Christmas Day, 2003, Jenin, West Bank — Night has fallen, and I am staring at mounds of rubble. This used to be a neighbourhood in the Jenin Refugee Camp. The Israeli army levelled the houses with people inside, in what is known here as the Jenin Massacre. The rubble mounds are pulverized so fine they appear to be crematory remains.
Abdul Sadie, my host from the Palestine Red Crescent Society (Red Cross) grew up here and explains what happened. The Israeli army invaded the camp in April 2002 from four directions, advancing slowly as they met with fierce resistance from the residents. Entering a narrow ally that used to exist in front of us, 13 soldiers were trapped and killed. Then more invading soldiers were killed. The Israelis made the refugee camp pay — by obliterating the neighbourhood and burrying all who didn’t escape. Fortunately, over 3,000 people did.
For the Jenin survivors, their tragedy is known worldwide. Numerous foreigners like me come to gape at what Abdul calls “Our Ground Zero”. The U.N., NGOs and a few Arab states have pledged assistance to rebuild — a process that is slowly happening. What I find depressing is that almost daily throughout the occupied territories, Palestinian are being killed and their houses demolished in virtual obscurity.
But let us look back a short period. A few hours ago, an Israeli Apache helicopter fired missiles at a car in the crowded streets of Raffa, Gaza, killing five Palestinians including a leader of the Islamic Jihad, and injuring 22. Shortly after, the predicted retaliatory suicide bombing at a bus stop in Tel Aviv killed three Israelis, along with many injuries.
In Rafah two days ago, another four Palestinians were killed, and also two Israeli soldiers. Nablus just south of Jenin suffered nine dead this week. At this same Jenin Refugee Camp last week, a little boy was killed. And so it goes.
The U.S. — major funders of the violence here — did not object. I am sure that Canada did not either.
Let’s be cold-blooded this Christmas Day and analyze. This month, the Palestinian political and military organizations were in intense negotiations about declaring a unilateral ceasefire. They didn’t, but the armed factions did unofficially say they would restrict their attacks to the army and occupying settlers.
PM Sharon responded with the Christmas Day missile attack in Gaza, calculated to draw a suicide bombing in Israel. It is the Sharon pattern to destroy peace and ceasefire initiatives. It worked.
Now we are back to ethnic cleansing as usual, occupation as usual, and violence as usual. The intellectual authors of this pattern live here. But the financial and diplomatic sponsors are in Washington, and to a lesser extent, Canada.
More than ever, I am convinced that we in North America must direct our efforts there, to end this awful pattern here.
Scott Weinstein is a member of the Montreal based Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation. He is currently in Palestine working with the Palestinian Red Crescent as an RN.