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Leftists Speak Out
NOTE TO READER: This article/book review is filled with adjectives but missing the nouns. The result is to create a series of emotions, without saying anything, while insinuating much. The phrase that other things are "more important than the question of how many exactly died in Jenin," skirts completely the confirmed death toll agreed to by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities: 32 IDF killed and 52 Palestinians.  The IDF says that 47 were armed combatants. And this in what is claimed to be "The
Most Authoritative Report."  Read on for my imbedded comments.
                                            ---- Becky Johnson

May 3, 2003

Searching Jenin
The Most Authoritative Report on the War Crimes We Will Ever Get

Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion
Edited by Ramzy Baroud
Introduction by Noam Chomsky

Over a year has passed now, since the Israeli army invaded the refugee camp
in Jenin, destroyed its houses,...
BECKY: All of them? The reports I read were that the Jenin Camp was a small
fraction of the City of Jenin. The area that was destroyed in the Jenin Camp was
a section of the camp equaling approximately one football field. Of that, much
of the housing was unusable from previous conflicts. Some of the damage was
from bulldozers but some of the damage was from boobie traps the Palestinians
set themselves, in advance of the IDF's arrival.  Some of those boobie traps were
placed below Palestinian families, and resulted in the destruction of their homes,
injuries, and perhaps death.
... killed many of its inhabitants and committed one of the worst war crimes in this
present Intifada, Intifada al-Aqsa.
BECKY:  Read this entire article and see if you can find the "worst war crime" in
this article.  I couldn't.  But then maybe its hidden in the book somewhere as
deeply as those WMD were hidden in Iraq.
With a successful campaign of distortion and manipulation of evidence,...
BECKY: As I watched, listened, and read about events as they were unfolding
from right wing sources such as CNN and FOXnews, and from left wing sources such as reports from A.N.S.W.E.R. , The International Action Center, and the International Solidarity Movement, I heard many reports about the rising civilian death toll the IDF had exacted on the Palestinian population.  The public relations Palestinian Authority officer reported 1500 dead.  Then he down-graded it to 1000 dead.  Later it was 500 dead. The Israeli Defense Force all along reported that 49 had been killed and 47 were armed combatants.  When all the dead were identified and counted, and the lists matched for those who were missing, the PA reported that 52 had died in Jenin in April 2002. As to evidence manipulation, the Israeli papers reported that the Palestinians had drug dead animals into the rubble so the place would have "the smell of death" about it.
 the Israeli foreign ministry, with the help of the United States, succeeded in
hiding from the world the horrors of Jenin, and even worse, in intimidating
anyone daring to tell the truth about what had happened there.
BECKY: Here the author is suggesting that since no one is claiming any atrocities,
it "proves" that the Israelis are repressing these reports.

This is the great significance and enormous importance of this book.
"Searching Jenin" is the first systematic account, through eyewitness
reports, on the events in April 2002. Two other books appeared in Arabic,
but this is the first one in English. It puts the events in context and it
highlights the true nature of the crime,....
BECKY: What crime?
while not falling into the pitfall laid by the Israelis who succeeded in drawing
the UN inquiry commission into supposedly academic discussion of how to
describe a massacre.
BECKY:  In a massacre, an armed force kills a lot of unarmed civilians.
              Its worse than mass murder, where you have multiple bodies,
              but usually ten or less. In a battlefield, where there are a lot of weapons,
              there may be a lot of dead bodies, but it shouldn't be lumped with a         
              massacre. The problem in Jenin, was that a lot of the Palestinians were
              armed but not in uniform. The PA wanted to call anyone killed who
              was not in a uniform as a civilians.  The Israelis wanted to call anyone
              who was armed "an armed combatant," Hence the discussion.
 As comes out vividly from this book, Jenin was not just a massacre, it was an inhuman act of unimaginable barbarism.
BECKY:  Where?  I missed it again! What unimaginable, barbaric, inhuman
massacre took place?  (must be in the book.)
Noam Chomsky, in his introduction to the book, puts it in the context of
crimes sponsored by America and he is someone who recorded meticulously
these crimes in the past.
BECKY: Since he was right about stuff in the past, he must be right now. Right?
Ramzy Baroud, in his preface, notes rightly that the book will not answer the question
of how many people were killed (52 Palestinians/32 Israelis), nor will it cover every aspect of the crime.
BECKY: What crime?
But it does convey the message, as one of the witnesses put it that, 'what I have seen
are crimes; sometimes greater than an earthquake'. And this is not just an impression, as this book makes it all too clear: every aspect of the Israeli actions in Jenin
can easily be identified as war crimes, according to the Hague convention.
BECKY:  Okay. So "every aspect of every action" of the IDF could be identified as a
"war crime" but the author has yet to name even one "crime". (You know where to look!)

Testimonies like the ones presented do not only help to shed light on many
of the chapters hidden by the Israeli screening and news' manipulation,...
BECKY:  So saying that the IDF had killed 1500 civilians, then 1000 civilians,
then 500 civilians. Then showing a list of 52 is not news manipulation?
Calling guys with guns shooting at you "civilians" just because they are not
wearing a uniform is a manipulation of the facts.  Any conclusion drawn from
those "facts" would be erroneous.
...it also brings forcefully the emotions, sounds and smells of the catastrophe.
BECKY:  What catastrophe?  The IDF rode into town, heavily armed, rounded every
one up, checked them against their list of known suspects. Broke up places
where the guys planning the next suicide bombings were working, and shot at
anyone who shot at them. What else should Israel have done?  They were
being bombed at teenage discos, pizzarias. buses, train stations, little girls birthday
parties, coffeeshops, Hebrew University, and at Passover dinner and the Israelis needed to do something to stop those attacking them.  So they used surveilance. They targeted part of the Jenin Camp which is in a small part of the City of Jenin.  That was where more suicide bombers had come from than any other place.  That is why the IDF went in in the first place.

The pain is still there in those telling the stories. The book conveys the
lingering agony through the italic interventions of the editors. Through
them, we learn that while witnesses recall the horror of April 2002, like
Hussein Hammad, they have to stop several times - sometimes to repose and
occasionally to weep, before able to resume, like Hammad does, their
BECKY: What horror?

Sometimes the testimonies, at first glance, seem not to tell enough...
BECKY:   Like this author who is not telling us what crime against humanity
has been committed, how many were killed or not killed, what the horror was, or any other detail that could be verified in some way with a dead body that has been tortured, or a lot of dead bodies, or a video or photograph, or any way to verify anything. witness testimony, though important, is often fabricated.
 - as if the survivors wish to repress the horror rather then tell it in full. But
the economy of words reveals quite often, even more about what had happened.
Rafidia al-Jamal is very laconic in a way, in her testimony, but the full
extent of the atrocity comes out in a very short sentence she utters. This
is the case when she describes how she prevented desperately her husband -
who had saved her life a moment earlier - from searching after his sister.
"Don't go" I told him, "She is Dead". And then she reports dryly: 'my
children have nightmares'.
BECKY: So how was his sister killed? How did her husband save her life? That
her children are having nightmares is not proof of IDF atrocities.

Other witnesses, especially mothers, feel the need to expand when it comes
to their children's nightmares. Each with her own way of coping with the
persisting torment of their children. Mothers all over the West Bank, and
not only in Jenin a year after the massacre, spent sleepless nights with
terrified children who witnessed the brutality at first hand.
BECKY: What brutality?
In Jenin, Farid and Ali Hawashin are such typical victims of continued nightmares of
fear, that according to their mother, haunt them even during daylight. For
them it is mainly the noise the disturbs their peace of mind: that of the
loudspeaker that arrived near midnight at their home,...
BECKY: Please note. The IDF used loudspeakers to warn the civilian population 
to leave so that only the perpetrators of the armed conflict would remain.  This is
what civilized armies do. It is the opposite of killing civilians.
...that of the brutal burst into the house, that of the men pleading with the soldiers before
being thrown out to the street, and then, worst of all, that of shots, the
groaning of wounded and the silence of the dead. Noise and death repeat
themselves in the memories of everyone in this book.
BECKY: Many of those shots came from Palestinian gunmen.  Many of those groaning and dying were IDF soldiers.  So far there is no proof of a massacre, a war crime, or an unspeakable act. Remember, that the Jenin camp was home to more suicide bombers than any other city in the PA.

With these memories of sound and vision, the search for Jenin continues
throughout this powerful document. It is a search for truth, but for other
things as well. It is a search for loved ones unaccounted for,
BECKY: There was no list of people unaccounted for when the final death toll was announced.
...long after the massacre ended, and then there is a search for a remedy to the pain of
the nightmare, and these searches were far more important than the question
of how many exactly died in Jenin. Even without this question being
answered, there is a sense that this is the most authoritative report we
will ever get.
BECKY:  I am sensing the smell of garbage that should have been taken
out long ago. The death toll is less "important" because it does not
reveal a massacre, it does not reveal any war crimes, it does not reveal
all the lies the Palestinian media told us while the incursion was happening.

Each reader will take something different from this book. For me as an
Israeli, I find the description of the soldiers' conduct the most disturbing
BECKY: What conduct?  (must be in the book.)

...and most convincing part of the evidence. It is a story of the
dehumanization that raged in Jenin. This is so well epitomized in the
chronicles of Nidal Abu al-Hayjah as reported by Ihab Ayadi. After Nidal was
wounded and lay crying for help, anyone who tried to come to his rescue was
shot by Israeli snipers. He bled to death as so many others. Technically, he
was not massacred, he was tortured to death.
BECKY: When a battle is over, the wounded on both sides must be given
medical attention. This was done.  During a gunfight, people get killed.
The deadly precision of the snipers as a means of deterring rescue operations
is being reported in other testimonies in this book, such as that of Taha Zbyde,
who was killed eventually by a sniper. This mode of action was and still is enacted
wherever there is an Israeli operation in the occupied territories.
BECKY: The IDF have a policy where when they are shot at, they shoot back.
There are plenty of Palestinian snipers, but this author has never heard of one.
It is part of the vicious repertoire of the inhuman occupation - the daily
physical harassment and mental abuse at checkpoints, the prevention from
pregnant mothers or the wounded to get to hospitals, the starvation and the
confiscation of water. No wonder some Israelis felt this brings back
memories from the darker days of the Second World War.
BECKY: This author is accusing the Israelis of preventing sick people from getting
medical attention, of starving the Palestinians, and of taking their water. All three
of these are false issues and so much more complicated than the author is putting it. Terrorists have hidden in ambulances and smuggled weapons in them. Women have feigned pregnancies in order to smuggle arms.  The Palestinians are not starving, but their economy is in the toilet because of all the violence scaring away the tourists; violence triggered by Palestinian suicide bombings, ambushes, snipings, and kidnappings. Israel provides all of the water to Gaza.
I remembered Anna Frank's diary when I read Um Sirri's horrorific recollection of how women tried to swallow a cough that irritated the Israeli soldiers standing above them, pointing their loaded guns at them.
BECKY:  The author is trying to say the Israelis are acting like a bunch of Nazis. But the Nazis enslaved people, put them in concentration camps, tortured them, branded them, tatooed them,mstole all their belongings, raped their women, and exterminated them in ovens. The IDF does none of these things. It is offensive to make this comparison. The Jews know first hand what Nazis do.  The Jews are nothing like the Nazis.

But there are ways of opposing the inhumanity of the occupier. This is why
mothers in this collection talk proudly of babies born after the massacre.
The expectant young Sana al-Sani decided to call her baby, if it is a girl,
'Zuhur', which means 'flowers'. This wish is expressed in the book after
Sana recalls one of the most horrid memories brought in this collection. Her
husband was slaughtered on his house's doorsteps, and yet it is not revenge
or retribution that guides Sana, but a dream of having a different kind of

But can flowers such as Sana's daughter flourish once more in the 'camp of
martyrs' as the survivors called what was once their home? The flowers will
have to overcome the desolation and bareness. Most of the houses were
destroyed during the invasion.
BECKY: That is most of the houses in a football sized area which is a
minority of the camp and a fraction of the City of Jenin.
The Israeli army, after it expelled the resistance forces, located its artillery near
the mosque and shelled the camp indiscriminately.
BECKY: This is a lie. Pure and simple. Its the Americans who bomb from 3000
feet. The Israelis went in from the ground so they could minimize civilian deaths.
Moreover, for blooming to take place where death once
reigned, the smell would have to evaporate first. An American volunteer,
Jennifer Lowenstein, until today can not sleep as the odor of death still
troubles her nights and the nights of those few westerners, who gave
evidence in this book, and who were fortunate enough not to be killed.
BECKY:  I'm not aware of any westerners killed in Jenin.
They helped to tell the world the truth of what had happened.
BECKY: So far, we are getting everything BUT the truth.
One of them is Tevor Baumgartner, who is the one who revealed the existence of mass graves,
an allegation that was refuted early on in the Israeli denial, a denial that
was so eagerly accepted by the United States.
BECKY:  During the battle, they did dig a burial place behind the hospital
for the bodies they could not transport out.  There were no other "mass graves".

This is a must, albeit a very difficult, reading. The campaign against the
continued dehumanization of the Palestinians in the occupied territories can
not be based on slogans and general accusations. There is a need for
indictments such as one provided here, which will hopefully very soon arise
enough public indignation so as to vie governments around the world to take
acting to save the Palestinian people before it is too late.
BECKY: The Palestinian people don't need to be "saved." They need to stop
trying to kill Israelis, and start acting like good neighbors. Then there will be
peace, and prosperity will return with the peace.  Until then, the only issue in
this conflict remains "Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish nation?"

Ilan Pappe is a prominent Israeli academic and the Director of International
Relations Division, Haifa University.