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 The face of cruelty and its cover-up
 Gila Svirsky, Israel
 April 14, 2002
 
Friends,

I have wanted to write this story to you since Saturday, but it's not yet over.

On Saturday, a large group of us (at least 5,000 though the Israeli media reported 3,000) joined a convoy organized by "Ta'ayush: Arab-Jewish Partnership" to bring humanitarian aid to the devastated town of Jenin. People poured out their hearts and pockets, and an amazing 31 truckloads of water, food, medicines, blankets, and clothes were collected. Thanks to the generosity of the Urgent Action Fund, we in the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace were also able to purchase and add a very large quantity of sanitary napkins, diapers, and wet wipes.

We were a mixed group of Arabs and Jews, women and men, from a dozen or so Israeli peace organizations, and we gathered at a highway junction in the Jezreel Valley of Israel. It was a hot Saturday, but we loaded the trucks and walked the final 2 miles to the border where the Jenin checkpoint is located. This was quite an impressive array of peace activists, carrying signs and chanting slogans as we walked along the pastoral country road. The loudest chants came when we passed a military camp. As soldiers came to the fence to watch the "parade", marchers began to chant at them "The occupation is terrorism; refuseniks are heroes". It rhymes in Hebrew, but could not have been amusing for them to hear.

When we reached the checkpoint, Ta'ayush representatives negotiated with the Israeli army to allow the goods to enter. The presence of thousands of us right there was a good source of pressure on the army, and finally the last of the trucks passed through and were met by our Palestinian colleagues. Our job done, we all went home.

Then the news began to arrive: The Israeli army did allow the trucks to pass through, but were keeping them at the checkpoint. Thus, despite the critical situation inside Jenin, the Palestinians were not allowed to bring in these desperately needed supplies of food and water. Ta'ayush lawyers and activists did everything in their power, and finally the army announced that it would allow UN trucks to move the goods. The UN was contacted, and they allocated 2 trucks to the task. The problem is, 2 trucks can remove only 30 tons a day, and 300 tons await transport. (This includes an additional 10 truckloads from a previous convoy, also held up.) At this rate, it would take 10 days...and untold further suffering.

We're still working on increasing the transport capacity. Meanwhile, on this evening's state-sponsored TV program, an Israeli army spokesman, when asked about the distress of the Jenin residents, said that the army is "making every effort" to allow in humanitarian aid. To illustrate, he showed a film clip of our march on Saturday and a soldier "directing" the transfer of goods through the checkpoint.

This is the face of cruelty, and its cover-up.

P.S. You can see pictures of this and other actions at Coalition of Women for a Just Peace.

Gila Svirsky is an Israeli human rights and peace activist.