Interview with Ali Samoudi Translated by T. L. <start>
J: In a general way, could you explain to us how the situation has changed in the past three years.
A: The situation in Jenin is quite terrible. During Israel's occupation, Jenin has been destroyed on many fronts. The destruction has been economic, social, intellectual, structural, environmental and humanitarian. The Israeli occupation, during the past three years, hasn't done a fraction of the damage going back to 1967 ... no, it's the opposite. During the past three years, the politics of destruction have been more prevalent Ã¢â‚¬â€œ more ugly Ã¢â‚¬â€œ than the thirty years preceding them; they have been more prevalent and ugly in attacking Palestinians. Israel has practiced all manner of inhumanity and terrorism, pressuring and squeezing the Palestinian people to the extent where the situation in Jenin can only be described as <muthil>.
Jenin is a county with 64 towns and villages, and three refugee camps. Each part is cut off from the rest, and it is now divided into cantons. Somebody in the city of Jenin cannot go to Yamoun <sp?> or Birqeen <sp?>, even though they are extremely close. Here, Israel is using a policy of closures and siege, which has turned Jenin into a closed prison.
Jenin depends Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for its lifeblood and the income of its residents Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on a few different things: work inside Israel, agriculture, trade, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.
We can immediately dismiss work within Israel Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it was closed at the beginning of the Intifada. Coupled with the closures and sieges, Palestinians are forbidden from working in Israel. As for agriculture, Israel has used the majority of the lands as a vessel for targeting and assassinating Palestinians via the confiscation of lands: confiscation for colonization; confiscation for security reasons; and confiscation to build the separation wall. What is left is closed off. The owners of the land can't get to it; Farmers can't farm their land. As such, the agriculture has been destroyed. The ability to labour [work?] has been destroyed. Trade Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for its trade and economic well-being, Jenin depends primarily on Palestinians and Arab residents of Israel. This group of people used to consume and shop in Jenin, and the people of Jenin used to sell to the Arabs inside Israel. Since the Intifada, Israel has forbidden them entry, which has taken away a fundamental pillar of economic sustinence. This has led to increases in the rates of poverty, unemployment and <awath> to the extent where Jenin finds itself utterly devastated.
This reality is reflected on all facets of life. First, with regards to education: The Israelis have subjected the education system to fierce attempts to destroy it en masse. Schools have been closed, put under siege and destroyed. Professors, teachers and students have been also been arrested. There are today more than two thousand students in jail. Israel depends or at least utilizes a policy of thoroughly destroying every aspect of life important to Palestinians living in Jenin. In the midst of this, we can see that the infrastructure and foundations of civil society are destroyed. The roads are destroyed. The water pipes are destroyed. As a result of the Israeli destruction of the water infrastructure, 90% of the homes in Jenin do not have access to running water. The electrical grid is always under attack. And the roads -- every time the municipality restores a road, Israel ruins it. In addition to this, there are the house demolitions. Israel has destroyed a large number of homes in Jenin. During the Jenin Massacre of April 2002, Israel completely demolished 455 homes in the Jenin refugee camp alone, and partially demolished about 500 more. In the city, another 30 homes were demolished.
You could say that the situation under occupation is serious and arduous. Palestinians are suffering indescribably. They struggle to get to the mosques, struggle to get enough to eat, struggle to get to their schools, struggle to get to a hospital. Every aspect of life is an unbearable struggle. In Jenin alone during this Intifada, 400 people have fallen, many of them are women and children. In only the past year, more than a thousand people have been arrested. This leads me to describe the life of the residents of Jenin as miserable -- very miserable.
J: You were able to be here during the invasion of the camp and foreign journalists were blocked from entering. Could you maybe describe what you saw since you were in the unique position of being able to be there; one of the few, maybe the only journalists that were there?
A: You mean in April, when the Israelians attack the camp, what I see when I go inside the camp?
In April, Israel attacked the Jenin refugee camp. The Jenin refugee camp consists of a miniscule speck, for which Israel brought out thirty tanks, numerous airplanes, bulldozers and hundreds of soldiers.
At the very beginning of the invasion, Israel attacked the water, electricity and telephone infrastructures, which paralyzed the services most essential to any human's survival. Curfew [closure?] was imposed, the refugee camp was surrounded, and the attacks began. In the first day, four or five Palestinians were killed, one of whom was a child who was on the street named Mar Hawashil [CHECK NAME]. He was shot in the head by a sniper.
So from the very first day, Israel started with her atrocities in Jenin's refugee camp. The media were banned, so we weren't allowed to enter the camp. The only way by which we received any information was from telephone communications [with those inside the camp].. Mobile phones.
But with time, the batteries started to run out, so the reports became more infrequent.
Inside Jenin, there was a battle, and to be honest, the Palestinians worked valiantly to defend the refugee camp. In response, Israel exercised against this miniscule speck some of the most hideous forms of atrocity and war. There were constant bombardments, especially at night. I remember once counting 102 missiles in one night. We used to say "They've destroyed the camp!" Israel's goal was to destroy the refugee camp and wipe it off the planet. They tried to cut it off and alienate it from the rest of the world. The planes were constantly bombing, the tanks shelling and the soldiers were monstrous in their dealings.
I remember Umm Ramzi. She told me how she was in her home with her children, when they suddenly felt it shaking, about to be demolished. She jumped out of the window along with her husband and children. Had they not, they would have died, but they lived because they jumped. These people's escape that is equal parts remarkable and miraculous, whereas Sheikh Jamal el-Fayid was not so lucky.
Jamal el-Fayid was a young Palestinian man who was handicapped. He was handicapped physically and mentally. He was truly unprivileged. During the incursion, the Israelis kicked his family from its home and put it in the adjacent home. When the bulldozer started destroying the homes, Jamal's mother said to the bulldozer driver "My son is sleeping inside. Please let me get him out - he's handicapped." They refused, and brought the house down on top of him. Until this day, his body has not been found. They killed him, though he was handicapped. Jamal el-Fayid was not a terrorist, and he was killed inside his own home.
Yisra abu Khuruj is a Palestinian civilian with a handicap. She was sitting in her home when she was killed by a rocket that hit her house. After they killed her, they expelled her family from her house, and wouldn't let them bury her body. Her body rotted in its place.
Jamal al-sabbagh was arrested by the Israeli army in the Jenin refugee camp. He was sitting with the arrestees when he was asked to take off his jacket. He was taking off his jacket when soldiers opened fire on him, killing him. His body was then thrown in the road, where tanks ran over it.
Let me also tell you about Rufaida al-jammal, the first female killed in the camp. When the Israelis entered the refugee camp, she put on her nursing clothes and left her home - she wanted to go to the hospital to help. An army sniper killed her while she was wearing the humanitarian white cloth that warns all around against killing its wearer, and tells them that this person is ready to step forward and help any human being. They killed her and wounded her sister, who barely survived and still walks with a cane.
Faaf al-dammaj, an old woman - they knocked on the door, and blew it up when she went to open it. Abu Rumeily - Attia abu Rumeily - was killed in his home, where his body stayed rotting for fourteen days in front of his kids until the battle ended. The sights, the sights - the devastating and heartbreaking sights - caused by Israel in the Jenin refugee camp, all far from the eyes of the world.
I tried to get into the refugee camp. I was in it on the first day, but left when they cut the electricity and water and there was extreme danger. I stayed close by and filmed and followed the news. In the last days, though, we could only follow the news through the telephone [reports of those inside the camp]. Israel prevented the media and journalists entry into the refugee camp.
Even the ambulances - the ambulances! were forbidden from entering the camp. Even the Red Cross. Even the United Nations. They prevented anything whatsoever from reaching the camp. The camp was isolated, and they gained complete control of it. Gaining complete control of the camp should have been the end of my story, but they hadn't came to control it. They came to raze it. They brought large bulldozers which flattened the camp. Many bodies were found under the rubble, such as those of Shadi al-Noubani and Jabber Jabir. Many of the dead were found under the rubble, buried by the bulldozers. It was possible for the Israeli forces to enter without committing such a massacre, but they came in with their heavy armoured tanks and APCs and razed the refugee camp. The airplanes were constantly bombarding and destroying the camp, never differentiating between man, woman or child - they killed them all indiscriminately.
While the soldiers were demolishing the camp, they were treating people with absolute inhumanity. They would call out on their loud speakers for everybody to come out, and when they did, they would strip the men naked in front of the men, then force them to walk in the streets in front of the women. In the back of the Jenin hospital, they lined up about 30 prisoners face down on the street, then made like they would run them over with a tank. Abu Khalifah - Jum'a abu Khalifah was shot and lay bleeding for three days. Wael abu Sibaa was wounded and lay bleeding for nine days. When they finally got him to a hospital, the Israelis arrested him and took him to Afula, where they tortured him, focusing on his wound. All of those arrested were treated with the utmost cruelty: They were beaten. They were stripped. They were forced to walk from Jenin to Ahrash al-saada region.
At around this time, they started arresting all males - old and young - and women Of course they were also using Palestinians as human shields, and more than a few were shot while they were being used in this way, many of them by the soldiers themselves. The women and children were separated and isolated. Some of them were sent to Salem, some to Rummanah, some to Birqeen, and some to Jenin city.
One scene I'll never forget was me standing in Jenin city filming, when I saw women and children walking toward me carrying white flags.
I was profoundly sad as I thought about the Nakba of 1948, which I didn't personally witness. I remembered how the Palestinians were expelled from their lands in '48. There was only one question on the minds of those who saw what I saw, "Are these the same people who were devastated by 1948, and so came to the Jenin refugee camp? Where will they and their children go now?" The women and their children were kicked out of their homes, which were then destroyed. They weren't allowed to take any of their belongings. Some of the women were forced to leave without their head-covers, and as you know, we're a Muslim people and so the women just don't go out without their head-covers, but that's just what happened - the women were forced out without their head-covers, they left barefoot, they left without anything for their kids. They couldn't take out any of their gold, money, papers or anything to prove that they existed. All of it lay under the rubble of their demolished homes.
The men, women and children found themselves scattered everywhere, fathers not knowing where sons were. For example, a father could have been in the mosque, a son in the eastern district, his daughters in the western district, and another son in jail.
Those who were arrested were taken to Salem. Once the Israelis finished interrogating them, they were prohibited from going back to the camp, and were forced to stay in the surrounding villages, their ID cards stolen. All of this was after they were transported in the most horrendous way.
On the ninth day, we - members of the media and I - decided to sneak into the Jenin refugee camp, and we succeeded in what I would honestly call the toughest trek of my life. We went from street to street, house to house, nook to nook, cranny to cranny, and wall to wall until we got to the camp. I, a son of Jenin who knows the camp like the back of my hand, was lost because of all of the destruction.
While I was on the way, I heard a lot [from the people who were along the way]. I drew a surreal scene in my mind When I heard the incredible stories coming out, but when I found myself standing there, gazing upon a more surreal scene than I had imagined, I couldn't believe this was the camp I remembered. [exasperated] An earthquake... had an earthquake hit it? Was it a volcano? Was it the wrath of God?
The picturesque houses, the roads that had witnessed so much of history, the pleasant people who were here before. There was nothing and nobody. Nothing! They had destroyed it all! [disgust]
Israel destroyed 455 homes under the guise of fighting terrorism. The destruction is why I was forced to witness such scenes of suffering.
I remember Um Maher al-zar'eeni when we finally got to the camp. She was stuck in her home, which the army had destroyed, an old woman who wasn't able to make it out in time. She stayed stuck there for ten days without food or drink until people finally came into the refugee camp and got her out.
I remember also the corpses of the dead which were burned, looking like coal, missing this piece or that. The houses... even the birds were dead. Even the cats were killed. Anything that could have resembled the trappings of a normal human existence [was either dead or destroyed]... Even the <dawajin>! They even killed the <Dawajin>!
Words cannot describe those moments in the camp; it was amazing. I would never have imagined that one day I might see these things happen, but all of this reflects the reality of this occupation. This occupation is the antithesis of decency, the antithesis of law. This occupation is the antithesis of all of the foundations of human dignity and respect. I think Israel did not commit a massacre in Jenin; Israel committed a large number of massacres. To the people who say "but only 50 or 53 Palestinians were killed", I say that massacres are not counted by the number of people they claim victim, but in the fundamental human and infrastructure destruction that they cause. Israel committed 4500 massacres in Jenin - the number of families that were displaced from their homes; the number of families that lost all of their belongings and remain displaced and forbidden from returning to the camp.
In the Jenin refugee camp, Israel mounted a ... is there a word more grave than massacre? It isn't about the *number* of dead - the number of people we've lost. Those who are dead might be forgotten - khalas. But the suffering continues for those who are displaced until this very moment. Their suffering will continue because the root cause - the same Israeli occupation that bombed the refugee camp's school and destroyed the mosque (soldiers occupied the mosque and urinated all over it and tortured Palestinians in it). The [Israelis] bombed regional offices, whose task it is only to maintain the regional infrastructure - it was bombed, occupied and destroyed. The [Israelis] wouldn't let food get to women and children.
The [Israelis] shot even women - like an old woman whose name I don't remember who was shot in the chest. Her daughter tried to help her, and took her from place to place, but she ultimately died. The [Israelis] wouldn't even let milk get to the children.
The Israeli occupation forces destroyed everything in Jenin that might give people a chance at a decent life. The Jenin refugee camp is not guilty of the charges of terror. On the contrary, terror is synonymous with Israel.
J: Have you seen a change in the people of Jenin since that time? Any changes that you've seen in their day to day life. The impact ...
Val: How it's affected people themselves
A: No no, I want to explain. Some people more strong. Some people no. Ok, I talk in Arabic.
There were lots of changes. An earthquake would change lots of things, so what of a catastrophe of this magnitude? Of course it changed things. First, it destroyed peoples' lives. It set them back. If I - with my home and car and everything - feel unhappy, what of the person who's lost his home, his mattress, the spoon with which to eat... And that's not even to mention his dead children. There isn't a single person in the refugee camp who hasn't in some way suffered - and still continues to suffer - from the occupation.
The massacre destroyed the lives of many. The children who lost their parents miss them every day, whether at school or celebrating a holiday. The women who lost their children - Um Jamal al-Faydah still asks where her son's body is, but nobody knows. There have been a lot of far-reaching changes have happened, and they've mostly increased the suffering of the Palestinian people; increased their poverty; increased their desperation. But, at the same time, some people have become stronger. [finger pounding on desk] Politically, you can say that the massacre of Jenin has not affected the convictions and core beliefs of the people of Jenin. They still steadfastly stick to their right of return, their right to struggle, and their right to resist.
[finger still pounding] The massacre has resulted in a stronger reaction against Israel. Israel used to say that Jenin was the martyrdom capital - the hornet's nest - and that it was going to destroy the camp. The only thing that Israel managed to destroy, though, were the [brick and mortar] homes in the camp; they couldn't manage to destroy the will to struggle and the spirit of resistance, nor could they shake the faith of the Palestinian inhabitants of the Jenin refugee camp. On the contrary, more attacks are being launched from the camp. The camp is still an active resistance. The camp still has Palestinians who struggle against the occupation. In the camp, until today, Israel doesn't dare enter except with tanks under heavy military guard. Israel succeeded in destroying buildings and homes, but failed in jading the resistance or the will to continue.
The people are strong. They have a dream - a base narrative - and they will never forget or surrender it so long as there is oppression and occupation. If somebody came to my office - never mind the [Israelis] - if anybody came into my office and sat here [thumping on desk] against my will, I wouldn't rest until I kicked him out. It's the same with the Palestinians: they want their rights, not more. They want their dignity, not occupation.
J: Now maybe a little bit about being a journalist under occupation. Could you describe the dangers of being a Palestinian journalist under occupation. One of your colleagues, Abed Qusaani said that it was double jeopardy, because you are both a journalist and a Palestinian. Do you believe the Israelis target Journalists? Could you describe the conditions you work under?
A: You want how situation journalists palestinian under occupation?
J: Yes. The conditions you work under
A: Me? I am example?
J & V: Yes
A: You see this picture? This me. They shoot me from tanks.
J: They know it's you?
J: They know it's you?
A (flustered): Yeees. Yeees. Not me, Ali Samudi, but they saw me ...
J (interrupting): As a journalist...
A (ignoring): With my vest and helmet. With me everything. OK.
J: So you could describe this.. what it's like.
A: I talk about the journalist under occupation. It's very bad. Bad, bad, bad. OK. In this day must I go to London -- Friday must I go to London, because Reuters sent me, but the Israelians said no, because I am dangerous to security Israelians. OK, in Arabic.
J: Yeah. Describe the conditions you work under. Mazen Dana - when he won his press freedom award talked about gun fire, beatings, prison, rocks... humiliation... speak as long, and maybe you tell the story of this [presumably pointing at picture of broken Ali].
A: OK. The situation of Palestinian journalists and their media during the occupation is extremely poor. The Israeli occupation treats Palestinian journalists as all Palestinians. Their treatment doesn't differ in the least.
Israel has targeted the Palestinian media in exactly the same way as they have targeted all facets of Palestinian civil society. Palestinian media was born, raised and came into its own despite the most difficult of circumstances. From the beginning, Israel has tried to muzzle the Palestinian media. Why? Every word spoken [or written] by the Palestinian media exposes and disgraces [Israel and the occupation], so Israel has always guarded against having anybody speak, so they wouldn't be disgraced... so nobody would expose its practices or dark side. Israel's dark side has long been pointed at the Palestinian media with actions such as the arrest of numerous Palestinian journalists, the takeover of media and jouralist offices, the arrests of [editors, publishers and owners], the shutting down of newspapers, outlawing them, or confiscating them. This is beside opening fire on journalists, killing and wounding many of them, with those who were left always being subject to beatings [and physical intimidation].
You could say that every method used against the Palestinian people is also used against Palestinian journalists. Every Palestinian - be it a woman, child or elderly person; a teacher, surgeon, journalist, scientist, labourer, or whatever - is a target. As part of the ferocious attacks against the Palestinian media, there was a concerted focus on journalists. There was an offensive against the Palestinian media establishment to prevent it from putting out the truth. [One of the components of the offensive] has been the arrest of a large number of journalists, and then the continuation of their arrests as administrative detainees. Some of them tried -
[kid grabs mic]
Kid: Baba.. What's this?
Kid (frustrated): What is it?
A (undeterred): It records sounds..
Some of them were subjected to extensive punishments. In a couple of cases, Israel even tried to assassinate journalists - or successfully assassinated as with the head of "Liberation of Journalist Freedoms" <or he's saying "Head of liberation; the newspaper named "Al-Istiqlal" - the liberation>. To these ends, they have blown up media centres or offices. So the situation that Palestinian media finds itself in is a bad one, but despite it, there are many successes: the papers are still printed, the media centres still operate, internet sites are still up, there are 33 local television stations, 20 local radio stations. You could say that on this front - in the war between Israel and the [free] Palestinian media - the Palestinian media has still found a spot out in the spotlight [i.e., not in hiding] from which they can articulate[/describe] what is happening to them.
Despite the difficult circumstances - despite the lack of resources or aid - Palestinians have been successful in creating media structures and centres, so you can say that there have been successes... You can say there have been successes, but you can also say that the Occupation's policy has not changed. Until today, the occupation deliberately targets journalists. The Israeli attacks have compounded in this Intifada, as shown by the use of live rounds [against journalists]. Many Palestinian and international journalists have been killed when Israel opened fire on them, killing them. There has been a fierce [and dirty CHANGE THIS] war being waged against the Palestinian media by the Occupation forces, especially since Muhammad Al-Durra.
The story of Muhammad Al-Durrah in Gaza unmasked the ugly yet real face of an Israel that would kill a child in this way. As a consequence, Israel directed even more [fury / attacks] at the Palestinian media by closing off large areas, denying press passes, prohibiting travel within [Palestine] and abroad. What followed was the killing of several journalists, the wounding of many others, and the arrest of even more. I, for example, was wounded on 11 September 2001, while I was filming the happenings of the camp during an attack. I was wearing my full gear, and it was apparent that I was a journalist. Despite this, the Army fired a tank shell at me. That I survived is a miracle. The shell landed just behind me, and sent me flying through the air. I was in the hospital for three months.
Another journalist [Saif?] was also wounded at the same time, which shows that the tank shell was deliberately fired in my direction. Not very long after that, Imad Abu Zahrah was shot and killed. He was photographing a tank when it shot him in his leg. Another two journalists were also wounded [Said during that attack and ?].
I was prevented from going to Jordan or Israel to be treated - I was to have my leg operated on, but was forbidden from leaving the country under the guise of "security reasons". Last week, I was supposed to accompany a Reuters delegation to the United Kingdom. When I asked permission from the Israelis, they said that I was not allowed to travel out of the country for "security reasons", and that I should go consult the Mokhabarat.
I asked them "what security reasons? I am always around tanks and soldiers filming. How am I a threat to security? Aren't those who threaten security immediately arrested? I haven't been arrested, and you're not arresting me now, and you won't arrest me when I go back home to work."
But they still refused, because it is a slice of the policy of making things more difficult for journalists. Mazen Dana, may he rest in peace, is an example. He was shot several times in Hebron, and was attacked by the army and settlers several times. Yesterday several journalists in Nablus were beaten and forbidden from photographing. In Ramallah, several journalists have been wounded. In Bethlehem, a journalist has been killed.
You can say that Israel's war also targets the media.
J: And one last question.
J: ... do you feel is your role as a journalist under occupation. Do you feel like it's different than a journalist in Canada or a journalist in Britain or a journalist ...?
J: You can describe...
A: You mean how I feel about if because I am a journalist under occupation and how different about another journalist in the world.
J: Or how it's different for you. What your responsibility is, perhaps. Your role - I don't want to say your role in the Intifada, but your role, yes, for your people as a spokesperson for your people... You understand?
V: What role do you play...
A: What's the meaning "rolled"?
V: Your job.. Your responsibility.. Not only as a journalist, but as a Palestinian. How do those relate together? Do you.. Is that..
J: Is that make... Is it different than a journalist, say, from Canada?
A: Yes.. yes.. It's different...
V: Do you have a role in resistance or no? Or..
A: Oh yeah.. It's different.. OK.
The Palestinian journalist's situation of course differs [from other journalists in the world].
On the Israeli front, a Palestinian journalist is considered guilty, much like any Palestinian person, and is treated with the same disdain and disrespect. This is in contrast to the different standard by which Israeli and international journalists are treated. I am a journalist. It's true that Israel robs me of my rights to travel, not be shot, and not have my life threatened, but in treating me this way, Israel does not rob me of my journalistic integrity and the desire to continue delivering my message and carrying out my duties [as a journalist] for my people. I am a Palestinian and a journalist. I honour my profession, but I am also a Palestinian, and so I am charged with being a voice of our people, conveying its despair, our hopes; our lives and our freedoms. And that's it: the core demand is freedom, but freedom is contradicted by occupation. Occupation is the cold-blooded murderer of all types of freedom.
And so Freedom of The Press is a target of the Occupation, since Occupation never wants anything exposing, embarrassing or affecting it. The Palestinian media is in rough shape, but the determination is strong. Yes, it's possible for the Occupation to hamper the media, but all of its efforts only increase the dedication and desire to send out our message. We don't need Israel to recognize us and testify about the status of Palestinian journalists and the media. Israel's approval [or assessment] doesn't mean anything to us. We as Palestinians and journalists have the testimony and recognition of the world, and take our place in all of the organizations and countries of the world. All over the world, Palestinian journalists are recognized for their role, determination, integrity and work.
Palestinian journalists always work with these things in mind, but never forsake they are Palestinianhood.
J: One last one. Are you afraid for your life, and does that place limits on the work you are able to do? Do you understand? Is he afraid to die, and therefore because of this his work is limited, because he can't - because the Israelis threaten his life - he cannot go further, as far as he would like to go in reporting.
Assistant: He says that you're not afraid of death because you're inspired by the connection between your work and the occupation. You're always in the face of death, so are you afraid?
A: You know I am.. <switch to Arabic>
I am a human, so it's normal for me to be afraid. But at the same time, I believe in what I'm doing, so even in the face of danger and fear, I must continue. I think that faith is more important than any other characteristic. Conviction is more powerful than fear, and determination will help you more than anything can hurt you. I try to be as careful as possible, and always operate within the boundaries of the law, but the fact is that I am part of this reality, and so have to live in[with?] it.