The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine
2425-35 Virginia Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20037
18 January 2000
During an 11 January 2001 CPAP briefing, Jamie Terral
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
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
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
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
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
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
Brown referred to a second CNN article which stated that
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
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
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
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.