April 18, 2002 | Commentary on Middle East
Palestinian mouthpieces claim that the Israeli military killed
as many as 500 civilians in Jenin, a stronghold of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad. When the Israelis cleared the booby traps and
allowed Western media into the city, the reality was different: a
difficult door-to-door infantry fight; 23 Israeli soldiers fallen
in battle; dozens of terrorists killed. No massacre.
When Israeli troops surrounded Jenin, it was widely reported by
the Western and Arab media that the local terrorist commanders
swore to fight to the death. Yasser Arafat, holed up in Ramallah
but still pushing for more violence, had called for a "million
martyrs" to march to Jerusalem -- and Jenin looked like a good
place to start.
There were important assets to be protected in the refugee camp:
arsenals of machine guns and anti-tank weapons, a cadre of would-be
murder-suicide bombers, and several dozen chemical labs where
explosives for suicide-bomber belts were being manufactured.
The fighting went on for days. Many houses were booby-trapped by
the terrorists who hoped to blow Israelis to smithereens. The
Israelis repeatedly ceased fire and demanded that all civilians
leave the area, but the top Palestinian terrorists, true to form,
were using them as human shields.
If this action had taken place in Afghanistan, U.S. troops would
have called in the "vitamin B": B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers. If it
had happened in Chechnya, the Russian generals would have called in
artillery and flattened Jenin, just as they did Grozny. Israeli
tanks were there, and they could have shot straight into town and
the refugee camp.
Instead, Israelis fought on foot, placing themselves at risk
while trying to protect Palestinian lives. One fighter, reportedly
a young boy, detonated a booby trap in a building already taken by
the Israeli reservists; 13 were killed on the spot.
After the city fell, 1,000 Palestinian fighters surrendered. In
any other place, in any other war, there would be no one left to
The Israeli army put the number of Palestinians killed in a
five-day battle at about 200. The Palestinian and Arab media,
meanwhile, cried foul in English while praising the "martyrs" in
Arabic. Saudi TV raised close to $100 million in a Jerry
Lewis-style telethon to pay off the families.
The Jenin "massacre" that never was is yet another Big Lie in
the Palestinian PR campaign -- a campaign that would have made
Joseph Goebbels, Adolph Hitler's propaganda chief, proud. And with
good reason. Goebbels's legacy lives today -- from Damascus to
Ramallah to Cairo.
According to a prominent Egyptian writer, the Egyptian press
ministry was set up in the early 1950s by the East Germans who
learned the trade under Josef Stalin, but before that, under Hitler
and Goebbels. And communist archives in Moscow demonstrate that
many Palestinian leaders were trained at the Patrice Lumumba
University in Moscow and KGB camps in the Crimea, both temples of
Soviet propaganda and subversion.
One of Goebbels's contributions to the world of "black" PR was
the concept of the Big Lie -- repeating something so loudly and
persistently that people begin believing it. Arafat, for example,
often blames Israelis for using "uranium" shells against
Palestinians, implying radioactive damage. President Bashar Assad
of Syria accused Israel at the recent Arab League summit of killing
"thousands of Palestinians a day."
Arafat's strategy is to turn Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
into a war criminal, and to turn the West against Israel. Arafat
wants to preside over his sheikdom of terror from behind a human
shield of international observers. Then Hamas, Islamic Jihad,
Tanzim and the Al Aqsa brigades will be free to continue killing
Israelis while Arafat himself can issue periodic denunciations and
maintain (im)plausible deniability.
To achieve this, Arafat needs the world to ignore the mountains
of documented evidence connecting him beyond reasonable doubt with
the terror campaigns of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Tanzim and Al
Aqsa. He needs the U.S. government and the Western media to shut
their eyes to his close links with Iran and Iraq. He needs them to
overlook where the real massacres are taking place: in Netanya,
Haifa and Jerusalem.
This is why Arafat invented the Jenin "massacre." Why the Arab
and European media hastily reported it is another question.
Ariel Cohenis a research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy institute. A longer version of this article originally appeared in National Review Online.
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