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ISRAEL IMPERIAL NEWS
Spring 2002

CONTENTS:
1. Editorial - A Bleak Situation
2. Israel's Policy of Ethnic Cleansing Revealed
3. A Brief Political Analysis of the Present
4. The Massacre in Sabra and Shatila in 1982
5. The Dominion of Death
6. The Clean Hands of Ariel Sharon
7. Meanwhile, What is Going On in the Occupied Territories

IIN cover Spring 2002: Why don't you supress the terrorists?


Editorial: A Bleak Situation

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 fine).

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.


And now we move forward to the present day:

Israel's Policy of Ethnic Cleansing Revealed

Minister admits to its existence & advocates expulsion

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 war".

2) Downloaded on 20/12/01 from:


A Brief Political Analysis of the Present
Tanya Reinhart

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 and Syria.

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 'state'.

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 future.

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 17, 2001).

References:

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', December 2000

2) The document can be found at:

3) The article (in Hebrew only) can be downloaded directly at:

Tanya Reinhart is a professor in Tel Aviv University. This article was downloaded from the Internet on 19/12/01.


The 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, Spring 1983.]

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 hospital.

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 Care unit.

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 back.

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 extermination.

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 use.

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 in need."

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.
And so, Justice Barak, justice has not been done.

Copied (and edited) from the website of Jewish Peace News:


The Dominion of Death
Nurit Peled-Elhanan

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 are astonished.

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 over us.

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 Ahronot 01/12/2001)

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


The Clean Hands of Ariel Sharon

illustration: my hands are clean: i only gave orders


Meanwhile, What is Going On in the Occupied Territories?
Ada Ushpiz

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 well.

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 hospital.

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 own expense.

"How does Israel expect us to stop terror without prisons?" asked Aboushi, raising the key question in the traditional absurd dialogue between the PA and Israel.

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 explosives."

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 get away."

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," related Hassan.

`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 been through."

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" 22/03/2002