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Prevent Another War Crime by Remembering Jenin

Please Help Prevent Another War Crime by Remembering Jenin

We can begin thinking today about the war after the war: the public relations war in the media in which Israel can be expected to be placed in the international defendant’s seat, when the television screens around the world become filled with the spectacle of bodies lined up, destroyed houses and crying, distraught relatives.

Editorial in the Israeli Newspaper Ma’ariv

A number of discussions were held on this disturbing issue by military officials. The general conclusion was that some way has to be found to move the bodies into Israel. If Israel does not find some way to give them a dignified burial, the bodies will bury Israel.

Nahum Barnea

Israeli Commentator

Our wonderful soldiers have to be able to continue this struggle.

Ariel Sharon

Touring an Army base near Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield

On 3 April 2003 Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank began a twelve day operation using tanks, armoured bulldozers, Apache helicopters and F-16 fighters against the people of Jenin Refugee Camp and the Palestinian resistance fighters who defended their homes armed only with rifles and home made pipe bombs.

Despite the imbalance in firepower, the resistance managed to defend their city for twelve days before running out of ammunition and resorting to throwing stones in their desperate struggle to ward off the invaders.

The epic resistance of the city has since become one etched in the Palestinian memory, as have the atrocities committed by Israeli troops during Operation “Defensive Shield”. To keep the story of the atrocities hidden from the outside world the Israeli Army banned the media from the area for the duration of the operation, buried the bodies of those killed in mass graves and transported them to Israel to be buried in secret locations.

Despite these measures, they could not hide the stench of rotting bodies from those journalists who ventured to the outskirts of the city. Nor could they prevent the survivors from telling their stories of what they saw. Nor could they even prevent their own soldiers from boasting about their crimes in public.

Although the United Nations, under extreme pressure from the US government, refrained from describing what took place in Jenin as a massacre, the city’s community groups have been diligently gathering statements from the survivors of the operation so that the victims of this war crime are not conveniently forgotten.

68 people were killed in the operation, the overwhelming majority of whom were non-combatant civilians. Many were killed in their homes by missiles or bulldozers. Others were shot on the streets as they fled for safety or went out for help. Many died of their injuries because ambulances were prevented from reaching the injured for the duration of the operation. Of those who survived the onslaught, many reported that they were used as human shields by the Israelis, who in some instances stripped them naked and then made them march before them while resting their rifles on their shoulders. Others recall how they lived in terror day and night without electricity or water, unable even to go out onto the streets to escape their ordeal.

In addition to those killed, more than eight hundred families were rendered homeless when Israeli Army bulldozers razed their entire neighborhood after the fighting had ended.

Although the Israeli government and its allies have has strenuously denied that these atrocities took place, they have not been able to keep their own soldiers from publicly gloating over the crimes they committed during the operation – crimes for which not a single soldier has as yet been questioned, let alone brought to justice. (For an example of these boasts go to> ).

The Israelis and their allies in the US government and military not only believe that the true story of what took place in Jenin will be forgotten, but have also come to regard Operation Defensive Shield as a model upon which urban warfare tactics are being developed.

Last year Martin van Creveld, Professor of Military History and Strategy at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University was invited to advise US Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on the conduct of Operation Defensive Shield. Following the professor’s advice that the Caterpillar D-9 armoured bulldozer was among the Israelis most effective weapons for clearing paths for tanks through confined residential areas, the Marine Corps purchased nine of the vehicles.

Only the generals who bought these machines know their intended purpose but it is possible that they intend to use them in urban warfare in Iraq in a style similar to that used by the Israelis in the invasion of Jenin.

To honour the fallen and to commemorate the massacre in the hope that it will never be repeated, the ISM activists based in Jenin are joining with the people of the city to remember the twelve days of atrocities that the Israel and the United States would prefer the world to forget. These commemorations will culminate on April 15, the last day of the Operation Defensive Shield, when the Jenin Camp Committee together with the ISM in Jenin will organize a full day event in which films of last year’s massacre will be screened and survivors of Operation Defensive Shield will share tell their stories in the part of Jenin Refugee Camp that was totally destroyed by the Israelis.

If you wish to express your support for the people of Jenin during this time of mourning and help prevent this crime being conveniently forgotten and repeated elsewhere, you may do so in the following ways:

Send a message of condolence and solidarity to the people of Jenin at . The ISM in Jenin intend to print these messages and add them to an art/photo exhibition that is currently on display in Jenin Refugee Camp.

Commemorate and protest Operation Defensive Shield by organizing protests and direct actions for April 15. Possible sites for such actions are Israeli and American embassies and consulates and Caterpillar factories and retailers (the Caterpillar company manufactures the D-9 armoured bulldozer which the Israelis have used extensively over the past two and a half years to demolish Palestinian homes). The ISM endorses all direct actions and protests undertaken against the State of Israel and its supporters provided they are carried out in a strictly non-violent manner.

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