A Palestinian friend of mine was severely wounded on September 11. He will too commemorate that dreadful day, along with his family and many families in Jenin and in New York.
My friend is a Reuters cameraman. He was hit by the shrapnel of a tank shell. He was thrown many meters in the air and landed, covered with blood, in the midst of smoke and debris. He too seeks justice from those who perpetrated his refugee campâ€™s bloodbath.
My friend was not present in New York or Washington on that day. But he, along with hundreds of Palestinians fell victim to terrorism for the exact same purpose that forced the twin towers to collapse.
But while he can relate to the September tragedy here in the United States, not so many Americans can relate to his.
Terrorists strike when their victims are most vulnerable. Despite the height and might of the World Trade Center, those who were present on that day in lower Manhattan were very vulnerable; they were neither combatants nor did they expect that their mere existence would compel such revenge.
Consumed by their tragedy, most Americans are little aware of what was committed in their name on that day. Scores of Israeli tanks, attack helicopters and hundreds of Israeli soldiers raided the town of Jenin, its refugee camp and adjacent areas in the West Bank on September 11, 2001.
Hoping that the dust and smoke of New York and Washington would block the worldâ€™s eyes from seeing what they were about to commit, Israeli forces attacked civilians and shelled many neighborhoods.
Over 22 Palestinians were shot to death that day, scores more were wounded, many made disabled for life and many homes were demolished. Numerous bombs, missiles and shells turned Jenin into a ball of fire and dust. Unlike New York, ambulances in Jenin were fired on, aid workers were detained and journalists were targeted.
My friend, Ali Samudi is a journalist. He should have known that the Israeli armyâ€™s eagerness to take full advantage of that day, was a greater priority that allowing journalists to freely film the Israeli raid. His stubbornness, racing behind Israeli tanks with his camera, earned him a shell. It landed a few feet away from him, carving multiple wounds in his body. He spent three months fighting for his life in a Jenin hospital. He survived, and returned months later to film in the exact same spot where he was almost killed.
Jenin knows exactly what itâ€™s like to be engulfed in the midst of deadly chaos, people running for their lives with no place to hide.
On September 11, in New York, the airplanes slammed into the buildings, toppling them along with thousands of people. In Jenin, the killersâ€™ airplanes emptied their bombs on the civilians and â€œreturned safely to their bases.â€
In New York, many helping hands extended to aid the wounded. In Jenin, the helping hands were gunned down.
In New York, the families of the victims stood in silence awaiting the recovery of loved ones. In Jenin, the victims were buried often without a final goodbye or a dignified burial because of a military curfew that had mercy on no one.
In New York and throughout the world, the killing was condemned, and vows of justice flared and echoed. In Jenin, the survivors were butchered time and again, leaving hundreds more dead and wounded in repeated attack in the following months until this day.
In New York, ground zero is cleared and a flag waves surrounded by teary eyes. In Jenin, the debris is still in place and more bodies are yet to be recovered as the camp is currently under a deadly curfew.
And in Jenin, the survivors were blamed for their own tragedy; the terrorists were made the victim and the real victims were shunned and accused.
While Americans posed many questions such as: â€œwhy do they hate us so much?â€ Many volunteered to provide answers. The government as always resorted to slogans that even the average American doesnâ€™t find convincing. Others, more concerned for the lives of the victims, confronted the tragedy with more courage, despite the high emotions and the freshness of the wound.
But in Jenin and across Palestine, Palestinians have asked for decades what compels a country like the United States that stands for freedom and democracy to soak its hands in their endless genocide, to co-conspire with their murderers in a war against an undefended nation seeking freedom and justice.
Not one Palestinian was accused of taking part of the September 11 attacks, despite desperate attempts by Israel, whose role in the attacks remains dubious and yet to be confronted by the US government. But America did in fact take part in the September 11 attack on Jenin.
Billions of dollars are spent by the US government to finance the Israeli war machine. Those who were gunned down on that tragic September day, were killed by American weapons, taxpayer money, and worst, their killers are sheltered by the political might of the United States.
Many Palestinians mourned the tragedy that struck America. But many more were consumed by their own tragedy, chased by warplanes and laser directed missiles.
Afterwards, the residents of Jenin were left to search amid the smoke and debris for their families who lived yet another day of death at the hands of an enemy that excels in the art of war and propaganda.
Then, those same victims of Jenin return to their television screens to find out that the American media have somehow categorized them as the enemy, as the terrorists who must be punished for a crime they never committed.
On September 11, I will be phoning two dear friends. One is a New York journalist whom I befriended when I made a visit to the UN over a year ago, and learnt that her life was in grave danger on that day. The other is Ali, whose wounds fail to stand between him and his quest for revealing the tragedies that struck his people.
I will wish them both safety and peace, and tell them how grateful I am that theyâ€™ve survived. I will thank them, not only because they are dear friends and colleagues, but also because they have paid a heavy price to convey the pain and torment of many others, whose voices were silenced forever: smothered by terrorism and choked by debris.