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Thursday, October 12, 2000

Dear Diary:

When the first Israeli bomb was fired on Ramallah, we watched it live on al-Jazeera Satellite Station (transmits from Qatar)......and then we watched as more bombs descended on Ramallah and Gaza and later - exactly one hour after Israel announced the end of its "operation" - more bombs on Nablus, Hebron and Jericho. And all the while, nothing stirred or moved out on the streets. All of Palestine was watching Barak go totally insane.

We had friends over to watch TV with us. I kept going next door to the neighbors' and coming back. The phone kept ringing....calls from Jerusalem, from Ramallah, from France, from the States....What could we say? If Barak wants to declare war against an unarmed Palestinian population, what can we say? If Israel, a nuclear power to be reckoned with, is telling us that its operation today is just a "token", then what can we say?

As the raids on Gaza and Ramallah came to an end, thousands of people in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Dheisheh, Nablus, Gaza, and I don't know where else, immediately took to the streets, marching and chanting "Barak we are not afraid".......

What is there to fear? More bombing? More massacres? More beatings? More arrests? More destruction? More statelessness? What can the Israelis dish out at us that they haven't been already dishing out at us for 52 years?

More than two decades of Israeli occupation had left the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a pathetic state. Inadequate electrical generators which couldn't deal with the growing consumption....a too small to mention number of phone lines for households and properly paved sidewalks to keep us from walking on the streets... not enough schools, hospitals, colleges.....and more, so much more....

And then starting in 1994 and 1995 when Israel started re-deploying from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we started seeing, slowly but surely, a building process all around. True, we're still at the beginning stages of putting this place back together, and Palestine's streets, wherever you go, are still littered with garbage, building debris and litter...but we were beginning to slowly and surely getting somewhere in terms of making Palestine a nicer place to live......

When angry Palestinians killed two members of the Israeli under cover units in Ramallah this morning, we paid close attention to the news. There was tension in the air and most of us thought that Israeli snipers might heat-up the situation by killing more demonstrators, or some such thing.

But to start bombing buildings in the midst of residential neighborhoods wasn't something we imagined Barak would be crazy enough to do... police stations in Ramallah, al-bireh and Gaza, the governate of Ramallah, official offices, Palestine Radio and TV transmission towers, the still under construction Gaza port, an electric generator in Ramallah, cars.....and more.

Not only do we have to deal with the massacre of 105 Palestinians, the injury and maiming of 3000 Palestinians in the past 13 days, but also to deal with the destruction of all the hard work that has been put into re-building Palestine... it is all too much to take.

As a result of Israel's bombardment, there were no phone lines or electricity in parts of Ramallah. And Israel has interrupted the transmission of PALTEL's Palestinian mobile phones - they start with code '059'.....And for several hours, I couldn't use my Cellcom mobile phone which starts with code 052', even though Cellcom is an Israeli company. The Israelis had jammed the transmission.

According to the Ministry of Supplies in Bethlehem, there are enough food supplies in the Bethlehem area to last one month but the supply may expire sooner because people are buying and stocking up just in case the situation worsens.

I haven't stocked up on food and have enough in the house for just a few days. Somehow, I neither have the energy nor desire to care about food. If the situation escalates, and I worry that it will tomorrow following the Friday noon prayer, then who knows how Israel will respond.

Should we get another taste of Israeli bombs, there will be no place to go. Unlike the Israelis, who are well-prepared for war, we have no shelters and thus no place to hide. And with Israeli tanks positioned at every hole and every entrance to Bethlehem - from all directions - there is no way out.

But if situation worsens and the unthinkable happens, all of us in the camp will all deal with it together. Those who are meant to survive will survive and those who are meant to die will die.....there isn't much else that an un-armed population, with no emergency plan, no evacuation plan, or any other plan can do.

Believers put their faith in God. Being secular, I put my faith in the world stepping in on time to save us from total destruction. So many people around me think we are heading toward a regional warfare. They want the Arab countries to intervene and bomb Israel and to the hell with it, as they say.

I disagree. In the heat of the moment, people don't realize what a regional warfare really means. Should we reach a stage where Damascus, Amman, Tel Aviv, Cairo all start getting bombed, it will be the people who will pay the price. Leaderships never die in wars, they escape to safety. But mothers, fathers, grandparents, children.....they are the ones who pay the price as we have seen in so many wars in the world before.

There are peaceful ways to bring Israel's massacre and its occupation to an end: A clear and united Arab statement announcing the severance of ties with Israel; the closure of all Israeli representative offices in Arab countries; and stopping or reducing oil exports to the West until Israel stops its atrocities and agrees to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in accordance with UN Resolution 242.

Without clear Arab support - since we're not getting it from the UN, the U.S. or the EU - the Palestinian population here will face total eradication should the situation worsen and should Israel step up its bombardment. What will we fight them with if they direct their tanks at our neighborhoods? Stones......!!!!!! or will machine guns bring down Phantom jets........!!!!!!

I called Gaza tonight and spoke with my friend Samira, 15, in Shati refugee camp, located right across the Gaza port that was bombarded earlier in the afternoon.

"Where you did you hide when the choppers flew overhead?" I asked.

"I didn't hide. I went out on the roof with Ahed (8 years) and Ala' (5) to watch," Samira replied. "Oh auntie. It was awful. We watched as the they their bombs destroyed the port. I felt so, so sad. They were still constructing it and it was beginning to look so nice and we used to go there for picnic lunches. Why did they have to destroy it?"

Samira, like my neighbor Muyasar, couldn't stop talking about the politics of the situation. Samira, who dropped out of school at the age of 15 in order to get engaged, couldn't stop talking about Anan...and Albright.....and Clinton....and Barak!!!!!! Could this be the start of our women's great awakening.....of realizing that making men happy by cooking for them and washing for them and catering to their every need isn't what the whole world is all about....that without them, the men can't fight for liberation alone.....that women have to play a role, and have to be armed with the knowledge, the education and the skill in order to play a role.....

Listening to Muyasar and Samira speak gives me hope....and makes me believe that there is a shinning light at the end of this very long, very eerie and dark tunnel.

-Muna Hamzeh-Muhaisen
Dheisheh Refugee Camp Palestine

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