Immortal heroes of Jenin
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 16 09:22:26 MDT 2002
Immortal heroes of Jenin
Sharon's war is not only failing to bring Israelis security, it is laying
the foundations of a new Palestinian nation and state
Tuesday April 16, 2002
(Uri Avnery is co-founder of Israel's Gush Shalom (Peace Coalition). Born
in Germany, he emigrated to Palestine in 1933 and joined the Irgun
underground movement. In 1948, he was a member of an Israeli commando unit
and was wounded on the Egyptian front. As a journalist and political
activist, he has long been a campaigner for Palestinian rights and in 1982
crossed the frontline to meet Arafat at the height of the siege of Beirut.
A supporter of the Oslo peace agreement, he is now a columnist for the
Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, where this article first appeared.)
In 1897, the day after the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Theodor Herzl,
wrote in his diary: "In Basel I founded the State of the Jews." This week,
Ariel Sharon should note in his diary: "In Jenin I founded the State of the
Of course, he did not mean to. His intention was to destroy the Palestinian
nation, its institutions and leadership, once and for all, leaving only
bits and pieces, human wreckage that could be disposed of anywhere.
In practice, something quite different happened. Faced with the onslaught
of the biggest military machine in the region and the most modern arms in
the world, submerged in a sea of suffering, surrounded by bodies, the
Palestinian nation straightened its back as never before.
In the small refugee camp near Jenin, a group of Palestinian fighters from
all the organisations gathered for a battle of defence that will be
enshrined forever in the hearts of all Arabs. This is the Palestinian
Massada, as an Israeli officer called it, alluding to the legendary stand
of the remnants of the great Jewish rebellion against Rome in 71 AD.
When the international media cannot be kept out any more and the pictures
of horror are published, two possible versions may emerge: Jenin as a story
of massacre, a second Sabra and Shatila; and Jenin, the Palestinian
Stalingrad, a story of immortal heroism. The second will surely prevail.
Nations are built on myths. I was raised on the myths of Massada and
Tel-Chai. They formed the consciousness of the new Hebrew nation. (At
Tel-Chai, in 1920, a group of Jewish defenders, led by the one-armed hero
Josef Trumpeldor, were killed in an incident with anti-French Syrian
fighters.) The myths of Jenin and Arafat's compound in Ramallah will form
the consciousness of the new Palestinian nation.
A primitive military robot, who sees everything in terms of fire power and
body counts, will not understand this. But Napoleon, a military genius,
said that in war, moral considerations account for three quarters, and the
balance of force for the other quarter.
How does Sharon's war look in this perspective? As for the actual forces,
the balance is clear. A few dozen Israelis killed, many hundreds of
Palestinians dead. No destruction in Israel, horrible destruction in the
The aim was, so it was claimed, to "destroy the terror infrastructure".
This definition is by itself nonsensical: the "terror infrastructure"
exists in the souls of millions of Palestinians and tens of millions of
Arabs, whose hearts are bursting with rage. The more fighters and suicide
bombers are killed, the more fighters and suicide bombers are ready to take
their place. We saw the "laboratories of explosives" - sacks of material
obtainable in Israeli shops. The Israeli army is proud of discovering tens
of them. There will soon be hundreds.
When dozens of wounded people lie in the streets and slowly bleed to death
because the army shoots at every moving ambulance, it creates terrible
hatred. When the army secretly buries hundreds of bodies of men, women and
children, it creates terrible hatred. When tanks destroy houses, topple
electricity poles, open water pipes, leave behind thousands of homeless
people and cause children to drink from puddles, it causes terrible hatred.
A Palestinian child, who sees all this with his eyes, becomes the suicide
bomber of tomorrow. Thus Sharon and his chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, create
the terrorist infrastructure.
In the meantime, they have created the foundations of the Palestinian
nation and the Palestinian state. The people saw their fighters in Jenin
and believe that they are far greater heroes than the Israeli soldiers,
protected inside their tanks. They saw their leader in the historic TV
sequence, his face lit by a single candle in his dark, surrounded office,
ready for death at any moment, and compare him with the hedonistic Israeli
ministers, sitting in their offices far from the battlefront, surrounded by
hordes of bodyguards. Thus national pride is engendered.
No good for Israel will come out of this adventure, as no good came out of
any of Sharon's previous adventures. The concept was stupid, the
implementation cruel, the results will be disastrous. It will not bring
peace and security, solve no problem, but it will isolate Israel and
endanger the Jews throughout the world.
In the end, only one thing will be remembered: our giant military machine
assaulted the small Palestinian people, and the small Palestinian people
and its leader held on. In the eyes of the Palestinians, and not only
theirs, it will look like a tremendous victory, the victory of a modern
David against Goliath.
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