- In 1897, the day after the First Zionist Congress in
Basel, Theodor Herzl, wrote in his diary: "In Basel I founded the
State of the Jews." This week, Ariel Sharon should note in his diary:
"In Jenin I founded the State of the Palestinians."
- Of course, he did not mean to. His intention was to destroy
the Palestinian nation, its institutions and leadership, once and for all,
leaving only bits and pieces, human wreckage that could be disposed of
- In practice, something quite different happened. Faced
with the onslaught of the biggest military machine in the region and the
most modern arms in the world, submerged in a sea of suffering, surrounded
by bodies, the Palestinian nation straightened its back as never before.
- In the small refugee camp near Jenin, a group of Palestinian
fighters from all the organisations gathered for a battle of defence that
will be enshrined forever in the hearts of all Arabs. This is the Palestinian
Massada, as an Israeli officer called it, alluding to the legendary stand
of the remnants of the great Jewish rebellion against Rome in 71 AD.
- When the international media cannot be kept out any more
and the pictures of horror are published, two possible versions may emerge:
Jenin as a story of massacre, a second Sabra and Shatila; and Jenin, the
Palestinian Stalingrad, a story of immortal heroism. The second will surely
- Nations are built on myths. I was raised on the myths
of Massada and Tel-Chai. They formed the consciousness of the new Hebrew
nation. (At Tel-Chai, in 1920, a group of Jewish defenders, led by the
one-armed hero Josef Trumpeldor, were killed in an incident with anti-French
Syrian fighters.) The myths of Jenin and Arafat's compound in Ramallah
will form the consciousness of the new Palestinian nation.
- A primitive military robot, who sees everything in terms
of fire power and body counts, will not understand this. But Napoleon,
a military genius, said that in war, moral considerations account for three
quarters, and the balance of force for the other quarter.
- How does Sharon's war look in this perspective? As for
the actual forces, the balance is clear. A few dozen Israelis killed, many
hundreds of Palestinians dead. No destruction in Israel, horrible destruction
in the Palestinian towns.
- The aim was, so it was claimed, to "destroy the
terror infrastructure". This definition is by itself nonsensical:
the "terror infrastructure" exists in the souls of millions of
Palestinians and tens of millions of Arabs, whose hearts are bursting with
rage. The more fighters and suicide bombers are killed, the more fighters
and suicide bombers are ready to take their place. We saw the "laboratories
of explosives" - sacks of material obtainable in Israeli shops. The
Israeli army is proud of discovering tens of them. There will soon be hundreds.
- When dozens of wounded people lie in the streets and
slowly bleed to death because the army shoots at every moving ambulance,
it creates terrible hatred. When the army secretly buries hundreds of bodies
of men, women and children, it creates terrible hatred. When tanks destroy
houses, topple electricity poles, open water pipes, leave behind thousands
of homeless people and cause children to drink from puddles, it causes
- A Palestinian child, who sees all this with his or her
eyes, becomes the suicide bomber of tomorrow. Thus Sharon and his chief
of staff, Shaul Mofaz, create the terrorist infrastructure.
- In the meantime, they have created the foundations of
the Palestinian nation and the Palestinian state. The people saw their
fighters in Jenin and believe that they are far greater heroes than the
Israeli soldiers, protected inside their tanks. They saw their leader in
the historic TV sequence, his face lit by a single candle in his dark,
surrounded office, ready for death at any moment, and compare him with
the hedonistic Israeli ministers, sitting in their offices far from the
battlefront, surrounded by hordes of bodyguards. Thus national pride is
- No good for Israel will come out of this adventure, as
no good came out of any of Sharon's previous adventures. The concept was
stupid, the implementation cruel, the results will be disastrous. It will
not bring peace and security, solve no problem, but it will isolate Israel
and endanger the Jews throughout the world.
- In the end, only one thing will be remembered: our giant
military machine assaulted the small Palestinian people, and the small
Palestinian people and its leader held on. In the eyes of the Palestinians,
and not only theirs, it will look like a tremendous victory, the victory
of a modern David against Goliath. ___
- Uri Avnery is co-founder of Israel's Gush Shalom (Peace
Coalition). Born in Germany, he emigrated to Palestine in 1933 and joined
the Irgun underground movement. In 1948, he was a member of an Israeli
commando unit and was wounded on the Egyptian front. As a journalist and
political activist, he has long been a campaigner for Palestinian rights
and in 1982 crossed the frontline to meet Arafat at the height of the siege
of Beirut. A supporter of the Oslo peace agreement, he is now a columnist
for the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, where this article first appeared.