tanks, helicopters,
cannons, machine guns, fighter jets and who know what else. In this
situation it is not difficult to see who the terrorist really are.
The minister Binyamin Elon, of the
far-right National Union, said on Tuesday that if the Palestinians
continue their violence against Israel and are defeated, they will
ultimately be expelled from their homes, adding that he personally
was aiding "Judaization", in aiding Arabs in East Jerusalem
and elsewhere to emigrate to the United States.
Elon, the chairman of the National
Union Moledet wing, became tourism minister after the October assassination
of Moledet founder Rehavam Ze'evi. A rabbi, he first rose to prominence
as the head of an East Jerusalem yeshiva built on land captured
from Jordan in the 1967 war.
Although Ze'evi openly advocated
"transfer" of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, he generally spoke of "voluntary transfer" or "transfer
by choice" rather than expulsion.
"If they do not stop the war
that they initiated, they must understand that there is no such
thing as a luxury war (a war without suffering or consequences),
and that when they lose the war, they will be expelled from here,
in the course of the war, all of them, plain and simple," Elon
told Army Radio, adding that: "A people which opens a war against
us must understand that if it loses the war, it will cost them,
and the price will be expulsion. Just as their leaders led them
into Naqba (Arabic for the Catastrophe of the Israeli victory) in
'48, Arafat, the irrelevant, the wicked, this murderer, is leading
them into a disaster, and they must understand this. They must throw
him the heck out."
A total of 1,000 Palestinians have
been killed or wounded since the Palestinian uprising began in late
2000, Elon said. "There's a limit. They (the Palestinians)
have to decide whether they want to live peaceably with us, or to
expel us from our land. It is they who will be expelled, not us".
He said many Palestinians had already
left East Jerusalem and the territories, some with the active aid
of rightist Jews. "I personally take part in this. There are
people for whom I make sure they receive compensation. They leave
their houses in Jerusalem and in other places, and move to America
or other places. This is a positive thing and it should be encouraged".
"This happens all the time,"
Elon continued. "There are houses in Jerusalem in which I,
thank the Lord, am an active partner in their Judaization".
Asked when was the last time an East
Jerusalem family recently pulled up stakes and moved to America,
Elon replied: "There are several. Here in the Shimon Hatzadik
neighborhood there are a few, and in other neighborhoods. I don't
want to list all the names, because they sometimes have their own
personal distress, but they are no longer here, and today Jews live
in the house".
Elon said a quiet majority of Israelis
supported transfer and believed that it would be the ultimately
result of continued fighting. "It's true that the government
has not yet decided on transfer, but the majority of the people
understands that this is the solution that will be, and that this
will be the result caused by the war, and the one who has caused
this to happen to them (the Palestinians) will be Arafat himself".
"If they make war on us and
are not willing to stop and we call on them again and again to make
peace, and they are unwilling to stop, then just as the War of Liberation
ended with a demographic and geographic change, so too will this
Brief Political Analysis of the Present
In mainstream political discourse, Israel's
recent atrocities are described as 'retaliatory acts' - answering
the last wave of terror attacks on Israeli civilians. But in fact
this 'retaliation' had been carefully prepared long before. Already
in October 2000, at the outset of the Palestinian uprising, military
circles were readywith detailed operative plans to topple Arafat
and the Palestinian Authority. This was before the Palestinian
terror attacks started. A document prepared by the security services,
at the request of then PM Barak, stated on October 15, 2000 that
"Arafat, the person, is a severe threat to the security of
the state [of Israel] and the damage which will result from his
disappearance is less than the damage caused by his existence".
(Details of the document were published in Ma'ariv, July 6, 2001.)
The operative plan, known as 'Fields of Thorns' had been prepared
back in 1996, and was then updated during the Intifada. (Amir
Oren, Ha'aretz, Nov. 23, 2001). The plan includes everything that
Israel has been executing lately, and more.(1)
The political echelon for its part (Barak's
circles), worked on preparing public opinion for the toppling
of Arafat. On November 20, 2000, Nahman Shai, then public-affairs
coordinator of the Barak Government, released in a meeting with
the press a 60 page document titled "Palestinian Authority
non-compliance...A record of bad faith and misconduct." The
document, informally referred to as the "White Book",
was prepared by Barak's aid, Danny Yatom. (2)
According to the "White Book", Arafat's
present crime - "orchestrating the Intifada", is just
the last in a long chain of proofs that he has never deserted
the "option of violence and 'struggle'". "As early
as Arafat's own speech on the White House lawn, on September 13,
1993, there were indications that for him, the D.O.P. [declaration
of principles] did not necessarily signify an end to the conflict.
He did not, at any point, relinquish his uniform, symbolic of
his status as a revolutionary commander" (Section 2). This
uniform, incidentally, is the only 'indication' that the report
cites of Arafat's hidden intentions
A large section of the document is devoted to establishing Arafat's
"ambivalence and compliance" regarding terror. "In
March 1997 there was once again more than a hint of a 'Green Light'
from Arafat to the Hamas, prior to the bombing in Tel Aviv....
This is implicit in the statement made by a Hamas-affiliated member
of Arafat's Cabinet, Imad Faluji, to an American paper (Miami
Herald, April 5, 1997)." No further hints are provided regarding
how this links Arafat to that bombing, but this is the "green
light to terror" theme which the Israeli Military Intelligence
(Ama"n) has been promoting since 1997, when its anti-Oslo
line was consolidated. This theme was since repeated again and
again by military circles, and eventually became the mantra of
Israeli propaganda - Arafat is still a terrorist and is personally
responsible for the acts of all groups, from Hamas and the Islamic
Jihad to Hizbollah.
The 'Foreign Report' (Jane's information) of
July 12, 2001 disclosed that the Israeli army (under Sharon's
government) has updated its plans for an "all-out assault
to smash the Palestinian authority, force out leader Yasser Arafat
and kill or detain its army". The blueprint, titled "The
Destruction of the Palestinian Authority and Disarmament of All
Armed Forces", was presented to the Israeli government by
chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, on July 8. The assault would be launched,
at the government's discretion, after a big suicide bomb attack
in Israel, causing widespread deaths and injuries, citing the
bloodshed as justification. discretion, after a big suicide bomb
attack in Israel, causing widespread deaths and injuries, citing
the bloodshed as justification.
Many in Israel suspect that the assassination
of the Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, just when the Hamas
was respecting for two months its agreement with Arafat not to
attack inside Israel, was designed to create the appropriate 'bloodshed
justification', at the eve of Sharon's visit to the US. (Alex
Fishman - senior security correspondent of 'Yediot' - noted that
"whoever decided upon the liquidation of Abu Hanoud knew
in advance that would be the price. The subject was extensively
discussed both by Israel's military echelon and its political
one, before it was decided to carry out the liquidation"
[Yediot Aharonot, Nov. 25, 2001]).
Israel's moves to destroy the PA, thus, cannot
be viewed as a spontaneous 'act of retaliation'. It is a calculated
plan, long in the making. The execution requires, first, weakening
the resistance of the Palestinians, which Israel has been doing
systematically since October 2000, through killing, bombarding
of infrastructure, imprisoning people in their hometowns, and
bringing them close to starvation. All this, while waiting for
the international conditions to 'ripen' for the more 'advanced'
steps of the plan.
Now the conditions seem to have 'ripened'. In
the power-drunk political atmosphere in the US, anything goes.
If at first it seemed that the US would try to keep the Arab world
on its side by some tokens of persuasion, as it did during the
Gulf war, it is now clear that they couldn't care less. US policy
is no longer based on building coalitions or investing in persuasion,
but on sheer force. The smashing 'victory' in Afghanistan has
sent a clear message to the Third-World that nothing can stop
the US from targeting any nation for annihilation. They seem to
believe that the most sophisticated weapons of the twenty-first
century, combined with total absence of any considerations of
moral principles, international law, or public opinion, can sustain
them as the sole rulers of the world forever. From now on, fear
should be the sufficient condition for obedience.
The US hawks, who push to expand the war to
Iraq and beyond, view Israel as an asset: there are few regimes
in the world like Israel, so eager to risk the lives of their
citizens for some new regional war. As Prof. Alain Joxe, head
of the French CIRPES (peace and strategic studies) has put it
in Le Monde, "the American leadership is presently shaped
by dangerous right wing Southern extremists, who seek to use Israel
as an offensive tool to destabilize the whole Middle East area"
(December 17, 2001). The same hawks are also talking about expanding
the future war zone to targets on Israel's agenda, like Hizbollah
Under these circumstances, Sharon got his green
light in Washington. As the Israeli media keeps raving, "Bush
is fed up with this character [Arafat]", "Powell said
that Arafat must stop with his lies" (Barnea and Schiffer,
'Yediot', December 7, 2001). As Arafat hides in his Bunker, Israeli
F-16 bombers plough the sky, and Israel's brutality daily generates
new and desperate human bombs, the US, accompanied for a while
by the European union, keeps urging Arafat to "act".
But what is the rationale behind Israel's systematic
drive to eliminate the Palestinian Authority and undo the Oslo
arrangements? It certainly cannot be based on 'disappointment'
with Arafat's performance, as is commonly claimed. The fact of
the matter is that from the perspective of Israel's interests
in maintaining the occupation, Arafat has fulfilled Israel's expectations
all these last years.
As far as Israeli security goes, there is nothing
further from the truth then the fake accusations in the "White
Book", or subsequent Israeli propaganda. To take just one
example, in 1997 - the year mentioned in the "White Book"
as an instance of Arafat's "green light to terror" -
a 'security agreement' was signed between Israel and the Palestinian
authority, under the auspices of the head of the Tel Aviv station
of the CIA, Stan Muskovitz. The agreement commits the PA to take
active care of the security of Israel - to fight "the terrorists,
the terrorist base, and the environmental conditions leading to
support of terror" in cooperation with Israel, including
"mutual exchange of information, ideas, and military cooperation"
(clause 1). [Translated from the Hebrew text, Ha'aretz December
12, 1997]. Arafat's security services carried out this job faithfully
with assassinations of Hamas terrorists (disguised as 'accidents'),
and arrests of Hamas political leaders.
Ample information was published in the Israeli
media regarding these activities, and 'security sources' were
full of praises for Arafat's achievements. For example, Ami Ayalon,
then head of the Israeli secret service (Shab"ak), announced,
in the government meeting on April 5, 1998 that "Arafat is
doing his job - he is fighting terror and puts all his weight
against the Hamas" (Ha'aretz, April 6, 1998). The rate of
success of the Israeli security services in containing terror
was never higher than that of Arafat; in fact, much lower.
But from the perspective of the Israeli occupation,
all this means that the Oslo plan was, essentially, successful.
Arafat did manage, through harsh means of oppression, to contain
the frustration of his people, and guarantee the safety of the
settlers, as Israel continued undisturbed to build new settlements
and appropriate more Palestinian land. The oppressive machinery
- the various security forces of Arafat - were formed and trained
in collaboration with Israel. Much energy and resources were put
into building this complex Oslo apparatus. It is often admitted
that the Israeli security forces cannot manage to prevent terror
any better than Arafat can. Why, then, was the military and political
echelon so determined to destroy all this already in October 2000,
even before the terror waves started? Answering this requires
some attention to the history.
Right from the start of the 'Oslo process',
in September 1993, two conceptions were competing in the Israeli
political and military system. The one, led by Yossi Beilin, was
striving to implement some version of the Alon plan, which the
Labour party has been advocating for years. The original plan
consisted of annexation of about 35% of the territories to Israel,
and either Jordanian-rule, or some form of self-rule for the rest
- the land on which the Palestinians actually live. In the eyes
of its proponents, this plan represented a necessary compromise,
compared to the alternatives of either giving up the territories
altogether, or eternal blood-shed (as we witness today). It appeared
that Rabin was willing to follow this line, at least at the start,
and that in return for Arafat's commitment to control the frustration
of his people and guarantee the security of Israel, he would allow
the PA to run the enclaves in which the Palestinians still reside,
in some form of self-rule, which may even be called a Palestinian
But the other pole objected even to that much.
This was mostly visible in military circles, whose most vocal
spokesman in the early years of Oslo was then Chief of Staff,
Ehud Barak. Another center of opposition was, of course, Sharon
and the extreme right-wing, who were against the Oslo process
from the start. This affinity between the military circles and
Sharon is hardly surprising. Sharon - the last of the leaders
of the '1948 generation', was a legendary figure in the army,
and many of the generals, like Barak, were his disciples. As Amir
Oren wrote, "Barak's deep and abiding admiration for Ariel
Sharon's military insights is another indication of his views;
Barak and Sharon both belong to a line of political generals that
started with Moshe Dayan" (Ha'aretz, January 8, 1999).
This breed of generals was raised on the myth
of redemption of the land. A glimpse into this worldview is offered
in Sharon's interview with Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz, weekend supplement,
April 13, 2001). Everything is entangled into one romantic framework:
the fields, the blossom of the orchards, the plough and the wars.
The heart of this ideology is the sanctity of the land. In a 1976
interview, Moshe Dayan, who was the defense minister in 1967,
explained what led, then, to the decision to attack Syria. In
the collective Israeli consciousness of the period, Syria was
conceived as a serious threat to the security of Israel, and a
constant initiator of aggression towards the residents of northern
Israel. But according to Dayan, this was "bullshit"
- Syria was not a threat to Israel before 67: "Just drop
it. . .I know how at least 80% of all the incidents with Syria
started. We were sending a tractor to the demilitarized zone and
we knew that the Syrians would shoot." According to Dayan
(who at a time of the interview confessed some regrets), what
led Israel to provoke Syria this way was the greediness for the
land - the idea that it is possible "to grab a piece of land
and keep it, until the enemy will get tired and give it to us"
(Yediot Aharonot, April 27 1997).
At the eve of Oslo, the majority of the Israeli
society was tired of wars. In their eyes, the fights over land
and resources were over. Most Israelis believe that the 1948 independence
War, with its horrible consequences for the Palestinians, was
necessary to establish a state for the Jews, haunted by the memory
of the Holocaust. But now that they have a state, they long to
just live normally with whatever they have. However, the ideology
of the redemption of land has never died out in the army, or in
the circles of the 'political generals', who switched from the
army to the government. In their eyes, Sharon's alternative of
fighting the Palestinians to the bitter end and imposing a new
regional order - as he tried in Lebanon in 1982 - may have failed
because of the weakness of the spoiled Israeli society. But given
the new war-philosophy established in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan,
they believe that with the massive superiority of the Israeli
air force, it may still be possible to win this battle in the
While Sharon's party was in the opposition at
the time of Oslo, Barak, as Chief of Staff, participated in the
negotiations and played a crucial role in shaping the agreements,
and Israel's attitude to the Palestinian Authority.
I quote from an article I wrote in February
1994, because it reflects what anybody who read carefully the
Israeli media could see at the time: "From the start, it
has been possible to identify two conceptions that underlie the
Oslo process. One is that this will enable Israel to reduce the
cost of the occupation, using a Palestinian patronage regime,
with Arafat as the senior cop responsible for the security of
Israel. The other is that the process should lead to the collapse
of Arafat and the PLO. The humiliation of Arafat, and the amplification
of his surrender, will gradually lead to loss of popular support.
Consequently, the PLO will collapse, or enter power conflicts.
Thus, the Palestinian society will loose its secular leadership
and institutions. In the power driven mind of those eager to maintain
the Israeli occupation, the collapse of the secular leadership
is interpreted as an achievement, because it would take a long
while for the Palestinian people to get organized again, and,
in any case, it is easier to justify even the worst acts of oppression,
when the enemy is a fanatic Muslim organization. Most likely,
the conflict between the two competing conceptions is not settled
yet, but at the moment, the second seems more dominant: In order
to carry out the first, Arafat's status should have been strengthened,
with at least some achievements that could generate support of
the Palestinians, rather then Israel's policy of constant humiliation
and breach of promises."(3)
Nevertheless, the scenario of the collapse of
the PA did not materialize. The Palestinian society resorted once
more to their marvellous strategy of 'Sumud' - sticking to the
land and sustaining the pressure. Right from the start, the Hamas
political leadership, and others, were warning that Israel is
trying to push the Palestinians into a civil war, in which the
nation slaughters itself. All sectors of the society cooperated
to prevent this danger, and calm conflicts as soon as they were
deteriorating to arms. They also managed, despite the tyranny
of Arafat's rule, to build an impressive amount of institutions
and infrastructure. The PA does not consist only of the corrupt
rulers and the various security forces. The elected Palestinian
council, which operates under endless restrictions, is still a
representative political framework, some basis for democratic
institutions in the future. For those whose goal is the destruction
of the Palestinian identity and the eventual redemption of their
land, Oslo was a failure.
In 1999, the army returned to power, through
the 'political generals' - first Barak, and then Sharon. (They
collaborated in the last elections to guarantee that no other,
civil, candidate would be allowed to run.) The road opened to
correct what they view as the grave mistake of Oslo. In order
to get there, it was first necessary to convince the spoiled Israeli
society that the Palestinians were not willing to live in peace
and were threatening our mere existence. Sharon alone could not
have possibly achieved that, but Barak did succeed, with his 'generous
offer' fraud. After a year of horrible terror attacks, combined
with massive propaganda and lies, Sharon and the army feel that
nothing can stop them from turning to full execution.
Why is it so urgent for them to topple Arafat?
Shabtai Shavit, former head of the Security Service ('Mossad'),
who is not bound by restraints posed on official sources, explains
this openly: "In the thirty something years that he [Arafat]
leads, he managed to reach real achievements in the political
and international sphere... He got the Nobel peace prize, and
in a single phone call, he can obtain a meeting with every leader
in the world. There is nobody in the Palestinian gallery that
can enter his shoes in this context of international status. If
they [the Palestinians] will lose this gain, for us, this is a
huge achievement. The Palestinian issue will get off the international
agenda." (interview in Yediot's Weekend
Supplement, December 7, 2001).
Their immediate goal is to get the Palestinians
off the international agenda, so slaughter, starvation, forced
evacuation and 'migration' can continue undisturbed, leading,
possibly, to the final realization of Sharon's long standing vision,
embodied in the military plans. The immediate goal of anybody
concerned with the future of the world, should be to halt this
process of evil unleashed. As Alain Joxe concluded his article
in Le Monde, "It is time for the Western public opinion to
take over and to compel the governments to take a moral and political
stand facing the foreseen disaster, namely a situation of permanent
war against the Arab and Muslim people and states - the realization
of the double phantasy of Bin Laden and Sharon" (December
1) For the details of this operative plan, see
Anthony Cordesman, "Peace and War: Israel versus the Palestinians
A second Intifada?" Centre for Strategic and International
Studies (CSIS) December 2000, and it summary in Shraga Eilam,
"Peace With Violence or Transfer", 'Between The Lines',
2) The document can be found at:
3) The article (in Hebrew only) can be downloaded
Tanya Reinhart is a professor in Tel Aviv University.
This article was downloaded from the Internet on 19/12/01.
Massacre in Sabra and Shatila in 1982
As reported by an eye witness Ellen Siegal
Nineteen years ago I volunteered
to go to Beirut to work as a nurse. I wanted to use my profession
to help the Lebanese and Palestinians who had been wounded in
Israel's invasion of Lebanon. As a Jew I wanted to show that not
all Jews supported this action. So it was that during the September
1982 massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, I was
there, working in a hospital in Sabra. Afterwards, I went to Israel
to testify before the official commission of inquiry whose task
was to "investigate all the facts connected with the atrocity."
[see summary of the Kahan Commission Report, American-Arab Affairs,
I was assigned to the Gaza Hospital,
a Red Crescent facility, in the Sabra refugee camp in West Beirut.
I lived at the hospital, sleeping on a hospital bed in a room
shared by several health workers, foreign and Palestinian. My
first patients were a large Lebanese family that had operated
a grocery in the lobby of an apartment building. One day Arafat
had visited this building. Israeli intelligence forces had been
following his movements; shortly after he left, the building was
bombed. Most of this family suffered burns. They were all put
in one big hospital room. Daily, I would change all of their dressings:
cleanse the burned areas, apply medication, and put on clean dressings.
This was a long and painful process. It occurred with a limited
water supply, sheets that could not be laundered very often, a
scant amount of sterile equipment, open windows, and a less than
clean field to heal in. Yet this was the most rewarding nursing
experience that I ever had. Not only did everyone in this family
survive; none of them ever developed an infection while in the
Slowly, day by day, the inhabitants
of the camps began putting their lives back together. The PLO
fighters were gone, the leaders were far away in Tunis. On September
10, the multinational forces, too, left Beirut. Then, within days,
on Tuesday, September 14, 1982, Bashir Gemayel, the newly elected
president of Lebanon, was assassinated. Gemayel had been the leader
of the Phalangists (also referred to as the Lebanese Christian
Militia, Lebanese Forces and Kataib), a military and political
party vehemently opposed to the Palestinians. The absolute hatred
of the Phalange towards the Palestinians and their desire for
revenge were common knowledge in this part of the world.
After the assassination of President
Gemayel, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) decided to enter West
Beirut. They also ordered the Phalange militia to enter the camps
"to search and mop up." This referred to any PLO fighters
who might remain there -- but of these there were few. IDF spokesmen
also gave another reason for allowing the Phalange to enter the
camps: "to prevent possible grave occurrences and to ensure
quiet". Throughout the night of September 14, the radio played
somber music. Early the next morning, Wednesday, September 15,
Israeli planes flew over the camps; we heard the explosive noise
as they broke the sound barrier. We also began to hear light artillery
fire from the area around the hospital. This continued all day,
increasing as the hours passed. Next morning, Thursday, September
16, the hospital suddenly became very busy and very crowded. About
2,000 inhabitants of the camp rushed into the building seeking
refuge. Another 2,000 could not get in; they huddled outside.
The refugees were terrified and hysterical. Screaming, they kept
repeating "Kataib, Israel, Haddad (another Lebanese militia)"
and made a motion with their fingers and hand as if to show that
someone was slitting their throat.
Inside the hospital, the scene
was chaotic. The morgue was overflowing. Wounded were streaming
in; some had been shot in the elbows and legs as they tried to
run away. I remember a dehydrated premature baby that was brought
in; in all the excitement it had not received enough fluid. I
do not know what happened to this baby once it was rehydrated.
Refugees crouched in every corner. We tended to the wounded. We
tried to feed those who had sought refuge. Both heavy and light
artillery fire continued all day. I kept listening to BBC news
on my tiny transistor radio. The main story was the death in a
car crash of Princess Grace of Monaco. The reports said nothing
at all about what was happening in the camps. At some point, late
in the evening, the second news item did relay the fact that the
Israeli army was occupying West Beirut.
That evening, a few other health-care
workers and I climbed to one of the top floors of the hospital;
it had been unused since the recent invasion. Because most of
the walls had been bombed out, the view was unobstructed. We watched
for a time as flares were shot into the air, brightly illuminating
different parts of the camp. After each flare, rounds of light
artillery fire were heard. I thought people were trying to shoot
down the flares. Not a sound was heard from the camps except the
noise of the flares being projected and the shots that followed.
No screaming, no cries for help, no human sound, nothing. Israeli
planes continued to fly overhead as the night went on.
The next morning, Friday, September
17, suddenly and with great urgency, all of the Palestinian and
Lebanese staff left the hospital. The hospital administrator had
told them it was no longer a safe area. The only staff members
who remained were some twenty doctors, nurses and physical therapists
from Great Britain, Norway, Holland, Sweden, Finland, Germany,
Ireland and two of us from the United States, all volunteers.
That afternoon, in great haste, the patients who could walk, left.
The refugees inside and outside the building also fled. They feared
it was no longer a safe place. The refugees told us that the militias
were making their way towards the hospital. The only patients
who remained were those who could not move easily and those in
critical condition. About fifty people altogether.
The sounds of high explosives,
mortars and artillery fire, both light and heavy, continued almost
non-stop, and they were getting closer. Smoke began pouring in
through the windows. Doors and windows were shaking. We evacuated
all our remaining patients to the lower floors. We taped up windows
so that the glass would not shatter. The electricity kept going
off; we were pumping oxygen by hand. The doctors operated by flashlight.
Sometime Friday morning, in the
midst of this bombardment, a film crew from Visnews came. They
did some filming, then left. Late in the afternoon, representatives
of the International Committee of the Red Cross appeared; they
evacuated half-a dozen critically injured children, whom they
placed in other hospitals around the city. They also left us oxygen,
blood and other vital and much-needed supplies. Finally, the ambassador
of Norway came by. Each of these visitors was given a list of
names of all the foreign volunteers.
That evening, as I was working
in the Intensive Care Unit, two unfamiliar young men approached
me. They looked different from the local population; well groomed
and freshly shaven, with neatly ironed shirts and well-tailored
trousers. One of them asked me, "Are the Kataib coming tomorrow
morning to slit the throats of Palestinian children?" He
asked me this twice. His eyelids appeared to be drooping. He wanted
to know who was in the hospital. I answered, "All foreigners."
I later learned that there were about 20 of these young men wandering
around the hospital smoking hashish. To this day, I have no idea
who these men were.
By that evening, the heavy artillery
had ceased. Only the sound of light artillery and gunshots could
be heard. That night I managed to get a few hours' sleep. Very
early on Saturday morning, September 18, I was awakened by one
of the other nurses. On an ordinary morning, we awoke to the tinkling
of the bell of the vendor selling Arab coffee from his colourful
cart. This morning there was an eerie silence; even the familiar
crowing of the roosters had ceased. My colleague said, "Get
downstairs right away. The Lebanese Army wants all the health
workers to assemble at the entrance." One of the soldiers
had instructed her to tell others "not to be afraid,"
as they were the Lebanese Army.
I looked out of a space that had
once held a glass pane, blown out long ago by the force of a high
explosive. In front of the hospital stood about a dozen men in
uniform, wearing helmets and holding rifles. Others were herding
away people who lived close by the hospital. I quickly put on
my lab coat over the green hospital uniform that I had slept in,
grabbed my passport, and made my way down eight flights of steps.
In the bright morning sun the international health workers who
had come to help stood together at the front door of our medical
facility. The men and women waiting for us were clean, their uniforms
starched and well-fitting -- but they bore the insignia not of
the Lebanese Army, but of the Phalange. In contrast to them, we
were a haggard and exhausted group; many of us had blood, pus
and other human waste on our uniforms and lab coats. The militiamen
spoke with each other in Arabic and French and to us in English.
They told us they were taking us away for a while, but that we
would be coming back. A few of the doctors successfully negotiated
with them to allow one doctor and one nurse to remain in the Intensive
Our captors led us down the road
in front of the hospital and on to Rue Sabra, the camp's main
street. As we were marched along, I heard gunshots being fired
on the right, then the left, then the right. After each one, I
instinctively ducked. Someone told me, "Keep walking."
The militiamen themselves did not react at all; they completely
ignored the sound. It was as if they had not heard it.
Some of the camp residents, including
some of the cooks and cleaners who worked at Gaza, followed us.
The militia stopped them. Along the way, a Palestinian had joined
us; fearful, he begged for one of us to give him a lab coat. Someone
did. He looked Arab, though, and was quickly confronted by a militiaman
asking for his ID card. The Phalangist slapped his face with the
card and made him take off the lab coat. I turned around and saw
him on his knees begging. As before, someone told me, "Keep
walking." The next thing I heard was a shot. I did not look
As we continued marching down Rue
Sabra, we saw dead bodies lying along the sides of the street;
some were old men, shot point-blank in the temple. As we moved
on, we approached a large group of camp residents, mainly women
and children, huddled together, with men in uniform guarding them.
They were very scared. We were worried about them, and they were
frightened for us, seeing us led past them at rifle point. A few
of them gave us the "V" sign. It seemed that with their
eyes and their lips they wanted to reassure us and thank us for
coming to help them. One young woman, fearing she would not survive,
stepped out of the crowd and handed her infant to one of the female
doctors. Dr. Swee Ang was able to walk a few feet with the baby
before a Phalangist stopped her. He took the baby away from her
and handed it back to the mother. For a few seconds, I thought
about the Holocaust, about mothers being sent off to concentration
camps. I had read much about Jewish women in Germany and Poland
handing over their babies to others in order to save them from
By now we were halfway down Rue
Sabra into Shatila; the camps sit beside one another, with no
visible line dividing them. The number of militiamen increased
greatly; they were everywhere. These looked different from the
ones who had escorted us out of the hospital. They were sloppy
and inkempt; their uniforms were dirty and rumpled, without any
identifying insignia. They seemed exhausted, edgy and ill tempered.
Throughout this ordeal, most of the uniformed men were in constant
communication with someone. There were many walkie-talkies in
Our group began to tighten up.
It was dawning on us that we might not make it out of these camps
alive. A few of us were crying softly. As we reached the end of
the camps, our captors began harassing us. They yelled, "You
are dirty people, you are not Christians! Christians don't treat
terrorists who kill Christians." The ranting continued, "You
are communists, socialists, Baader-Meinhof." They were closing
in and encircling us. They collected our passports, ordered us
to keep walking. The crackling sound of their walkie-talkies became
a familiar noise.
As we reached the end of the camp,
the landscape had changed dramatically. Where homes had stood
were piles of rubble. A yellow bulldozer was moving earth back
and forth in an area that had been dug up and greatly enlarged.
The bulldozer was scooping up dirt, moving it, then dumping it
back out, back and forth. This spot was very busy, with lots of
men in uniform. We had to stop many times in order to let the
bulldozer go past and do its job. I noticed it had a large Aleph,
the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, stenciled on its side.
When we turned the corner of Rue
Sabra, our captors steered us out of the camps towards the Kuwaiti
embassy. They asked those wearing white lab coats to remove them.
They lined us up in a row in front of a bullet-ridden wall. Facing
us were about 40 men in uniform: a firing squad. Their rifles
were ready and aimed in our direction. Behind them was a pick-up
truck carrying more militiamen and what looked like a piece of
anti-aircraft equipment. After a short time, the men in the firing
squad lowered their rifles and marched back into the camps.
It is my understanding that someone
from the IDF had been able to stop this imminent execution of
foreigners. Members of the IDF stationed at the Israeli forward
command post became aware of what was happening. An Israeli official
had run to the spot and ordered the militia not to carry this
out; he then left. Militiamen marched us past the embassy of Kuwait.
Here another Israeli official appeared, spoke with one of the
physicians, then left. The militia remained in control of us.
They took us to the courtyard of an unused U.N. building for "interrogation."
The courtyard was littered with
Israeli army rations, empty food cans, the Israeli newspaper Yediot
Aharonot from September 17 and a few discarded parts of IDF uniforms.
The Phalangists called us up one by one for questioning. They
asked me what nationality I was, why I had come to Lebanon, who
sent me. One of them told the other American not to be afraid,
"as you are an American," and bade him "welcome".
A woman in a Phalange uniform pulled
up in a jeep marked with a Red Cross. Beside her sat a young boy
who had several of what looked like fresh stab wounds on his body.
The woman said, "Look, see how we treat the enemy".
She appeared to treat the wounds, pouring some sort of liquid
on them and covering them with tape. Then she ordered the boy
out of the jeep. He began pleading with the militia. They put
him into another jeep and drove away with him.
Around 9:30 or 10 a.m., our "interrogation"
suddenly stopped. Someone handed our passports back to us. The
Phalangists led us across the street to a five-storey building
overlooking the camps. The IDF had occupied the building and was
using it as its forward command post. I noticed Israeli soldiers
on the roof looking through binoculars. A jeep filled with Phalange
militiamen was parked at the entrance to the command post. The
occupants made it known that they wanted to take a pretty Norwegian
nurse away with them. They seemed quite insistent. One of our
doctors asked someone from the IDF to intercede. He did, and the
jeep drove off without the nurse.
Within minutes of our arrival,
a crew from Israeli Television appeared. Bottled water, fresh
fruit and bread were brought to us; the crew filmed us as we ate
and drank. Our presence was of little interest to the Israelis.
I was not aware that any of them asked what had happened to us.
The Israelis said they would allow
three of the doctors to return to the hospital. An Israeli officer
gave one of the physicians a note in Hebrew and Arabic, telling
him that the note would get him past the checkpoints on the way
back to the hospital. The doctor still has this note and has offered
it as testimony. The IDF loaded the rest of us into jeeps. I sat
in the front seat of the jeep that led the convoy, as I was familiar
with Beirut. The IDF offered to drop us off anywhere along the
coast but said it was too dangerous for them to drive into the
city proper, as they were too few. The driver, a young soldier,
told me that today was his Christmas (not knowing I was Jewish,
he was trying to explain this holiday of Rosh Hashanah to me)
and that he did not like going into homes "seeing women and
children." I asked him, "How many people had he killed?"
He answered, "That is not a question you ask somebody."
As we drove past soldiers from the Lebanese Army he added, "The
Lebanese Army was impotent; they were here and did nothing. Israelis
had to do all the work."
As we drove along the periphery
of the city, we could see many buildings occupied by the IDF.
We had to stop a few times to avoid land mines. In the front seat,
next to me, was an enlarged map of Beirut covered by a piece of
clear plastic with Hebrew writing on it.
A few other health workers and
I asked to be dropped off at the American Embassy, which was located
on the coast. We went in. I told an Embassy employee that something
was terribly wrong in those camps; I wanted to report what I had
seen and heard over the past few days. I was told that the person
in charge was out, to come back the next day.
I did go back the next day. By
then the world knew what terrible things had happened in those
camps during the past few days. I met with Political Affairs Officer
Ryan Crocker; he had been to the camps, had counted bodies.
Early in October, I heard that
the government of Israel was establishing a Commission of Inquiry
into the massacre and inviting witnesses to testify. I knew that
the Palestinians and Lebanese who had survived would not go to
Jerusalem to testify. They were frightened; the idea that they
might go to Israel to appear in court was unrealistic. I remembered
what I had learned as a child: someone needed to speak for them
to be their voice. I asked all of the health workers who had been
present during the massacre and who were still in Beirut if they
would like to testify. Only Dr. Swee Ang and Dr. Paul Morris accepted.
I contacted a Washington Post correspondent,
asking for his help. He advised me to write a statement and have
it notarised by the American Embassy. For several days I sat quietly,
writing a 12-page document describing what I had seen and heard
between September 14 and 18. On October 14, a vice-consul at the
U.S. embassy notarised it. A New York Times correspondent made
sure it was delivered to the Commission of Inquiry in Jerusalem.
Two weeks later the Israeli Ministry
of Foreign Affairs in Baabda, East Beirut, contacted me through
the International Red Cross. Drs. Ang and Morris and I were instructed
to take a taxi to the IDF headquarters in Baabda. From there,
the IDF would drive us through the south of Lebanon and northern
Israel and on to Jerusalem. We left for Israel on October 31.
From Baabda we drove straight through to the border with Israel.
Along the way we passed through Israeli checkpoints and piles
of rubble, which had once been the homes of Palestinians.
In West Jerusalem we were put up
at a five-star hotel; we remained under IDF guard throughout our
stay. On the morning of November 1, we appeared before the Commission.
I was first. I introduced myself, read through my 12-page document,
and answered questions. Towards the end of my testimony I reminded
the Justices that as Jews we continue searching for Nazi war criminals
in order to punish them and to bring about justice. I said, "I
hope that justice will also be done in regard to this massacre".
Justice Aharon Barak responded, "Justice will be done".
About a week after I returned home
to Washington DC, I received two notes. One was from a Swedish
nurse who had listened to the news of our testimony with some
of the people in the camp. He wrote, "We heard your voice;
you spoke for the people of Sabra and Shatila". The other
note was from an American nurse who was working at a different
hospital in Beirut. Her note was dated November 1, 8:00 PM. She
wrote, "I was with my friends in Sabra when the news came
on the radio about your testimonies. Everyone present was so proud
and so happy". These messages mean a great deal to me.
In February 1983, the Commission
published the Final Report, together, with an 'Appendix A' in
Hebrew and an authorized translation in English. 'Appendix B'
remains secret. Regarding our evidence before the Commission,
the report stated, "We heard testimony from two doctors and
a nurse who worked in the Gaza Hospital, which was run by and
for Palestinians. There is no cause to suspect that any of these
witnesses have any special sympathy to Israel, and it is clear
to us both from their choosing that place of employment and from
our impression of their appearance before us -- that they sympathize
with the Palestinians and desired to render service to Palestinians
My response is that sympathy for
and my desire to help the Palestinians have little to do with
wanting to bear witness to the truth. Had I volunteered my nursing
services in Israel and witnessed an atrocity perpetrated against
Israelis, I would have followed the same path of speaking out,
of not remaining silent.
As the occupying force in Beirut,
the IDF under the command of Ariel Sharon was responsible for
the safety of the population. The IDF opened the refugee camps
to a militia with a history of hatred and indiscriminate violence
against Palestinians. It sealed off the refugee camps. It refused
to allow terrified, pleading camp residents to escape through
the exits of the camps. The IDF supplied the flares that lit the
way for the murderers; it provided a bulldozer to help bury bodies
in a mass grave and hide it with earth. And no official intervened
when it became clear that innocent lives were being taken.
An extensive communication system
was in use, on September 18 at least, as evidenced by the continual
use of walkie-talkies. The Israeli forward command post overlooked
the camps. The IDF could intervene to stop the execution of light-skinned,
blond-haired health workers holding Western passports and could
stop the Phalange from abducting a Norwegian nurse. Given these
facts, I believe someone in that IDF command post knew what was
happening could even see at least some of what was going on in
the area. A note written in Hebrew and Arabic allowed doctors
to get past checkpoints and return to the hospital. The fact that
the Visnews television crew, the International Red Cross representatives,
and the Ambassador of Norway were able to enter and leave Gaza
Hospital in the midst of the massacre means that someone had the
authority to allow safe entries and departures in the area. Someone
had the authority to rein in the killers.
Copied (and edited) from the website of Jewish
And so, Justice Barak, justice has not been done.
Dominion of Death
Dylan Thomas wrote a war poem entitled
"And Death Shall Have No Dominion". In Israel it does.
Here death governs: the government of Israel rules over a dominion
of deaths. So the most astonishing thing about yesterday's terrorist
attack in Jerusalem and all similar attacks is that the Israelis
Israeli propaganda and indoctrination
manage to keep coverage of these attacks detached from any Israeli
reality. The story in the Israeli (and American) media is one
of Arab murderers and Israeli victims, whose only sin was that
they asked for seven days of grace.
But anyone who can remember back
not even one year but just one week or several hours, knows the
story is different, that each attack is a link in a chain of horrific
bloody events that extends back 34 years and has but one cause:
a brutal occupation. An occupation that humiliates, starves, denies
jobs, demolishes homes, destroys crops, murders children, imprisons
minors without trials under appalling conditions, lets babies
die at checkpoints and spreads lies.
Last week after the assassination
of Abu Hanoud, a journalist from Yedioth Ahronot asked me whether
I felt "relief". Hadn't I being frightened that "a
murderer like that was roaming free? " "No, I did not
feel relief, I told her and I will feel no relief as long as the
murderers of Palestinian children, like the murder of a suspect
without trial or the murder of a ten year old boy yesterday, shortly
before the attack, guarantee that no Israeli child can walk to
school safely. Every Israeli child will pay for the deaths of
the five children in Gaza and others in Jenin, Ramalla, Hebron.
The Palestinian have learned from
Israel that every victim must be avenged tenfold, a hundredfold.
They have said repeatedly that until there is peace in Ramallah
and Jenin there will be no peace in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. So
it is not up to the Palestinians to keep seven days of quiet but
up to the Israeli Occupation Force.
On Friday it was reported that
politicians from both sides had reached a deal in Jerusalem to
allow the reopening of the casino upon which their own livelihood
depends. They did it without American intervention, without high-level
committees, with just the assistance of lawyers and business people,
who promised the parties what was required. What this shows is
that the conflict is not between leaders; when an issue affects
them directly (unlike the deaths of children) they are quick to
find a solution.
But these attacks serve the interest
of Israeli policy - policy designed to make us forget that the
war today is about protecting the settlements and the continuation
of the occupation. A policy that drives young Palestinians to
commit suicide and take Israeli children with them, animated by
Samson's invocation: "Let me die with the Philistines".
A policy contrived to make us believe that "they want Tel
Aviv and Jaffa too" and "there is no one to talk to",
even as they liquidate all those who might have been able to talk.
Now that we know our leaders are
capable of peace when there is an economic motive, we must demand
that they make peace when lesser things, like the lives of our
children are at stake. Until all the parents of Israel and Palestinian
rise up against the politicians and demand that they curb their
lust for conquest and bloodshed, the underground realm of buried
children will continue to grow. Since the beginning of time, mothers
have cried out in a clear voice for life and against death. Today
we must rise up against the transformation of our children into
murderers and murdered, raise our children not to support evil
machinations, and force the politicians who say, with Abner and
Joab: "Let the young men arise and play before us" *
- to make way for those who can sit at the negotiating table and
agree to a true and just peace, who are prepared to engage in
dialog not with the aim of tricking and manipulating the other
side, not to humiliate the other and force him to his knees, but
to reach a solution that considers the other, a solution free
of racism and lies. Otherwise death shall continue to have dominion
I suggest that parents who have
not yet lost their children, look beneath their feet and heed
the voices rising from the kingdom of death, upon which the step
day by day and hour by hour, for only there does everyone understand
that there is no difference between one life and another, that
it matters little what is the colour of your skin or the colour
of your ID, or which flag flies over which hill and which direction
you face when you pray.
In the kingdom of death Israeli
children lie beside Palestinian children, soldiers of the occupying
army beside suicide bombers, and no one remembers who was David
and who was Goliath, for they have faced the sober truth and realised
that they were cheated and lied to, that politicians without feeling
or conscience gambled away their lives as they continue to gamble
with the lives off us all. We have given them the power, through
democratic elections, to turn our home into an arena of never
ending murder. Only if we stop them can we return to a normal
life in this place and then death will have no dominion.
(Originally published in Yediot
Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan was the
mother of 13 years old Smadar Elhanan, who was killed by a suicide
bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997
Hands of Ariel Sharon
What is Going On in the Occupied Territories?
Kazam Jadban, 56, is the proprietor
of a small grocery store on a corner of Shweike Square in Tul
Karm. He stood at the entrance to his shop and gazed in disbelief
at the Israeli tanks crossing the square and moving slowly up
the street until they disappeared from view. It was Thursday,
March 7, the second day of the Israel Defense Forces incursion
into Tul Karm (in the occupied West Bank). A group of children,
5 to 10 years old, was running through the streets, shaking hands
with two journalists wearing helmets and flak vests, clustering
around them, making the "V" for victory sign with their
fingers and pushing themselves into the range of the camera lens
shouting "Take my picture, take my picture." This is
a scene that every news photographer in the territories knows
Mohammed Abu Ali Botter, 9, was
among them. Five minutes earlier he had bought ice cream from
Jadban and he was still licking it with enjoyment. Jadban saw
him scampering up the street in the wake of the journalists, and
then he heard a shot. One bullet. A while later, perhaps a few
seconds later, it seemed as though time had stood still - the
boy was seen running shakily toward his home, but immediately
he fell. "His ice cream was full of blood," said Jadban.
His brother, 13, who had been sitting
the whole time on his doorstep, leaped toward him, picked him
up in his arms and shouted to the shocked grocer to call an ambulance.
But the ambulance was slow in coming. The tanks are blocking its
way, they told Jadban over the phone from the Thabet Thabet Hospital.
Mohammed's brother began to run toward the hospital on foot, and
the doctor promised to meet him. From the steep and narrow alley
behind the grocery store one can see the hospital on a small hill
beyond the main road. Five minutes, the time it takes to drive
to the hospital, became a fateful half-hour. The boy died in his
brother's arms near the olive tree on the slope of the alleyway.
Someone hastened to scribble graffiti in memory of the martyr
on an iron door leading into a courtyard, through which the brother
and the doctor had hoped to pass with the wounded child into the
The rumour that the boy had thrown
a stone at the tank and was therefore shot immediately captured
hearts in the streets of Tul Karm. A little boy with a stone facing
tanks, they commented this week with a bitter smile, and said
no more. The child's blue eyes were visible at every corner of
the city, on hoardings, facades of houses, on the windshields
of the few cars driving through empty streets. Not far from the
square where the boy was killed, a tank still blocked the way
from Baka al-Sharqiya, despite the IDF announcement of a withdrawal
from Areas A. During the day they're quiet, but at night they
continue to shoot, said Munir Aboushi, a resident of Tul Karm
and one of the heads of Preventive Security in the territories.
Shweike Square - "The most
flourishing place here before the intifada, the focal point of
the Israeli underworld's car theft activities," as Aboushi
said jokingly - was silent. Thabet Thabet Square, which was recently
renamed for the secretary-general of the Fatah in Tul Karm who
was assassinated by Israel, was also quiet. This is the silence
of poverty, unemployment and exhaustion. Everywhere there were
portraits of martyrs from all the intifadas.
The 16 dead and some of the 50
wounded in the IDF incursion into Tul Karm are but a tiny comma
in the story of the suffering of the occupation, they emphasize
here. In the frightful balance of bloodshed on both sides of the
Green Line, Israel's pre-1967 border, this equals one or one and
a half terror attacks in Tel Aviv, Hadera or Jerusalem. Even those
who with all their hearts oppose terror attacks against Israeli
civilians, or any terror attack "within the sovereign boundaries
of the State of Israel from 1948," as Aboushi defined it,
feel that Israel has left them no other way out of the humiliation
and the occupation, and they cannot but take a bit of pleasure
in the taste of revenge.
The dusty town, with its small
squares and winding streets, looked like a heap of tombstones,
the materials from which a national ethos is built. It would seem
that the IDF's main success in the latest round of bloodshed in
the territories has been to focus the popular national Palestinian
consciousness on their struggle for freedom and political independence.
Jews don't kill children
"I don't believe in peace,"
wept the mother of the dead boy, Nura Abu Ali Bitter, pulling
workbooks and notebooks out of the orphaned schoolbag. "Look,
everything is `Excellent, Excellent', an excellent boy. What a
kind-hearted boy." She clasped her chest. "Sharon and
the notion of peace don't go together. If Sharon isn't ousted
there won't be peace. He is Satan, everyone knows him from the
pogrom in Lebanon. He is fighting us with tanks and Apaches -
isn't he ashamed of himself? If we had their tanks and helicopters
we would have vanquished Israel a long time ago."
"Satan, Satan," muttered
the father, a tall man with a gaunt face and white hair. "There
is only one peace," continued the mother. "Peace is
an independent Palestinian state and a complete withdrawal to
the 1967 borders. We won't give up the Al Aqsa Mosque at any price.
It's ours, it says so in the Koran. Where will we pray?"
Heatedly she sprang from her seat
to answer a question about the right of return. "My parents
are from Jaffa," she said, "but as far as I'm concerned
all the refugees can return to the West Bank and we'll establish
our Palestinian state." This was a simple family, which refuses
to identify with Hamas or with Fatah. It was one voice among many
different and contradictory voices, which loss has not diverted
from its aim.
Crowding and poverty were evident
everywhere in the home of the 12-member Bitter family. The father,
who suffers from diabetes, has long been unable to work in his
trade as a cab driver. Since the incursion, Nura Bitter has also
had in her home a 70-year-old aunt, half of whose home was knocked
down by an IDF tank. The narrow streets of Tul Karm made movement
difficult for the tanks, which were "forced" in several
cases to crush houses that stood in their way. Nura found her
elderly aunt sitting in a corner of her destroyed home, shaking
and praying in fear. Her little boy, Mohammed, was still alive,
and he immediately volunteered to run and bring his father to
pick up his aunt and take her to their home. "How he cried,"
recalled the mother.
The following day the tanks came
to the square opposite their home and Mohammed ran to watch them.
Long years of living with soldiers around had dulled the inhabitants'
sense of fear. Mohammed asked his father for a shekel to buy ice
cream at the shop downstairs and he gave it to him. "Here
in our neighborhood it was quiet," wailed the mother. "The
war was in the refugee camp, the tanks were just passing by and
I didn't imagine that they would shoot little children. What did
a little child do to them?"
She herself went downstairs to
fetch some water from the broken water pipe in the yard. One of
the first steps the IDF took against the Palestinians population
when it reoccupied the cities was to cut off the electricity and
the water. "The house was empty, there was nothing to eat
or drink, so I went down to fetch some water," she related.
"I had just managed to say to him, `Be careful, my son,'
and when I got back upstairs to the door I heard a terrible ruckus.
I ran downstairs and I saw him covered in blood in his brother's
arms. I screamed: `Save my child, help,' a helicopter fired above
me, I ran after them but I hadn't the strength. I fell on the
sidewalk, I fainted."
From the rumours that spread about
the circumstances of the boy's killing, the mother has adopted
the version involving the undercover unit of IDF soldiers who
operate in disguise. She tends to believe that the journalists
were soldiers in disguise who fired from the television truck,
but she is not certain. "When the bullet hit him he yelled:
`Mommy, mommy, mommy,'" she reconstructed, with renewed weeping,
what she had been told, fingering his blue woollen hat. "He
always drew pictures, pictures about peace. What do little children
understand about war? They don't imagine that a tank can shoot
at them. It's not Jews who do those things," she said suddenly
in a moment of self-conviction. "I can't believe it. Jews
don't kill children. At the roadblocks I see Lahad's men, from
the Christian Southern Lebanese Army. We recognize them by their
accent, and now they've brought them here to do the dirty work."
Her 14-year-old daughter did not
agree with her. "The people who killed my brother are evil
Jews," she said, gritting her teeth. Her older sister is
married to a Palestinian born in Hebron, who after a seven-year
stay in the United States lost his right to return to his homeland
under the arbitrary laws of the occupation. The sister added in
white-hot anger: "If my daughter dies like that, I swear
I'll kill a thousand Jews."
Policy of revenge
The battered Tul Karm refugee camp,
the main focus of the IDF tanks' activity, radiated suppressed
anger. Everywhere there were bullet-pocked houses, broken streets,
smashed water pipes, torn electricity wires, piles of stones and
sometimes bits of demolished
houses - a single story, a fence, a balcony. And sometimes entire
houses, some of them destroyed as punishment, some of them destroyed
for no particular reason, by 'mistake', the privilege of an "enlightened"
army. Here and there boards covered holes that the soldiers had
made in walls through which they moved from house to house, casting
fear into the hearts of old people, children and women, in all
too familiar scenes that the IDF chose, most horribly, to take
pride in and invited cameramen to film.
"Sharon should know that we
can behead him," was the pathetic cry of a graffiti slogan
on one of the walls, alongside congratulations to a new hajji
(pilgrim to Mecca) and wishes for "Paradise for the martyr
Sami Balawani." Not far from there, the names of three of
the dead in the invasion were inscribed: Ziad Jirad, Mazuz Larashi
and Alid Ghanem. According to the inhabitants, only two of the
wanted men and two members of the Palestinian security forces
were killed. All the others who lost their lives were ordinary
civilians, they stressed in the camp.
This week, the day after the tight
encirclement of the refugee camp was lifted, quite a few of its
armed men could be seen walking about unhindered in twos and threes
in the narrow alleys. If helicopters appear in the skies over
the camp, they will vanish. This is the nature of a guerrilla
war, explained Aboushi. The army's clumsy tanks could move - crushing
everything in their path - only in a few of the wider alleys.
The IDF did not dare send its soldiers in to move on foot in the
narrow alleys that became a no-man's-land. Through them, the wanted
men ultimately fled on foot to areas outside the camp, the inhabitants
related with satisfaction mixed with scorn.
The IDF itself has admitted that
of the 700 men arrested in Tul Karm, only a minority were armed
and were wanted, some of them were Palestinian police with permits
to bear arms. The only real damage done by the war that Sharon
has declared on the territories, said Aboushi, was to the Palestinian
Authority's infrastructure outside the camps - PA offices, its
jails and its government institutions. All the computers were
destroyed, though most of the data had been backed up on discs
deposited beforehand in safe places. Many PA officials lost their
jobs, and others had to move their offices to their homes at their
"How does Israel expect us
to stop terror without prisons?" asked Aboushi, raising the
key question in the traditional absurd dialogue between the PA
The impression is growing stronger
that the IDF action in the camps was above all a demonstration
of might for its own sake, the purpose of which was to prove that
the IDF can reach everywhere and do anything it likes. A policy
of revenge designed to frighten the
population, which will be repaid by fanning fanaticism in Israeli
public opinion and increasing the hatred in the territories. In
many ways it was a media war. A propaganda extravaganza aimed
at internal consumption, the dubious achievements of which, in
Tul Karm, for example, were mainly bloodshed, destruction, the
killing of two members of UNWRA and Red Crescent ambulance crews,
mass arrests, failure to evacuate the wounded, delay of medical
treatment, starvation and harassment of a civilian population
- deeds that border on war crimes.
`I've never been so afraid'
"It was awful," said
Khaled Hassan, 20, a father of five who works harvesting flowers
in a village near Netanya. The soldiers took his family by surprise
when they broke through a wall. "The moment we herd the pounding,
we knew that the soldier were coming," he related. "The
rumour had already gone around; the children were screaming with
fright and it was impossible to calm them down. The soldiers turned
the house upside down in their searches. I don't know what they
were looking for. For four days the family lived without food
or water, asking the neighbours to throw them a some food. Other
neighbours had jerry-cans of water at home, and they shared.
"Believe me, what happened
here is a second Lebanon, just plain cruelty. I know families
whom the soldiers crowded into one room and they slept in the
other rooms, with one soldier guarding them all the time. I know
people who had money and gold stolen from their houses."
Hassan and his two brothers were
taken from their home on Friday, the third day of the invasion,
after midnight, with their hands cuffed, to the local UNWRA school,
which had been turned into a collection centre for the detainees.
His 70-year-old father, who suffers from an intestinal disorder,
was also arrested.
Hundreds of men were already at
the school, their hands tied and their eyes blindfolded. "It
was so frightening," he said. "I've never in my life
been so afraid. I hadn't done anything, and suddenly I see myself
in handcuffs. I was afraid, I have children, and the little one
is only a bit over two, and who will take care of them?"
The IDF entered the camp from three
directions under cover of helicopter fire, related Mustafa Zdudi,
the Fatah representative in the camp, a tall, heavy, bespectacled
man with a moustache. "In Afghanistan they didn't use helicopter
fire like this. Everything all around was fire," he said.
"The armed men hurried to hide in houses and to conceal themselves
in alleys with their rifles at the ready and here waited. There
was no medical aid for those who were wounded by the helicopter
fire, until they opened the UNWRA clinic. The only way out of
the camp, to the Tul Karm hospital was blocked by an armoured
vehicle. Mazouz Jirashi bled for hours by a tank and no one could
get near to help him. The armed men defended the houses and the
alleys, there was infernal fire there. When the IDF suspected
that armed men were hiding in a certain house it fired at it from
helicopters and tanks. There are houses that were bombarded with
On Friday afternoon, the IDF called
over megaphones for all men between the ages of 13 and 60 to come
out of the houses with their hands up. "One of Lahad's people
was talking over the megaphone, I'm convinced. We recognized the
Lebanese accent," claimed Zdudi, and was immediately answered
with a wave of testimonies about SLA soldiers who entered one
house or another. "Our megaphones answered them: `Sharon
has sent you to die here. Get out of here.' It was clear to the
armed men that they would not turn themselves in," continued
Zdudi, "and fighting didn't stand a chance. In conversations
between inhabitants and armed men in the houses where they were
hiding and in coordination over the phone with other people, it
was decided that masses of civilians, men, women and children,
would go out to the soldiers and separate themselves from the
armed men. This is how we made it possible for the armed men to
The army made do with the population
that went out to it, claimed Zdudi. The men were separated from
the women and taken to the UNWRA school. Zdudi was also taken
there. "The soldiers yelled at us the whole time: `Hands
on your heads,'" he laughed. "The moment our heads dropped
because we were so tired, they yelled: `Hands on your heads.'
They smeared their faces with red and black, like Rambo. Spotlights
on the tanks, or I don't know what, blinded us. The cameras never
stopped filming us sitting on the floor with our hands on our
heads. On the second floor were collaborators, who were apparently
supposed to identify armed men, wanted men and people who have
official positions in the camp."
The next day at 3:30 P.M. Zdudi
was taken with about 50 others to the courtyard of the district
command office, he related, and for an entire day they were forced,
he said, to sit without moving, their hands tied behind their
backs. "We didn't eat and we didn't drink and our eyes were
covered," he testified. Anyone who needed the bathroom was
taken aside to the end of the hall. The floor was full of urine.
Anyone who by chance leaned against the fence was beaten on his
legs. Anyone who fell asleep had cold water poured over him, "and
the person would wake up like a lunatic." Curses, screams,
slaps, and you're tied up, so what can you do?" said Zdudi.
"Those were the most difficult hours. There were people who
had had surgery recently; sick people. There were people who cried
all night and if anyone had a pullover they took it away from
him together with his shoelaces."
From the UNWRA school, Zdudi was
placed under arrest at Kedumim. Hassan was taken with hundreds
of others to a caravan site opposite the moshav Nitzani-Oz and
then to the Ofra army camp near Ramallah. A third group of detainees
was sent to Hawara, claimed Dudi. They spent eight to 10 days
there. During the first two days they were given hardly any food.
Then they began to bring them schnitzel, bread, cottage cheese,
oranges and apples, also two cigarettes a day. There was only
one bottle of water for five detainees a day. They were not interrogated
even once, he said. When they were released they were made to
sign a "prisoner of war" form. Hassan saw the clubs
in the hands of the soldiers and signed. Zdudi refused to sign.
Many refused. "We kicked up a fuss, a hunger strike,"
`I hate the Yahud'
As time went by, the sense of oppression
in the camp increased. Basel Shahab, 25, wandered around his burnt-out
house with an expression of despair. A strong stink of burnt rubber
came from the rooms. The bedroom was full of shattered glass and
the closet was completely burned. When men from Palestinian Military
Intelligence who had evaded the IDF broke into their house, the
family members went to live in the grandfather's home. He does
not know how the IDF found out, apparently with the help of collaborators,
but on Saturday morning soldiers burst into their home, and when
they left in the evening they blew it up with dynamite. He himself
was under arrest at the time at the UNWRA school. He had forgotten
his identity card at home and offered to go home and get it; the
soldier agreed. He went and didn't return. "It's hard for
me to believe that they found explosives here, because my mother
had cleaned up before they got here and she didn't find anything,"
he said, pointing helplessly to the burnt walls and the shaky
foundation stones of the house. "What can I say? God meant
this for me," he muttered. "Not Zinni and not anybody
will bring peace. I'm sure that anyone who wants peace doesn't
behave like this."
Two young men who joined the conversation
did not conceal their pent-up rage. Of course they want peace,
but "peace with security," they said, mocking Israeli
slogans with challenging look. "Peace with rights,"
they reiterated with focused quiet. They will not compromise on
anything less than an independent state and the right of return,
they said. Without the right of return that will redeem them and
their children from these godforsaken alleys and a life of eternal
poverty and failure - there is no peace.
"What kind of peace is this?
You'll keep on living in your villas in Jaffa, and what will become
of us? Where will we live? Here? I'm finished," one of them
burst out, "But I won't let my son go through what I have
Outside, scores of children filled
the crowded alleys, playing soccer, carrying improvised wooden
rifles tied with strips of black rubber, the big hit in the camp
since the invasion. Huge graffiti covered the walls in Arabic
and Hebrew: "We shall not forget and we shall not forgive."
In Arabic, the word "Death" was added. Without any unnecessarily
detail, concisely, with restrained hatred that no longer finds
relief in its verbal expression. Taunting me, one boy of about
14, wearing around his neck a medallion of his brother who was
killed, shouted: "I hate the Yahud [the Jews]."
Previously published in "Ha'aretz"