Lisa and I are walking in the Zone of Total Destruction in Jenin Camp, where in April the Israeli Defence Forces, after four nights of shelling, bulldozed four hundred and fifty houses, some with the occupants still inside. We are in Jenin, in the
I watch another stretcher carried out, and I can so easily imagine the shock and grief of that student¹s mother and father and friends. It¹s easy for me to identify with them, because they are my people. I know how I would feel if my partner or brother or stepdaughters were among those bodies, and nothing can justify inflicting such pain.
But I¹m aware that I am looking at the scene from a different background than before I came to the camp. I¹m standing with my back to the ruins of four hundred and fifty homes. I¹ve spoken with the survivors who were pulling body parts out of the rubble for days. I¹ve talked to the ambulance drivers who were kept out while patients bled to death. Every day since I¹ve been here, I¹ve seen the tanks roll into Jenin, shooting into the marketplace to announce curfew. I¹ve seen the frustration in the eyes of children who have seen their older brothers shot, their fathers arrested, and who never know when the occupying army will allow them out to play. I¹m viewing the corpses of the innocent against the background of a mountain of rubble where the crushed homes and belongings and unburied bones of the inhabitants still lie, in a town where gunshots and explosions are the normal sounds of morning, and where the targeting of the innocent is the overriding condition of life.
The men around the TV are not celebrating. They do not look happy. They look shocked and angry and infinitely weary.
“This is Sharon¹s doing,” one says to us. “
And I understand what they mean. I cannot absolve the bombers from responsibility for their acts. Some human hand set the bomb, some brain and will chose to do so, perhaps some other mind conceived of the plan. They are beyond a doubt responsible. But those who hold the power to create the context in which others act hold a larger responsibility from which they also cannot be absolved. The policies of
Ten days before the bombing, major Palestinian militant groups, including Fatah, Arafat¹s organization, and Tanzim, its armed wing, with the support of ultra-militant Hamas, were about to issue a statement ending suicide attacks. It read, in part, as follows:
“It is in the name of that future, and in the name of all of those who have lost their lives that we make this declaration: we will do everything in our power to end attacks on Israeli civilians, on innocent men, women and children, in both
“The bombings of the last few months have transformed your society. Those bombings horrified and angered your people, and sent your nation into despair. It did that to us. It sparked a rethinking of who we are as a people. It marked a shift in our perceptionsâ€¹not of you, but of ourselves.
“For a time we were able to put this horror out of our minds. We wereâ€¹and we areâ€¹the oppressed, the dispossessed and the forgottenÅ Our eyes look out to see what you are doing to us in our towns and villages every day, but the same eyes look at the hardened hearts of our children. It may take a generation for us to teach our children a new way, to soothe their bitterness, to erase their hatred, to teach them that there is hope for the future. But we must begin. It is for them, for their future, that we have made this historic decision: we are against targeting the innocent.” The statement was printed in the London Times on
Just before the Palestinian factions could proclaim their ceasefire, Sharon¹s forces dropped a bomb from an F16 on a house in
anyway had the cease fire initiative gone through), and his deputy, but it also killed thirteen other people, including nine children. And it killed the initiative to end the bombings of civilians. A certain amount of public outrage greeted the
Those policies lead as surely to the bodies in the cafeteria as they do to the mountain of rubble that once was the homes of Jenin. It is time we stopped funding, supporting, and condoning these policies.
It is time for the targeting of innocents to end.