Description: A searing testament to Israeli brutality and Palestinian resilience, spirit, and grace under pressure. Why is it that the US, Israel, the UN, and every news organization on earth have expressed their views on the Jenin invasion yet the Palestinian victims have never been allowed to speak? Searching Jenin explains what happened and how it affected the residents. It includes forty-two testimonies of Jenin survivors, collected and edited by Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud with a Preface by Noam Chomsky. Testimonies by international observers. Timeline of events. List of “known dead.” 38 photos by Palestinian photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk. Calligraphy by Mamoun Sakkal.
One testimony is that of 9-year-old Rund al-Shalabi who complains that the Israeli soldiers smashed her toys. Also, it develops, they shot and killed her father. Another testimony is that of the Red Crescent ambulance driver Ihab Ayadi who tells how Israeli soldiers held him at gun point to prevent him from rescuing gunshot victims until they had a chance to bleed to death. Um Muhammad is a mother who was hiding in her basement with the rest of her family when the Israeli soldiers ordered them out, separated the men and took them away to an unknown location. The soldiers swept through the house, throwing all the belongings out the upper windows as sport. They found the family's life savings in a cloth bag hidden in the bedroom and stole the money. After eleven days they forced the women to walk to another section where they took shelter in a vacant house. When they returned, the top floor was completely burned out.
Searching Jenin includes testimony that has never before appeared in the international or even in the Palestinian media. One testimony is with Samah Tawalbe, the wife of martyred resistance leader Mahmud Tawalbe. Another testimony is that of Mahmud Tawalbe's mother. Another interview is with Amani Abu al-Raaab who witnessed the execution of captive resistance leader Abu Jandal.
Searching Jenin: This May Be the Most Authoritative Report We Will Ever Get
By Ilan Pappe
Over a year has passed now, since the Israeli army invaded the refugee camp in Jenin, destroyed its houses, killed many of its inhabitants and committed one of the worst war crimes in this present Intifada, Intifada al-Aqsa. With a successful campaign of distortion and manipulation of evidence, the Israeli foreign ministry, with the help of the United States, succeeded in hiding from the world the horrors of Jenin, and even worse, in intimidating anyone daring to tell the truth about what had happened there.
This is the great significance and enormous importance of this book. “Searching Jenin” is the first systematic account, through eyewitness reports, on the events in April 2002. Two other books appeared in Arabic, but this is the first one in English It puts the events in context and it highlights the true nature of the crime, while not falling into the pitfall laid by the Israelis who succeeded in drawing the UN inquiry commission into supposedly academic discussion of how to describe a massacre. As comes out vividly from this book, Jenin was not just a massacre, it was an inhuman act of unimaginable barbarism.
Noam Chomsky, in his introduction to the book, puts it in the context of crimes sponsored by America and he is someone who recorded meticulously these crimes in the past. Ramzy Baroud, in his preface, notes rightly that the book will not answer the question of how many people were killed, nor will it cover every aspect of the crime. But it does convey the message, as one of the witnesses put it that, ‘what I have seen are crimes; sometimes greater than an earthquake’. And this is not just an impression, as this book makes it all too clear: every aspect of the Israeli actions in Jenin can easily be identified as war crimes, according to the Hague convention.
Testimonies like the ones presented do not only help to shed light on many of the chapters hidden by the Israeli screening and news’ manipulation, it also brings forcefully the emotions, sounds and smells of the catastrophe. The pain is still there in those telling the stories. The book conveys the lingering agony through the italic interventions of the editors. Through them, we learn that while witnesses recall the horror of April 2002, like Hussein Hammad, they have to stop several times – sometimes to repose and occasionally to weep, before able to resume, like Hammad does, their stories.
Sometimes the testimonies, at first glance, seem not to tell enough – as if the survivors wish to repress the horror rather then tell it in full. But the economy of words reveals quite often, even more about what had happened. Rafidia al-Jamal is very laconic in a way, in her testimony, but the full extent of the atrocity comes out in a very short sentence she utters. This is the case when she describes how she prevented desperately her husband - who had saved her life a moment earlier – from searching after his sister. “Don’t go” I told him, “She is Dead”. And then she reports dryly: ‘my children have nightmares’.
Other witnesses, especially mothers, feel the need to expand when it comes to their children’s nightmares. Each with her own way of coping with the persisting torment of their children. Mothers all over the West Bank, and not only in Jenin a year after the massacre, spent sleepless nights with terrified children who witnessed the brutality at first hand. In Jenin, Farid and Ali Hawashin are such typical victims of continued nightmares of fear, that according to their mother, haunt them even during daylight. For them it is mainly the noise the disturbs their peace of mind: that of the loudspeaker that arrived near midnight at their home, that of the brutal burst into the house, that of the men pleading with the soldiers before being thrown out to the street, and then, worst of all, that of shots, the groaning of wounded and the silence of the dead. Noise and death repeat themselves in the memories of everyone in this book.
With these memories of sound and vision, the search for Jenin continues throughout this powerful document. It is a search for truth, but for other things as well. It is a search for loved ones unaccounted for, long after the massacre ended, and then there is a search for a remedy to the pain of the nightmare, and these searches were far more important than the question of how many exactly died in Jenin. Even without this question being answered, there is a sense that this is the most authoritative report we will ever get.
Each reader will take something different from this book. For me as an Israeli, I find the description of the soldiers’ conduct the most disturbing and most convincing part of the evidence. It is a story of the dehumanization that raged in Jenin. This is so well epitomized in the chronicles of Nidal Abu al-Hayjah as reported by Ihab Ayadi. After Nidal was wounded and lay crying for help, anyone who tried to come to his rescue was shot by Israeli snipers. He bled to death as so many others. Technically, he was not massacred, he was tortured to death. The deadly precision of the snipers as a means of deterring rescue operations is being reported in other testimonies in this book, such as that of Taha Zbyde, who was killed eventually by a sniper. This mode of action was and still is enacted wherever there is an Israeli operation in the occupied territories. It is part of the vicious repertoire of the inhuman occupation – the daily physical harassment and mental abuse at checkpoints, the prevention from pregnant mothers or the wounded to get to hospitals, the starvation and the confiscation of water. No wonder some Israelis felt this brings back memories from the darker days of the Second World War. I remembered Anna Frank’s diary when I read Um Sirri’s horrorific recollection of how women tried to swallow a cough that irritated the Israeli soldiers standing above them, pointing their loaded guns at them.
But there are ways of opposing the inhumanity of the occupier. This is why mothers in this collection talk proudly of babies born after the massacre. The expectant young Sana al-Sani decided to call her baby, if it is a girl, ‘Zuhur’, which means ‘flowers’. This wish is expressed in the book after Sana recalls one of the most horrid memories brought in this collection. Her husband was slaughtered on his house’s doorsteps, and yet it is not revenge or retribution that guides Sana, but a dream of having a different kind of life.
But can flowers such as Sana’s daughter flourish once more in the ‘camp of martyrs’ as the survivors called what was once their home? The flowers will have to overcome the desolation and bareness. Most of the houses were destroyed during the invasion. The Israeli army, after it expelled the resistance forces, located its artillery near the mosque and shelled the camp indiscriminately. Moreover, for blooming to take place where death once reigned, the smell would have to evaporate first. An American volunteer, Jennifer Lowenstein, until today can not sleep as the odor of death still troubles her nights and the nights of those few westerners, who gave evidence in this book, and who were fortunate enough not to be killed. They helped to tell the world the truth of what had happened. One of them is Tevor Baumgartner, who is the one who revealed the existence of mass graves, an allegation that was refuted early on in the Israeli denial, a denial that was so eagerly accepted by the United States.
This is a must, albeit a very difficult, reading. The campaign against the continued dehumanization of the Palestinians in the occupied territories can not be based on slogans and general accusations. There is a need for indictments such as one provided here, which will hopefully very soon arise enough public indignation so as to vie governments around the world to take acting to save the Palestinian people before it is too late.
- Ilan Pappe is chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter.
Book Review: Searching Jenin; Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion 2002
By Christopher Bollyn
It is important for Americans, particularly those who support Israel, to know the truth about what happened during Israel's brutal 10-day invasion of the Jenin refugee camp.
The Palestinian town of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, is a place that very few tourists are ever likely to visit. The Israeli military understood that very well when they decided to invade the Jenin refugee camp, home to some 14,000 Palestinians in April 2002.
On April 3, the day after the Israeli army began its large-scale attack on Bethlehem by bombing buildings around Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, Israel began a devastating assault on Jenin's UN-administered refugee camp.
In Bethlehem, where the mass media was allowed to remain, Israel showed restraint as they besieged the most famous church in Christendom. In Jenin, however, things were very different. With the media and international observers locked out, there was no restraint as Israel attacked the defenseless refugee camp with American-made Apache and Cobra helicopters and fighter jets. Israeli snipers occupied the high buildings, including the mosque, from which they fired on everyone that ventured out of their houses, including emergency medical personnel.
During Israel's assault on Jenin camp all ambulances were prevented from entering the camp to retrieve the dead and wounded. All entries to the camp were sealed.
After seven days of bombing and shelling, Israel brought huge armored U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozers in to demolish hundreds of homes in the center of the camp - many of them with people still inside. A residential area of about 160,000 square yards was razed and the rubble pushed into 30-foot piles.
One eyewitness told Phil Reeves of The Independent that he saw Israeli soldiers pile 30 bodies in a half-wrecked house, which was bulldozed and collapsed on the corpses. The ruins were then flattened with a tank, he said. "We could not see the bodies," Reeves wrote, "But we could smell them."
The accounts given by those who survived were "understated, not, as many feared and Israel encouraged us to believe, exaggerations," Reeves said. "Their stories had not prepared me for what I saw yesterday," Reeves wrote on April 15. "I believe them now."
It is the testimonies of the survivors of Jenin camp that make the book "Searching Jenin" a unique historical document. "Their story must be told and remembered," Dr. James Zogby writes in the opening quote of this important book.
The stories are personal and real and were given orally to reporters in the mother tongue. In some cases different members from the same family relate what they experienced. Even the testimonies of children are included.
The personal narratives in "Searching Jenin" are replete with examples of extreme barbarity and testify to what Zogby calls "the savage cruelty" that "will ultimately define the legacy of this devastated square mile of earth." The shocking accounts of summary executions and other war crimes committed in Jenin may one day be used in a court of law when Israeli war criminals are brought to justice.
The depth of religious conviction that pervades nearly every testimony may be a surprise to those not familiar with Palestinian culture. It is this faith that nurtures the Palestinian resistance: "Death is not in Sharon's hands, it is in God's hands," Mahmud Tawalbe, the leader of the Al-Quds Brigade said to his wife before he died defending Jenin camp. "I would rather die in the battle for freedom than any other death."
From Masada to Jenin: Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion 2002
By Andy Martin
The Warsaw Ghetto is remembered as the place in World War II where Jews stood and fought the Nazi war machine. Jews also celebrate Masada, where they defied the Roman emperor. Now Palestinians have a place to rival these two historic battlegrounds: Jenin.
The new anthology "Searching Jenin", edited by Ramzy Baroud, provides an eyewitness testament to the bravery of the "shebabs" who stood and fought against the neo-Nazi Israeli war machine-and inflicted serious casualties on the invaders.
"Searching Jenin" provides something that has been lacking to date: personal histories and experiences of the Jenin massacre. When Ariel Sharon attacked Jenin he excluded all media: Israeli media, foreign media, UN observers. Like Hitler and his criminal clique before them, Israelis wanted no witnesses to what was to happen. Sharon knew that he planned war crimes, massacres and human rights violations against a largely unarmed civilian population. No reporters were present. But the victims were present.
Baroud has now assembled their own stories, in a narrative of how a nation committed to high ideals and democracy-Israel-can descend to the darkest depths of the human spirit unseen since Adolph Hitler and his SS troopers ravaged Europe.
The rape of Jenin cannot be viewed in an abstract light. It must be placed in the context of horrific war crimes against civilians: Lidice, Nanking, My Lai. Random attacks and random violence against civilians have always been universally condemned. Yet Israel practices as national policy that which Holocaust survivors strived to define as genocide. That is why "Searching Jenin," composed of eyewitness accounts, is so critical to the historical record.
Baroud had the assistance of many valiant Palestinian reporters and others who searched out the truth after the rape of Jenin had been completed. The result: a definitive chronicle of what happened as seen from the ground, as seen literally door-to-door.
"Searching Jenin" thus becomes a roadmap that will guide future scholars as they dissect what went wrong for Israel and what went right for Palestinians in their war of national liberation. They stood; they fought; they defeated their enemy, the invading, occupying Israelis. They ensured that Sharon's atrocities would never extinguish the fires of freedom that were lit at Jenin.
Sharon's storm troopers did not plan for massive resistance. They expected a "round up the usual suspects" form of response from the victims. But the victims were organized, and waiting, and warned. They resisted, with small arms and largely successful "hit and run" tactics. The Israeli war machine was stunned.
Speaking from Gettysburg, President Lincoln during the American civil war spoke words that resonate over Jenin: the fallen freedom fighters have hallowed Jenin in a way that will live in history. AS at Gettysburg, the victims of Jenin speak through their survivors. Baroud has assembled their stories and edited them into a narrative that provides a 360-degree eye view of what happened.
Jenin was a warning to Israel: respect human rights and respect Palestinians, or you will destroy your own nation in the process of seeking to subjugate another. Jenin will not be forgotten, nor will "Searching Jenin."
-Andy Martin is an American broadcaster and intelligence analyst based in Washington, DC.
What Makes a Massacre?
By Robert Jensen
What is the definition of a "real" massacre?
Imagine that troops from a country that is illegally occupying another land move into an occupied town, where there are some resistance fighters among the civilian population. The occupying power uses helicopter gunships, tanks, missiles, and troops in its attack. Some prisoners taken by the occupying country's troops are executed in the streets while handcuffed. The troops use civilians as human shields when entering buildings. Bulldozers destroy homes, sometimes burying people still in them. And the occupying country's troops block ambulances and medical personnel from entering the town to care for the wounded, leaving civilians to die in the streets.
Would such an attack be a massacre if 63 people died, about half of them civilians? Or would it be something less, perhaps just a war crime? How many deaths does it take to turn a garden-variety atrocity into a massacre?
Perhaps the more important question is: How morally bankrupt is a world in which such arguments about whether such an attack is really a massacre overshadow the cries of the victims, the demands of justice, and the need for an international response?
The description above is of the Israeli assault on the Palestinian town of Jenin in April 2002, part of an ongoing Israeli offensive in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Israeli forces won the battle, but just as important was Israel's public-relations victory for control of what the assault meant.
Early reports out of Jenin, including some from Israelis, speculated about a Palestinian death toll in the hundreds. The term "massacre" was used by observers, journalists, and Palestinians to describe the carnage, but after the attack it became clear that "only" 50 or 60 Palestinians had been killed. The Israeli spin machine then launched a campaign that emphasized not the criminal behavior of its military and the massive destruction to the town, but the early overestimates of casualties: Since the death toll was lower, it couldn't have been a massacre. And because Israel also successfully blocked a United Nations team from conducting an inquiry, that's how the story was played in the U.S. news media.
Subsequent investigation by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International -- both of which concluded the Israeli military committed war crimes -- have added to the understanding of the attack on Jenin. Now a new book -- "Searching Jenin," published by Cune Press in Seattle -- has supplied important eyewitness testimony of what happened in those two weeks in April. Under the direction of editor Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian-American, teams of journalists interviewed Jenin residents to construct a detailed picture of the assault as it was experienced by the civilian population.
War is, of course, never pretty, and some aspects of these stories will be familiar to anyone who has confronted the realities of modern warfare. It is never easy to read about such horrors, especially when the victims include the weakest among us -- the sick, children, and the elderly. But along with those heart-wrenching stories, equally disturbing are the accounts of what the occupation has done to Israeli soldiers. Several witnesses talked of how the troops defecated and urinated in homes and mosques to express their contempt for the Palestinians. Racist anti-Arab slogans were written on the walls of people's homes. In one incident, reported by a man who works as a clerk in the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports, Israeli forces broke into a home and one of the soldiers put the barrel of his gun to a baby's head and asked, "Should I kill him?" A woman screamed at the man to let go of the child. Another soldier answered, "You are a camp of animals. You are not human beings."
This is the consequence of occupation, of oppression. The occupied live with inadequate resources and suffer most of the violence. But there is a cost to the occupier as well, not just when suicide bombers are successful, but also in the loss of their own humanity. One wins land at the cost of the soul.
This is an issue not simply for Israel and its soldiers, but for U.S. citizens as well. Those of us paying taxes in the United States are implicated in the occupation and the attack on Jenin because of the $3 billion a year in U.S. aid that flows to Israel, helping them pay for the occupation. U.S. political and diplomatic support makes it possible for Israel to resist the international consensus for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. When we in the United States do not act to end that aid and support, and therefore allow the occupation to continue, we share in that loss of humanity. Morally, we are responsible for those soldiers' actions.
How long can we ignore that? Perhaps more important, how long can the people of Jenin and Palestine survive while we ignore it?
-Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, a member of the Nowar Collective www.nowarcollective.com and author of "Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream."