الاثنين، 13 مايو، 2002

And this is not Jenin


By: Hania Aswad
Written after the Israeli reoccupation of Palestinian Authority Areas in the West Bank; May 2002

Dear Friends and Supporters,
I thought of sharing my thoughts and feelings with you on my second day at the office, Canada Fund, which fortunately still exists.

After weeks under curfew, I got out of the house yesterday around 10:00am feeling numb.  I went first to Al Quds Educational Television which is a block away from my house and where Ayman, my partner, works.  The building of the TV used to be the ‘Hilton’ of Ramallah during the 1960's.   It's a big building with a huge garden surrounding it.  For years, it has been part of Al Quds University properties and contains both the Nursing College and the Modern Media Institute which is the Mother organization of al Quds Educational TV station.  

Since the fourth day of the ‘reoccupation’, the Israeli Occupation Army took over the building and used it as their base.  More than 20 tanks were inside the walls of the premises almost all the time and snipers were on the rooftop of the building day and night.  The neighbours said, the first day the Army arrived to the Building they went into their homes and threatened them that if anyone looks through their windows their heads will be immediately blown.  The building was also used as a prison and interrogation base.

As I walked into the building, there were bullet holes everywhere.  There was lots of garbage all around the garden; smelly garbage in piles.  I went upstairs to the third floor where the TV station is and I saw everything on the ground, everything; papers, computer monitors, tapes and photographs, everything.  The first thing that shocked me was a board written on it in Hebrew: “Orders: 1) eat, 2) drink and 3) destroy.” They, the Israeli "Defense Forces" (as they are identified) have really destroyed the place and stolen lots of the equipment; six cameras, all the hard disc's of the computers, and many other.  I believe they should proudly call themselves the “Army of Israeli Killers and Thieves.”  I was totally speechless; I could say nothing to anyone there including Ayman who is the Director of the TV station.  It’s a big loss.  At one of the offices where Binaz Batrawi works (Binaz is the Coordinator of Gender Department at the Institute) I saw a photograph of Binaz and Tamar, her 4-year old daughter, hugging each other hanging on the wall.  One of the soldiers had cut the photo in an X shape.  On many of the boards downstairs there were different writings in Hebrew; two of the most repeated ones were "Arabs should die" and "Arafat is a dead man."

I left the building feeling nothing at all, not even numb.  I wanted to go to my office but I could not stop myself from driving around the City.  I saw many smashed cars (stepped over by tanks), lots destroyed electricity and phone lines, bombed doors (many office buildings including the Municipality Building’s door); the city is very dusty and garbage is everywhere.  I passed through the ‘Sakakini Cultural Center’ which is one of those old beautiful renovated house of Ramalla; all windows were glassless and doors were broken.  The Israeli Army paid a visit to Sakakini, which also hosts Mahmoud Darwish’s Office, few days ago, messed the place up and stole lots of documents, old books and drawings. 

I arrived to my office’s building and got up stairs to our floor.  As I entered, the corridor looked like my images of Beirut during the 1982 siege.  All offices' doors were blown off, glass was scattered everywhere, ceiling and walls covered with massive amount of bullet holes, very strong smell of blood, dried blood on the walls and the floor and broad streaks of blood at the corridor floor shows the trace of 5 bodies dragged out for burial few days ago.  In our Building’s corridor there were five unarmed Palestinian Policemen (all above 50 years old) who were executed by the Israeli Occupation Army during the first week of the reoccupation of Ramallah.  

This is how it looks outside our office’s door, this is what we have to remember every time we are in and out of it, this is what we dreamt last night and will probably dream of for some time. 

I just can’t but think; and this is not Jenin!!!!

Now I am at the office and we are sitting here, Kirsty and I, thinking that we have to work but it just seems so difficult to function or to concentrate.  The Israeli tanks are only few meters away; they can easily come back at any minute they wish to do anything and everything they choose.  It just does not feel right; it does not feel safe, and does not seem that it will be safe for some time especially after seeing Sharon on the TV yesterday, addressing the World and stating proudly that they have successfully completed the “first round” of their operation against “Palestinian Terrorist and Terrorism.”

Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Defensive_Shield