| West Bank Eyewitness|
With Najeh Jarrar
Professor of Sociology, An-Najeh National University in Nablus
Friday, April 12, 2002; 1 p.m. EDT
"The northern West Bank town, along with its refugee camp, has been the scene of the fiercest fighting in the two weeks since Israel's army launched attacks on Palestinian cities and towns, vowing to eliminate what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called a terrorist infrastructure. Today for the first time, reporters journeyed into town during a break in the Israeli-imposed curfew to see and hear what occurred." Trails of Destruction, Tales of Loss, (Jenin - Post, April 12).
Najeh Jarrar, professor of sociology at An-Najeh National University in Nablus gives an eyewitness account on Friday, April 12 at 1 p.m. EDT, to talk about what life is like for people living in the cities where the Israeli military operation is ongoing.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Najeh Jarrar: We are still under curfew for the last 12 days without water or electricity. As you know, the popular of Jenin is 70,000 and the camp population is 15,000 -- almost all of the refugee population have been deported to the nearby villages and about 70% of their houses have been totally destroyed. Those who are being are killed are more than 200 and everyone is scattered on the streets of the refugee camps and many are caught under the rubble of their houses.
Many thousands have been arrested so many refugees cannot find their families, sons and daughters and find that they don't have any houses anymore. As you know they became refugees in 1950 and worked very hard to build their houses and now they are under the sky without houses.
Personally, I am living in my flat for 12 days without electricity and water and all the glasses of my windows have been broken. Also, I can't do my work in Nablus teaching the sociology department. All of my neighbors have been struck by several bullets and our carpets and beds have been burned and destroyed. One pharmacy on our street has been destroyed by rockets. Every night overhead helicopters have been shooting in every lane of the city and certainly those shootings have struck many houses and caused many harms to many houses.
Urbana, Ill.: What would you say the scope of most
Palestinian anger is? Is it primarily
against Sharon's faction of the Israeli
government? All of the government? The
people of Israel? All Jews?
Najeh Jarrar: No, as a matter of fact, the Palestinian people are angry at Sharon. But the educated people know that Sharon has an ideology of an Israeli right wing. This ideology has not been alleviated or changed and causes struggle and conflict forever. Two parties are ready for peace: the Arabs and international politics. The third party is Israel and not ready since they killed Rabin and dominating the arena of the peace politics. The belief of this right Zionist wing is a whole Jewish state and have Palestinian under occupation and this is the reason for conflict. The right wing does not want the Palestinians to achieve a government. And this is not realistic. I doubt that any American that understands situation would not agree with Israeli politics -- to keep the Palestinian population without national identity.
Baltimore, Md.: The Israeli's entered the "Occupied Territories" two weeks ago. Who was occupying the territories before, and who did the Israeli's kick out, was it other Israeli's?
Is Commander Arafat considered an occupier since he is from Egypt and had never lived in Palestine until two years after having been given control over the areas where Palestinians live?
Najeh Jarrar: Arafat became a refugee from 1940 so he had no choice to live in Palestine and after 25 years of struggle the Madrid and Oslo agreement allowed him to live in Palestine under international observation. So his situation is legal to be in the West Bank and Gaza. In Egypt, he was a refugee as 3 million in Egypt, 250,000 in Syria and so on. We cannot blame them for not living in Palestine because they were forced to be refugees. From 1991 to 1996, he was on his way to achieve a government according to the Oslo agreement but the Israelis kept him from progress and the Israelis started establishing settlements on the land and instead of withdrawing, they started confiscating land and made people feel hopeless for any established state or government.
Baltimore, Md.: Is there a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute that is acceptable to both sides?
Najeh Jarrar: I think there is. From what I said earlier there are three parts to end the conflict. Now there is no Cold War and America and Europe dominate interest in the Mideast. If the world media, international support from America and Europe, the Arab states have been evolving in the peace process and would like us to reach peace in the region. Such as the Arab conference three weeks ago, they want us to reach peace and revisit the international resolution of 1967.
The only obstacle in my view is the Zionist ideology that all of Palestine should be an all Jew state and I do not see this as realistic. Educated media and the international people need to concentrate on the Mideast issues and help Palestine pursue national identity and government.
Annandale, Va.: What can we as Palestinian Americans do? I feel that protesting does no good. All it does is inconvenience people going to work. Lobbying is futile because the Israeli lobby is the most powerful. Please help us make a difference.
Najeh Jarrar: I think the best way is to understand the political situation and clarify it as much as you can to the American people. The common American who understands the situation would not support Israel. Such a movement needs human and material resources and I wonder if you would have such resources to confront the Israeli lobby in America.
We are only 3 million in Palestine and want our freedom and independence. The average American can identify with these values. The main problem is not Sharon or Arafat, it is the Zionist ideology that would like all of Palestine as a Jewish state. I hope that the American people can understand this.
Silver Spring, Md.: If you had the opportunity to speak to Sec. Powell if he came to Jenin, what do you ask him? What do you think realistically the Palestinian Authority can commit on doing, knowing that they have had their power reduced to the minimum?
Najeh Jarrar: I think I would ask him for one demand that Israelis should recognize us as a nation and Israel should recognize that at the end we would like to reach our international identity. And also that Israel would say that they are ready for Palestine to reach the state in accordance to the 1967 borders. That is all I would like to ask Secretary Powell.
Nowadays, the Palestinian Authority can't do anything or commit itself to anything since the Israelis destroyed the police stations, their resources and offices. The Israelis have also scattered the refugees of the Jenin camps. We would need at least six months for Palestine to rebuild itself and rehabilitate the security and police again before committing themselves to anything. I would like to let you know that the Palestinian Authority since 1994 until 1999 had arrested all the extremists and rebels who opposed the peace process of Oslo and Madrid. But Israel instead of recognizing the accomplishments have destroyed these very same stations and police infrastructures. If the Prime Minister of Israel agreed to Palestine creating its own state, then Arafat can tell the people to stop fighting. But with no promise, how can Arafat say to his people to stop fighting while they want to achieve nationality.
San Diego, Calif.: Do you think the American people are getting the full story in our media?
Najeh Jarrar: No. Otherwise they wouldn't support Israel. I'm quite sure they are not getting the full story.
Sacramento, Calif.: Why do we not hear more from Palestinians against the suicide bombings? Don't you realize that you will never get the American people's support unless this practice is actively rejected and denounced? It makes the Palestinians look as if they want to kill all Jews, not form a state.
Najeh Jarrar: I don't think we have enough media to inform the American people about the suicide operations. The uprisings started a year and a half ago where the Palestinians did not use any weapons against Israelis while they were killing Palestinian civilians. The Palestinians seeing these killings wanted to respond with minimal resources. So while the rest of the world see them as terrorists, Palestinians see them as martyrs fighting for independence and sacrificing themselves to fight the occupation. They feel as though they have no other way to fight the Israeli oppression and occupation. The first uprising the Palestinians used stones and Israel responded by putting them in jail and killing them with guns (more than 10,000). No one shot the Israelis during the intifada and then we entered the Oslo conference and the Palestinians thought they were going to get their independence. But everyday the Israelis would push their settlements and continue to push the Palestinians out.
Although we don't support the anger and the killing including the suicide bombings, but the 18 year-olds who are very intelligent go to this extreme to fight for their national independence and international identity and feel they have no other choice.
Dumfries, Va.: There are many ways to resist an army and achieve freedom. In your role as a sociology professor, can you help us understand why suicide bombing seems to be the method of choice among the Palestinian population.
Najeh Jarrar: As a sociology professor, I think they use this method because you have to look at the history of fighting. Fifty years ago, the Israelis destroyed 350 villages and 24 massacres had been done -- I'm referring to Ben Morris, an Israeli journalist and academic, who took all this information from the Israeli military archives. Then in 1956, the Israeli soldiers killed all the Egyptian and Palestinian prisoners captured. In addition, if you remember what happened in the first uprising, the Palestinians used stones against Israeli guns and weapons. This uprising in 1999, the first six months the Palestinians did not use any guns against the Israelis but the Israelis killed an average of 4 to 10 Palestinians who were fighting with stones.
All this history and the fighting from the Israelis in the first and second uprising make the teenagers become crazy and desperate when they have such a history and see Israel confiscating their land and don't want to give us national identity or national home. So what do you expect them to do? Don't forget that we are under occupation for over 35 years.
Columbia, Md.: Why did Chairman Arafat release large numbers of inmates from his jails immediately after the last peace talks broke off?
Najeh Jarrar: Because most of the prisons were being destroyed and Israel warned that they were going to bomb the police stations. Arafat was obliged to save the people otherwise they would have died by Israeli rockets. There are so many kinds of prisoners -- not only criminal but political and minor offenses. So, Arafat officers obliged to move them and after the first and second attacks on the station the officers ran away and the prisoners did so as well.
Gaithersburg, MD: Could you please describe to us what life is like for you on a daily basis now? Can you sleep at night? Is there gunfire every hour? How do you survive without clean water and electricity? What do you eat? Have you been locked inside completely or are you able to go outside sometimes? If you need to go to the hospital, what do you do? Are there secret ways to get to medical care without getting shot? Do you have money to buy goods when you are able to go outside?
Najeh Jarrar: I have cancer in my lungs and I have an appointment this month but I couldn't even go to a hospital in Jordan. Two days ago, the Israelis raised the curfew and nobody was allowed to go to the hospital which is 500 meters away from the center of the city. The doctors are not allowed to go to local clinics in several parts of the city. One of my neighbors had died three days ago because he ran out of medication and couldn't get a doctor to take care of him. We could not take him to the cemetery and we buried him in his garden.
For food, we usually store olive oil, cheese and beans, lentils but we are running out. Since the city is in such a bad situation, it is difficult to find food in the market. Now since we don't have electricity, everything is spoiling in the refrigerator. Even the garbage with the flies and mosquitoes in the streets may cause an epidemic. And we don't have anyway to find glasses for the window because they have been destroyed by bomb explosions. All our furniture is ruined.
We do not have any water and electricity. Before curfew we go to the streets but can't find any commodities and the Israelis do not allow reporters to see what happened until now. Today two small girls went to the mosque and brought me three bottles of water and I was afraid that they might get hurt or killed when they walk. Just a few days ago, a 16 and 14-year-old were killed by an Israeli helicopter when he stepped outside of his house door. Two of my neighbors have been hurt because they moved from door to door. It is a desperate situation and we scared to travel. We are lucky today because we haven't heard the shooting that we hear shooting every half an hour. Many have been shot by random bullets in their house.
The fighters Atti Abrami, Hamad Shellabi, and Abdel Kareem Sadi -- after they surrendered in the camp and told to take off their clothes were killed in cold blood by the Israeli soldiers. A 50-year-old refugee Hakken Ar-arawi and another saw this with his own eyes and told me. I met them yesterday as I was walking in the street to find something to buy to eat when the Israelis lifted a curfew for 3 hours.
Najeh Jarrar: I am 61 years-old born in 1941 and in 1948 there was a war between the Israelis and Palestinians. In 1956 and 1967 and 1973 there were more wars. In 1987 there was an ongoing uprising for five years. The last uprising was in 1999 and is still going on. I would like every American to just think about the economical, political, psychological and social consequences on an ordinary Palestinian person.
I hope the American people can understand how these events and wars affect and cause the misery of Palestinian life. Just think about these things and put yourself in our positions and see how difficult it is for us -- whenever we build our life, they destroy it again. Then I think you will understand and see why the suicide bombers behave in such a way. For me, I understand but I don't agree with them. They feel that they have no future in Zionist ideology. Does this justify their actions?
That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.
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