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Thursday, June 23, 2005


They look at the burns and are silent

By Amira Hass

23 June 2005

"It has to be something cooked up by the Shin Bet security
services." That was the reaction of several people when the Israeli
media reported on a young woman from the Jabaliya refugee camp who
was seized on Monday at the Erez checkpoint carrying 10 kilograms of
explosives on her body, which she had intended to detonate in a

And indeed, the clearly immoral intention of murdering the sick, the
cynical exploitation of an exit permit granted for medical purposes,
the stupidity of transferring explosives at a checkpoint where even
a needle sets off an alarm, a switch that didn't work - all these
make one think of a staged incident intended to denigrate or
embarrass the Palestinians. A staging that succeeds in concealing
the information, which in any case is minimized, about the routine
Israeli oppression: for example, the killing of a young boy who was
engaged in trapping birds, or the arrest of activists in the village
of Balin because they are leading a popular, unarmed struggle
against the Israeli policy that is designed to steal more
Palestinian land.

Without belittling the talents of the Shin Bet in enlisting agents
provocateurs, blaming them for the incident is an attempt to
suppress the severity of the act - an attempt that was reflected in
the press coverage. In the three daily newspapers, the item was
published on the first page, but in two of them, it received only a
subhead. The newspapers did not send reporters to the young woman's
home and did not attempt to obtain any details beyond what was
reported by the news agencies and the Israel Defense Forces
spokesman. One newspaper mentioned that the Palestinian health
minister had not confirmed that the young woman had an Israeli
permit obtained in coordination with it. Nor did the electronic
media deal with the story much, to the point that a resident of Tel
al-Zatar - the neighborhood of the would-be suicide bomber - had not
even heard about the incident, although he is a former political
activist and an avid media consumer.

>From conversations with journalists and human rights activists in
Gaza, it turns out that on "the street," those who did hear were
horrified: The intention of harming sick people crossed a clear red
line, people said. But the general tendency is to see it as another
private initiative of a splinter group of armed men, and another
case of a young woman in personal and social distress.

At first her dispatchers were said to be a unit of the
Fatah-identified Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades named after the shaheed
Aimen Juda. They said someone went to the microphones and "adopted"
the act in their name. But two days ago, one of their spokesmen held
a press conference in Gaza and denied any connection. At the same
time, a journalist in Jabaliya said the unit named after the shaheed
Nabil Masoud that also belongs to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and
whose leader is a resident of Tel al-Zatar - had confirmed it sent
the potential suicide bomber.

However, the popular, instinctive disgust at the immoral intention
has not found expression in the past two days in open public
discussion, an initiative that could have been expected from
political leaders and activists in non-governmental organizations,
who are quick to react to harm done by Israel, and rightly so. If
such a discussion took place anywhere, for example in the human
rights organizations - it was not reflected in a public stand or in
independently gathered information. This in spite of the fact that
it is clear that from now on there will be another Israeli
justification for undermining the right of Palestinian patients to
leave for treatments in Israel.

As far as is known, Fatah spokesmen did not rush to condemn the act
publicly either, or to distinguish between opposition to the
occupation and planning an act of murder. One Gazan journalist, who
was asked why Palestinian journalists did not go out to gather more
information, said the reason is fear. In the existing security
chaos, he said, there is no guarantee that no harm will come to a
journalist who exposes the anti-patriotism of a certain group of
armed men, or to a Palestinian organization that publishes a direct
condemnation of some immoral and stupid plan of action.

And perhaps it is the reluctance to confront openly a well-known
phenomenon, of women whose value in the "marriage market" and in
society declines because of a physical defect, and therefore it is
easy to incite them to become part of a pathetic performance such as
that carried out by that same young woman in front of Israeli
reporters. And perhaps a more vigorous investigation of the
dispatchers of the young woman would reveal that "the resistance"
has more than once turned into a (pathetic and temporary) source of
income, and it's not pleasant to talk about that in public either.

A veteran Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) prisoner, who was
jailed before the Oslo period, said this week that he and his
friends were shocked to hear from the new inmates who have joined
them in the past four to five years, that dispatchers and those
dispatched to armed actions during these years acted on the basis of
a monetary reward or the promise of one - regardless of their

And perhaps this is automatic sanctification of the willingness to
die? The moment the young woman was caught planning to die "for the
homeland," as she declared, nobody asks publicly how her death will
help or harm the homeland. They look at her burned hands, and are

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