April 2003

Common images

30 April 2003

Al-Jazeera was showing Iraqi prisoners, their heads covered with hoods and their hands tied tightly with white plastic cuffs, on the television behind Sultan and Shareef Haroun. But the two brothers, sitting in their home again after three days exiled from their families, hardly needed reminding of what occupation looks like up close. The pair were among some 2,000 men aged between 15 and 40 rounded up by the Israeli army a week ago in the refugee camp of Tulkarm, in the northern West Bank, for questioning. Afterwards the soldiers blindfolded the men, tied the same plastic cuffs used in Iraq around their wrists and herded them on to buses in which they were driven a few kilometres to neighbouring villages.

DEIR YASSIN, Israel: Do you believe in the Torah?” a boy no more than 10 years old, dressed in the black trousers and white shirt of the Haredim, was demanding of Eitan Bronstein, four decades his senior. “Do you know what it means to be a Jew? Are you really a Jew?” In front of the locked gates of the Kfar Saul psychiatric hospital in the sprawling suburbs of West Jerusalem, Bronstein was trying to unfurl the banner of Zochrot, a small Jewish group committed to educating Israelis about the 1948 war that founded their state (the name is Hebrew for “remember”). He was there with 100 demonstrators, drawn from what in Israel is seen as the far left, to commemorate a history most Israelis are never taught in school.

Israel’s leading “liberal” newspaper, Haaretz, has received numerous accolades from its foreign readers (who are able to access its English edition on the Internet) for its coverage of the Intifada. Prize-winning journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy have won an enthusiastic audience abroad since their reports started being regularly translated into English three years ago, contributing to the newspaper’s image as Israel’s conscience. For many outside Isarel, Haaretz is their main window on the Jewish state. Hass and Levy, however, contribute only a tiny fraction of Haaretz’s daily output, and it is getting hard to ignore a disturbing trend: the paper’s senior editors are increasingly shading the events of the Intifada in a very different light than that provided by Hass and Levy, the paper’s two moral beacons.

Outliving memory

4 April 2003

Khairieh Abu-Shusheh braved the checkpoints of East Jerusalem last week to make a pilgrimage to the village of Deir Yassin. Here 55 years ago, in one of the darkest episodes of the Jewish state’s creation, nearly 100 men, women and children were butchered by the Irgun and Stern militias. Several captives were taken and paraded in Jerusalem before being killed. The massacre on 9 April 1948, several weeks before the state of Israel had been declared, as well as news of other slaughters, triggered an exodus that ended in 80 per cent of the Arab population being forced from the new Jewish state.

As a tide of Palestinian protest — from Nazareth to Bethlehem and Gaza — was unleashed at the weekend against the war, a suicide bomber slipped into the coastal town of Netanya and detonated himself at the entrance to a café, hurting 58 diners and passers-by. According to Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility, the injuries inflicted by the explosives strapped to 19-year- old Rami Ranam were “a gift” to the Iraqi people. The bombing occurred on Land Day, an annual event observed across much of the Middle East to commemorate the fatal shootings of six Palestinian citizens of Israel by the security services in 1976, during demonstrations against government attempts to confiscate huge swaths of Arab- owned land in the Galilee.