The Jenin Refugee Camp Massacre (March 29-April 13, 200)

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     During the brutal Israeli military campaign in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank during the period of March 29-April 13, 2002, the Israeli occupation forces committed a massacre in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed. Initial estimates were more than 500 children, women, and men. The following are some of the pictures of the destruction and corpses of Palestinians which remained after Israeli forces had evacuated many other corpses and buried them in Israel (in the numbered "enemy" cemetery) in an attempt to hide the actual number of victims in the refugee camp. The UN Security Council formed a Committee to investigate the massacre but the Israeli government refused to cooperate with the Committee unless it accepts Israeli conditions. Most important for Israel was that the Committee should grant immunity from self-incrimination for Israelis who would be investigated. Israel also demanded that the Committee should not offer recommendations or reach conclusions about the massacre. Upon that Israeli rejection of cooperation with the Committee, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anan, dissolved the Committee before starting its work. Thus, the Israeli war criminals are still free to commit more war crimes, atrocities, and human rights violations against the Palestinian people, without being held accountable for their actions.


Jenin massacre revisited: ‘Revealing … the Zionist project’

New doubts over official version of events
Peter Lagerquist

Special to The Daily Star, 11/22/03


JENIN: Israeli Army bulldozer driver Moshe Nissim, also known as “Kurdi Bear,” did enjoy his work in Jenin camp, fortified by an arsenal of alcohol.
First published in the popular Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot and since reprinted on the website of the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, his testimony gives a version of events that has since largely fallen off the country’s conscience.
He left his own at the door to Jenin.
“They were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house before I come, but I gave no one a chance. I didn’t wait. I didn’t give one blow, and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible. I wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible,” he recounts. “I didn’t give a damn about the Palestinians, but I didn’t just ruin with no reason. It was all under orders.”
On orders, the razing continued long after the battle was over. Dated aerial photos obtained from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs corroborate his tale, leading military expert and Amnesty International delegate Major David Holley to conclude: “There were events post-11 April that were neither militarily justifiable nor had any military necessity: the IDF leveled the final battlefield completely after the cessation of hostilities. It is surmised that the complete destruction of the ruins of battle, therefore, is punishment for its inhabitants.”
Nissim concurs. “I found joy with every house that came down, because I knew they didn’t mind dying, but they cared for their homes. If you knocked down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people for generations. If I am sorry for anything, it is for not tearing the whole camp down,” he says. “They will sit quietly. Jenin will not return to what it use to be.”
To make sure, the Israeli army has since returned in force to the camp several times ­ a month later in June, then in October.
For Palestinian sociologist and refugee expert Sari Hanafi, Jenin was a telling example of what he terms “killing of space” ­ the systematic dismantling of the economic, social and historical fabric that binds a community.
“Jenin was not unique, but for me it is an example which is very revealing of the Zionist project. It is not to make forced transfer but voluntary transfer. Once you kill space, they will leave voluntarily. It has to do with an interest in land, not people,” explains Hanafi.
The siege that Israel has imposed on Palestinian towns and villages across the West Bank and Gaza since the outbreak of the intifada should be understood as part of this process, he says. The refugees of Jenin see it similarly.
Graffiti on ruins in the camp’s center trumpet their defiance: “We will only leave to return to our homes.”
Defiance is something Palestinians have since come to expect from Jenin. The battle enshrined it as a stronghold of resistance in the national mythology. Yet increasingly, the camp is sitting quietly.
For those who have just been trying to survive, there is little left to hold on to. The rubble of 45-year-old Hisham Abu Tabigh’s house sits on the edges of the camp’s ground zero, torn apart by a helicopter missile and “something from a tank.” After the army left, the relief workers arrived and a foreign engineer condemned the remains.
Like others in the camp, Hisham has been promised a new home by the UN Refugee Works Agency, paid for by the ruler of the United Arab Emirates. A year later, construction is just starting up.
Life, meanwhile, is hard.
Once a construction worker in Israel, Hisham is now unemployed and lives off occasional work with his wife and 10 children. Despondently, he asks for help to emigrate.
While the rubble has been cleared from the Jenin camp, and the bodies buried, most Palestinians feel that the stories they tell have also been too hastily swept aside.
Saji Salameh, director of PLO Refugee Affairs, is mildly apologetic about his leadership’s early marketing of events in Jenin. This, however, is no excuse for overlooking what did happen, he argues.
“You know the information was not good, because of the isolation that was imposed. No one knew exactly what was happening. But it is not the numbers that differentiate the crime as a massacre of otherwise; it is the suffering of the people. We are speaking of more than 50 dead, 700 injured and more than 400 houses destroyed,” says Salameh. “Whatever it was, it was a criminal act against civilians, and should be judged against international law.”
Four months after the fact, the UN did produce a report on the conduct of the Israeli army. Based on secondary sources and internet research, it did not however provide a judgment as much as a venue for Israel and the Palestinians to air their opposing versions of events.
“Inevitably the report falls short of a comprehensive inquiry. We found that the report was not satisfactory because it did not address the issues in the depth they deserved,” says Donatella Rovera of HRW. “There has to be an investigation, and those responsible must be brought to justice. The duty to investigate lies with the Israeli government. The responsibility for this, failing the Israeli authorities, lies with the international community.”
That a follow-up never materialized surprised a few. “This is in keeping with the behavior of the Israeli authorities both before and after the invasion,” continues Rovera. “Our main concern is that this impunity acts as a catalyst, as an encouragement for more violations to be committed,” including Palestinian attacks of terror, she adds.
Her fears are well founded. “If this kind of suicide bombing will go on, we will have to return there again and again ­ and again,” says Zeev Schiff, Israel’s senior military correspondent.
“I repeat: if people think that because of what happened there, Israel will stop doing this, they are absolutely wrong.”
Yet as both the intifada and Israel’s counter-insurgency rumble into their third year, terms like “massacre” continue to be deployed according to a convenience that has since not enjoyed parallel scrutiny.
When Palestinian militants on Nov. 15, 2002, killed 12 Israelis in occupied Hebron, Israeli government spokesmen instantly dubbed it “the Sabbath massacre,” casting it as a terror attack on Jewish settlers worshipping at the city’s Ibrahimi mosque and synagogue complex. It soon emerged that all of those killed were soldiers and settler paramilitaries, but not before fierce denunciations from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Pope John Paul II had cast the attack in infamy on major international news networks.
The condemnations were never retracted. “This is the double standard that is usually voiced by the Israelis, and even the Americans,” Salameh says.
On Oct. 14, the Israeli army razed 115 houses and damaged an equal number in the town of Rafah in southern Gaza, rendering some 1,240 people homeless and culminating in a series of increasingly brutal mass demolitions along the path of Israel’s “Separation Fence.”
An act of “self defense,” commented a US State Department spokesman. To most Palestinians, news that the IDF will soon deploy remote-controlled bulldozers in the Occupied Territories would only confirm that the evisceration of their space is now switching into automated overdrive.
Nissim’s army unit received a military commendation for its efforts in Jenin. Schiff was awarded his country’s highest journalist award, the Chaim Herzog Prize for unique contributions to the state of Israel.
The Jenin survivors meanwhile are still defending space to narrate. In a ceremony marking the anniversary of the invasion in Ramallah’s main square, leaflets asserted their appeal: “On behalf of our Palestinian refugees, represented by their own popular committees and all our people … we ask UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reconsider the report published in August 2002 about the massacre in Jenin, which disappointingly expresses only the arrogant racism of Israel and America.”