Confronting Israeli Myth-Making
Propagandists on behalf of Israel have held a corner on public discourse about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for the nearly six decades of Israel’s existence, but these purveyors of the Israeli line have become increasingly deceptive and malign — and increasingly effective – with time. The propaganda machine serving Israel disseminates a steady stream of talking points and argumentation that today effectively controls all public discourse, so that in media arenas large and small throughout the country there are always grassroots propagandists available to put out a uniformly favorable twist on Israel’s actions and always to paint the Palestinians in black colors.
The propaganda machine has not missed even the small, out-of-the-way town of Santa Fe, NM. Although not usually at the forefront of nationally significant political debates, Santa Fe is currently in the midst of a controversy about an issue of large national relevance. The controversy involves media treatment of Israel and the Palestinians that is typical of the distortion found throughout the country.
On June 9, 2005, John Greenspan, chairman of the board of directors of KSFR-FM, a Santa Fe public radio station, substituted for Mary-Charlotte Domandi, the vacationing host of a weekday morning program known as “The Radio Café,” and had among his guests a spokesperson for a pro-Israel propaganda organization, The Israel Project, based in Washington, D.C. Both Greenspan and the guest, Megan Wachter, spent this 15-minute segment broadcasting what we and many honest, objective observers regard as serious pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian distortions and, in at least one instance, an outright lie about an American human rights activist. Greenspan and Wachter made one false allegation after another, reaching ever increasing levels of distortion as the broadcast went on. We are appalled at the level of misrepresentation in this brief exchange and are particularly dismayed that these two propagandists did not merely stop at attempting to put Israel in a good light, but seemed to bend over backwards to cast the Palestinians and anyone who supports them in a particularly negative light, as all but universally hate-filled, uneducated, unenlightened terrorists.
The principal reason for having Wachter on the program was to publicize and recruit attendees for a workshop to be held on June 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C., sponsored by The Israel Project and intended to train “pro-Israel advocates” in what the organization’s website (http://www.theisraelproject.org) describes as “cutting-edge skills to create positive media coverage, strengthen Israel’s public image, and win support for Israel and the Jewish people.” The Israel Project, the newest of a decades-long list of organizations advocating for Israel, was created three years ago by two well known Republican pollsters, Frank Luntz and Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi. Mizrahi is the Israel Project president. Luntz serves as a strategist for the organization. He also runs his own separate public relations/propaganda outfit, which gives advice to Republican Party activists, and he has frequently written advice for the Israeli government and major American-Jewish organizations on how best to “frame” Israel’s case for public consumption.
A transcript of the pertinent segment of the program is at Appendix 1. The following is a rebuttal of the several distortions put forth by both Greenspan and Wachter.
Throughout the program, Wachter found frequent occasion to hail “Israeli democracy.” At the start, she described The Israel Project as a non-profit organization designed to publicize information about Israel “so the people have a real sense of what is going on over there, and have a real idea of the fact that Israel is a democracy, where all people and not just Jews but Christians and Muslims all share freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and freedom of press, and the right to vote.” At other points, she described Israel as “a democracy that shares the same values as America,” an “incredible democracy that’s struggling with terrorism…a democracy in a very volatile region,” and “this amazing democracy.”
In Wachter’s enthusiasm for Israel, she failed ever to mention that in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, which Israel has controlled for 38 years, more than three million Palestinians enjoy no democracy at all under Israel’s rule. Inside Israel, where over one million Palestinian Muslims and Christians are citizens of Israel, they live in a distinctly second-class status because they are not Jews. Because Israel was established as a specifically Jewish state and explicitly defines itself as a state not of its citizens but of Jews everywhere, it gives benefits to Jews that Muslims and Christians do not enjoy. Although they can vote, Muslim and Christian Palestinians in Israel are subject to various types of institutional discrimination. Because 97 percent of Israel’s land is held “in trust for the Jewish people,” non-Jews cannot even purchase land in Israel. The bible on the status of Palestinians in Israel was written by a Jewish-American scholar, Ian Lustick, in a 1980 book entitled Arabs in the Jewish State: Israel’s Control of a National Minority. Just as Fox News’ self-description as “fair and balanced” does not make it either fair or balanced, Wachter’s enthusiasm about Israel’s democracy does not make it a democracy for non-Jews.
In the course of discussing The Israel Project’s great desire for peace and independence for both Israelis and Palestinians, Wachter said the project longs for the day when two states will live side-by-side in an atmosphere where Israeli children aren’t afraid to go to pizza parlors with their friends and “where Palestinian children are taught to grow up wanting to be doctors and lawyers and not to glorify suicide bombers.”
This is a sly reference to a distortion that has gained wide acceptance throughout Israel and throughout the Israel-supporting public in the U.S. Frequent reports over the last several years of what is most often called “incitement” in Palestinian school textbooks have virtually all originated with an organization called the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), originally founded by a leader of the Israeli settlement movement. The organization has concentrated its efforts on translating and publicizing sections of Palestinian textbooks that CMIP alleges demonstrate that Palestinian children are being taught to hate Israel and seek its destruction and that supposedly show that the Palestinian curriculum encourages militarism and violence. Several serious scholars, including not only Palestinian scholars, but Israeli and Jewish-American academics, have studied Palestinian textbooks and thoroughly discredited CMIP’s claims. They show that new Palestinian textbooks introduced into the curriculum by the Palestinian Authority beginning in 2000 do recognize Israel, in the text as well as in maps, do not call for its destruction, are not anti-Semitic, and do not use language that would “incite” or inflame. CMIP has frequently mistranslated the Arabic-language texts, taken statements out of context, and occasionally fabricated. CMIP reports, as one scholar has observed, draw conclusions that are “unsupported by the evidence it presents and undermined by the evidence it overlooks.”
Unfortunately, CMIP’s allegations have been widely circulated and are the source for virtually every claim of Palestinian “incitement” by U.S. policymakers, congressmen, and media commentators. The false allegations have become so much a part of the common political currency that one hears them repeated ad nauseam by the likes of Hillary Clinton, who spoke at length on so-called incitement during a speech at the annual convention of the pro-Israel lobby organization AIPAC in May, as well as by every other politician who wants to ingratiate him- or herself with Israel and by media commentators on both the liberal and the conservative ends of the spectrum. CMIP’s lies about Palestinian “incitement” have also influenced a decision by European donors to cut off funds for Palestinian education. There are numerous serious sources that analyze Palestinian texts honestly and counter CMIP’s false claims; principal among these is the careful study by Nathan J. Brown, an Arabic-speaking Jewish-American scholar at George Washington University, contained in his 2003 book Palestinian Politics After the Oslo Accords, particularly Chapter 7 and most particularly pages 235-243. A recent brief report by the Palestinian Ministry of Education, which summarizes all the academic studies on this issue, as well as those examining propaganda in Israeli school textbooks, can be found at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3923.shtml. Wachter and Greenspan, and The Israel Project itself, would do well to educate themselves better on this issue by reading books like Brown’s rather than relying on the distortions put out by CMIP.
Israel’s “Security Fence”/Apartheid Wall
Wachter brought up the issue of what she persistently called Israel’s “security fence,” the 500-mile-long security barrier Israel is constructing inside the West Bank to separate Israel, its West Bank settlements, and all of Jerusalem from areas of concentrated Palestinian population in the West Bank. Referring to the June 2004 decision by the International Court of Justice in the Hague condemning the wall, Wachter avoided describing the ICJ decision (which declared that those portions of the wall that intrude into the West Bank, which constitute almost the entire wall, are illegal under international law and should be removed). She said only that Israeli supporters knew beforehand what the verdict would be, that “there were going to be some pretty nasty things said about the security fence.” On this basis, she said, The Israel Project worked with the Israeli Foreign Ministry to distribute press kits and disseminate information, including testimony from the mothers of suicide bombing victims, so that “Americans heard what the real story was, and that was that Israel built a non-violent, temporary, defensive security fence.” Greenspan followed up with the statement that “I think it’s the hope of everybody that when the Palestinians show they can deal with terrorism and put an end to it that the fence will come down” — to which Wachter responded enthusiastically, “Absolutely!”, repeating that the “fence” is non-violent and can save lives on both sides.
There are several misrepresentations here. The barrier is not merely a “fence.” Throughout the major portion of its length that goes through populated areas, it is a 26-foot-high concrete wall broken only by occasional gates manned irregularly by Israeli soldiers and at all other times locked. The miles and miles of the barrier surrounding Jerusalem consist entirely of concrete wall. In several places inside and just outside the Jerusalem city limits, individual Palestinian neighborhoods are completely surrounded by the wall, much like the Warsaw Ghetto, with only one way in and out. In those rural sections where the barrier is a chain link fence, it is augmented by electronic sensors, paved patrol roads on each side, dirt roads on each side where footprints can be detected, eight-foot deep trenches on each side, and coils of barbed wire on each side. In some places, the width of this swath of barrier is as much as 100 yards.
The separation wall is most certainly not “non-violent,” as Wachter disingenuously claims. Construction of this wall has meant the destruction of thousands of Palestinian-owned olive trees, the bulldozing of other prime agricultural land, the destruction of fresh water wells, the destruction of commerce in areas where the wall has split towns in half, and the demolition of hundreds of Palestinian homes that stood on the route of the wall. Thousands of acres of agricultural land have ended up on the western, Israeli side of the wall, most often confiscated for the use of nearby Israeli settlements, sometimes simply allowed to lie fallow because Palestinian farmers are prevented from crossing the wall to farm the land. Towns and villages have been split in two; sometimes the village is on the Israeli side of the wall with its land on the Palestinian side, sometimes the reverse. Approximately 250,000 Palestinians are isolated on the Israeli side of the wall. As many as 90 percent of the Palestinians’ fresh water wells are on the Israeli side of the wall, inaccessible to Palestinian towns.
The wall is also not some kind of makeshift temporary structure that can cavalierly be put up and taken down and leave no mark, as Greenspan indicates. First of all, it is a land grab, clearly intended by Israel as an expanded border. It is obvious that Israel does not intend to return the prime agricultural land and the water wells expropriated because of the wall. It is equally obvious that the confiscation of these vital resources has nothing to do with security or the fight against terrorism. Moreover, even if Israel were to dismantle the wall and return the land to its Palestinian owners, the bulldozed olive groves that are hundreds of years old would never be restored; the family homes destroyed to make way for the wall, and the way of life of those who once lived peaceably in those homes, would never be restored; the livelihoods lost to farmers separated from their land would never be restored; the livelihoods lost to workers now unable to reach their workplaces would not be restored; the education of students separated from their schools and universities would still have been disrupted; those who die because the wall separates them from the nearest hospital would still be dead; the commerce destroyed by the wall would not be restored.
Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery wrote on July 10, 2004, in the aftermath of the ICJ ruling against the wall that “Anyone who tours the length of the planned path of the wall is struck by one aspect that leaps to the eye: it has been determined without the slightest consideration for the life of the Palestinian human beings living there. The wall crushes them as a man steps on an ant.” Calling the wall non-violent and temporary is a shameful whitewash.
Arab Women and the Vote
Greenspan gratuitously raised the subject of Arab women, unprompted even by propagandist Wachter. “As I understand it,” he said, “for a while, at least until things change in Afghanistan, or at least change in Iraq, Israel was the only country in the Middle East where Arab women could vote. Is that correct?”
This is so absurd it’s laughable. In actual fact, women in all but three Arab countries can vote and run for office, as can women in several non-Arab Muslim countries, such as Iran and, before the Taliban came to power, Afghanistan. (Greenspan’s statement indicates than he thinks Afghanistan is an Arab country, which it is not, although it is Muslim. Or perhaps he believes that “Arab” and “Muslim” are synonymous.) Women cannot vote in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Oman, but they can vote in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq (not thanks to the U.S. but since 1980 under Saddam Hussein), Qatar, the Palestinian Authority, and Kuwait. These are listed in the order in which the right to vote was granted.
This is not to say that women in the Arab world are totally liberated, but it is worth noting that women in many Arab countries have been voting since well before Americans stopped lynching Blacks. More women can vote in the Arab world than there are people in Israel. Israel is most certainly not, nor has it ever been, the “only country in the Middle East where Arab women can vote”! This is not some obscure fact known only to specialists. With a 30-second Google search, it is possible to find, among other sources, a “World Chronology of the Recognition of Women’s Rights to Vote and to Stand for Election” (http://www.ipu.org/wmne/suffrage.htm.)
Although this is perhaps the least important of Greenspan’s several distortions, it says a great deal about his thinking. The kind of ignorance he shows here clearly comes from a mindset that simply assumes that Arabs are inferior to Jews in all respects. His eagerness to denigrate Arabs in this and other instances is evident in his easy assumption of the worst about them, even when it is patently wrong. Wachter, by the way, did not directly respond to this suggestion. She used the opportunity once again to praise Israeli democracy in general terms, but she did not address the question of Arab women’s suffrage.
Near the end of the program, referring to the public relations/propaganda efforts of The Israel Project, Greenspan asked Wachter about how the organization handles news reporting that casts Israel in a negative light. “What do you do in a situation, for example, where all kinds of reports went out about the quote-unquote massacre at Jenin, which it turned out never happened. Is there a way to deal with a situation where, you know, the horse has gotten out of the barn?”
On April 3, 2002, Israel began a two-week siege of the West Bank city of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp, as part of a massive assault on all West Bank cities launched in retaliation for a March 27 suicide bombing at a restaurant in the Israeli town of Netanya where a Passover seder was being held. This bombing killed 29 Israelis and was widely labeled in the media the “Passover Massacre.” Palestinian fighters put up considerable resistance throughout the siege of the Jenin refugee camp, killing 23 Israeli soldiers. By general agreement, 52 Palestinians were killed, slightly fewer than half of whom were civilians.
The argument over how many dead Palestinians make a massacre is extremely unseemly, and it is unfortunate that Greenspan chose to resort to this kind of puerile “did not/did too” argumentation. By all objective standards, Israel’s assault on the Jenin refugee camp was a humanitarian disaster. It matters little that the Palestinian civilian dead in Jenin did not match the number of Israeli civilians killed at the Passover seder. In Jenin, Israeli forces used helicopter gunships, fighter jets, missile attacks, and tank assaults to level entire residential apartment blocs, shooting civilians in their homes, demolishing buildings with their residents still inside, and ultimately leaving approximately 3,000 people homeless. The Israelis laid siege to Jenin’s hospitals, refused to allow ambulances to transport wounded, barred the entry of humanitarian aid workers, and refused to allow the media in until the siege was over. Mosques were desecrated, water and electricity were shut off for the duration of the siege, food shipments into both the city and the refugee camp, where fighting was concentrated, were blocked. The Israelis used civilians as human shields, forcing them at gunpoint to knock on doors so that soldiers would not risk being shot trying to enter the homes.
A New York Times article on April 16, 2002 described the situation this way after the press had been allowed in: “The smell of decomposing bodies hung over at least six heaps of rubble today, and weeks of excavation may be needed before an accurate death toll can be made. But it was already clear that scores, possibly hundreds, of houses were leveled by Israeli forces. Israeli army bulldozers had plowed 100-foot wide paths that crisscross the center of the camp, turning it into a pancaked field of concrete, dirt and rubble about a half-mile long, every structure flattened. Israeli officials have said the paths were created to move tanks and armored vehicles into the warren of houses where Palestinians put up fierce resistance. But the paths that were cleared were, in some areas, two to three times the breadth of a tank.”
Arguing over whether or not this wanton destruction constituted a massacre is a travesty of human decency, clearly designed to divert attention from the human-rights violations and war crimes that most observers acknowledge the Israelis did commit. The proper response to stories about Jenin is most certainly not, as Wachter said in her response to Greenspan, to emphasize that Israel is a democracy and describe “the painful sacrifices that [the Israelis] are making for peace.” This is an inane non sequitur. Only those so devoted to Israel that they refuse to acknowledge reality or recognize any Israeli flaws could be persuaded that this is an appropriate response to an atrocity of this magnitude. Greenspan may have appreciated Wachter’s absurd response, but the people of Jenin — who cannot vote in Israeli elections, who have no democratic voice in whether Israel continues to oppress them or not, who enjoy none of the benefits of Israeli democracy and have seen no Israeli sacrifices for peace — are not impressed.
See Appendix 2 for further sources on the Jenin situation.
Greenspan, again wondering how The Israel Project handles it when a story unfavorable to Israel gets out, asked Wachter, “…another one — Rachel Corrie, who was accidentally killed by a bulldozer, and we were told that she was trying to stop the demolition of houses. Well, it turned out she was actually trying to stop the demolition of tunnels that were used by terrorists to smuggle explosives into Israel, that she herself was apparently very much involved in some terrorist organizations — but, when something of that gets out very quickly — could you do anything to counter that?”
As if in a kind of crescendo of distortion, this final observation is Greenspan’s most serious lie. His version of Corrie’s story is almost identical to the version in the book An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror by David Frum and Richard Perle, both leading neoconservatives and former officials in the George W. Bush administration. The book’s account (page 81) is a serious slander against Corrie, but it is not as personally injurious as Greenspan’s lies. Three of Greenspan’s assertions must be addressed: that Corrie’s killing was accidental, that she was attempting to stop the demolition not of a home but of tunnels used to smuggle explosives into Israel, and that she was herself involved with terrorist organizations.
1) “Accidental” killing: Greenspan is quoting the Israeli government, which officially concluded that the killing — which occurred in Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003 — was accidental, but there is substantial credible evidence that this is a cover-up. Greenspan has obviously chosen to take Israel’s word on this over that of several American and British citizens who were present, working as volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), and rather than trust the good moral standing of a young American human rights worker. The Israeli claim that the killing was accidental is seriously undermined by the fact that the Israelis interviewed none of the eight American and British eyewitnesses who were with Corrie attempting to stop a house demolition; nor did Israeli officials interview the Palestinian eyewitnesses. There is considerable evidence from the sworn testimony of the ISM volunteers that the bulldozer driver who twice ran over Corrie knew she was there and knew he had run her down.
Two Israeli bulldozers and a tank had been on the scene and Corrie and the other ISM volunteers had been interacting with the drivers for at least two hours before Corrie was killed. One of the bulldozers had been moving earth around, repeatedly approaching the home in question, as well as other structures and a walled olive grove, and several other volunteers had alternately stood in front of the machine, attempting to stop its onward progress. Before the Corrie killing, the bulldozer had come very near to running over two other volunteers but each time had stopped just short of harming them. The bulldozer driver was well aware that Corrie and the others were in the vicinity.
When Corrie stood in front of the bulldozer as it approached a Palestinian home, she wore a fluorescent orange jacket with reflective tape and used a megaphone, according to photographs and the sworn testimony of other volunteers. The day was sunny, and the incident took place in an open, treeless area in front of the house. As the bulldozer approached her with its blade down, according to eyewitnesses, it pushed a mound of earth before it, and Corrie stood on top of this mound so that she was almost at eye level with the driver. When the bulldozer continued to advance, she lost her footing and fell, and the bulldozer rode over her, blade still down. The other volunteers began screaming at the driver and gesticulating frantically as the bulldozer touched Corrie.
The bulldozer stopped for a few seconds after it had run over her and then backed up over her, still with its blade down. All eyewitnesses testified that the driver saw her and, when she fell, had to know that she was under his machine because she did not emerge on either side. In addition, the driver of the other bulldozer and personnel in the tank had an unimpeded view of the incident from the sidelines.
At least two of the eyewitnesses had experience in construction work and testified that any heavy equipment operator knows that the equipment will suck anything in front of it underneath as it pushes earth up and also that it is standard procedure to lift the blade when backing up, which this bulldozer did not do. Another eyewitness testified, based on the earlier close encounters with other volunteers, that the driver was in total control of his equipment, moving very slowly, and could have stopped for Corrie had he wanted to.
No Israeli from either the bulldozers or the tank attempted to help Corrie as she lay dying while a Palestinian ambulance was called.
The sworn testimony of six eyewitnesses can be found at http://electronicintifada.net/ and http://electronicintifada.net/. The report of a seventh eyewitness, along with several pictures of Corrie in front of the bulldozer, can be found at http://electronicintifada.net/.
2) Demolition of tunnels: This charge is a lie. Although the charge appears in the Frum-Perle book, even the Israeli government has never claimed that at this time its bulldozers were attempting to destroy arms- or explosives-smuggling tunnels or that Corrie and the other ISM volunteers were doing other than working in front of a private Palestinian home attempting to stop its demolition. The area where the home stood is adjacent to the Gaza Strip’s southern border with Egypt, and the Israelis had been engaged for some time in clearing the entire area of all structures in order to create a clear “security zone.” Had the home Corrie was trying to protect been the cover or superstructure for an arms-smuggling tunnel, the Israelis would undoubtedly have loudly publicized this fact in order to exonerate themselves further in Corrie’s killing.
They made no such claim; nor has the owner of the home, or anyone else who lived there, ever been charged with involvement in terrorism or arms smuggling. The Israelis left the house standing for another seven months before finally demolishing it — a further indication that there was no suspicion that it hid a tunnel.
Finally, the Israeli bulldozer that killed Corrie and its companion bulldozer did not take any of the steps associated with tunnel detection. One of the eyewitnesses, who said the ISM volunteers had previously watched bulldozers search for tunnels elsewhere, testified that the procedure involved “armored drills and bomb dogs and shooting at the ground, none of which was present here.” The bulldozers at the site where Corrie was killed were clearly not searching for anything underground. See http://electronicintifada.net/.
3) Corrie’s “involvement with terrorist organizations”: This charge is the most serious lie. Corrie was never associated with any organization but the ISM and had only been in Palestine for two months before her death. The charge that the ISM is a terrorist group probably arises from a suicide bombing that occurred in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2003, six weeks after Corrie’s killing. The suicide bomber and an accomplice who survived the bombing, both carrying British passports, had reportedly attended a public memorial service for Corrie in Gaza and perhaps other ISM meetings. This gave rise to charges in the media that they were ISM volunteers. The ISM has denied any knowledge of the two individuals and stated categorically that they never posed as ISM volunteers. The ISM does not believe these individuals ever joined an ISM demonstration but has pointed out that their participation in a public demonstration or in a public memorial service would not in any case implicate the ISM in terrorism.
The ISM has never been credibly charged with terrorist activity and has never been associated with terrorism of any sort. Nor has Rachel Corrie ever been credibly associated with terrorism or any terrorist organization. See the ISM website at http://www.palsolidarity.org. For the ISM statement on the suicide bombing erroneously associated with the organization, see http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article1464.shtml.
John Greenspan’s casual charge that a dedicated, courageous young American human rights worker was a terrorist is an outrageous slander. His lies about Corrie go beyond the ordinary biased political debate common on radio talk shows, into the realm of outright lies. It is disturbing that, rather than educate himself even superficially about the Palestinian-Israeli situation, Greenspan uses his position as chairman of the board of KSFR to spout the distortions and misrepresentations he picks up from Israeli propaganda organs like The Israel Project and ignorant screeds like the Frum-Perle book.
Jeff Halper is an Israeli from whom Greenspan could learn a great deal both about the situation on the ground in Israel-Palestine and about what true justice for Palestinians as well as Israelis means, something Rachel Corrie worked for. Halper founded and heads the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which resists Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of innocent Palestinians. He lives there, he lives the conflict, he knows the situation intimately, and he has actually risked his own life lying in front of a bulldozer in order to protect a Palestinian home from demolition.
Halper had this to say about Corrie immediately after her death:
“Rachel was not an Israeli. She was, as a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a member of the international civil society, as we all are. In her actions she affirmed her responsibility for upholding the inherent dignity and equal rights of all people, including their right to a nationality. She opposed non-violently the violence that occupation does the Palestinians. The threshold of what is outrageous has reached unimaginable heights in the Occupied Territories. Little moves us anymore. The demolition of 60 Palestinian homes in the Rafah section of Gaza where Rachel worked made barely a ripple when it happened a year ago . 2400 Palestinians have died in the past two years, a quarter of them children and youth, and 22,000 have been injured. Thirty percent of Palestinian children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition. 500,000 olive and fruit trees have been uprooted or cut down. Israel is today imprisoning the Palestinians behind a 500-mile wall that is much longer, higher and more fortified than was the Berlin Wall. It’s all mind-boggling, it’s all happening before our eyes and — who cares? Rachel cared.”
How dare Greenspan use the public airwaves to spew venom on a young American who gave her life fighting for justice, on the authority of Perle and Frum, two shills for American and Israeli militarism? One can probably not hope that John Greenspan will ever become like Jeff Halper — clear-eyed about Israel and motivated by a sense of justice and fair play for both Israelis and Palestinians. But we can hope that he might stop spreading lies and stop allowing his loyalty to Israel to cloud his own sense of what is right.
June 11, 2005
TRANSCRIPT OF KSFR’S “THE RADIO CAFÉ,” 8:00-9:00 A.M., JUNE 9, 2005
[The following is a transcript of the first third of a one-hour radio program named “The Radio Café” and broadcast from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. on June 9 by KSFR-FM, a public, non-profit radio station in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The part of this program copied verbatim in the present transcript, which deals with the Palestine-Israel issue, caused controversy in Santa Fe. The rest of the program, mentioned in the first paragraph below, is not included in the transcript because it is not part of the controversy.]
John Greenspan (JG): This is The Radio Café but I am not Mary Charlotte [regular hostess of the show]. Mary Charlotte is vacationing. She will be back next Monday I believe, Mickey [an official of the station], if I’m right, and this is John Greenspan, also known as the Jazz Man. I’m going to be sitting in today. We have three guests for you. We’re going to have Megan Wachter (sp?) from The Israel Project; and then Michael Maya (sp?) from an American Bar Association project called the Center for Europe and Eurasian Law Institute and they are helping emerging democracies draft new constitutions; and we’ll hear from Jo Fischer (sp?) at the Lensic, and tell us, oh, a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes. [Editor’s note: “The Lensic” is an 800-seat theater and concert/lecture hall in Santa Fe.] Well, we’ve got a lot to cover today, so Mickey, do we have our first guest here?
Megan Wachter (MW): Right here.
JG: Okay, Megan Wachter. Good Morning.
MW: Good Morning. I didn’t know I was talking to the Jazz Man.
JG: Ah, that’s one of the many hats that I wear. All right, you are with the Israel Project, and what I’d like you to do first is just tell us your involvement with it, what it is, and, ah, the mission statement.
MW: Sure. Well, we’re based out of Washington, D.C., and we’re just about three years old now, and we are a non-profit, educational resource to the public, to the press, about Israel, about the Middle East, getting out information to the public, so the people have a real sense of what is going on over there, and have a real idea of the fact that Israel is a democracy, where all people and not just Jews but Christians and Muslims all share freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and freedom of press, and the right to vote, and the kind of information that doesn’t always make it into the press, and isn’t necessarily that widely known.
JG: Now also, although I know this may be a little bit out of the mission statement, I know from talking with Jennifer Mizrahi, who I guess was the founder –
MW: She is the founder and president –
JG: Um, you do also support very much Palestinian rights and the belief that they should have their own state and have a –
MW: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, it’s absolutely critical for peace in the region, and we at the Israel Project, and, I think, generally speaking, most people, hope for peace and a better future for both sides, and an Israel and Palestinian state living side by side, where children in Israel aren’t afraid to go to pizza parlors with their friends, and where Palestinian children are taught to grow up wanting to be doctors and lawyers and not to glorify suicide bombers.
JG: Well, I think that’s a very noble goal. Now, what I’d like to ask you first, before we get into the main thing we want to talk about — which is a workshop you’re going to be running in a few weeks — could you give us a few examples of instances where the press really got the story wrong about Israel and wherein just a lot of incorrect information got out?
MW: Well, I think — well, one thing that we try to do at the Israel Project is to give journalists credit for the fact that they have an incredibly difficult job. They’re very busy, they are always working on deadlines, short-staffed, and covering a lot of different topics, and so, at the Israel Project, we really as a policy won’t complain about stories after they hit the paper, because we just find it to be more effective and it just makes more sense frankly for us to get information to reporters before they write their stories. So, there certainly have been times when there were stories that were incorrect or didn’t portray Israel in the best light, but I’d rather really focus on a topic where I think really the press got it right, and that would be when Israel was taken to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, over the security fence. And basically, going into the trial, we knew pretty much what the outcome was going to be. We knew that there were going to be some pretty nasty things said about the security fence, and we knew that — we pretty much knew what the verdict was going to be also going in to it. But by working — and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Israel did a great job — and by working together and going to the Hague and getting press kits to the press and getting them the information, really Americans heard what the real story was, and that was that Israel built a non-violent, temporary, defensive security fence. And they heard from mothers of terrorist victims that they wished the fence didn’t have to be built, but that they hoped that this was going to save other mothers from feeling the type of pain and loss that they were. And that was the situation in which really everybody came together, and even knowing that the story might not be the best, it really came out to the American public what — what the security fence was all about.
JG: It’s my understanding that where the fence has been completed it has been 100 percent effective in stopping terrorist attacks. Is that correct?
MW: It has been incredibly, incredibly effective, and actually, we heard a story from one of these mothers that I was talking about, Lea Zur, who lost a son Asaf in a bus bombing when he was at least 16 years old, and they heard just a few months later — the fence was not complete when Asaf was killed — but a few months later, another suicide bomber tried to infiltrate their same town and was actually headed toward the school where their nephew — the same family’s nephew — was attending school, and this suicide bomber was thankfully stopped because the security fence was complete in the same spot where it hadn’t been before, and all of those children thankfully were saved.
JG: And I think it’s the hope of everybody that when the Palestinians show they can deal with terrorism and put an end to it that the fence will come down.
MW: Absolutely! And I mean, the fence it’s — like I said, a non-violent measure and it’s important for both sides — it saves lives on both sides, because, unfortunately, when there are these suicide bombers, or when Israel knows that there are these — what they call — ticking time bombs, people that are actually on their way to carry out these attacks, they have an obligation to defend their citizens, and to try to stop the person before they get there, and unfortunately there are innocent Palestinians who are killed in the crossfire, and Israel absolutely regrets the decisions and the actions that it has to take, but it’s forced to defend its citizens from that type of terrorism that’s targeting women and children in pizza parlors and schools, and the fence has decreased the bloodshed on both sides. So, absolutely.
JG: Now, let’s move on to the workshop that you’re going to be conducting in a few weeks in Washington. Tell us about that — what you hope to accomplish, and who some of the participants are going to be.
MW: Okay. Well, it’s really a great workshop, and we’ve done — this is our second year now. It’s the second annual alternate seminar for pro-Israel advocates, and it’s in Washington, D.C. from June 26th to 27th, and it’s just a wonderful opportunity for people to come together and really learn from such top experts and, and hear from the press how it is that people should interact with the press and, and what you can do better to have your voice heard, and how it is that you should explain things that you really care about. What is really the factual information and how it is that you can express yourself to Americans and to your friends and to your family and to the press, in letters to the editor and on talk-radio shows and things like that. How is it that you talk about something that you really care about these days?
JG: All right. Who are some of the people who will be conducting the workshops?
MW: Okay, well, Ambassador Ayalon will be — Israel’s ambassador to the United States will be one of our keynote speakers. We have Stan Greenburg, who was Clinton’s strategist and pollster, who’s phenomenal. There’s Neil Newhouse, actually did George W. Bush’s reelection polling, and Cliff May, the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Frank Luntz, another fantastic strategist and pollster; and those are some of the real top experts, and you can see it — really, it runs the gamut. It’s non-partisan. It’s — you’re hearing from people that are the top experts in their field, but definitely sit on both sides of the aisle and this is something where they really come together and really feel passionate about. And we also are going to hear from members of the press. Bill Kristol will be there, the editor of the Weekly Standard, to really give insight into what it is the press wants to hear from you, why it is that they pick up the phone for one person, and how you really develop that relationship, and get them useful information that hopefully they can use. I mean, the American people are really — they’re a smart group of people, you know, and we feel very strongly that if you just give them the information, they’ll make up their minds, and they’re going to be critical of some things and supportive of others, but if they have the facts and the information, then they’re going to come to a decision and be supportive of Israel.
JG: Now, let me just tell our listeners that we are speaking with Megan Wachter of the Israel Project. This is the Santa Fe Radio Café, and we have two more guests coming up. In a few moments we’ll be hearing from Michael Maya of the Center for European and Eurasian Law Institute, but your workshop that’s going to be held, could you give us the dates and the location of where it’s going to be held?
MW: Sure. It is in Washington, D.C., and that’s June 26th and 27th and there’s lots of information about it up on our website — it’s www.TheIsraelProject.org. It really is going to be a great time for people of all levels and interest to come together and learn how to speak about a democracy that shares the same values as America and hope for the future really for a better time and a more peaceful time for both Israelis and Palestinians.
JG: Now, as I understand it, for a while, at least until things change in Afghanistan, or at least change in Iraq, Israel was the only country in the Middle East where Arab women could vote. Is that correct?
MW: Yes, yes, absolutely. Arab women — I mean, a lot of people don’t know that one-fifth of Israel’s population are Arab, and they share the exact same rights as for women that can vote, and have freedom of speech, and freedom of press, and it really is an incredible democracy that’s struggling with terrorism, but still, a democracy in a very volatile region.
JG: Okay. Let me, ah, let me have you give that website again for the Israel Project.
MW: Sure. It’s www.TheIsraelProject.org.
JG: Okay, now, we’re going to wrap it up, ah, but just a couple of things I want to ask you. What do you do in a situation, for example, where all kinds of reports went out about the quote-unquote massacre at Jenin, which it turned out never happened. Is there a way to deal with a situation where, you know, the horse has gotten out of the barn –
MW: [Interrupts] — Right. –
JG: How do you handle — or, another one — Rachel Corrie, who was accidentally killed by a bulldozer, and we were told that she was trying to stop the demolition of houses. Well, it turned out she was actually trying to stop the demolition of tunnels that were used by terrorists to smuggle explosives into Israel, that she herself was apparently very much involved in some terrorist organizations — but — when something of that gets out very quickly — could you do anything to counter that?
MW: I think you just have to keep reinforcing and getting out the right information and the truthful information and, like I said, the fact that Israel is a democracy and the painful sacrifices that they are making for peace and that they’ve made in the past. I mean, they gave back the Sinai for peace in Egypt. In August we’re going to see Israel totally disengaging out of Gaza, moving 8,000 settlers and shutting down settlements in the West Bank also. I mean, they’re digging up graves of victims of terrorism and moving them because they won’t be safe in Gaza — and moving them close to where the families are being relocated. I mean, really, really painful sacrifices that Israel’s making that I think — really those are the things that make an impression on the American public, that they understand and can really see the struggle that they’re making, and the hope that they have for the future, and that sometimes the story comes and it’s not right or it’s not what you wanted to see but the real important things that get out to the American public are the major things that they know and they understand, and that’s why America continues to support this amazing democracy.
JG: Well, Megan Wachter, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us –
MW: [Interrupts] Thanks for having me –
JG: And again, we wish you good luck and of course we hope for peace in the Middle East. I understand, by the way, the last hurdle — legal hurdle — was cleared today. The Israeli Supreme Court refused to block the implementation of the withdrawal from Gaza, and I’m sure not everybody’s going to go quietly, but hopefully this’ll be accomplished, and hopefully it will eventually lead to some, ah — you know, it’s a first step on the road to some peace.
MW: Absolutely. Hope so.
JG: Okay, well, thank you very much for speaking with us.
MW: Thank you. We hope to see you and your listeners in June.
JG: All right.
JG: And, ah, Mickey, I guess we have a musical selection…..
End of Transcript
Additional sources on Jenin:
For extensive coverage of the Jenin story, see the New York Times and the Washington Post virtually every day from April 9, when Israel finally began to allow the media in to the refugee camp, through the end of that month.
For details on relief agencies’ inability to reach Jenin to bring relief supplies and assist the wounded, see the Washington Post, April 11, 2002 and the New York Times, April 16. On the inability of journalists to get in, see the same Post article, as well as several British television reports quoted in the book Bad News from Israel by Greg Philo and Mike Berry, pp. 192-194.
For a description of the IDF using a civilian as a human shield, see a British television report quoted in Bad News from Israel, p. 194.
For descriptions of the massive destruction of apartment buildings, of people killed inside their demolished homes, of the smell of decomposing bodies coming from piles of rubble, of people shot inside their homes, see coverage for the entire month in the Washington Post, the New York Times, various British newspapers, and Ha’aretz, among others. Particularly descriptive are the Washington Post, April 12, 2002; the New York Times, April 16 and 18, 2002; and the London Observer, April 21, 2002. The Observer article, emphasizing what it calls the “act of physical erasure” in the Jenin refugee camp, is particularly noteworthy and is included in full as Appendix 2a.
The Washington Post article of April 16, also noteworthy, says,
“The heart of this battered Palestinian shantytown of 13,000 inhabitants has been erased from the face of the earth, its maze of apartment houses and twisting streets bulldozed by the Israeli military into a vast crater of broken concrete. The crater — about the size of two square city blocks — lies at the end of a dusty river of destruction that looks as if it swept through in a fierce flood, taking with it sad souvenirs from the homes and lives it obliterated: a hand-knit blue sweater, a lace window curtain, cooking pots, a car sliced in half….For four days, the military pummeled the camp with rockets, missiles and artillery shells fired from U.S.-provided AH-64 Apache helicopters and tanks. Houses throughout the camp were sprayed with bullets and gouged with gaping holes. Not a single glass window appeared to have survived the onslaught.”
Also of particular note is an article in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot on May 31, 2002 (translated from Hebrew by the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom), which carries a long interview with an Israeli reservist, nicknamed Kurdi Bear, who drove a Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer for 75 hours with no break, demolishing houses and apartments in the refugee camp, drinking whiskey to keep himself awake. He was considered, according to the interviewer, “the most devoted, brave and probably the most destructive operator. A man that the Jenin camp inquiry committee would want very much to have a word with.” With considerable understatement, the interviewer describes Kurdi Bear’s story as “far from being a regular war myth.”
Referring to an ambush set by Palestinian militants on April 9, in which 13 Israeli soldiers were killed, Kurdi Bear says, “The moment I drove the tractor into the camp, something switched in my head. I went mad….All that remained was the anger over what had happened to our guys.” He talks about being told to “open a track” through the narrow alleys, meaning to “erase” buildings on both sides because the bulldozer was wider than the alley. For three days, he boasts, “I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area. Any house that they fired from came down. And to knock it down, I tore down some more. They were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house before I came, but I gave no one a chance. I didn’t wait….I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible….Others may have restrained themselves, or so they say. Who are they kidding? Anyone who was there, and saw our soldiers in the houses, would understand they were in a death trap. I thought about saving them. I didn’t give a damn about the Palestinians….I didn’t see, with my own eyes, people dying under the blade of the D-9, and I didn’t see houses falling down on live people. But if there were any, I wouldn’t care at all. I am sure people died inside these houses, but it was difficult to see, there was lots of dust everywhere, and we worked a lot at night. I found joy with every house that came down, because I knew they didn’t mind dying, but they cared for their homes. If you knocked down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people for generations. If I am sorry for anything, it is for not tearing the whole camp down….[A]fter the fighting was over, we got orders to pull our D-9’s out of the area, and stop working on our ‘football stadium’ [his term for the large area he was clearing of all structures] because the army didn’t want the cameras and press to see us working. I was really upset.”
The Observer (U.K.)
April 21, 2002
Brutal, yes. Massacre, no.
Jenin will not give up its mysteries until more of the bodies have been found. But Israel will struggle to defend itself against the mounting evidence of the suffering its soldiers inflicted on the camp’s civilian population. It is easy to be distracted by the presence of the bodies. On Friday, in their white plastic shrouds, they were stacked like stinking chords of wood outside the main hospital in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Some had been collected from where they had been hastily buried in the back gardens of the refugee camp’s least damaged sections, then sprayed with perfume to make the job less awful for those who had to handle them. Others had been collected from their temporary mass grave made by the doctors in a yard outside the hospital. They were all waiting for reburial in a common grave. By their very weight of numbers laid out on the ground – almost 30 on this afternoon – they suggested themselves as victims of a massacre.
But a massacre – in the sense it is usually understood – did not take place in Jenin’s refugee camp. Whatever crimes were committed here – and it appears there were many – a deliberate and calculated massacre of civilians by the Israeli army was not among them.
And if a massacre did not take place, what did happen in Jenin?
It is a question that will weigh heavily on the future of Israeli and Palestinian relations. Yesterday Israel promised to co-operate with a United Nations fact-finding mission to Jenin, saying it had nothing to hide. Both sides have moved quickly to appropriate the story of Jenin as part of their national narratives of victimhood – the same narratives that have fed the increasingly bloody conflict.
For Israelis, Jenin camp is the ‘Capital of the Suicide Bombers’, a place that has sent almost a quarter of the bombers who have plagued Israel’s towns and cities. It is a place where 13 Israeli soldiers died, in a single bloody incident: the West Bank’s own ‘heart of darkness’. For Palestinians, Jenin refugee camp is the place that fought to the bitter end, a symbol of resistance, whose civilians were punished with the destruction of their homes for standing up to, and bruising, Israel’s military might.
One thing, however, is beyond question: that the soldiers of Israel carried out an act of ferocious destruction, unparallelled in Israel’s short history, against an area of civilian concentration where Palestinian fighters were based.
And what will settle whether what happened in Jenin camp was a war crime is the relationship between those civilians and the Palestinian fighters. For increasingly at issue is a simple distinction. If the refugee camp at Jenin was a population centre that simply harboured fighters – that had fighters in its midst – then, say human rights advocates, Israel had a duty of care during its attack towards the civilians resident there under international law.
But if Jenin camp could be proved to be something else, say lawyers for the army, the Geneva Convention might not apply. Already Israel is working hard to define why the destruction in Jenin was something ‘other’ – exempt from the Convention.
It is that something ‘other’ that Israeli legal sources advising the army are desperately now trying to establish in international opinion. The refugee camp at Jenin, they say, had become an ‘armed camp’, booby-trapped and organised for fighting. It is a place, they argue, where the civilian population was effectively being held hostage under military orders. In those circumstances, the Israeli lawyers argue, the laws of war should not, and must not, apply.
It is an argument that holds little water with those who lost their homes. I meet Khalil Talib amid the camp’s ruins on Friday, digging with a mattock to retrieve his bedding from the ruins of his house. Talib is 70. His daughters drag cushions and blankets from the dirt. If Talib is a terrorist, then he is an old and frail one. For at heart of the question of whether Jenin was a war crime are not the bodies stacked at the main hospital. It is what happened to the homes of those like Talib.
For even as the hunt for the bodies goes on, it is increasingly clear from evidence collected by this paper and other journalists, that the majority of those so far recovered have been Palestinian fighters from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the al-Aqsa Brigades. Certainly, civilians died. But so far they are in the minority of those who perished.
At the excavation of the bodies at the hospital for reburial, I meet Yassin Fayed whose two brothers, Amjad, aged 30, and Muhammad, 21, both fighters with Hamas, are among the dead. He says they were executed after their arrest by Israeli soldiers, but this is impossible to check. He makes no bones that they were fighting before they died. Elsewhere we come across a bulldozer searching through the rubble for three bodies. The men digging tell me they are trying to recover bodies of dead fighters.
And the tales of civilian slaughter are simply less credible in their accounts. Mr G, as he asks me to call him, tells me that a handicapped boy was ‘buried alive by the Israelis’. He translates this in Arabic to the men surrounding him, and they ‘correct’ him. He tells me then that, in fact, five handicapped residents of the camp were buried by Israel’s bulldozers.
I hear many accounts like this. Numbers of the missing and the dead that will not bear scrutiny, horror stories that are impossible to check, and in some cases, in all likelihood, concocted. Colleagues tell me too of being told of the death of so-and-so by neighbours, only to meet him or her alive and well.
All of which brings the focus back to the sheer intensity of the devastation of the camp.
You see it the moment you enter what once was the heart of Jenin camp. The aerial photographs of the demolition of the centre of the camp, produced by the Israeli army, do not convey the shock of what you see. Filmed from above – a place the size of several football pitches where over 100 houses once stood – is rendered a blank and texture-less expanse.
On the ground, however, it is the detail of ordinary life destroyed that catches the eye. Tangled mounds of concrete and reinforcing rods climb up a gentle slope. The eye alights on a shoe here, the leg of a doll, bedding, pages from the Koran, pictures and shards of broken mirror. It is, somehow, most shocking at the very the edges of the devastation where the destruction is partial. Here whole walls of buildings have been peeled off to reveal the still occupied homes inside – pictures, beds and bathrooms – daily life stripped bare.
The true crime of Jenin camp is this act of physical erasure. It is covered by Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention in its prohibition on ‘the extensive destruction or unlawful appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity committed either unlawfully or wantonly.’ Article 147 mentions other crimes that may be applicable to Jenin: the alleged taking of hostages for human shields by the Israelis; the same army’s refusal of access for humanitarian and emergency medical assistance and the deliberate targeting of civilians, particularly by Israeli snipers. But it is the sheer scale of the destruction that Israel will most likely have to answer for.
I am reminded of this prohibition on ‘wanton destruction’ of civilian homes by Miranda Sissons, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, whom I meet walking through the rubble and who has the Fourth Geneva Convention on her Palm Pilot. She is with Manaf Abbas, a human rights worker with the Palestinian human rights group al-Haq.
‘Whether or not there appears to have been any mass killing here,’ says Sissons, who appears inclined to be cautious of this claim until better evidence is provided, ‘there have been very serious violations of the rules of war that need to be investigated. Those key issues are the disproportionate use of force; the excessive use of force and the extensive destruction of property. There has been a total lack of respect for the rights of civilians. And those breaches are still continuing. Israel is still blocking the facilitation of humanitarian access and continuing to shoot on civilians here.’ Abbas is also cautious about using the word ‘massacre’. ‘We need to find out if those reported missing have been arrested, fled, are living with relatives – or are buried under the rubble.’
An hour later I run into into Eyad and Jawad Kassim, two brothers who lived with their family in four houses at the edge of the destruction. Eyad’s house and his mother’s have been reduced to rubble. Jawad’s still stands but one outside wall has been demolished and two missiles hit the building. Eyad and Jawad deny that they are fighters. ‘We had four homes,’ says Eyad. ‘Now they’re destroyed.’ He admits there were fighters and heavy fighting in the camp, but believes his house and those of others were destroyed as punishment for the deaths of 23 Israeli soldiers. ‘They are lying when they say there were gunmen in all of the buildings they destroyed.’ He seems a gentle man. After a while he lights a cigarette, excuses himself and walks off to cry.
‘Liar’ is the word you hear most about what happened in the refugee camp. I hear it used in almost every conversation. On Thursday on a ridge overlooking the city, Colonel Miri Esin, a senior intelligence analyst with the Israeli army, uses it with the same bitterness as Eyad Kassim. She says the ‘Palestinians are liars’ in their descriptions of what happened. She tells us the Israeli version 12 hours before the army withdraws from the camp to the city limits. The point of Esin’s presentation, I later realise, is to make the same case as the lawyers advising the army: that the destruction of the homes of men like Eyad and Fawad was not a war crime but an act ‘justified by military necessity’ – an act, in other words, exempt from the Geneva Convention.
She tells us the army is ‘not proud of the destruction’, that the 100 out of 1,100 homes destroyed is not ‘a lovely figure’. But Esin insists that for all the Israeli regrets the destruction was justified by the ‘harsh fighting’, the levels of resistance and infiltration by the Palestinian fighters of the camp.
But other Israeli soldiers, speaking anonymously, have a different view. Their version of events is this: the commanders of the operation were complacent. An arrest raid against the camp a month before had gone without a hitch so they assumed Jenin would be relatively easy. Instead it turned into vicious fighting on both sides. After the 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in a booby-trapped bomb and crossfire ambush, say these reservists, the soldiers simply lost control. It is a version, curiously, given credit by the Palestinian residents of the camp. For their accounts, taken together, describe a breakdown of command at the height of the fighting.
Some describe one group of soldiers calling to them to evacuate their homes before destruction then being threatened with being shot by other soldiers who insisted that a curfew was still in force. What they describe is a panic that seems to have taken hold of the Israeli army in Jenin camp, and in its panic it laid the camp to waste.
But panic is not an excuse for gross violations of human rights. And as international pressure mounts for a full investigation of what happened in Jenin camp, many insist it must go beyond President George Bush’s calls for an inquiry ‘to find the facts’.
Two British lawyers in Jerusalem – Patrick O’Connor QC and Olivia Holdsworth – are investigating violations of human rights in the present campaign. O’Connor is tough in his assessment. ‘The duty to investigate state responsibility for events such as the Jenin incursion is triggered by credible allegations of violations of fundamental human rights. That investigation must be prompt and effective. It must be capable of leading to the prosecution and punishment of those responsible.’
Kathleen Christison, a former CIA political analyst, is the author of Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy and Wound of Dispossession: Telling the Palestinian Story.
Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis. He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades, CounterPunch’s new history of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. They can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.