Speaking from Experience: Air Raids, Panic, and Resistance

The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine
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18 January 2000

   During an 11 January 2001 CPAP briefing, Jamie Terral  and
   Michael Brown discussed Israel's  military  siege  of  the
   West Bank and Gaza. Recently returned from working in  the
   Occupied Territories-Terral at the Palestine Red  Crescent
   Society in Bethlehem, and Brown at the Palestinian  Center
   for Human Rights in Gaza-both  encountered  Israel's  bomb
   raids, helicopter gunships, and closure first hand.

At night, it was "like a nightmare," said Terral, who arrived  in
Bethlehem on September 30. "Things went from bad  to  worse  when
the . . . two soldiers in Ramallah were killed by the mob  crowd"
on October 12. The  night  after  the  soldiers'  deaths,  Israel
"bombed every city center in the West Bank and  Gaza  except  for
Bethlehem."

On November 9, Israel assassinated a Fatah member in Beit Zahour,
killing two Palestinian women standing  nearby  in  the  process.
"Immediate chaos and panic on the streets" followed  the  attack.
Terral talked to a Palestinian teacher about the raid: "She  said
that the scariest part of the whole thing to her was not what had
happened so far, but the reality that things were probably  going
to get worse."

Israel began shelling Beit Jala at 5 p.m. on November 14,  firing
"tank rounds from Gilo [settlement]  .  .  .  into  the  people's
homes." The bombing continued for 10 hours. One  woman  told  her
that the current situation is the worst that it has  been  in  52
years.

According to Terral, children already are suffering from symptoms
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are afraid to leave their
parents'  side.  Bedwetting  and  a  lack  of  concentration  are
prevalent. Every day, "they are losing another  little  piece  of
their childhood that's being ripped away."

The indirect violence is also carrying a  toll.  "Every  part  of
daily life has been shut down because of [Israel's]  closure"  of
the  Occupied  Territories.  Tourism  has  fallen   dramatically:
"Bethlehem . . . poured millions and millions  of  dollars"  into
their Bethlehem 2000 project. In a "few weeks," this project  was
"killed" by Israel's policies.

Terral  also  raised  her  concern  that  "sentiment  toward  the
Americans in the West Bank" has worsened because of U.S.  support
of  Israel.  When  she  first  arrived,   she   encountered   the
hospitality she typically receives from Palestinians. By the time
she left, she felt a "coldness"  on  the  street.  The  "American
presence has been much more real" during Israel's attacks now, as
compared to the first intifada. People find bomb casings in their
living rooms and on  the  street  that  say  "made  in  America."
According to Terral, "my government has paid for and  bought  the
weapons which destroyed these people's lives."

Israel  is  becoming  increasingly  like  South  Africa-not  only
because of the separation,  the  closure,  and  the  creation  of
bantustans-but also in that "international pressure" is  required
to end the oppression, said Terral. She believes change  is  more
likely to come  from  U.S.  government  pressure  than  from  the
Israeli people, who "are becoming more hard line."  This  reality
gives the American public the "right," and in fact the "duty," to
pressure U.S. officials.

Michael Brown focused his discussion on the media. On October 31,
six days after Brown arrived, CNN Cairo Bureau Chief Ben  Wedeman
was shot during a confrontation between Palestinians and  Israeli
soldiers in Gaza.  After  this  incident,  Brown  went  to  Shifa
hospital where Wedeman was being  treated  for  a  bullet  wound.
While there, one of Wedeman's  colleagues  told  him:  "Why  [the
Israeli forces] didn't have binoculars and couldn't  see  .  .  .
that [they] were clearly press was a mystery to him." Brown later
looked at CNN's Website, which reported that Wedeman had been hit
by  "cross-fire."  When  Brown  returned  to  the  hospital,   he
overheard Wedeman on the phone saying that he turned his back  to
the Israeli position, crouched down to get his  tripod,  and  was
shot in the back. These reports, however, did not  hit  the  news
until later.

Brown referred to a second CNN article which  stated  that  three
Israelis and six Palestinians  were  killed  in  one  day.  "They
reported that this [was] the heaviest day of  fighting  that  has
been seen since [the uprising] began on September  28."  However,
there  had  been  many  previous  days  when   more   than   nine
Palestinians were killed. In  another  case  of  inaccuracy,  CNN
issued a report which referred to "Palestinian  settlers."  Brown
asserted that one needs to apply constant pressure on  the  media
to make even a slight difference.

On a more positive note, Deborah Sontag from The New  York  Times
came to Gaza as a result of Brown and  his  co-workers'  efforts.
She later wrote an article about Israel's bulldozing of the  Omar
Jaber Dhuheir family's land, greenhouses, and home for an Israeli
settlement road. "The BBC then picked up on it, individual donors
in the U.S. wanted to help the family that she wrote about,"  and
others learned about Palestinian life under siege.

Nonetheless, Brown felt that places like Rafah  and  Khan  Younis
refugee camps were "abandoned" by  the  press.  On  December  12,
Brown traveled to Khan Younis to see the situation first hand. At
2 a.m., there was "heavy [Israeli] fire"  in  the  camp.  "Within
minutes, my body was shaking" as bullets were flying  everywhere-
"I'd never seen anything like it." Brown witnessed  "families  in
the dead of night fleeing" their homes. "An old man  came  up  to
the door and vomited." One unarmed man ran  toward  the  line  of
fire shouting "Allah akbar" ("God is  great").  Palestinians  are
pushed to the wall and have no place  else  to  go,  said  Brown,
which seems  to  give  them  astonishing  courage.  "People  were
running up there knowing that  they  would  be  shot  at."  Brown
explained: "All I can say is the individual bravery and the sense
of, 'yeah, you can shoot us and you can kill us, but at  the  end
of the day we're going to keep going,'  was  something  that  I'd
never encountered before."

Still, Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human
Rights in Gaza, told Brown on the morning  of  January  11:  "The
worst is still ahead." Brown believes that this "next year is the
big push" in Israeli-Palestinian  relations.  He  encouraged  the
audience to continue working during this crucial time when  there
will likely be "a bad [peace] deal, or no deal at all."
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The above text is based on remarks delivered on 11  January  2001
by Jamie Terral and Michael Brown. Their views do not necessarily
reflect those of the Center for Policy Analysis on  Palestine  or
The Jerusalem Fund. This "For the Record"  was  written  by  CPAP
Publications  Manager  Wendy  Lehman;  it  may  be  used  without
permission but with proper attribution to the Center  for  Policy
Analysis on Palestine.