Mar 15 2002

The days of the Israeli occupation are numbered

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

One of the more popular Palestinian songs asks travelers where they are going and the answer is Ramallah. This town, built on a hill north of Jerusalem, has always been known as a Palestinian resort. Married couples from various Arab countries used to spend their honeymoon in this city. As a child, I remember fondly our regular visits to this city. Riding the swings in the Ramallah municipal park, renting bikes and eating Rukab’s ice cream, with its distinctive taste, are among the happy memories I have of this town.

Ramallah this week is certainly not the destination of honeymooners or picnic goers. Israeli tanks and soldiers armed to the teeth turned this happy town into hell on earth.

Israeli incursions, contrary to what they say, have more to do with an attempt to demoralize Palestinians than to “root out terrorism”. How else can one explain Israel’s exaggerated use of force that has provoked angry responses from Israel’s only remaining ally, the United States? How else can the shooting of foreign journalists, which Wednesday caused the death of an Italian photographer, be explained? What has a hospital providing needed humanitarian and emergency services have to do with the declared Israeli claim of wanting to root out Palestinian terrorism? Shooting outside the Ramallah hospital was obvious to all television observers. Television news spoke of hospital doctors and staff prevented from reaching their work destination.

The family and friends of a friend who died after a long battle with cancer were unable to get to the hospital to take her corpse from the morgue and give her a proper burial.

When I called my friend Ayman in Ramallah, he told me that he had been stuck in the house for three days. Essential food items are quickly running out. He told me that the local shops opened only for a few hours on the second day of Israeli reoccupation, and everything available was quickly bought out. With no supplies coming to the city to replenish the shelves, store owners had to close shops and sit at home, waiting for the Israelis to allow the entry of basic food items and other essentials.

Electricity was out during the first day of the second Israeli occupation of Ramallah. When power was back, little of life in Ramallah returned to normal. At Al Quds Educational Television, three members of the staff who got stuck in the office when the occupation began, had no choice but to sleep at the station and try their best to keep the station running, giving basic information to the population. I was told by the station’s director, Ayman Bardawil, that the staff spent most of the time rebroadcasting news reports and short service announcements from the governor of the city. He told me that they played over and over again the 13 television spots created with UNESCO with the aim of helping parents and children cope with times of extreme stress and instability.

Local radio and television stations were used by the local government to help deal with the difficulties on the ground. On a television station in Bethlehem, I noticed that an announcement by the local civil defense department listed only a mobile phone number. This showed that the Israelis had bombed the civil defense premises, where land lines are located, and left those in charge no choice but to give out their numbers as a reference point for the public. On another station, I noticed a flash announcement informing the Palestinian public: “Israeli snipers located on top of the Orphanage Home in Beit Jala”.

This latest incursion into Ramallah has been described as one of the largest Israeli military operations for some time. Sending tanks into a populated area, cutting supplies and shooting at journalists are actions no military would like to have listed as accomplishments.

Palestinians, however, understand the Israeli game and feel that US envoy General Anthony Zinni’s visit and the Security Council resolutions will ensure that Israel leaves the Palestinian territories permanently.

The determination and will of the Palestinians has not been shaken by the Israeli actions. They know that the days of the Israeli occupation are numbered. They are just as certain that the lyrics of the Ramallah song will soon be heard in the restaurants and parks in and around Ramallah.

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