May 25, 2007
Love and betrayal in the West Bank
Watch the program: Part 1 | Part 2

When Israeli troops are on a combat patrol on the outskirts of town, the Islamic Jihad men of Jenin become night walkers, nervous about putting their heads down for too long in one place.

This journey to the core of their cell revealed a calculating leader, sworn to resist Israel’s occupation of the land, committed to killing civilians to achieve his ends. But we also found a tail of three people whose lives had been tangled and mangled together on a trail of violence and relentless sorrow.

As I stood amidst the din in Tel Aviv, the glass and debris from the bomb blast crunched beneath my feet. I wondered, yet again, how this could possibly have happened. It was a beautiful sunny day, but windscreen wipers were scraping backwards and forwards, across a blood spattered windscreen. Cell phones were ringing, unanswered, somewhere in the rubble.

I found and interviewed the father of the bomber, the Islamic Jihad cell that sent him to Tel Aviv and the wife of one of his victims. And as the Israeli military planned their own attack on Islamic Jihad they found their collaborator. He would be dead within months.

Bassem Maleh’s father hasn’t come to terms with his son’s death, or the wrenching circumstances. As he stood, mucking out the small stable beneath his home, I could see his shoulders sag for a moment, and he let out a sigh with sorrow. His son was gunned down in the street, accused by Islamic Jihad of collaborating with Israel.

The whole episode, including his son’s confession to his Islamic Jihad captors, was filmed and it is horrible. The father still can’t believe his son would get mixed up in such a mess. And he can't admit it, in any case. He has already been ostracized by his neighbors and a big emptiness is opening up: The no man’s land inhabited by those stained by the accusation, "you helped the occupation." His life seems to him to be falling apart.

Across the rolling farmland, the rugged rock outcrops and beautiful hills and gullies of the West Bank, on the other side of Jenin, another father is having similar feelings. Sameeh Hamad’s, son Samer, was the bomber who struck in Tel Aviv. He can’t believe it and can’t explain his son’s connection with this group, just about the most radical of all the Palestinian militant groups. He breaks down in tears when he tells me that, if he could stop his son from killing the Israelis he killed that day, he would do anything for the chance.

In her small, neat Tel Aviv flat Mia Anibjar can’t take that deep regret at face value. Her new husband Lior was one of those murdered by Samer Hamad and his Islamic Jihad bomb and she is still obviously struggling to come to terms with his death. She seems detached but speaks with straight forward, honest love for her man. After he was killed in Samer Hamad’s attack Islamic Jihad handed out sweets on the street of Jenin.

For a while, the producer on this story, Wayne Harley, nicknamed it "the ghost story" because so many of the characters have been killed. But their bereaved and bewildered loved ones and the Jihad cell leader, Walid Ubeid, tell their tales with gripping clarity.

We were always a little more worried than usual about safety while we were filming this story. After all, there’s a steady stream, of new entries on Islamic Jihad’s list of martyrs, thanks to Israeli hit squads and airstrikes. And since we filmed the story several of the militants involved have been killed in Israeli incursions. Walid Ubeid says: "We know our destiny, because this is the way we have chosen: We will be martyrs or we will be in prison and we don't have any other choice."

From Matt Brown, Middle East Correspondent, ABC Australia TV
World’s Untold Stories showcases courageous correspondents telling intimate stories of society's most vulnerable people. Often gritty, always powerful tales that open our eyes to a world that is at times disturbing and captivating. Storytelling that is raw and unyielding in its impact. World’s Untold Stories will bring the viewer tales from all corners of the world, and shine light on activities almost never exposed.

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