Inside Jenin, West Bank
Dodging hails of Israeli bullets, Ewa Jasiewicz sent her latest dispatch back to SQUALL from the West Bank, describing the situation in Jenin and gauging Palestinian reaction to the new 'Road Map' plan for the future of the middle east recently devised by the United States.
7th May 2003
Tanks are growling around Jenin as I tap this out - not inside the town centre or camp but on the surrounding roads. Everybody's been expecting an invasion or curfew (there's been none for over a week aside from the incursion on Tuesday which I'll come to later) following the deft theft of three large tank guns, a whole belt of heavy bullets and some tear gas bombs by three young Jenin kids from a settlement/military base named Qadeem. During their 'operation' one was shot and captured by settler police and dragged off to Afula hospital. Allegedly. The others - and their booty - are still at large. 'Tikolaerfi to the lot of them. Despite expectations of an IOF attack, it's been eerily quiet - just the odd slow rumble in and out of a tank and Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) into the city and then a vroomed departure. A fighter managed to injure a soldier on an army road a few days ago. But I'm not sure where on his body or where this road was. As usual information is hazy, warped by rumour and exaggeration.
Last Tuesday five members of Saaraya al Qds - the tactical military wing of Jihad Islami - all meet up for lunch in a house on the edge of the camp. A Jayyssous (collaborator - they're breeding like maggots) told the IOF, and they came blazing in - two tanks, two APC's and an Apache helicopter - spewing out rockets into the earth in sci-fi quick succession high-pitched bursts. I went straight down to the edge of the camp, to where the school is at the back road to Burquin. The soldier in the APC I tried to talk to acknowledged me, even if it was just to wave his hand for me to fuck off.
Acknowledgement, however small, is always better than a face-down with the steely, hatch-shut hum of an unpredictable death-instrument, wondering if or when and in which direction it will start spitting out bullets.
Anyway, seven more international volunteers turned up and formed a hand to hand chain across the road in which the APC was waiting and facilitated the passing of all the kids still left in the school who wanted to go home. As this was happening, hell was breaking loose behind the row of houses behind us.
Soldiers riddled 16-year-old Hamas fighter, Mossab Ibrahim Jebber, with bullets - first in the legs, then in the head, ending his short life in seconds. Soldiers surrounded the house with the wanted shebab, shot their way in and arrested them.
I had no idea this was all happening and even if I did - what can you do in the middle of a shoot out? Get out of the way or pick up a gun and join in. Myself and the magical Nancy (we climbed trees and picked flowers on Mayday in the heady pine valley behind the Jabbryyat, behind the camp) went down to the hospital - we heard there were tanks there. We arrived to see an APC shooting erratically into the wall of the house beside it, before it shifted its gun slightly to fire intimidation shots at a wall approximately 10 ft from us. We stole behind the wall along some bright green scrubland to be with a group of kids fighting the APC with their endless IOF supplied rubble-stones. After about five minutes a young boy got shot next to me - in the leg and another was shot in the shoulder - above our clash-spot, out of our sight. They were aged 12 and 19 respectively. I temporarily went deaf in one ear as whizzing bullets ricoched off a rusted mangled oil drum behind me. Directly behind me.
In the past I would never turn and run, but since the targeting of solidarity activists or international witnesses to IOF operations has become Israeli government policy in all but name - Brian, Tom and Rachel being cases in point - myself and Nancy turned and legged it with all the kids, as bullets hit and cracked the tarmac around us. And again, when the tank and APC came roaring down the street towards the hospital, tearing up the street, shrouding itself in exhaust and dust; the panic was blanket, people pressed themselves up against the inside walls of the hospital, spread out and away from the gaping entrance, ducked behind cars. 'They'll shoot you, they'll shoot anybody, Arab, foreign, male, female, Jewish, anybody. They don't care', the shebab yelled to us, gesticulating urgently with their hands, pounding their chests, imitating the 'tokh tokh' we could expect from 50 calibre bullets ripping through our chests. Later a family lured us away for tea. Shebab beckoned us to sit with them in the shade, smoke a cigarette - Get Out Of The Road.
Two nights ago there were heavy clashes - as heavy as 'clashes' can get between densely armoured tanks and APC's zooming down the street, 2am, and sporadic gunfire from flimsy T-shirt wearing shebab hiding down alleyways. But the fight-back was intense. Noone was injured.
Yesterday, four Palestinian Authority politicians were supposed to come to Jenin. Tomorrow, Fateh chiefs tell me that Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) Palestine's cabinet/US regime imposed new Prime Minister might be coming to the camp. Mazen, the Road Map, the defeat of this intifada, the capitulation by so many to a really inevitable reality of the continued occupation brokered by the PA, sanctioned by the PA - have all worn people down.
Fighters are becoming increasingly aware that the path they walk, strewn with the corpses of their murdered comrades and flanked by the ever-watchful gazes of Jaysousseen (collaborators), is leading them to prison or death. Practically and strategically, the armed struggle is becoming increasingly untenable. Is It Worth It Now? The honour of resistance, the glory and heroism and joy of fighting against the oppressor, even if it's just to have him hear the tumult and tirade of lead upon his death-machine, a burst of defiance into a moonless, hopeless night - is it still worth it now? Now, now that the resistance is being gored out and the security apparatus is flexing its new high-tech American muscle, ready for the final assault. Can the Wanted keep going if the people around them are beginning to gradually un-stick, lose their faith, turn, and come to really not want them so much anymore? Now more than ever is the time to fight back, politically and physically, in the face of such a sick, sell-out, Oslo continuum, re-ification of the Israeli state and its facts on the ground plan, the Road Map to a hoofra, a jiora, a marghsoom (a roadbloack, a hole, a checkpoint), a 'Map' with Israeli expansion, transfer of Palestinians, and further resource theft - water, more land, Iraqi oil - as its compass-points, a map which redraws, and paves the way for further re-drawing, of the history and future of a colonised, blood-soaked and combative culture, into a map for its demise. Now is the time to fight back but the resources just aren't there, the people, they're just not there. They're in prison or dead or their spirits have been broken. The energy and zeal and experience needed for people to collectively rise and resist has fallen. The pain and anger and power of the suppressed truth behind every towering injustice, a truth which carries its own, accumulative energy, inter-generationally and historically - it's all still there but the fire this time, is licking low. Spirits here are at an all-time low.
In the Road Map, the Security Wall is unaddressed, ignored, just another towering, staggeringly oppressive, matter-of-fact fact on the ground which confiscates 10% more West bank land, running inside the Green Line by 6km in parts, stealing 31 groundwater wells, cutting off 12,000 people from their jobs, land and essential public services and trapping 6 whole villages between the wall and the 1967 line in Qalqilya alone. Thousands of homes have been bulldozed in Rafah to make way for its southern front.
Also according to the Road Map, no significant settlement dismantling will take place - just a handful of military outposts - built two years ago, are to be withdrawn. Al Qds (Jerusalem), ringed by urban settlements, complete with their Jewish militias which regularly attack neighbouring Arab communities with total impunity, is to remain a divided, colonised city. And the right of return? What right of return?
There is no mention of the millions of Palestinian refugees concentrated in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and their forced divorce from their families, friends and homes.
Ask anyone what they think about the Road Map and they'll tell you "it's Crap", "it's shit", "it's not worth the paper it's printed on", "it's sick", or they'll just tut, suck their teeth and carry on staring into the economy-crashed, daily stagnation and dust swirled abyss that is the air of Jenin Camp and the city.