Bianca Jagger, former wife of Mick Jagger, holds up a copy of the Geneva Convention during a press confrence at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, Sunday, April 28, 2002, as she reports on her visit to the refugee camp in Jenin, in the West Bank, earlier. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Cabinet held a last-minute debate on whether to cooperate with a U.N. fact-finding team that was scheduled to arrive Sunday to investigate Israel's military operation in the Jenin refugee camp. (AP Photo/ZOOM77)
||Jenin Graffiti Artists Use English
Mon Apr 29, 1:25 AM ET
By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer
JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) - For the benefit of foreign visitors and U.N. investigators, much of the fresh graffiti in this Palestinian refugee camp is in English these days, not Arabic; and it's uncharacteristically placid, almost polite.
Battered by a fierce battle between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops, the Jenin refugee camp — a bastion of militancy — has gone to great lengths to project an image of moderation for its visitors, and in preparation for a visit by a U.N. team mandated to probe Israel's military operations in the camp.
Israel on Sunday decided not to allow the team to come to the region, repeating its objections to the team's composition and charging that its findings would certainly blame Israel. The Israelis said consultations with the world body would continue over the makeup of the team and the scope of its inquiry.
The team was to look into claims that hundreds of Palestinians, many of them civilians, were killed during the April 3-11 battle either in heavy shelling or buried alive when giant bulldozers moved in to bring down homes suspected of sheltering gunmen.
Israel, which lost 23 men in the battle, says several dozen Palestinians died, mostly gunmen. So far, nearly 50 Palestinian bodies have been recovered, according to the Jenin hospital.
The battle was fought as part of an Israeli military campaign launched March 29 to hunt militants in the West Bank following a series of particularly lethal suicide bombings.
The Palestinians are making sure that whoever visits the Jenin refugee camp — those who have already been include members of the European Parliament, U.S. church leaders, Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan and Bianca Jagger, ex-wife of pop music legend Mick Jagger — reads the right slogans and sees the right stuff.
"We love Palestine" and "Palestine is for the Palestinians" read two of the new English-language slogans on the walls of the Jenin camp — very different from the venomous and warlike graffiti that has for years threatened "rivers of blood" or "opening the gates of hell" on the walls of every Palestinian town, village and refugee camp.
An old graffito declaring that "Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) is a hero" has been painted over. Bin Laden is thought by the United States to be the architect of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, events that sent a few dozen Palestinians publicly celebrating on the day much to the dismay of many, including Yasser Arafat (news - web sites)'s administration.
In the huge mound of debris and rubble that was the heart of the Jenin camp, several families spend their days just sitting at the spot where their homes once stood. Huge Palestinian flags together with those of different Palestinian factions and militias are hoisted over buildings of which parts are still standing.
Israeli military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the Palestinians have taken measures to "prepare" the Jenin camp for the arrival of the U.N. team.
The preparations, they say, include instructions to residents who had lost their homes to spend the day where their houses once stood and to halt any reconstruction of damaged houses so the U.N. team can see the extent of the destruction. Palestinian gunmen left in the camp, they said, have been instructed not to engage in any military activity for the duration of the U.N. team's visit.
Palestinian Jenin lawmaker Jamal al-Shati denied that Palestinian authorities were trying to "flirt" with the U.N. team or important visitors, arguing that the fresh slogans and the camp residents spending their days on the mounds of debris were spontaneous and emotional acts of a people in distress.
"We don't need to do any of this," al-Shati, a senior member Arafat's Fatah (news - web sites) movement, told The Associated Press. "If every member of the U.N. is blind, the magnitude of the crime in Jenin will restore their sight."