Recalling the Jenin ‘massacre’ libel (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By GERALD M. STEINBERG 04/09/12)
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Ten years ago, false allegations of a “massacre” and “war crimes”
against Palestinian civilians in Jenin provided the first example of
a new type of warfare that exploited the principles of human rights.
This was the first application of the strategy developed a few months
earlier at the NGO Forum of 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism,
(the infamous Durban Conference).
In 2009, the “Goldstone Report” on the Gaza War was based on the
strategy used in Jenin.
On April 3, 2002, following the horrendous Palestinian attack in
Netanya at the Passover seder, and other suicide bombings, the IDF
finally launched Operation Defensive Shield – the first major counter-
terrorist operation. Palestinian officials immediately accused the
IDF of committing a “massacre” in the Jenin refugee camp – the center
of the terror operation. In parallel, a number of officials
from “human rights” NGOs echoed these allegations, devoid of any
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), which were deeply
involved in the UN Durban fiasco, jumped in, immediately repeating
the “war crimes” accusations and demanding the appointment of what
they referred to as an “independent investigative committee.”
On April 16, Le Monde cited HRW, and on April 18, the BBC quoted
Amnesty International (AI) official Derrick Pounder, who repeated the
Although Amnesty had no information, they issued a statement
declaring, “The evidence compiled indicates that serious breaches of
international human rights and humanitarian law were committed,
including war crimes.” Like HRW and Palestinian officials, AI also
called for an “independent inquiry.” Other influential NGOs published
On May 3, just one month after the operation began, HRW launched a 50-
page “investigative report,” “Jenin: IDF Military Operations,” based
primarily on unverifiable “eyewitness testimony” from Palestinians.
Clearly, no credible analysis could have been produced in this short
time, but the goal was entirely political. Only one sentence
mentioned the context of mass terror, while the rest consisted of
clearly false allegations that “IDF military attacks were
indiscriminate... failing to make a distinction between combatants
and civilians...and vastly disproportionate....”
Thus, HRW’s acknowledgment that no massacre occurred was negated by
the use of this demonizing language. The fact that Palestinian
leaders had located this terror center in the middle of a densely
populated neighborhood – a clear violation of moral and legal
standards – was erased.
HRW and the other political NGOs also ignored the IDF decision to use
ground forces in this operation, rather than an air attack, precisely
in order to minimize civilian casualties among the Palestinians.
As a result, over 20 Israeli soldiers were killed in booby-trapped
buildings. But, in accordance with their blunt ideological agenda,
HRW leaders such as Kenneth Roth repeated the false allegations that
the IDF had killed civilians indiscriminately.
For the international media, as well as foreign diplomats, political
leaders, academics and others, the allegations and faux-research
reports of NGOs such as HRW and Amnesty were repeated without
question. And every time the allegations were repeated, as occurred
in many of HRW’s 15 press releases and reports condemning Israel
published in 2002, this triggered further rounds of anti-Israel
In contrast, HRW only managed to publish a single report – at the end
of October 2002 – criticizing the Palestinian terror campaign that
took hundreds of Israeli lives. And even this publication ignored
much of the evidence in order to absolve Yasser Arafat of
responsibility for his direct involvement in mass murder.
The NGO campaign accompanied the Islamic bloc’s initiative which
resulted in the appointment of a clearly biased UN “fact-finding
team” to “investigate” the allegations of Israeli war crimes.
As a result, the Israeli government refused to cooperate. The UN
report followed the lead of HRW and other NGOs, and, as the Israeli
government had anticipated, was similarly one-sided.
This process, from the prejudicial NGO allegations to the
unverifiable and false “evidence”, and with recommendations of legal
and other sanctions against Israel, provided the step-by-step
template used by the UN’s Islamic bloc, in cooperation with HRW and
other NGOs to produce the Goldstone Report.
The “Jenin Massacre” proved that the Durban Strategy could be used
successfully to wage political war. The Israeli government and
military were unprepared to defeat this attack. Eventually, the facts
began to replace the myths, but by then, the demonization campaign
had already achieved its goals. On the basis of the Jenin
fabrications, the first round of BDS (boycotts, divestment and
sanctions) efforts began.
This template was repeated many times afterwards, and perfected in
the selection of Judge Richard Goldstone (a confidant of HRW’s
Kenneth Roth) to head another pseudo-investigation based again on NGO
allegations and inventions.
But some things have changed in the past decade.
Belatedly, Goldstone had the courage to acknowledge that the
framework was biased against Israel, and the NGO “evidence” did not
support the allegations.
Some Israeli government officials have developed counter-strategies,
including exposing the moral duplicity of the UN-NGO alliance. And a
small but growing number of responsible journalists and diplomats
acknowledge the serious exploitation of human rights principles.
It took 10 years, but perhaps the lessons of Jenin are finally being
learned. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/09/12)
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