Jenin - Remember This Word
Jenin. Remember this word, for every time your lose faith in humanity; all you need to do is to recall it. Repeat inside of you, slowly, when you are down and frail. It should give you vigor and lift your spirit. It's a symbol of courage, courage beyond these times of despair and degradation, courage that's legendary, almost mythological. How else can we explain that a small refugee camp, less than a kilometer sq. length and width stands for days in the face of hundreds of tanks, Apache helicopters and thousands of trained killers, they call soldiers?
Established in 1953 as a makeshift tent city to host thousands of Palestinian refugees, this small camp breeds tenacity and defiance. Many of those Palestinians who were uprooted from their villages in Palestine to live in the most humiliating conditions were still able to see the land that once was theirs, by simply gazing west.
For nearly five decades they looked west. Now, when their elders die, their children who are raised in the same impoverished yet proud Palestinian camp, also taught to gaze west. West is Palestine, their home, where they were told stories by aging grandmas of how wonderful life once was. It was a reminder of their dire hardship and life under occupation.
13 thousand refugees lived in the Jenin refugee camp, located near the city of Jenin in the West Bank. Their dream was beyond paved roads, functional sewer systems and good schools. Their dream was returning home. Many held the deeds to their land in Palestine, some even held the large old keys of their ravished homes, and most of them knew too well what UN Resolution 194 meant: it was their right to return.
But for decades those refugees remained without homes, without rights, and for decades they were subjected to never ending cruelty. In 1967, Israel added insult to injury when it invaded the West Bank and Gaza; the refugees are now under military occupation.
In recent years, the young population in the camps has grown to reach 44 percent of the total number of refugees. Yet with little means, many managed to attain a proper education at nearby Universities, Bir Zeit, Bethlehem and Najah. A young, educated yet defiant generation was born and raised in the small camp, a population that never forgot to look west, where Palestine is, a population that never feared to carry on the torch of a dying generation. That dying generation taught them one valuable lesson; never forget the land, our rights, our pride and our dignity. And they never did.
When Palestinian streets exploded with anger in a loud cry for freedom, the uprising was just getting started, and the Jenin refugee camp was there, leading the crowd, chanting the loudest, demanding justice, human rights and return.
Israel knew too well what Jenin meant for its military aspirations, that particular refugee camp was a deal breaker for Israel's attempt to suppress the Palestinian population, to kill their spirit.
Last March Israel carried out "Operation Colorful Journey" against the Jenin and Balata refugee camps. Like its name, the 'Operation' was colorful, bloody colorful, as nearly 20 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded in the refugee camp. Many homes were destroyed, but the spirit remained strong. Israeli officials said that their mission in Jenin was like "picking up terrorists with tweezers." But even the tweezers of the fourth strongest army in the world, one of the most powerful nuclear powers, was hardly enough to bend the will of Jenin. Jenin fought hard, and as the soldiers were pulling out, Palestinians emerged from their homes, carrying their dead, and chanting about Palestine and freedom.
But General Sharon never forgets his unfinished battles. Revenge is his game, even if launched against refugees, fighting with old rifles and kitchen knifes. As he recently deployed his forces to invade West Bank towns, he spared nearly 300 tanks, thousands of soldiers and many Apaches to invade the Jenin refugee camp.
Until the writing of this article, 8 days after intensive bombings, horrendous killings and indescribable massacres, the camp is yet to fall. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, mass graves have been opened, scores of dead have been buried in haste, men and women smothered under the rubble of their homes, and the camp is yet to fall.
Frustrated with the small size of the poor camp, Israeli tanks began stepping on everything, homes and mosques to find a way for themselves, to open a new battlefront with the defiant refugees, and the camp is yet to fall.
The head of the Israeli military Shaul Mofaz, embarrassed by the blunder, led the 'operation' himself to carry out a massacre, as the whole world stood and waited while the refugees battled the tanks, and fought the Apaches.
Over fifty missiles were fired on the camp within an hour; hundreds of people are said to be buried under the rubble; many bodies were scattered in the streets; Israeli troops began a systematic bombardment of the entire camp, the wounded bled to death, with no medical attention, just broken hearted mothers screaming in vain. With little means, the small camp, not only resisted, but inflicted heavy losses on the army that once claimed to be 'invincible'.
From inside the camp, using a cell phone with a dying battery, a Palestinian fighter reached Al Jazeera satellite television. "I just wanted to let the proud people of world, not to worry, we are resisting and will fight to the last drop of blood." In the background, a proud population stood listing to the speaker, maybe thinking that the world really listened or cared. They all chanted in one voice for freedom and Palestine, before the battery died, maybe not to be charged again.
By the time this article is published, maybe the Jenin refugee camp will be bulldozed, maybe hundreds more will be killed, maybe the fighting will still continue; but under no circumstances will the remaining refugees of Jenin be coerced to abandon their fight for freedom, their vow to return.
Israel is yet to be convinced that even with the most sophisticated US manufactured weapons, the people of Jenin refugee camp will never abandon their honorable fight, they will never cease to look west, where their land and pride are, where Palestine is calling on its people to come home.
Ramzy Baroud is the Editor-in-Chief of www.PalestineChronicle.com and the president of Palestine Independent News Agency
Topics: Jenin, Palestine, Refugee Camp