Yesterday afternoon, we were in the office of Women Center for Legal Aid and Councelling. Maha, the director, was on the phone with a cousin from Jenin. ‘A big problem is that families are torn apart’ she told us, when discussing the horror at Jenin refugee camp. Her cousin told her about a three year old girl, who lost the rest of her family in the chaos of the last days, seeking shelter at Jenin hospital.
She told us about the many people, who left the camp without any personal belongings, who are in shock and traumatized, waiting what news the future might bring about their relatives, friends, and future. She told us about women, who lost relatives and do not know if they got killed, injured of arrested.
She told us about pregnant women, who lost their baby during the past eight days because of shock, bombardments, and demolitions. She told us about the urgent need for supplies, medical care, and psychological counseling. She told us about the chaos, anger and despair.
Back at home all news channels broadcasted live from Jerusalem about the new suicide bomb, which killed seven people yesterday afternoon, including a 17-year old Palestinian girl, who carried out the attack. Jenin and the rest of the West Bank is no news, eventhough Palestinians have also been killed today.
Bill Hemmer, CNN’s anchor in Jerusalem, who had just been flown in this week, was the worse. He could have been useful as spokesman for the Israeli army, covering up war crimes.
While he was speaking with PLO representative Hasan Abdel Rahman, he couldn’t prevent himself from ventilating the Israeli army perspective. While Rahman spoke about Jenin refugee camp, Hemmer said the following:
‘We have heard this over the past 24 hours. We have talked to the Israeli government about it. They tell us it is a fabrication. They say the casualties there are much closer to 150 as opposed to 300 or in excess of that, according to the Palestinians.
We have reporters near the scene there. They’re trying to work their way through that town. And, in fact, with consultations overnight last night, the Israeli government assured us that they would allow us in to the scene in Jenin. And, granted, it is a scene of devastation in that refugee camp. They tell us they will let us in as soon as they believe it is secure and there is no longer the possibility of loss of life from gun battles there in Jenin.
Now, given that, I want to get back to my point. Here is what the Israelis will say. They say logic serves only, sir, if you stop the suicide bombings, the military action would never have gotten under way in the first place. If A plus B equals C, then both sides have to do their part. And your part, sir, quite honestly, is to denounce the terrorism that we are seeing in the streets of Jerusalem today, do it publicly, do it repeatedly.’
The obvious answer came from Rahman, the same reason why we were so angry about the bias in coverage. Rahman said:
‘You treat Palestinian life inferior to the Israeli lives, Palestinian losses inferior to Israeli losses.
We can get to peace with Israel when Palestinian life is as sacred as the Israeli life, and that Palestinian freedom is equal to Israeli freedom, because what takes Palestinians to the situation we are in is 36 years of brutal occupation.’
How cynical and sad. When will Israel and the world start trying to understand, that deliberately creating anger and despair amongst a whole people will not lead to peace and security. When will they start to see both people as equal with the same hopes and dreams of leading a peaceful life, and that to try to realise the dream of one people should not go at the cost of another people.