Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion of 2002

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion of 2002

Article excerpt

Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion of 2002 Edited by Ramzy Baroud, Cune Press, 2003, 287 pp. List: $17.95; AET: $13.50.

Like an electric beam of light, a single phrase flashed through my mind as I read this terrifying, yet crucial document. The phrase was devastatingly simple: Everyone should read this book. With each passing page, each description, each photograph and each personal testimony, the phrase pronounced itself again and again: Everyone should read this book.

Apologists and defenders of Zionism like Thomas Friedman, William Safire, George Will and Alan Dershowitz should read this book-though they almost certainly are beyond its reach. U.S. senators and congressmen who routinely and blindly vote for pro-Israel bills and resolutions should read this book-though to their ears money usually speaks louder than principles. Ordinary Americans should read it and weep. Scholars and workers, teachers and human rights activists, international officials and policymakers should read it carefully and thoughtfully. Most importantly, people not only should read Searching Jenin, but also act upon the information presented.

After a series of attacks and counterattacks in the winter and spring of 2002, on April 3, 2002 the State of Israel, under Ariel Sharon's leadership, launched an all-out assault on the refugee camp of Jenin, the northernmost city in the West Bank. The camp's resistance groups were well prepared, but no match for the IDF's Apache and Cobra helicopters, warplanes, snipers, heavy artillery, and tanks.

The fighters, often referred to in this book as the "shebab" ("the young men"), fought to the death using simple weapons and guerrilla tactics, holding the tanks at bay for up to four days at the perimeter of the camp. When the tanks finally penetrated the resistance on April 8, however, Jenin's residents and fighters experienced a barbarism reminiscent of such massacres as Sabra and Shatila, Deir Yassein, and Kufr Qasim.

With painful and searing accuracy, Searching Jenin details the experiences of those who survived the two weeks of horror, and who now live homeless and penniless in the aftermath of the senseless destruction of their families, homes and businesses. Ambulance drivers and medical personnel, children, fighters, women, and elderly men of the camp are all given a chance in this book to tell, in their own words, what they endured in April 2002. Many of the witnesses were said to be unable to complete their narratives because of their uncontrollable weeping.

Despite the inability of some people to speak at length on their tragic experiences, a clear portrait of criminality emerges from these pages. It is a portrait that Israel has gone to great lengths to suppress.

A paramedic speaks of watching people bleed to death in front of his eyes because the Israeli snipers would shoot anyone who attempted to help them. Others tell the same story-of being forced to watch family members and neighbors dying from treatable wounds because of the snipers, and because ambulances and medical workers were barred from entering the camp. Many of the dead were left in the streets, where tanks rolled over them repeatedly and mercilessly.

Entire neighborhoods were completely razed by bulldozers-clearly not a military necessity, but rather a display of a savage disposition. Children watched their fathers executed before their eyes. Families were not allowed to bury their dead, and thus were holed up for days with the corpses of their loved ones. Civilians were forced to strip naked, then paraded to the edge of town in that humiliated state. Men were rounded up like cattle and taken away in trucks, exacerbating the terror of those left behind. Some children were forced to strip and lie down in piles of broken glass while soldiers sat on them, taunting and terrorizing them.

Civilians were fired upon indiscriminately and kidnapped for use as human shields. …

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