Uri Avnery / 13.04.02
There is full agreement between all those who were in the Jenin refugee
camp on only one thing. A week after the end of the fighting, foreign
journalists and IDF soldiers, UN representatives and hired hacks in the
Israeli media, members of the welfare organizations and government
propagandists all report that a terrible stench of decomposing bodies
lingers everywhere. Apart from that there is no agreement on anything.
The Palestinians speak about a
massacre amounting to a second Sabra and Shatila. The IDF speak about
hard fighting, in which "the most humane army in the world" did not
intentionally hurt even one single civilian. The Palestinians speak
about hundreds of dead, the Minister of Defense asserts categorically
that exactly 43 were killed. So what is the truth? The simple answer is:
nobody knows. Nobody can possibly know. The truth lies buried under the
debris, and it smells atrociously. But some facts are uncontestable.
They are sufficient for drawing conclusions.
First: During two weeks of
fighting, the IDF did not allow any journalist, Israeli or foreign, into the
camp. Even after the fighting had died down, no journalist was let in. The
pretext was that the life of the journalists would be endangered. But they
did not ask the army to save them. They were quite ready to risk their
lives, as journalists and photographers do in every war. Simple common sense
would hold that if one forcibly denies access to journalists, one has
something to hide.
Second: During the fighting and
afterwards, ambulances and rescue teams were not allowed to get close. Those
that tried to approach were shot at. The result was that the wounded bled to
death in the streets, even if they had relatively light injuries. This is a
war crime, a "manifestly illegal order", over which "the black flag of
illegality" flies. Under Israeli law, and even more so under international
law and conventions to which Israel is a party, soldiers are forbidden to
obey such an order. It makes no difference whether civilians or "armed men",
one person or a hundred, died in these circumstances. As a method of warfare
it is inhuman. Some journalists justified this method in advance when they
alleged that they had seen "with their own eyes" Palestinian ambulances
carrying arms. Even if there was such an incident, it would not justify the
use of such methods in any circumstances. (Until now, only one instance has
been proven: this week Israeli journalists reported proudly that undercover
soldiers used an ambulance in order to approach a house in which a "wanted
person" was hiding).
Third: Even after the end of the
fighting, and until now, heavy equipment and rescue teams have not been
allowed in to remove the debris and corpses, or, perhaps, save people
still alive under the ruins. The pretext was again that the corpses
could be mined. So what? If foreign and local teams want to risk their
lives for this noble purpose, why should the army prevent them from
Fourth: During all the days of
fighting, no one was allowed to bring in medications, water and food. I
myself took part in a mass march of Israeli peace activists who tried, after
the fighting was over, to accompany a convoy of trucks carrying such
supplies to the camp. The trucks were allowed, so it seemed, to pass the
road-block which stopped us - but it later became apparent that the supplies
were unloaded in an army camp and only four could reach their destination.
What does all this indicate? An
objective person could only draw the conclusion that the army wanted to
prevent the entrance of eye-witnesses into the camp at any price. The
army knew that this would give rise to rumors about a terrible massacre,
but preferred this to the disclosure of the truth. If one takes such
extreme measures to hide something, one cannot complain about the
What is the height of cynicism? When
one blocks free access to a place, and then argues that no one has the
right to say what happened there, because he has not seen it with his
The most damning evidence about what
happened is the fact that immediately after the end of the fighting, top
government and army officials started to discuss ways of preventing a
shock reaction in Israel and abroad once the facts became known. This
was no secret discussion, it was held in public, in the media talk
shows. All of us heard.
The decisions made were extremely
effective in Israel, and extremely ineffective abroad. I happened to be
in England when the news finally broke. They filled the first page of
every important British newspaper. The front-page headline in the Times
was "Inside the Camp of Death". Underneath was a giant photo and a
report by a star war correspondent, who wrote that in all the wars she
had covered, such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and others, she had never
seen such a terrible sight as this. In almost all European countries the
reaction was the same.
In Israel, however, the government
propaganda machine, in which all the media are now voluntarily
integrated, did everything possible to prepare the public in advance. It
was said beforehand that the Palestinians were about to spread a
horrible lie, that they were ready to heap dead bodies (from where?) in
the streets. It got almost to the point of saying that the Palestinians
had blown up their houses over their families in order to create a blood
The IDF did "clean" part of the
camp, removing the bodies and ordering the ruins somewhat, and that is
where compliant journalists and innocent foreign visitors were brought.
There they met humane officers who assured them that there had not been
any massacre. After all, only a tiny part of the camp had been
destroyed, so-and-so many yards by so-and-so many yards, nothing really.
It all reminds one of the methods of certain regimes.
The result is that again a huge gap
was created between Israelis and the rest of the world. Around the
world, many were horrified that Jews, of all people, were capable of
doing such things. Jews were again confirmed in their belief that all
Goyim are anti-Semites.
I hope that there will be a serious
international inquiry, and that the truth - whatever it may be - will
emerge. But if even a part of the rumored atrocity is confirmed, a
question will be asked: What was the intention? Why did the civilian and
military leadership decide to deal with the Jenin camp like this?
The only answer I can come up with
is: in Jenin the Palestinians decided to stand up and fight. The rape of
Jenin was intended to send a message to the Palestinians: This will be
the lot of everyone who resists the IDF. Also, it could cause a Deir
Yassin-style mass flight,
Only a fool would believe that this
will end the resistance to the occupation.
haGalil onLine 21-04-2002