ana l. valdés on Thu, 2 May 2002 06:09:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Jenin

I send to the list my own wittness rapport from Jenin.

Voices from Jenin

A young boy arrives at the bombed out school building, today functioning
as a provisory gathering place for the persons who want to rapport their
 missing relatives or friends.
   We are now in what was Jenin's refugee camp.
 Since 1948, when the state of Israel was proclaimed, this camp has been
 the temporary housing for about 15.000 Palestinians.
   The patient Palestinian clerks list long rows of names. Normally
 they used to work in a building which until some days ago was Jenins
 Cityhall. But the Cityhall is destroyed, as all of the official buildings
In Jenin have been destroyed by Apache helicopters.
    The boy’s face is covered with a mask against the dust. He carries a
 brown plastic grocery bag in one hand and with the other, free hand he
 takes off his surgical gloves. He has come to hand over what he carries in the
 bag, the remains of a human being. He believes it is Mohammed Toulhand,
 active in the Jihad movement.
   The photographers take pictures of the bag and go away to new places,
 the bag is left under the table. I ask Waleed, one of our guides in the
 camp, if they can’t send the remains to some place where they can be
 analysed, to confirm the names of the dead, to identify the bodies.
     He shakes his head and says : « Here we know each other well. We know
 what kind of clothes our friends had, what kind of kaps or bandanas they
wore, which t-shirt they wore that day, this is how we, the Palestinians,
make our DNA-analysis. It's not very sophisticated but that’s the only way we can
   We sleep in a flat functioning both as an office and sleeping
quarters. My travelmate, the visual artist Cecilia Parsberg and me, were
 given two thin beds with new sheets, still smelling of washing powder. When we
 wake up in the morning and go to the living room we meet the others
 staying here, on a couch an Indian pathologist, on a matress on the floor a
physics anthropologist, and from the bathroom comes an Irish pathologist.
   They are members of the organization « Physicians for Peace », they
had also been in Kosovo and Sebrenica, digging out bodies, taking samples
 and confirming sex and age of the dead. Now they are afraid that they have
 arrived too late to Jenin.
   The center of Jenin’s camp its ruined, there is just a hole as big as
 Three football fields, full of debris. In this place there were houses,
 schools, buildings. From the hole comes a sweetish smell of corpses.
Nobody knows for sure how many dead are buried under the remains of the houses.
 All the bulldozers in the Cityhall’s garage have been destroyed. Only
 One is left, the driver had happend to take it home. Today it is the only
 one operational.

    Jenin is Palestine's own Ground Zero and around the hole gathers
 hundreds of people, paralyzed watchers. Peace movement monks from Tibet,
 politicians, American peace activists, French medical doctors, Italian
 teachers and Japanese filmmakers are on the grounds.
   Some of them climbed up the
 mountain the day before, while the Israelians still held the siege around
 the camp. Others has arrived today, driving old cars and walking several
 kilometers over the fields.
    When I climbed up the hills I thought that it must ha been a quite
 similar situation in 1936, when Ernest Hemingway and many others walked the
length of the Pyrinees to fight against the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

    Doctor Walid has been reclused in the hospital of Jenin twenty days,
 almost without water and with very little food. The electricity went off
 after a few days, but the Israelians allowed the Red Cross to go in with
 two generators, without them, they had not managed to keep the dead
 bodies. And since the Israel soldiers were still in the camp, they were afraid of

 epidemies, one of the hospital nurses explained.
    The big majority of the bodies which reached the hospital were civilian
victims, women and children. The head of the Palestinian Red Crescent
 was murdered already on the second day of the invasion. Another
 doctor died as the result of a explosion. He was driving in his own car,
 transporting an oxygen tank to the hospital. A sniper shot at the tank and

 the car exploded. He died slowly and screamed for an hour before he died, doctor
Walid explained to us, but none of us dared to go out and help him, with the
snipers aiming at us.
    Now the hospital is dealing with new victims, yesterday two small
 children got wounded by a mine, while playing in the backyard of the
 hospital.. One of them died while we were in Jenin.
    Of the fifteen thousand people who lived in the camp, five thousand of
 them escaped, most of them women, children and old people. Now they are slowly
 coming back, going home to their demolished houses, sitting among the debris of
 what is was their livingrooms.
    We climb up a staircase that opens towards nothing, only two walls of
 the house are intact. A older woman wearing a white scarf on her head and
 dressed in the typical Arabian dress of a beautiful ocre colour, talks to
 us in Arabian and wants to tell her story.
    Her house has been destroyed, her pots and pans smashed, the soldiers
 destroyed closets which were still unpaid for. She tell us she that she
 doesn’t want to be photographed since she has not been able to wash herself for
 days. At last she agrees to have her photo taken, we compare our own dusty
 clothes with hers and she is cleaner than us.
    We are invited to share their food, the little they have, we try to
 buy something to contribute to the meal but they look at us as if we had
 insulted them.
    We left things behind in Jenin, mementos to take us back, a watch,
 pens, tales, pictures. We travelled away but we are still there, in Jenin, which
 in Arabic means the place with the beutiful gardens.

 Ana Valdés, writer
 Cecilia Parsberg, visual artist

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