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Searching Jenin:This May Be the Most Authoritative Report We Will Ever Get

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By Ilan Pappe 
Prominent Israeli academic and the Director of International Relations Division, Haifa University

Over a year has passed now, since the Israeli army invaded the  refugee camp in Jenin, destroyed its houses, killed many of its  inhabitants and committed one of the worst war crimes in this present  Intifada, Intifada al-Aqsa. With a successful campaign of distortion  and manipulation of evidence, the Israeli foreign ministry, with the  help of the United States, succeeded in hiding from the world the  horrors of Jenin, and even worse, in intimidating anyone daring to  tell the truth about what had happened there.

This is the great significance and enormous importance of this  book. "Searching Jenin" is the first systematic account, through  eyewitness reports, on the events in April 2002. Two other books  appeared in Arabic, but this is the first one in English. It puts the  events in context and it highlights the true nature of the crime,  while not falling into the pitfall laid by the Israelis who succeeded  in drawing the UN inquiry commission into supposedly academic  discussion of how to describe a massacre. As comes out vividly from  this book, Jenin was not just a massacre; it was an inhuman act of unimaginable barbarism.

To buy the book in the US, use this link:
Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion

Ramzy Baroud (Editor) Noam Chomsky (Preface Hardcover $29.95

To buy the book in the UK use this link
Searching Jenin:   Paperback £12.99
Searching Jenin  Hardcover £21.50  

Noam Chomsky, in his introduction to the book, puts it in the context  of crimes sponsored by America and he is someone who recorded  meticulously these crimes in the past. Ramzy Baroud, in his preface,  notes rightly that the book will not answer the question of how many  people were killed, nor will it cover every aspect of the crime. But  it does convey the message, as one of the witnesses put it  that, `what I have seen are crimes; sometimes greater than an  earthquake'. And this is not just an impression, as this book makes  it all too clear: every aspect of the Israeli actions in Jenin can  easily be identified as war crimes, according to the Hague convention. 

Testimonies like the ones presented do not only help to shed light on  many of the chapters hidden by the Israeli screening and news'  manipulation, it also brings forcefully the emotions, sounds and  smells of the catastrophe. The pain is still there in those telling  the stories. The book conveys the lingering agony through the italic  interventions of the editors. Through them, we learn that while  witnesses recall the horror of April 2002, like Hussein Hammad, they  have to stop several times � sometimes to repose and occasionally to weep, before able to resume, like Hammad does, their stories.

Sometimes the testimonies, at first glance, seem not to tell enough �  as if the survivors wish to repress the horror rather then tell it in  full. But the economy of words reveals quite often, even more about  what had happened. Rafidia al-Jamal is very laconic in a way, in her  testimony, but the full extent of the atrocity comes out in a very  short sentence she utters. This is the case when she describes how  she prevented desperately her husband - who had saved her life a  moment earlier � from searching after his sister. "Don't go,� I told  him, "She is Dead". And then she reports dryly: `my children have  nightmares'.

Other witnesses, especially mothers, feel the need to expand when it  comes to their children's nightmares. Each with her own way of coping  with the persisting torment of their children. Mothers all over the  West Bank, and not only in Jenin a year after the massacre, spent  sleepless nights with terrified children who witnessed the brutality  at first hand. In Jenin, Farid and Ali Hawashin are such typical  victims of continued nightmares of fear, that according to their mother, haunt them even during daylight. For them it is mainly the  noise the disturbs their peace of mind: that of the loudspeaker that  arrived near midnight at their home, that of the brutal burst into  the house, that of the men pleading with the soldiers before being  thrown out to the street, and then, worst of all, that of shots, the  groaning of wounded and the silence of the dead. Noise and death  repeat themselves in the memories of everyone in this book.

With these memories of sound and vision, the search for Jenin  continues throughout this powerful document. It is a search for  truth, but for other things as well. It is a search for loved ones  unaccounted for, long after the massacre ended, and then there is a  search for a remedy to the pain of the nightmare, and these searches  were far more important than the question of how many exactly died in  Jenin. Even without this question being answered, there is a sense  that this is the most authoritative report we will ever get.

Each reader will take something different from this book. For me as  an Israeli, I find the description of the soldiers' conduct the most  disturbing and most convincing part of the evidence. It is a story of  the dehumanization that raged in Jenin. This is so well epitomized in the chronicles of Nidal Abu al-Hayjah as reported by Ihab Ayadi. After Nidal was wounded and lay crying for help, anyone who tried to come to his rescue was shot by Israeli snipers. He bled to death as  so many others. Technically, he was not massacred, he was tortured to  death. The deadly precision of the snipers as a means of deterring  rescue operations is being reported in other testimonies in this  book, such as that of Taha Zbyde, who was killed eventually by a  sniper. This mode of action was and still is enacted wherever there is an Israeli operation in the occupied territories. It is part of  the vicious repertoire of the inhuman occupation � the daily physical harassment and mental abuse at checkpoints, the prevention from pregnant mothers or the wounded to get to hospitals, the starvation and the confiscation of water. No wonder some Israelis felt this brings back memories from the darker days of the Second World War. I remembered Anna Frank's diary when I read Um Sirri's horrific recollection of how women tried to swallow a cough that irritated the Israeli soldiers standing above them, pointing their loaded guns at them.

But there are ways of opposing the inhumanity of the occupier. This  is why mothers in this collection talk proudly of babies born after  the massacre. The expectant young Sana al-Sani decided to call her  baby, if it is a girl, `Zuhur', which means `flowers'. This wish is expressed in the book after Sana recalls one of the most horrid  memories brought in this collection. Her husband was slaughtered on  his house's doorsteps, and yet it is not revenge or retribution that guides Sana, but a dream of having a different kind of life.

But can flowers such as Sana's daughter flourish once more in  the `camp of martyrs' as the survivors called what was once their  home? The flowers will have to overcome the desolation and bareness.  Most of the houses were destroyed during the invasion. The Israeli  army, after it expelled the resistance forces, located its artillery  near the mosque and shelled the camp indiscriminately. Moreover, for  blooming to take place where death once reigned, the smell would have  to evaporate first. An American volunteer, Jennifer Lowenstein, until  today can not sleep as the odor of death still troubles her nights  and the nights of those few westerners, who gave evidence in this  book, and who were fortunate enough not to be killed. They helped to  tell the world the truth of what had happened. One of them is Tevor  Baumgartner, who is the one who revealed the existence of mass  graves, an allegation that was refuted early on in the Israeli  denial, a denial that was so eagerly accepted by the United States. 

This is a must, albeit a very difficult, reading. The campaign  against the continued dehumanization of the Palestinians in the  occupied territories cannot be based on slogans and general  accusations. There is a need for indictments such as one provided  here, which will hopefully very soon arise enough public indignation  so as to vie governments around the world to take acting to save the Palestinian people before it is too late.


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