By IAN FISHER
Caption: An exhibit celebrating the
anniversary of the second intifada at Al Najah University included
this gruesome depiction of a pizza parlor bombing.
NABLUS, West Bank, Sept. 25 -- The
students did as they were told and today tried to tone down, to the
extent such a thing is possible, an exhibit here that celebrates a
The exhibit at Al Najah University, the
largest in the West Bank, has outraged Israelis since it opened on
Sunday. The most contentious section is a mock-up of the Sbarro
restaurant in Jerusalem where 15 people were killed in a suicide
attack in August including not only gnawed pizza crusts but bloody
plastic body parts suspended from the ceiling as if they were
blasting through the air.
Created by a student faction of Hamas,
the radical Islamic group that claimed responsibility for the Sbarro
attack, the exhibit by definition portrays an extreme view. It marks
the one year anniversary of the so-called second intifada, when
Palestinians declared the peace talks dead and renewed fighting.
Israelis contend that it was Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader,
who walked away from the peace deal brokered last year by President
Worried about a backlash at a time when
much of the world is shocked by suicide bombings, Mr. Arafat issued
a statement today that he was "gravely disturbed and offended by the
images in the exhibit," and that he ordered it closed. It had been
scheduled to close at the end of the day on Tuesday.
But this afternoon it was still open, if
altered: on orders, the students cut down a plastic hand dangling
from the ceiling. But they managed only partly to obscure a fake
severed leg, encased in jeans and a bloody black sneaker. The heel
still poked out from behind a curtain.
Aside from anger, some Israelis noted
that the exhibit shows how many strands of mutual empathy have been
cut, as the warring sides here mark the first anniversary, this
Thursday, of renewed fighting between Palestinians and Israeli
"The superficial conclusion will be that
they are something else, that they are not human beings," said Benny
Elon, a right-wing member of Israeli Parliament. "This is not the
truth. They are intelligent students, up to date, but with another
mentality, another way of thinking. They are really proud of the
Mr. Elon said specifically the exhibit
is one more example of how Muslims have declared cultural war on the
West, in the same way of the plotters who carried out the attacks
two weeks ago that toppled the World Trade Center, damaged the
Pentagon and killed more than 6,000 people. [The number is now known
to be approx. 3000.]
Many Palestinians argue that, unlike
Osama bin Laden, their fight is not with West, but with Israel.
Students confirmed Mr. Elon´s view that
the two sides here do not view things the same way: where Israelis
see attacks like the one on Sbarro as simple terrorism, many
Palestinians see them as acts of resistance in renewed fighting that
has taken more than 800 lives in the last year, three quarters of
them Palestinians. "I would hope to see more than that," Amani
Ewagan, a 20-year-old architecture student, meaning that a few
Israeli body parts in an exhibit were not enough. "As a Palestinian,
I hope to see more Israelis killed by more Palestinians."
Her friend, Amani Aquad, a
administration student, added: "The Israelis have no compassion for
us. Why should I feel sympathy for them?"
Much of the exhibit is devoted to the
dead on the Palestinian side: rows of gory photographs show
Palestinians hit by bullets or shells, and there is no shortage of
body parts there either: there are parts of brains, a headless
torso, a severed hand. There are also photographs of several
children killed in the last year.
But the part that has received the most
attention is the Sbarro restaurant, which also serves as the
exhibit´s entrance. The doormat is composed of two flags, one
Israeli and one American. Above it hangs the green and red Sbarro
Inside are toppled stools, pizza crusts,
police tape, broken glass, as well as photographs of the actual
scene of carnage and of the young Palestinian, Izzeden Masri, who
carried into the restaurant some 20 pounds of explosive reportedly
hidden in a guitar.
Ala´a Hmeidan, 25, the student activist
who headed up the exhibit, said he understood the anger that the
Sbarro exhibit generated.
"This section represents resistance," he
said. "The problem is with this kind of resistance, it is addressed
against civilians. This creates a negative reaction from the world.
But where was the world when Israel was killing Palestinian
One student, Mohamed Mahamud, 23, said
he wondered too if now was the moment for celebrating what happened
in the Sbarro.
"It is not a good time to exhibit these
things," he said. "We must look for peace, not look for war."