My visit to Jenin, April 2002

This blog needs an urgent resuscitation … a sentence which is an oxymoron in itself as every resuscitation is urgent.

I am tired of posting articles exclusively, interesting and up to date as they may be – I need something more alive. I like interaction with people, feedback – I hate having monologues. Talking to a wall might produce an echo if one does it long enough but I sure don’t have the patience for that. From now on there will be some changes …

I mentioned here and there that I was a pro-Palestinian activist for a timespan of about six years and will from now on start writing about my activities, the people, the places, occasions … what REALLY happened. I will refer as well more to current issues, Middle East as well as elsewhere.

To anyone who might be tempted to doubt my words I am saying upfront already “spare me the headache”! I will report what I saw, where I went, what happened, I won’t deduct things nor add anything untruthful. Kind of a postponed eyewitness report. I vouch for the content … these will be MY stories.

Robin posted an article about Mohammad Bakri, the filmmaker and creator of the film “Jenin, Jenin”. He is being persecuted for having made this film and, so it is said, falsifying facts. I was in Jenin a bit longer than a week after the horrid bombardement in April 2002 and will tell you MY story. I leave it to you afterwards to compare …

I was anxious to go to Jenin to see for myself!

Horrible news came out of the tormented city and having been fortunate enough to have had a presscard issued by “Washington Report for Middle East Affairs”, I had the possibility to go. Just – I didn’t know anyone there and was unsure as to what to do .. how to go about.

One day I went to see Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human right activist with an office in East Jerusalem. During the time I sat with him discussing an issue, the phone rang … it was Gideon Levy, a well-known Israeli journalist writing for Ha Aretz and good friend of Bassem. To make a long story short, after a few sentences with his friend he turned around and asked “didn’t you want to go to Jenin?” and less than an hour after the call, Bassem and I were on the way.

Here’s the comment I left on Robin’s blog, minor adjustments only … it pretty much says it all.

Khalas, enough!! WHY is Mohammad Bakri persecuted? For telling the TRUTH??

I have been to Jenin probably some 8-10 days after this horrid massacre – together with the well-known Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and his cameraman, the German film-maker Rene Schulthoff of “Deutsche Welle TV” and Bassem Eid, an Palestinian human right activist. NOBODY can come and tell me what is shown in this film is NOT the truth as we ALL have seen it with our own eyes!!

After a short stop at the governor’soffice and a talk with him, we were taken to “ground-0″. While Gideon was walking around together with his cameraman and talking with the people and the Rene stood somewhat apart, I was walking around observing quietly, in shock trying to get to terms with what I was looking at! Suddenly a local man came to me pointing to where I was standing, telling me ” do you know that you are standing in the second floor?” I looked around, baffled, and said “a second floor?” He nodded his head and explained me with a sad voice, the place where I was standing USED to be a house which was blown up .. and collapsed in itself. There was no stone anymore on the other, it was only rubble. The whole area somewhat resembled a lunar landscape.

Donate to Gaza:

Boycott Israel
Boycott Israel - buy from Sabbah Store
(Collected Commission Donated to Palestinian Children Charities)

The items around me suggested to him that I was indeed standing where a short while before there was the second floor of a house … I have memories carved into my brain which will never leave me … pictures and scenes I NEVER thought I would have to look at one day. I clearly remember a Coca-Cola bottle filled with pickled olives … a woman, most likely a wife and mother, had pickled them in order to have some stock for her family (the Palestinian olives are the BEST I have ever eaten .. but that only nearby), closeby there was a copybook of a student, it’s pages flying in the wind, neatly written lines in Arabic which, of course, I was unable to read, with pictures in the rubble on the ground.

I stared at these two items and my heart almost broke – I asked myself HOW ON EARTH can HUMANS do that to HUMANS??

Before and after the visit at “ground-0″ were guests of the back-then Governou of Jenin, Zuheir al-Manasreh, who had made sure were were safe by sending his people who lived right inside the camp with us. Polite young folks, helpful in every possible way!

I want to tell you some more things I saw there which I will NEVER forget: it was the first time I ever saw flags of Palestinian factions .. I remember the green of Hamas, black of Fatah and a yellow one of Istlamic Jihad. They were propped on top of makeshift-tents right at the edge of the worst-destroyed area. Middle aged to elderly men were lying in there, watching us quietly.

I saw women who highly impressed me -instead of being broken psychologically and looking depressed, they were walking straight with their heads high .. proud, telling everyone without words “you will NOT defeat us”!

And there there was this girl … maybe 10 years old. She was holding papers in her hand – and came to us. With a smile on her face she handed me one of them – it showed lines written in large Arabic letters. Somewhat bewildered though very curious I turned to our guards/guides for … interpretation: what was written by those children meant “We will not forgive and not forget!” It was signed “The children of Jenin refugee camp.” I fought back tears …

After some two or three hours we left the camp and went for a short while back to the governour’s house to vent our impressions. I sat there very quietly and only listened … still overwhelmed I was trying to digest what I had just seen. On the way out we passed the tent-city which is shown in the video though it appeared to be deserted at that time.

A while after this horrid attack I read the report of a soldier who was the operator of a caterpillar inside the camp flattening EVERYTHING in his way. He mentioned, very apparently without any remorse, he was like in a frenzy of destruction for close to 36 hours in a row and didn’t want to stop before everything in his way was destroyed. His own hateful words were “They should have their soccer-place …” meaning he would not stop till not all the area in the center would be bulldozed. He even admitted that in order to keep on bulldozing more and more, he drank alcohol and went into a frenzy of destruction.

I was trying to find this article again to give the link but couldn’t .. I suppose some people became alert and pulled it off the net – it would certainly have opened a NUMBER of eyes of what REALLY happened!

It was a day I will never forget, hours, minutes and seconds which are burned into my soul, went under my skin. I salute the wonderful people of Jenin refugee camp, highly respect their strength, resilience, dignity, perseverence and courage! I met them, watched them, talked with a few … they highly impressed me! I

I wish them only the BEST … I pray they will find REAL PEACE and JUSTICE! I pray their children will be able to be just what they are, have a normal childhood and not grow up too fast, too early while being confronted almost on a daily basis by death, fear and horror!

I wish all that will happen soon, I pray – insh’allah!

Sabbah Store