They Look at the Burns and Are Silent

The moment the young woman was caught at the Erez checkpoint planning to die "for the homeland," as she declared, nobody asks publicly how her death will help or harm the homeland. They look at her burned hands, and are silent.

"It has to be something cooked up by the Shin Bet security services." That was the reaction of several people when the Israeli media reported on a young woman from the Jabaliya refugee camp who was seized on Monday at the Erez checkpoint carrying 10 kilograms of explosives on her body, which she had intended to detonate in a hospital.

And indeed, the clearly immoral intention of murdering the sick, the cynical exploitation of an exit permit granted for medical purposes, the stupidity of transferring explosives at a checkpoint where even a needle sets off an alarm, a switch that didn't work - all these make one think of a staged incident intended to denigrate or embarrass the Palestinians. A staging that succeeds in concealing the information, which in any case is minimized, about the routine Israeli oppression: for example, the killing of a young boy who was engaged in trapping birds, or the arrest of activists in the village of Balin because they are leading a popular, unarmed struggle against the Israeli policy that is designed to steal more Palestinian land.

Without belittling the talents of the Shin Bet in enlisting agents provocateurs, blaming them for the incident is an attempt to suppress the severity of the act - an attempt that was reflected in the press coverage. In the three daily newspapers, the item was published on the first page, but in two of them, it received only a subhead. The newspapers did not send reporters to the young woman's home and did not attempt to obtain any details beyond what was reported by the news agencies and the Israel Defense Forces spokesman. One newspaper mentioned that the Palestinian health minister had not confirmed that the young woman had an Israeli permit obtained in coordination with it. Nor did the electronic media deal with the story much, to the point that a resident of Tel al-Zatar - the neighborhood of the would-be suicide bomber - had not even heard about the incident, although he is a former political activist and an avid media consumer.

From conversations with journalists and human rights activists in Gaza, it turns out that on "the street," those who did hear were horrified: The intention of harming sick people crossed a clear red line, people said. But the general tendency is to see it as another private initiative of a splinter group of armed men, and another case of a young woman in personal and social distress.

At first her dispatchers were said to be a unit of the Fatah-identified Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades named after the shaheed Aimen Juda. They said someone went to the microphones and "adopted" the act in their name. But two days ago, one of their spokesmen held a press conference in Gaza and denied any connection. At the same time, a journalist in Jabaliya said the unit named after the shaheed Nabil Masoud that also belongs to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and whose leader is a resident of Tel al-Zatar - had confirmed it sent the potential suicide bomber.

However, the popular, instinctive disgust at the immoral intention has not found expression in the past two days in open public discussion, an initiative that could have been expected from political leaders and activists in non-governmental organizations, who are quick to react to harm done by Israel, and rightly so. If such a discussion took place anywhere, for example in the human rights organizations - it was not reflected in a public stand or in independently gathered information. This in spite of the fact that it is clear that from now on there will be another Israeli justification for undermining the right of Palestinian patients to leave for treatments in Israel.

As far as is known, Fatah spokesmen did not rush to condemn the act publicly either, or to distinguish between opposition to the occupation and planning an act of murder. One Gazan journalist, who was asked why Palestinian journalists did not go out to gather more information, said the reason is fear. In the existing security chaos, he said, there is no guarantee that no harm will come to a journalist who exposes the anti-patriotism of a certain group of armed men, or to a Palestinian organization that publishes a direct condemnation of some immoral and stupid plan of action.

And perhaps it is the reluctance to confront openly a well-known phenomenon, of women whose value in the "marriage market" and in society declines because of a physical defect, and therefore it is easy to incite them to become part of a pathetic performance such as that carried out by that same young woman in front of Israeli reporters. And perhaps a more vigorous investigation of the dispatchers of the young woman would reveal that "the resistance" has more than once turned into a (pathetic and temporary) source of income, and it's not pleasant to talk about that in public either.

A veteran Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) prisoner, who was jailed before the Oslo period, said this week that he and his friends were shocked to hear from the new inmates who have joined them in the past four to five years, that dispatchers and those dispatched to armed actions during these years acted on the basis of a monetary reward or the promise of one - regardless of their "success."

And perhaps this is automatic sanctification of the willingness to die? The moment the young woman was caught planning to die "for the homeland," as she declared, nobody asks publicly how her death will help or harm the homeland. They look at her burned hands, and are silent.