The Meaning of Jenin

by Justin Raimondo (RIP) April 22, 2002

Jenin – the name is now a synonym for the brutality of the Israeli war machine, and for the heroism of the Palestinian people as they seek to defend themselves against a merciless assault.

The Israelis and their amen corner aren’t going to spin their way out of this one, and they know it.

Here’s Janine di Giovanni in the London Times:”The refugees I had interviewed in recent days while trying to enter the camp were not lying.

If anything, they underestimated the the carnage and the horror.

Rarely, in more than a decade of war reporting from Bosnia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, have I seen such deliberate destruction, such disrespect for human life.”

Using civilians as human shields, the Israelis went on a rampage of vengeance and bloodlust that only ran its course when the streets of Jenin were running with blood – not only the gore of fighters, as the Israelis are now claiming, but that of innocent civilians wantonly murdered.

Here’s Marie Colvin, of the Times, tracking down the horrific truth.

Apparently, she had only to – literally – follow her nose:

“The first medical teams allowed into the Jenin refugee camp last week followed the chickens.

Human senses were overwhelmed by the devastation and the stench of death, but the birds were not distracted.

They were hungry. Two rusty-colored fowl pecking away at a bundle in the street drew a Red Cross team to the remains of Jamal Sabagh.

“He wasn’t really recognizable to an untrained eye. His body had been lying there for more than a week.

The Israeli army had banned ambulances from the camp for 11 days, and neighbors were too terrified to go to him.”

“Tank tracks led to his body, over it and onwards through the mud. What had once been a young man was rotting flesh mingled with shredded clothing, mashed into the earth.

One foot was all that looked human.”


Oh, can’t you just hear Bill Bennett and his fellow Israel Firsters trying to justify this atrocity?

After all, Sabagh was a terrorist, a potential suicide bomber, a fanatic bent on the destruction of Israel, and was killed in the course of what the IDF calls a “battle.”

Except that Sabagh wasn’t a fighter.

A diabetic too ill to flee, he was also fearful that he might be mistaken for a fighter if he left his house. So he stayed – definitely a mistake:

“Two days later, he left his house when the Israelis yelled over megaphones that they were going to blow it up.

He walked, directed by soldiers in armoured personnel carriers, with other men to Seha Street at the centre of the camp, carrying his bag of medicines.

He joined the crowd. Soldiers yelled at him to take off his shirt, then his trousers.

He clung to his bag of medicine as he tried to unbuckle his belt, and he was slow.

The soldiers shot him, friends say.”

The editorially pro-Israel Telegraph was equally damning, with one story headlined “Horror Stories from the Siege of Jenin.”

Summary executions, including the murder of young children, vicious beatings of women, and a complete disregard for the elementary rules of war, marks the Israelis’ “Operation Defensive Shield” – what a name! – as the devilish work of homicidal maniacs.

Why else would the IDF have bulldozed houses, without warning, while whole families were still in them?

This was the Homicide Offensive, meant to deliver a death blow to the Palestinian nation.

But swiftly burying the bodies under tons of rubble wasn’t deep enough: as Nahum Barnea, whom the Telegraph describes as Israel’s leading newspaper commentator, put it:

“If Israel does not find some way to give them a dignified burial, the bodies will bury Israel.”


Barnea recognizes that the main front in the war for a Greater Israel is not on the West Bank, but in the West Wing – and in the West generally.

In the propaganda war for the hearts and minds of their American patrons – without whom Israel would not last a year – the Sharon government is conducting a desperate struggle to suppress the truth not only about Jenin, but about their own annexationist agenda.

“Operation Defensive Shield,” eh? Now comes the news that Sharon plans to absorb half the West Bank into Israel proper.

The Israeli blitzkrieg was about as “defensive” as Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in the dark days prior to World War II – and just as ominous.


For weeks, the pro-Israel lobby in the US has been on the offensive, mirroring the IDF’s scorched earth tactics with a take-no-prisoners propaganda blitz.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the charge up Capitol Hill, with the usual array of sniper pundits giving him plenty of cover.

Bob Novak archly remarked that Bibi’s trip seemed to be an electioneering jaunt – perhaps to get his old job back – but left tantalizingly open the question of which election in which country.

In a dress rehearsal for the key Florida election, putative presidential candidate Joe Lieberman and the Democrats competed with right-wing Republicans to see who could roll out the red carpet faster.

The Los Angeles Times pointed to the emergence of a Lieberman-Hillary Clinton-conservative Republican alliance in Congress giving unconditional support to Israel – surely the ugliest marriage of convenience since the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Hillary joins the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy – or is it the other way around?

At any rate, who woulda thought it would come to this? – the conservatives and the Clintonistas, together at last.


As the story of Jenin unfolded, the Israeli disinformation campaign went into high gear, with an op-ed by Netanyahu in the War Street Journal that would win an Academy Award if ever they gave one for rank hypocrisy.

As the stench of the bodies rises up from the rubble of Jenin, this vulture brays that the root cause of terrorism is not “the deprivation of rights” – after all, Gandhi didn’t resort to suicide bombings to free India from British rule – but totalitarianism:

“Those who fight as terrorists rule as terrorists.

People who deliberately target the innocent never become leaders who protect freedom and human rights.

When terrorists seize power, they invariably set up the darkest of dictatorships–whether in Iraq, Iran,Afghanistan or Arafatistan.

In short, the reason why some resort to terror and others do not is not any absence of rights, but the presence of a tyrannical mindset.”

Israel, as we are continually reminded, is a “democracy,” but so was South Africa under the Boers. And remember, we aren’t talking about Israel proper anymore, but about Sharonistan – the Jewish state plus the annexed territories. Israel may have started out as a liberal democracy, but can a Greater Israel remain one? Contra Bibi, people who deliberately target the innocent have become the leaders of the Israeli state – so can we now confidently predict “the darkest of dictatorships” as Israel’s future?


My good friend Emmanuel Goldstein, writing in his really quite excellent blog, Airstrip One, has a very interesting theory that impacts on this issue: he thinks Israel has been Orientalized by the influx of Sephardic (largely Arab) and Russian immigrants, and asks “are we expecting too much of Israel?” “Until recently,” he writes,

“I’ve always rooted for Israel. So why do I get so upset when they flood the airwaves with porn?

Well perhaps because I see them as being Westernized. The same reason that I support them is the same reason I expect such high standards.”

But with Jenin, something seems to have happened to the Western idealism that motivated the original Zionist movement, the souring of a once sweet wine that no amount of sugar can mask.

Goldstein, I think correctly, points to the Orientalist mindset of more recent immigrants, with their higher birthrate, as the future of Israel:

“So what are the cultural implications of this?

Well it is orientalizing Israel.

Whereas the predominantly Ashkenasi Zionist movement was heavily influenced by the ideas sweeping around Western Europe because of the years spent in or near Western Europe – what is the likely outcome of a longer immersion in Arab culture for the Sephardic Jews?

“So is this hand wringing all misplaced.

Is Israel simply orientalizing, or to be more accurate Arabising?

As anyone who followed the Lebanese civil war – and the behaviour of the Phalangists – knows, it is not enough to look to the West to act Western….Maybe what we are seeing is that Israel is becoming a foreign country to us.”

An Israeli island in the sea of Araby has been inundated and conquered, culturally and spiritually, if not yet demographically. That is the significance of Jenin, and of all the Jenins to come.


My regular readers will remember that I alerted you to the forthcoming publication of an anthology containing one of my past columns, and now I can report that Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American Foreign Policy (second edition), is out – and I am jazzed.

Not just for reasons of egoboo – although there is some of that – but because it turns out this is a textbook, presented in a “Crossfire”-style debate format, intended for college and advanced high school students.

That, of course, is precisely where needs to be: in the classrooms, where tomorrow’s leaders and voters are learning about the vital foreign policy issues of our time.

By the way, my own contribution is not the only reason to buy this little volume: Gee, I can’t wait to read chapter 17, which deals with the question: “Did US Military Action Against Yugoslavia Violate Just War Theory?”

Defending the rape of the former Yugoslavia is none other than Bill Clinton, but even more intriguing is the opposing piece by Marine lieutenant colonel William T. DeCamp III, whose article, arguing in the affirmative, was first published in the Marine Corps Gazette!

The book seems to be doing well, so far: Amazon says they have only three left in stock, but more are on the way.

“Jenin: Not of this Earth

Do not let the [Zionist] destroyer come into your houses! Do not read their words, do not take their shekels, do not join them; for all who go to them will not achieve life in the World to Come. Prevent your sons and daughters from entering their tents and reading their newspapers, which are full of heresy. They have called themselves “Zionists” in order to catch Jewish souls in their nets. ~(Divrei Simcha, letter 2) 

The camp is home to Palestinian families who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

Like other camps across the Middle East, it has grown into a crowded, built-up neighborhood where a U.N. agency provides basic services.

It’s a difficult thing to comprehend a willing descent into a place of mass suffering.

Usually, such things are random and so temporary that one cannot plan for it.

But to sit in relative comfort and opt to travel to such a place feels quite peculiar.

Really, I wasn’t sure what I was going to Jenin for. Spectator? Documenter? Exploiter?

I found my way to Jenin by begging.

Once arriving in Jerusalem, I went to the lush American Colony Hotel, perhaps the best known and most expensive establishment in East Jerusalem.

Hence, it was the favorite locale for journalists with large expense accounts.

With a $10 Danish-knock off beer in my hand, I proceeded to ask around if anyone was headed that way the next day. No luck.

Then I considered the International Solidarity Movement people with whom I had been trapped in Bethlehem during the invasion three weeks prior.

I rushed over to the Faisal Hostel, the favorite locale for poor college kids with no expense accounts.

Israeli Military Occupation In Bethlehem

People there informed me that there was indeed a van headed to Jenin on the next day that I could try to join.

I awoke at 6:30am on April 19 to reach the group headed to Jenin.

In all there were eleven of us, with six ISM members, a Jordanian film crew, a journalist for the Irish Times and Catherine, the Director of Lawyers Without Borders.

I sat next to Catherine and spoke with her about the need for international lawyers to volunteer at Palestinian human rights organization, where credibility was key when arguing for the rights of an occupied people in the court of the occupier.

She told me that she was sure that simply by reporting on the conditions and difficulties people faced in Jenin, her organization was sure to lose many of its Jewish members.

Ethno-religious identity supercedes egalitarian human rights again. Often I thank God that I’m not more religious.

We passed through the Israeli Palestinian village of Umak Tham on our way.

It was the last call for food and water.

Respect: SALAM ALQUDS ALAYKUM - سلام القدس عليكم: The Jenin Refugee ...

As I dug into a delicious eggplant and hummus sandwich the proprietor of the Arabic shop noted all the business he was getting from journalists.

‘Its nice, but I really don’t like it because all this business comes at the price of those people.

’ I began taking notes in my book.

I wrote the heading, ‘Jenin’, but I paused to realize that there was still no guarantee at getting in.

Others with us had tried two days before but were turned back.

The journalist from the Irish Times, an elderly American woman uttered, ‘Well I’m getting in if I have to crawl over every mountain to get through’.

After swapping taxis in the village of Selim we were briefly stopped.

The driver, Adel, told us that ahead, the Israelis were digging up the road.

‘They will finish, and the villagers will then fill in the hole and we can move on,’ he said with assurance.

After a ten minute wait, it turned out that it wasn’t so.

The Israelis had cut the road in two, and set up a checkpoint for those now forced to cross on foot.

So we headed to Jenin through the back hills.

The locals followed us.

Israeli soldiers raid children’s center in Jenin refugee camp and destroy books, toys, plumbing

From the rocky heights, I could spot the Israeli military road demolition vehicles – APC’s with claw arms that serve to only disrupt life for the locals. It was a slightly arduous trip, not least of all for the three older people in the group, but we passed into Jenin unmolested.

Once at the edge of the camp, a passing pickup truck offered to give us a ride the rest of the way.

As the truck sped through the gravel roads towards the Refugee Camp, the signs of war began to filter past.

Crushed telephone polls and downed street lamps were the first indications of tanks having passed through.

Soon we were passing badly mauled cars.

Already most had been relegated to a new car graveyard, filled with disfigured wrecks that surely were not possible to create without the aid of a 6-ton behemoth running it over.

In one pile all of the intact car doors were nearly lined up for salvage.

Then houses blackened by fire began to pass, along with bullet holes and shell impact marks.

Finally, just as I had seen in Bethlehem, the tell tale sign of Israeli raids presented itself: residence after residence where the front door locks were shot off.

The pickup truck stopped and we disembarked.

Immediately I was carried into a new world.

Mentally, it was like opening a door to a different reality.

One where the world is upside down. Homes became ruins.

Shops became empty shells.

Roads became muddy pathways to slaughter.

And the fresh mountain air became dank and fetid.

I was in the Jenin Camp. Not of this earth.

Oddly though, once my brain internalized my surroundings as a surreal stage setting, removed from what would be normally acceptable to my senses, I felt at ease.

Perhaps it was just the scope and scale of it all.

To see a single home or building destroyed is a tragedy you can grasp.

But to see not a single building or shred of normality untouched by destruction is difficult to fathom.

Beirut had parts like this I saw even ten years after the war.

But there plant life thrived, and personal possessions were long removed.

Beirut just had parts of it left as small ghost towns, soon to be razed and rebuilt.

Jenin was a living town, still dying.

I began slowly, impressed by the immediate details.

A child stood clinging to his mother’s dress behind a pile of twisted metal.

In the distance behind him smoke rose from a burning pile of trash.

Soon I found that the other people I had come with were already running ahead towards the most devastated areas.

I was still standing, staring at a shell hole on the side of a man’s home. I turned right and entered the ring of the leveled area.

To my right were buildings with their first floors torn apart or gutted by fire, but the shells of the buildings still stood.

To my left, nothing recognizable remained.

Truth by Kbaig: June 2010

The IDF’s website claims that the area that was laid flat is only about 100 x 100m square.

This is a vast understatement.

The area is more about a square kilometer and according to the UN Envoy Terje-Larsen, about 600 homes have been totally demolished.

But a home needs not be flattened to be untenable.                                                                                        

For vast stretches outside of that perimeter, tanks and bulldozers cut homes out from the inside of buildings, piercing walls with their turrets or shovels, often collapsing floors internally.

67No, the IDF’s aerial photos are most deceptive.

Jenin Refugee Camp, home of some 13,000 people was indeed an earthquake zone – but it was a man-made disaster.

I looked down and realized I didn’t know what I was walking on.

A paved road, or was it always gravel?

The curbs were almost recognizable, having been torn apart, with chunks blending into the concrete shards laying strewn about.

It almost becomes useless to try to describe every detail I witnessed.

One home destroyed is a tragedy one can fully study and investigate.

But to examine 600 of them? Every step of my foot landed on something worth a tear, to be sure. A favorite shirt, a school paper, a burned toy, remains of an appliance. Even a small fragment of concrete could represent the loss of a person’s home.

I hate to have to do it, but the comparisons can be made between this and the acts of rogue, criminal Palestinian organizations.

Terrorist bombings ruin a building, many lives and inflict trauma on the witnesses.

But at least there is a home to return to for the living.

A job, a potential future to shape out of their damaged lives.

This is true too of Palestinian relatives of civilians killed in the Intifada.

But here, in Jenin, there was no future. No homes. No jobs. No life left for the living.

This is a terror that will never go a way for these people.

Its again, to use a worn cliché, one of those locations where the living envy the dead.

A massacre? I don’t know. No one will know for a while. But it shouldn’t matter.

The wanton destruction of homes and neighborhoods alone is too much to comprehend.

Numbness set in. It was time to move forward and just take note of what stood out.

Two old women seated on what was once their roof, with the backdrop of half a wall standing? Photograph.

A man lurching forward to wedge a lone small Palestinian flag between two walls collapsed on each other over a pile of debris? 

A young boy dragging sheets full of scrap metal behind them?

Like the muck piled on the garbage tip amid the concrete hovels – the stench of injustice still pervades the camps where 1,700 Palestinians were butchered 30 years ago next week. No-one was tried and sentenced for a slaughter, which even an Israeli writer at the time compared to the killing of Yugoslavs by Nazi sympathisers in the Second World War. Sabra and Chatila are a memorial to criminals who evaded responsibility, who got away with it.

Photo. Two women standing on the second story of a home, the portrait of Saddam Hussein hanging behind them, with the front half of the building torn off and the floor hanging by metal supports?

Photo. This is the process by which I traversed the Jenin Refugee Camp. I knew of no other way.

It was only the second day after the Israeli military lifted their curfew, so for many residents things were still fresh.

Boys carted crates of water in and others hauled workable furniture out on tractors.

People picked through the remnants of their homes, in piles that reached over twenty feet into the air above the ground, pulling out clothes.

They shook them off and inspected them for holes.

If they were moderately ok, they went in one pile to keep. Scraps in another.

Clothing seemed to be just about all that could be retrieved from those buildings intact. But people still collected things like cabinet doors that might be of some use in future reconstruction.

I took a left turn around the perimeter of the zone that was totally bulldozed.

The dividing line was quite clear, however it must be emphasized that most all of the houses in the whole area suffered severe structural damage by bulldozers even though they were not completely demolished.

The inner-zone however was incomprehensibly flattened.

Along the road tell tale marks of monstrous firepower showed themselves. One building was blasted all the way through by a rocket, leaving concentrically smaller holes in successive walls.

I was able to view it all at once since the entire front of the building had been torn away. Other buildings lurched under top-heavy weight as key supports on the first floors had been torn out.

Near the top of the flattened perimeter I came across one of several digging operations.

umkahlil: November 2006

This one was aided by one of the few bulldozers available in Jenin to help lift the massive piles of debris.

The bulldozer cut into the remains of the Fayed home, a name I was to hear much of in the coming weeks for their sad tale in many international articles.

Mahmoud Fayad, a 70 year old camp resident had a 38-year old son, Jamal, who was paralyzed in his legs from birth.

Restricted to a wheelchair and somewhat mentally incapable as well, his brother Ahmed noted that Jamal had no other friends but his family.

When the Israelis began bulldozing their way through Jenin Camp, Mahmoud and his wife ran out to tell the Israelis to wait for them to help get Jamal out.

The Israelis refused and plowed into the Fayed’s family’s home, crushing Jamal underneath.

They knew just where he was. Yet under the heap of rubble, the bulldozer didn’t find him that day. Or the next.

Turning left and moving on, I began to comprehend just why finding bodies became impossible.

While Jenin is indeed built at a slope, the sheer height of rubble finely ground and compressed is evident by some of the ongoing digs.

At another location, with a good two feet into the ground, people were just then reaching ceiling tiles still intact.

Democratic Nation USA: Rahm Emanuel, Joe Lieberman, Goldman-Sachs, and the INSIDIOUS MURDER of ...

The Palestinians possess no like weapons (thanks US).

It boggled my mind. Somehow, the Israeli tanks so thoroughly flattened, over and over again, the entire area.

While some fragments of buildings and heaps of distinguishable rubble littered the area (with some piles reaching heights of 30 feet above the ground), most of the area was flattened as if paved by a steamroller.

House after house had been crushed into powder.

Occasionally, metal bars would stick up out of the ground and loose shreds of clothing fluttered from between pulverized refuse, but for the most part it was a sea of granulated concrete.

Who knows what remained underneath.

I actually felt guilty just to be walking across, as if I was only making it worse – the way I would walk on my old sidewalk in Madison winters, packing down snow that I knew I’d have to later shovel.

I breathed it in. Disintegrated, triturated, crumbled, crushed, attenuated, pulverized.

Adjectives swam in my head. What else could I do?

As the dust swarmed about, I realized I was breathing people’s homes and lives.

A quick recheck of my senses reminded me that I was just in an illusory realm where these surroundings are being presented to me.

I could continue photographing without succumbing to my emotional rushes.

I began to notice the other foreigners managing.

Some were from the Geneva Red Cross, others from other aid agencies, but most came as journalists – spectators to suffering like myself.

I walked a ways up a slope that was the remains of a fractured house, spilt downhill.

I was at the upper crust of the demolished region.

Behind me stood a building with only two outer walls.

On what remained of the second floor a young girl cried as the mother spoke with a journalist. I turned back just to stand and survey everything.

The sky was bright that day, with a deep blue whose effervescence seemed even brighter against the almost uniform grayish tan of Jenin’s ruins.

Atop a lone pile of rubble, the tallest in the area, a woman rummaged for belongings.

Cast behind here in the distance was a lone minaret, perhaps the one where reporters noted that the Israelis badly vandalized.

On occasion the woman just stopped, threw her hands at her hips and stared down. It must have seemed futile to continue. To many, Jenin must have seemed the same, I figured.

Despite the situation, however, the people remained resolute, if not dignified.

Those who could speak some English would at times stride up to me and after asking me the perennial ‘why?’, informed me that they would not bow to Sharon.

The London-Berlin mentality of a people bombed into ruin had set in.

A doctor, educated in Germany, said he would remain in his battle scarred home. Jenin was a tragedy for him, but it would move on. Even most children had an air of determination about them as they aided their parents in collecting salvageable possessions.

—- next time, depictions of inside homes —-

In Jenin, a new holocaust was committed, but what is different about it is that people were not taken into arresting camps, but they were burnt in their houses by burning missiles.

In Nablus, the massacre was just indescribable…