No one deluded himself that the Palestinian Ministry
of Culture, which takes up five of the eight floors of a new building
in the center of El Bireh, would be spared the fate of other
Palestinian Authority offices in Ramallah and other cities - that is,
the nearly total destruction of its contents and particularly its
After all, Israel Defense Forces troops were deployed in the building for about a month...
On the evening of Wednesday, May 1, when the siege on Arafat's headquarters was lifted and the armored vehicles and the tanks had rumbled out, the executives and officials of the ministry who had rushed to the site did not expect to find the building the way they had left it.
Employees of the local radio and television station, Amwaj, also hastened to the scene, as did the employees of the local television channel, Istiqlal, which take up three stories of the building.
But what awaited them was beyond all their fears, and also shocked representatives and cultural attaches of foreign consulates, who toured the site the next day.
In other offices, all the high-tech and electronic equipment had been wrecked or had vanished - computers, photocopiers, cameras, scanners, hard disks, editing equipment worth thousands of dollars, television sets. The broadcast antenna on top of the building was destroyed.
Telephone sets vanished. A collection of Palestinian art objects (mostly hand embroideries) disappeared. Perhaps it was buried under the piles of documents and furniture, perhaps it had been spirited away. Furniture was dragged from place to place, broken by soldiers, piled up. Gas stoves for heating were overturned and thrown on heaps of scattered papers, discarded books, broken diskettes and discs and smashed windowpanes.
In the department for the encouragement of children's art, the soldiers had dirtied all the walls with gouache paints they found there and destroyed the children's paintings that hung there.
In every room of the various departments - literature, film, culture for children and youth books, discs, pamphlets and documents were piled up, soiled with urine and excrement.
There are two toilets on every floor, but the soldiers urinated and defecated everywhere else in the building, in several rooms of which they had lived for about a month. They did their business on the floors, in emptied flowerpots, even in drawers they had pulled out of desks.
They defecated into plastic bags, and these were scattered in several places. Some of them had burst. Someone even managed to defecate into a photocopier.
The soldiers urinated into empty mineral water bottles. These were scattered by the dozen in all the rooms of the building, in cardboard boxes, among the piles of rubbish and rubble, on desks, under desks, next to the furniture the solders had smashed, among the children's books that had been thrown down.
Some of the bottles had opened and the yellow liquid had spilled and left its stain. It was especially difficult to enter two floors of the building because of the pungent stench of feces and urine. Soiled toilet paper was also scattered everywhere.
In some of the rooms, not far from the heaps of feces and the toilet paper, remains of rotting food were scattered. In one corner, in the room in which someone had defecated into a drawer, full cartons of fruits and vegetables had been left behind. The toilets were left overflowing with bottles filled with urine, feces and toilet paper.
Relative to other places, the soldiers did not leave behind them many sayings scrawled on the walls.
Here and there was the candelabrum symbols of Israel, stars of David, praises for the Jerusalem Betar soccer team.
Someone had forgotten to take his dog tag with him. His name is recorded in the newspaper's editorial offices.
Now the Palestinian Ministry of Culture is considering leaving the building the way it is. A memorial.
-- Someone even managed to defecate into the photocopier, by Amira Hass; Ha'aretz, 6 May 2002. (h/t Angry Arab)
Photo: A T-shirt printed for members of Israeli Paratroop Battalion 890 after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (Dec 2008-Jan 2009) shows a King Kong-like soldier destroying a city and its mosque, and reads: "If you believe it can be
fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!".
Source: Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009 (Ha'aretz); via Mondoweiss.