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The "Massacre" in Jenin

By the spring of 2002, deadly suicide bombings within Israel had become an almost daily occurrence. These attacks culminated with the "Passover Massacre" of March 27. A terrorist walked into the dining room of the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya and set off a bomb, killing 29 people and injuring 140 others, just as they were preparing to begin their Passover celebration.(1)

Unable to tolerate the daily murder of its civilians, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield (March 29 - April 21, 2002). The purpose of the operation was to enter those Palestinian towns that had become centers of terrorism and do whatever was possible to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

The city of Jenin had become a major terrorist center and the origin of dozens of suicide bombings. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad were all very active in Jenin and had carried out numerous shooting and bombing attacks. Jenin had become a terrorist headquarters complete with bomb factories. In a captured Fatah report addressed to Marwan Barghouti the Palestinians themselves call Jenin "the suiciders' capital."(2) Defending against future attacks required Israel to move into Jenin to arrest those involved in terrorism and to confiscate their weapons.(3)

After the operation in Jenin, Palestinians claimed that a "massacre" had taken place and that the Israelis had killed more than five hundred people. This sparked international outrage and led to demands for a U.N. investigation. But eventually these claims were exposed as false, and the Palestinians themselves retracted them. Kadoura Mousa Kadoura, director of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement for the northern West Bank, reported the number of Palestinian dead at fifty-six (according to another estimate it was fifty-two), which was proportional to corresponding Israeli losses (thirty-three dead). Most of the Palestinians who died were gunmen who had booby-trapped the area to inflict Israeli casualties.(4)

The Israelis did in fact take measures to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. They warned all non-combatants to leave the area of action (which, by the way, took place within only ten percent of Jenin proper, and not the entire town as many misleading reports and photos seemed to suggest [5]). Also, instead of employing massive artillery barrages or bombing from the air as America did in Afghanistan, they sent ground troops searching house-to-house, which resulted in the loss of several Israeli lives.(6)

Here is just one report:

Well before the dust had settled, the siege of Jenin had become a symbol of Israeli brutality throughout the Arab world and beyond.

Palestinian leaders said 500 of their people had been killed when Israeli troops invaded the West Bank refugee camp. There was talk of massacres and mass graves of the kind seen in Bosnia in the 1990s....

As for the infamous Israeli massacre, reporters who visited Jenin trying to document it came up empty-handed. The New York Times did dozens of interviews and found "no solid evidence of large-scale, deliberate killing of civilians." The Washington Post said "no evidence has surfaced to support allegations by Palestinian groups and aid organizations of large-scale massacres or executions by Israeli troops."...

Israel did not go into Jenin for nothing. Palestinian extremists from hate-mongering groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad had turned it into a launching pad for terror attacks on Israel. Before the Israeli invasion, the camp was a warren of bomb-making factories and terrorist hideouts.

More than 20 of the suicide bombers who have attacked Israel during the recent violence came from there....

If Israel were as ruthless as its critics say, it would have done to Jenin what the Russians did to the Chechen capital of Grozny. It would have used its superior firepower and pounded the place to rubble with warplanes, tanks and artillery.

Instead, Israel sent its soldiers into the narrow and dangerous streets to search house by house - a tactic that reduced civilian casualties but put its own men in extreme danger. Twenty-three were killed, making the invasion one of the most costly military operations for Israel since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Only after those deaths did the army send in bulldozers to knock down the booby-trapped buildings where terrorists were hiding, and even then it made frequent announcements by loud-hailer that civilians would be allowed to leave, as some did.

That is considerably more than Hamas does when it dispatches killers to blow themselves up in Israeli buses, banquet halls and cafés. Yet militant leaders have the gall to blame Israel for attacking non-combatants....

If anyone is to blame for the destruction visited on Jenin, it is not the Israelis, who are fighting a just, defensive war against terrorism and hate.

It is the Palestinian militants who turned Jenin into a terror base and, when the Israelis came to get them, hid among civilians for protection.(7)

The Palestinians have told many lies about Jenin in order to sway public opinion. One of their most celebrated lies involved staging a phony funeral of a "victim" of the so-called Jenin "massacre," in order to create an exaggerated impression of the number of Palestinian casualties. A film of the event shows a funeral procession carrying a body draped in a green sheet. The people carrying the body accidentally drop it, and the figure in the sheet gets up and runs away.(8)

Creating and spreading falsehoods to manipulate the news is an all-too-common tactic in the continuing Arab war against Israel.

But there are even greater ironies surrounding the episode of Jenin. Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit that fought in Jenin, has reported (and his report was confirmed) that not only did the Israelis not perpetrate a massacre, they worked to keep the hospital in Jenin open. They even offered blood to the wounded Palestinians.(9)

The Palestinians refused the blood because it was Jewish.

In response, the Israelis flew in 2,000 units of blood from Jordan by helicopter. They also made sure that additional units of blood reached hospitals in Ramallah and Tulkarem, and they facilitated the delivery of 1,800 units of anti-coagulants brought in from Morocco.(9)

In the Middle East it is common to stand language on its head and call it the truth. The Palestinians do their best to slaughter Israeli civilians, they accuse the Israelis of perpetrating a massacre that never happened, and they even refuse to accept Jewish blood to treat their wounded. Meanwhile the Palestinians call the Israelis Nazis, and the world turns its back, blaming Israel for the impasse and wondering why those Jews can't make peace.

March 2005


1. "Passover Suicide Bombing at Park Hotel in Netanya, March 27, 2002," Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2. "Jenin: The Capital of the Palestinian Suicide Terrorists," Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies.

3. IDF Spokesman, "Jenin's Terrorist Infrastructure," Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

4. Paul Martin, "Jenin ‘Massacre’ Reduced to Death Toll of 56," Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

5. "Aerial Photographs of Jenin, April 2002," Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

6. "What Really Happened in Jenin?," Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, May 2, 2002.

7. Marcus Gee, "What Really Happened? The Myth of Jenin Grows," Toronto Globe and Mail, April 27, 2002.

8. Marcus Gee, "IDF: Tape Shows Palestinians Faked Funeral,", May 3, 2002.

9. Daniel Gordon, "A Question of Blood," Los Angeles Jewish Journal, May 24, 2002. For more on lies about Jenin, see by the same author, "How the Times Distorted Jenin," Los Angeles Jewish Journal, May 3, 2002.

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