Photo – 2002 Jenin: shades of 2006 Lebanon

In responding to a comment by one of our readers in the sexy Dershowitz post, I came across this BBC article describing the aftermath of the Jenin raid by the IDF in 2002. This is entirely relevant to the experience we’ve just had with the media coverage of Lebanon along with ongoing comments and reports from the UN and certain NGOs such as Amnesty. Also, since Michael and ck absolutely love it when I recycle comments, I’m going to do it again dear readers!!

…With respect to Jenin, what happened was that in March of 2002, the Palestinian suicide bombing orgy reached its apogee with 128 Israelis killed and hundreds murdered in that month. In April, the IDF re-entered Areas A which had been under PA control. By the way, these areas included 97-98% of the Palestinian population in the territories. One of the first places the IDF attacked was Jenin which had long been a center of terror activity against Israel. They first circled the town and sent out warning to civilians to evacuate. Of course, this gave time to the terrorists to prepare for the fight which is what they did. Most civilians did leave the area but Israel opted not to use artillery or air cover. Instead, they sent in ground troops. Over the next several days, there were pitched battles in which 30 Palestinian militants were killed, 20 Palestinian civilians were killed and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed. A dozen of those soldiers were killed in one attack that made the IDF understand that their attempt to act gingerly with Palestinian property had actuallly cost them lives. After that, they brought in bulldozers and simply cleared the area of houses which is how they won the battle and stopped losing soldiers’ lives.

Throughout the fighting, the PA (at the time it was Arafat’s PA) was telling the media that Israel was massacring large numbers of Palestinian civilians and this was reported by the international press which had no access into this area of Jenin. Of course, once the fighting ended, immediately after Jenin was re-opened, the press showed images of…destroyed buildings. The press went nuts, comparing it to Dresden, quoting Palestinian officials claiming that 3000 civilians had been killed (Arafat) or 500 (Erakat) had been killed. The Palestinians set up a sideshow of funerals, only it became apparent many of these were faked when an Israeli drone captured video footage of a “dead” person falling off a stretcher on the way to burial and then climbing back on quickly.

UN officials, NGOs and the press were waiting to get into the area of Jenin that was destroyed – and by the way, it was a small part of the town but was represented in the media as THE town (shades of Beirut in 2006, no?)- and once they entered, immediately announced that it had been a terrible massacre.

Here’s a BBC article covering the story.
Note the comments made by Amnesty’s international expert – a professor, no less – and the type of inflammatory language used by Terje Road-Larsen of the UN. Compare that to what is happening now in Lebanon as well as during the war. Then recognize that after all of this imagery, aggressive language and claims against Israel, the claim of massacres and unwarranted destruction, it came out that Israel killed more militants than civilians, that it lost half as many people as Palestinians were killed, that it had provided warnings to the detriment of its own soldiers AND STILL was vilified in terms likening the IDF to war criminals.

Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK
Jenin camp ‘horrific beyond belief’

A United Nations envoy has said that the devastation left by Israeli forces in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank is “horrific beyond belief”.

I think I can speak for all in the UN delegation in saying that we are shocked

Terje Roed-Larsen, who toured the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday, said it was “morally repugnant” that Israel had not allowed emergency workers in for 11 days to provide humanitarian relief.

The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has asked the Security Council to consider sending an armed multinational force to the region, under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter which authorises military force to impose council decisions.

Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat called Mr Bush’s comments “a gift, a reward for Sharon’s policy of state terrorism and war crimes”.

The BBC’s correspondent said Mr Roed-Larsen was highly regarded in the region and his criticism would put more pressure on the Israelis to fully withdraw.

Palestinians claim hundreds of bodies are buried beneath the rubble, but Israel says the numbers of dead are far fewer. An independent forensic expert says evidence suggests that a massacre has taken place.

Mr Roed-Larsen said the top priority was to bring in search-and-rescue teams. The only rescue efforts currently under way are residents digging though the ruins looking for survivors.

“It is totally destroyed, it looks like an earthquake has hit it,” he said.

“I am watching two brothers pull their father from the ruins, the stench of death is horrible. We are seeing a 12-year-old boy being dug out, totally burned,” he said.

“We have expert people here who have been in war zones and earthquakes and they say they have never seen anything like it,” he added.

Mr Roed-Larsen, who is the UN’s Special Co-ordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, was visiting the camp with Red Cross and UN workers.

He added: “It is totally unacceptable that the government of Israel for 11 days did not allow search and rescue teams to come.”

Kofi Annan made his appeal for armed intervention at a closed session of the Security Council. Israeli spokesmen swiftly rejected it while Mr Erekat said it was the “right way to start fighting Israeli aggression”

Mr Annan said there was a need for a force large enough to take “decisive action” to end the deadly cycle of attacks.

The multinational force should be assembled by countries willing to supply troops and should have “a robust mandate,” he said, adding later, “I expect the United States to play an important role.”

Israel invaded the Jenin camp on 3 April, saying it was a hotbed of Palestinian militancy and declaring it a closed military zone.

Palestinian claims of an Israeli massacre in the camp have been denied, although British forensic expert Prof Derrick Pounder has said that the evidence points to large numbers of civilian dead.

Prof Pounder is part of an Amnesty International team granted access to Jenin.

Amazing, huh? Israel gets attacked brutally, decides to fight back, does so in a moral way even at the cost of lives and limbs of its soldiers, and then you get the BBC, the UN, Annan, the need for an international force under Title VII, Amnesty International and the Red Cross appearing in a story – with a picture of Dresden-like ruins – all suggesting very strongly that Israel has committed unbelievable and unacceptable atrocities. AND IT’S ALL A LIE!

Talk about shades of Lebanon. Talk about a deeply ingrained desire to vilify Israel, so deep in fact that you see a consistency years apart and battles apart where all the same players refuse to learn from their other set of errors.

Forgive my cynicism, but it seems to me that Hizbullah is simply using tactics that were already effectively used by the Palestinians some years ago. The international press, the UN and these NGOs should be ashamed of themselves.

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  • . . . . True, Middle, but the nub of the matter in Lebanon (cluster bombs, etc.) isn’t whether the air war, for example, was right or wrong (Amnesty Int’l. et al. are indeed out to lunch), but smart or stupid.

  • I think I’ve written enough about it that you probably know that I think poorly of the functioning of the Israeli leadership over the past several weeks.

    However, this entire discussion requires more depth than just to say, “This is bad” or “This is good.” Hizbullah was undeniably armed for war and the type of war that – exactly in the same vein as Palestinian strategy – attacks civilians and makes use of their own civilians as shields. They have breached Israel’s borders a number of times and had become brazen about kidnapping its soldiers or forcing attacks on N. Israel whenever it suited their or somebody else’s political purposes. Furthermore, they were functioning within the Lebanese government, with the indirect but implied consent of the Lebanese government in their posture in S. Lebanon, in violation – with the consent of the Lebanese government – of a UN Security Council Resolution intended to prevent precisely this type of event, and with a pretext (Shebaa Farms) agreed to by the Lebanese government and large part of its population despite a UN and international consensus to the contrary.

    Oh, and they were firing rockets into Israeli population centers. Their initial attack on the Israeli soldiers included a diversionary attack on a civilian center and they later were first to attack a major center with the Katyusha attack on Haifa.

    In other words, the idea of going to war against Hizbullah within Lebanon was legitimate and should have been expected. It certainly was justified.

    This brings the question of how the war was conducted to the forefront and this is the issue I try to deal with in this and the Dershowitz posts. Ignoring the question of the military efficacy of the campaign or competence of Israel’s leadership with respect to the war, the issue of how the war was fought with respect to the Lebanese population is the key issue before us.

    I am claiming that it is extraordinarily difficult for us to judge. First, the credibility of the news organizations is gone. There are enough problems with the coverage, so many surprises with the poor quality of the reporting, so many obviously manipulated stories, and such a prevailing bias against Israel (see: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3297119,00.html and Erlanger’s comment: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3298249,00.html) that it’s hard to know what actually happened, what is true, what is untrue, what is colored by the views of the reporters or by Hizbullah manipulation, etc.

    Furthermore, much of what we learn about the conflict comes from the UN and NGOs like Amnesty and HRW. However, these have shown a clear bias against Israel again as I discuss. The fact is that over and over again we see headlines made by these institutions and organizations that are published by the international press and often are wrong, biased, incomplete, reliant upon witnesses whom you wouldn’t trust under other circumstances and this is how we get our headlines. Do these organizations back off when they are wrong or issue apologies? There were none after Jenin. In fact, the Palestinians and their supporters generated three documentaries about Jenin and one of them went on to win significant prizes in European film festivals. So what if it didn’t represent the facts or the truth, the director claimed – against all evidence but with the support of Europeans who supported the film and its ideas – that it did…and anyway even if it wasn’t exactly true, it “represented the reality of the situation.”

    Enough of this bullshit already. They want to go to war against Israel and when Israel fights a war like a war, they become the victims of this “monstrosity” called “the Zionist state.” That is the story we get from those who actually seek to destroy Israel, but then we hear the same story from organizations like the Red Cross (support of ambulance story) and Amnesty (“war crimes”) and the UN and from large pockets in the media. How about some objectivity? How about some fairness? It can’t be that the entire war was run immorally or that Israel intentionally carried out crimes against civilians. In fact, we know this to be untrue and any of us who have had extensive contact over the years with Israel and Israelis know this to be untrue. This is a country divided evenly between the Right and the Left so that even if somebody wanted to fight a war immorally, it would be very difficult to do so.

    Or perhaps Israel simply shouldn’t fight at all. After all, it’s gonna look real bad in the news and in the UN’s next report no matter what it does.

    And for the record, I don’t know much about cluster bombs or their use, have no idea whether they were used or not, don’t know how they were used if they were used, and haven’t a clue why they would have been used. From a PR POV, using them seems to have been foolish. From a military perspective, I have no idea but wouldn’t mind getting some real information before swallowing all of the attacks against their supposed use by Israel. Once I have that info, I’ll try to make an informed decision.

    ed: On the same note, allow me also to add that this applies to many and perhaps most other facts that we know about this war. We know that Hizbullah was extremely well prepared for the media war, and was quite effective in managing it. What we don’t know is why Israel attacked certain targets. What did they know, when did they know it, why did they attack as they did, how many of the victims of Israeli fire in Lebanon were actually civilians and not Hizbullah, how many victims were there, was their killing a fair part of the actions of war, etc., etc. We are all flying a little in the dark here and those who harbor certain feelings about Israel or about the violence they see (since it is truly horrible and unfortunate if a single innocent person dies regardless of any justification) will develop certain sentiments while others who might know or believe otherwise tend to believe other sentiments. However, none of us are functioning on the basis of knowledge except for some members of Hizbullah and some members of the IDF. I fully expect the latter to come clean while the former will walk away to prepare for another day exactly like the last one. Of course, they can anticipate the tacit or ignorant support of certain organizations and parts of the media. In fact, they’ll count on it.

  • Good comment, Middle. If it’s any comfort, the biases of Human Rights Watch, AI and their ilk are widely known. They lack credibility on Israel-related issues, and it seems to me two responses to them could be made: (1) ignore their bad-faith reportage altogether, or (2) take a root-cause approach and try to court the European center-left, whose bien–pensant mentality they represent.

    I suspect that if Israel had more of a constituency in the international left, everyone- including Kofi Annan, so quick to accuse Israel of war crimes- would sing a different tune. This is all about politics. Israel is seen in Europe as America’s tool, an extension of the hated Bush regime. (A couple of weeks ago, for example, Der Speigel ran a translation of Sy Hersh’s latest piece, accusing Olmert, essentially, of being Cheney’s lapdog.)

    It was not always thus: Israel once had good relations with the left, even the Communists. I’m an ignorant American redneck, so I’m inclined to say to hell with them. Nonetheless, it may be in Israel’s interests to hold its nose and build bridges with the folks who fund Amnesty International and shape its content.

  • “… it may be in Israel’s interests to hold its nose and build bridges with the folks who fund Amnesty International and shape its content….”

    I know it is spuriouys and irreverent…but, might I add, …”then assure they are present for the next round of destruction, under it more or less, to fulfill the prophesy.”

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