many Palestinians are dead in Jenin? Dozens? Hundreds?
How many hundreds? If the number turns out to be exactly
641, or exactly 139, will that be a PR "victory"
for the Palestinians, or for the Israelis? As journalists
are lining up to declare the "victor," CNN
runs a web poll about each side's credibility. Soon
we may see the dead jostling with the living in CNN's
sordidly named "crossfire." As a mental
exercise, let each of us decide at exactly how many
deaths the scale tips from the Israeli side to the
Palestinian side, at what point an incursion becomes
a slaughter, at what point a slaughter becomes a massacre,
at what point a massacre becomes a genocide.
is all very important, PR-wise. For eleven days, IDF
soldiers have been preventing journalists, medics,
rescue teams and aid convoys from entering Jenin.
This is how they "protect" the truth inside
from all those outside who might want to "misuse"
it against Israel. After all, the truth is such a
terrible weapon. It would be wrong to allow one side
to have more of it than the other. There must be balance.
But only regarding the truth. There need not be balance
in firepower, for example. It is O.K. that Israel
has nuclear weapons and Apache helicopters, paid for
by American taxpayers who can't afford to pay for
adequate health care, while Palestinians fight with
rifles and home-made explosives.
need not be balance about land either. It is O.K.
that Israelis control all the land and Palestinians
none. Nor is balance a requirement regarding liberty,
or human rights, which Israelis enjoy and Palestinians
do not. But there must be balance in describing what
happened in Jenin. That is why accuracy is very important
in Jenin. Was it exactly a "massacre," as
Perez called it and then denied, or a "devastation,"
or just an "incursion" that used "minimal
force" to achieve "necessary goals,"
such as showing Palestinians who's the boss and what
you get for upsetting him? If you use too strong a
word, if you match the expression to the stench of
the decomposing bodies, Israel will reprimand you,
brand you an anti-Semite, maybe even expel you. Be
what can one do? Even the cautious and pro-Israeli
The Economist saw clear evidence of war crimes. U.N.
envoy Terje Roed-Larsen described the devastation
in Jenin as "horrific beyond belief," and
said it was "morally repugnant" that Israel
blocked humanitarian emergency workers from entering
Jenin for 11 days. Israel is still blocking rescue
teams, while Perez is pondering whether to send Roed-Lansen
home with a note to his parents or merely revoke his
weekly allowance. The undiplomatic words of the Norwegian
diplomat, but not the undiplomatic reality these words
refer to, really hurt Israel's highly evolved moral
sensibility. Having agreed to it earlier, the government
of Israel is now blocking the U.N. fact-finding mission
to Jenin. The problem, according to Israel, is that
too many of the members have ''humanitarian"
experience, and might not understand the requirements
of warfare. It is easy to imagine the people and the
resumes Israel would want to see instead: maybe a
few Latin American death-squad leaders; or Lt. William
Calley, whose experience at Mai Lai could prove invaluable
in determining what is and what isn't a massacre;
or perhaps the French General Paul Aussaresses, commander
of the 1957 French paratroopers' attack on the Casbah
of Algier. To top it all, war crimes connoisseur Madeleine
Albright, or even Henri Kissinger, could provide moral
leadership, as well as much needed verbal elasticity.
As long as there is balance. For the Israeli public
and politicians, the widespread, and very unbalanced,
opprobrium is just one more affirmation that the "whole
world is against us."
popular sentiment, Israel's President Moshe Katsav
whines: "with all due respect and esteem for
people of conscience and the bleeding-heart liberals
of the world, I don't understand why they've clamped
their mouths shut for a year and a half while the
cruelest of unprecedented terrorist acts were committed
against Israelis citizens everywhere." President
Katsav, are all the inhabitants of Jenin terrorists?
Are most? Is God's own standard, of requiring only
ten righteous men to save a city, too lax for you?
What part of "collective punishment is a war
crime" don't you understand? The fact that the
eruption of violence during the last eighteen months
baffles you so much makes me wonder, President Katsav.
Do you understand the idea of liberty? Have you ever
read the universal declaration of human rights? Do
you understand that "universal" means "applies
to everybody equally"?
the declination of possessive pronouns confuse you?
Surely you are at ease with "mine" and "ours."
But do you also understand the concepts behind "yours,"
"his," "hers," and "theirs"?
When I look at the map of the land grab for your illegal
settlements, I have serious doubts. Are you troubled
why "people of conscience" do not condemn
terrorism? Even to make such an accusation you must
be living in an alternate universe. But I will answer
your whining twice nevertheless. The long answer,
President Katsav, "with all due respect and esteem,"
is that the suicide bombers did not land in Israel
from outer space. The explosive belts might as well
carry a label that reads "made in the Greater
Eretz Israel." The suicide bombs are the mutant
flowers of Israel's brutalizing occupation, springing
from the seeds of the 54-year-long dehumanization
of Palestinians. They are the ghosts of your brutality
coming back to haunt you, the mementos of your war
against memory. The massive and deliberate destruction
of Palestinian civil records in the West Bank in the
last weeks is but the most recent chapter in a war
against Palestinian memory that began in 1948, with
the annihilation of 400 Palestinian villages. But
you seem to learn nothing from history, indeed from
your own history: ghosts always return, each time
more violently. For those ready to die, their spiritless
hatred towards you is what remains after you have
bulldozed their past and their future. Whether you
like it or not, they are your bastard offspring. Everything
they know about hate, you taught them. Everything
they forgot about humanity, you made them forget.
Give them a hug now, as they have proven themselves
worthy of their parents - you.
short answer, President Katsav, is really short: just
get out! Call the army home. Call the occupation off.
And get out of the Occupied Territories. Just get
out! Don't mumble about how "difficult"
or "complex" the situation is. It isn't.
You are the oppressor. You are the occupier. You park
your tanks on plundered land. You fill your swimming
pools with stolen water. You kill and destroy in order
to inherit. So don't bullshit about "the situation."
Just get out! Stop abusing people. Stop abusing language.
Stop spinning your own moral cocoon. Stop turning
your country and your people into a metaphor of evil.
Just get out! Don't wait for Bush. Don't wait for
Arafat. Don't wait to negotiate with the mythical
Palestinian leader who will finally accept your dominion.
There is nothing to negotiate about. Just get out!
Take your rabid Jewish fundamentalists from Kiriat
Arba and Beit El with you. Load them on buses and
pump the gas pedal until the hills of the West Bank
vanish in the rear mirror. Just get out! Gather your
thugs from the borderless "border police,"
give them scholarships and send them to school again.
Let them discover there is more to life than beating
people to a pulp. Just get out! Take your checkpoints,
with all their petty humiliations and deadly snipers,
with you. And just get out! Send the Shin-Bet packing.
After 35 years, the world had enough of your clever
jailers and torturers. Take them with you and just
get out! Let your hideous bulldozers loose on the
illegal settlements of Ma'ale Edomim, Har Homa and
Gilo. There is plenty of demolition work for them
there. Let them continue until the mountain line bears
no more memory of your rape. Then just get out! Don't
apologize. Don't justify. Don't explain. There is
nothing left to explain. Honestly. Just get out! Don't
even worry about the thousands of olive trees, symbols
of peace, you uprooted. Someone will plant them again.
Just get out!
Ash was born in Romania and grew up in Israel. He
is an unabashed "opssimist." He writes his
columns because the pen is sometimes mightier than
the sword - and sometimes not. Gabriel lives in the
Ash encourages your comments: gash@YellowTimes.org
encourages its material to be reproduced, reprinted,
or broadcast provided that any such reproduction must
identify the original source.
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