THE SEASON FOR MYTHS

by Avi Davis

12 November 2002

It didn't take too long. Only 73 days after a United Nations report found no evidence whatsoever of an Israeli massacre in Jenin, the accusation has been revived. The Jenin massacre is a story , despite its absolute fabrication, that will not die. Reports from the Palestinian papers claim that the United Nations report was a cover-up and a Palestinian documentary entitled Jenin, Jenin apparently presents the true story. Britain's Guardian reported, in coverage of former IDF Commander-in-Chief Shaul Mofaz's recent appointment as defense minister, that "he directed some of Israel's most controversial military operations in the West Bank earlier this year, including Jenin -- where a Palestinian refugee camp was all but demolished."

Yet the facts are these: the refugee camp at Jenin is 3,500 square meters and fighting only took place in a 200-square-meter area (about 6% of the total area of the camp). The camp at Jenin had 1,100 houses, yet only 95 booby-trapped houses were demolished by the IDF (about 8% of the total number of homes). The area eventually demolished was half the size of a football field, not an entire town.

The United Nations report by the Secretary-General on Jenin (http://www.un.org/peace/jenin/index.html) confirms the findings that there was no "massacre" of Palestinians by Israel, and that Palestinians deliberately set up terrorist operations in civilian centers. The report states in Paragraph 56: "Fifty-two Palestinian deaths had been confirmed by the hospital in Jenin by the end of May 2002. IDF also place the death toll at approximately 52. A senior Palestinian Authority official (Saeeb Erekat) alleged in mid-April that some 500 were killed, a figure that has not been substantiated in the light of the evidence that has emerged."

At the end of the Jenin section, the report states again: "Once IDF granted full access to the camp on 15 April, unexploded ordnance impeded the safe operations of humanitarian personnel. Non-United Nations humanitarian agencies reported that large amounts of unexploded ordnance, laid by Palestinian terrorists and the IDF, slowed their work. Negotiations carried out by United Nations and international agencies with IDF to allow appropriate equipment and personnel into the camp to remove the unexploded ordnance continued for several weeks, during which time at least two Palestinians were accidentally killed in explosions."

The same evidence of the terrorist nature of the camp continues to percolate through the rubble today. The Village Voice reports that Ian Rinell, a 52-year-old British explosive ordnance disposal expert working with a Scandinavian-funded de-mining team, has cleared thousands of "improvised terrorist devices" from Jenin. "We found 4668 items, of which 804 were live," he said. Rinnell's team gets called all the time by "people who are not happy about things... like two-meter-long pipe bombs planted in the road near their houses... And there were instances when guys with guns would show up and demand their bombs back," he said. Indeed, the real impact of both the UN and Village Voice reports is the confirmation of the international community's and non-governmental organizations' propensity to question Israeli assertions, while accepting, without question, wholesale fabrications and exaggerations by Palestinian leaders.

Not content with such falsifications, Amnesty International's report on the IDF's assault against terrorist bases in both Jenin and Ramallah was issued last week. Those who have the patience to scroll through its 76 pages will find few comments or opposing facts or statistics tendered by the Israeli government or the IDF. Instead, allegations of unlawful killings, the use of "human shields", torture, the blocking of medical assistance and the destruction of property, is detailed with almost sole reliance on Palestinian sources and NGOs. The report is riven with failures of corroboration, taking at face value statements of Palestinians while adding next to nothing from the Israelis. In addition, in its lengthy discussion of international law and its allegations of Israeli war crimes, the report fails entirely to acknowledge that carrying out military activities from a civilian area, as was conducted by Jenin's terrorists, is a profound violation of international law. Why, one might wonder, does the report fail to acknowledge that military activities conducted from a civilian area are legitimate targets of military reprisal if the reprisals are proportionate to the threat to the victim state? In the light of this universally accepted legal doctrine, why does it also fail to recognize that the self-declared aim of these terrorists, who do not function individually, but in planned, team co-ordinated operations, is the destruction of the State of Israel?

If Palestinian terrorism is understood in this way, it seems ludicrous to contend that the IDF's actions in Jenin were disproportionate or not in keeping with humanitarian law. The conflict is properly characterized as war and, with the Israelis experiencing attacks throughout the country, it can be legitimately described as a war of survival. No one who has witnessed the devastation wrought by homicide bombers in Israel and the imminent threat to Israeli civilian life created by the Palestinian terrorist campaign can reasonably claim that the Israeli operation in Jenin, a hotbed of this terrorism, was unjustified or disproportionate.

The 22 Palestinian civilian casualties of Jenin are therefore not war crimes. Nor are any other of the measures that Israel has undertaken to eliminate the terrorist menace to its population and protect its population. They are in direct proportion to the actions and threatened actions of the enemy. Conversely, it is not the Israelis, but Palestinian terrorists who must now be held accountable for war crimes by the NGOs. They must be treated as trained, armed militia and not merely, as they have been until now, as civilians who have taken up armed resistance against an occupier. Their terrorist actions must be assessed against the standards for how an army should conduct itself in the field and made to understand that reprisals against military targets are sanctioned by international law, even when they take place in civilian areas. Only when the human rights organizations and other NGOs who work so feverishly to find fault with Israel understand this, will truth finally come to displace myth as the governing principle for judging human rights abuses in the Israel- Palestinian conflict.

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Avi Davis is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and the senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com



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