jenin aftermath

Mike Friedman mikedf at
Sat Apr 20 21:43:46 MDT 2002

Something Stinks
      Uri Avnery, 20.4.02

      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
      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 doing so?
      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 rumors.
      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 own eyes.
      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
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 libel.
      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
      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
      Only a fool would believe that this will end the resistance to the

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