Bethlehem - April 10th 2002
A UK peace activist in Bethlehem called Sarah sent back this second dispatch from the frontline.
08:14am, Wednesday, 10th April 2002
Still bleary from sleep smeared with strange dreams and punctuated with loud explosions of as yet unknown sources, and huge amounts of IDF (Israeli Defence Force) machinery trundling by since the early hours. In my fantasies they are leaving. Broke curfew yesterday to get [snipped name] clean clothes, and ended up trapped at the hotel whilst the IDF shot at journalists to keep them out of the street whilst they looted shops. Then we snuck round a back way, with about 15 pitiful journo's following us from a distance of about 20 yards, cameras trained, obviously hoping they'd get some good pictures of international chicks with no flak jackets (unlike them) getting blasted. As usual, they were all ludicrously kited up and utterly cowardly; there are a couple of really cool press out here, like Bob Fisk and Khaled from Bethlehem TV and the crew from Al-Jazeera, who are very brave and capable. But the rest are lily-livered machistas who pose with their bullet-proof jackets and big cameras and seem to spend most of their time cowering round corners whilst Palestinians look bemused.
Things are comparatively quiet in Bethlehem now; continuous IDF proximity and the oppressive presence of the Gilo and Har Homa settlements means that Bethlehem is permanently under a state of semi-occupation anyway, so crushing it is less difficult than the more distant cities of Nablus and Jenin, which have fought so desperately and bravely for the last week. It is quite stunning that Jenin camp, a refugee camp of 15,000 people crammed into a square kilometre, has managed to keep out the IDF, one of the most heavily armed forces in the world, with just a few kalashnikovs and handarms, pitted against tanks, helicopters, missiles and the utter racist brutality of the Israeli army. and despite a large portion of the camp having been bulldozed, often with the inhabitants of the houses trapped inside. and the old city in Nablus - a beautiful, ancient kasbah of the most gorgeous buildings and narrow, winding streets, which has been devastated, the sides of buildings blasted away from their occupants, whilst again a few sparsely-armed young men attempt to mount a last stand against the Israeli war machine. a brutal machine which will, of course, break all the rules of human rights by ensuring that if wounded they will rot in the dark instead of being taken to hospital; a report from a Nablus ambulance driver yesterday described how the old city streets are littered with bodies, and one has been lying there since last week, being eaten by dogs.
But awareness seems to be growing, and action is grinding slowly to life. There are internationals in Nablus now, and hopefully more will be able to get in soon if the local population deem them necessary and useful. Jenin, however, is still cut off, bar a few press; a driver reputed to be able to get 'anywhere' had his cab fired on by a tank missile 2km outside it. Again, the IDF will do whatever they can to limit the witnessing of their crimes. Anyway, rant over. I'll try to get to people in the next few days, but I may be heading up north. we'll see