As noted by Prof Stephen Graham of Newcastle University Dept of Architecture, the Israeli Army applied Nazi Germany's experience of crushing the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to attack and crush Palestinian resistance in Jenin: "Just as Israeli staff officers had no compunction studying the lessons of the Wehrmacht’s attack on the Warsaw Ghetto, as preparation for the onslaught on Jenin, so their counterparts in the Pentagon will have paid close attention to Defensive Shield."
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was resistance by Polish Jews under Nazi occupation in 1943 to the deportations from Warsaw to the Treblinka extermination camp. The revolt began on April 19, 1943, and it took the Wehrmacht weeks later to crush.
The Battle of Jenin took place in the Jenin refugee camp in April 1–11, 2002. The Israeli Army employed infantry, commando forces, and assault helicopters. After an Israeli infantry column was defeated the army pulled back soldiers and used Caterpillar miltary armored bulldozers to destroy and flatten a large area of the camp, what Prof. Graham calls urbicide.
Elsewhere he writes that the destruction is part of an overall plan for ethnic cleansing: Israel's main aim was
to destroy the urban, civil and infrastructural foundations of the proto-Palestinian state...to deny the Palestinian people their collective, individual and cultural rights to the city-based modernity long enjoyed by Israelis.
As suggested by the Israeli minister for Labor, Shaloumo Bin Azri, in May 2001, the objective is to ‘convert the life of Palestinians into hell’ through the ongoing destruction of infrastructure, the building of fences and ‘buffer zones’, and the strengthening of curfews and checkpoint controls to the point of ‘closure’.
Sharon’s war is thus a deliberate strategy to compel Palestinians to indefinite poverty. And it is succeeding. The World Bank recently found that 70% of Palestinians live below the poverty line of $2 a day and 30% of Palestinian children are chronically malnourished.
The Israelis made dramatic efforts during the invasion of the West Bank cities of Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin to undermine the already slow modernisation of these cities (which today house the vast majority of the Palestinian people). Water tanks were systematically riddled with bullets. Electronic communications were bombed and jammed. Roads were dug up and ruined. Electricity transformers were destroyed. Computers were smashed, their hard disks stolen. Any cultural or bureaucratic symbol of the proto-Palestinian state was ransacked. Houses were bulldozed – some with their occupants still inside. Financial damage to infrastructure from the first major offensive alone has been estimated by donors at $361 million. (Giacaman, R. and Husseini, A., ‘Life and health during the Israeli invasion of the West Bank: The Town of Jenin’, 29 May 2002.)
In addition, hospitals were bombed and medical equipment looted and wrecked. During the attacks, ambulances were prevented from entering the war zones, condemning many to a slow, avoidable death, as their blood, literally, seeped away. Those medical staff getting through were, in some cases, deliberately attacked and at least five were killed.
Numbers of civilian casualties are difficult to estimate, especially in Jenin. At the time of writing (6 August 2002) most reports estimate that at least 52 Palestinians were directly killed in Israel’s first Jenin attacks – at least 22 of these were civilians, including children and disabled people (see a Human Rights Watch report). In the Jenin operation, Israeli bulldozers levelled a 200 by 250 metre area, burying some civilians alive, and leaving over 4000 people homeless.
Since the demolitions, all attempts at rebuilding and removing unexploded ordinance have been blocked by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). As Jonathan Cook reported in the Guardian newspaper on 3 June 2002, ‘keeping the heart of the camp in ruins will make Jenin more accessible next time the tanks rumble in.’ Even since this was written, there have been many instances of such re-invasion.
The Israeli programme of disappearing Palestine and Palestinians has been in force for a long time. But still they resist.
1 August 2017