RE: Massacre in Jenin?
A letter submitted by UCSC student Eitan, in response to Mahmoud's defense of a recent CJP event:
First of all, thank you for taking the personal initiative to engage “our side” in a dialogue about the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Honestly, I would prefer to participate in a movement that brings young American Jews and Arabs together rather than finding myself on one side of a dividing line between the two groups. Let me also explain to you that I am not of the ilk to “demonize” people nor their motivations on any side of this conflict, because like any conflict, I see it as tragically human. Also, I want you to know that I was pleased that your response to the Jewnification Project post made pleas for “calm and critical thinking in our analysis,” approaching the conflict with “intellectual skill,” and being open “to listen to the whole answer, not the parts you want to hear.”
On this last point, I think what causes Jews and Arabs to lose a sense of their shared humanity in this conflict is the fact that each side holds a different set of facts and historical interpretations. I am quite sure, Mahmoud, that if you were born to a Jewish family, you would be advocating for Israel, and that if I were a Palestinian, I would be working with CJP.
Now, I am not going to get into a deep discussion about whose facts are right and whose are wrong. However, the closer we come to establishing an agreed-upon set of facts, the closer peace will seem to be. Likewise, the more one side falsely represents or accuses the other, the further peace will be from us.
Yesterday, I was abhorred at the sight of five young men, pretending to be dead at the hands of the “brutal and inhuman Israeli occupiers” and in full funeral regalia of a “martyr” (the same as the people who try to kill my family!). Although I accept your right to interpret reality as you see it, you or anyone else does not have full liberty to distort the truth. Any intelligent person would have gathered that the “message in imagery” that CJP was trying to convey was that Palestinians are being savagely murdered to satisfy Jewish greed in the West Bank and Gaza, and all the Arabs want is their inalienable right to self-determination. To support my point, I should highlight the fact that each “tombstone” described a massacre perpetrated on Palestinians by the evil Israelis.
Despite all that, what is worse is that one of the massacres you described (Jenin) is completely false - A TOTAL LIE. I don’t know if even the Palestinian Authority still claims it happened. Although you might say, “I’m sorry, but it was ‘just one’ mistake,” I’m sure it is emblematic of more mistakes and symptomatic of a pattern of being “loose with the truth” in order to suit your ends – even at a cost to others.
First of all, as an ardent Zionist, I do not take the accusation of being a murderer lightly. Secondly, I will assume in good faith (G-d knows why?) that the only reason CJP distributed that false information was because they did not know any better since the only information they receive is one-sided, Palestinian/Arab media. Nevertheless, in the real world, we must be held accountable for the things we do and the consequences of our mistakes whether we intended for them or not. I repeat, it is only my assumption, based on an unwillingness to believe that even my adversary would stoop so low as to conjure a lie about a massacre, that I do not believe CJP deliberately intended to deceive the people from whom they were asking for help in the name of justice and compassion.
NOW, in case you do not believe me in my claim that the Jenin massacre never occurred, let me point out some facts. First of all, according to many sources (any credible source on the planet), including MSNBC, Time magazine, and BBC news, the Jenin massacre did not occur. Additionally, Colin Powell remarked, “I see no evidence that would support a massacre at Jenin.” Of course, you might be skeptical and accuse any American news source of being motivated to distort the truth; however, in that same line of reasoning, you should also be skeptical of any Arab government’s or news source’s motivation to distort the truth for their political aims. Nonetheless, you cannot ignore that Colin Powell’s views are shared by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and the European Union– all of which are organizations that have in the past shown a strong prejudice against Israel.
It is also important to point out that Israel did not raid Jenin arbitrarily. Its raid followed a series of suicide bombings while even PA documents referred to Jenin as the “suiciders' capital.” Moreover, the false massacre accusation adds insult to injury because Israel put its soldiers in greater harm, conducting door-to-door searches, to protect as many innocent civilians as possible while they could have rather bombed it like the Americans did in a similar situation in Afghanistan.
As Islamic Jihad terrorist Tabaat Mardawi told CNN on April 23, 2002, finding out that Israel would send in soldiers instead of tanks and planes was a relief. “It was like hunting ... like being given a prize. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the soldiers,” he said. “The Israelis knew that any soldier who went into the camp like that was going to get killed.” He added: “I’ve been waiting for a moment like that for years.” Mardawi estimated that Islamic Jihad had strewn 1,000-2,000 bombs and booby traps throughout the camp.
The truth is that only 56 people died on April 17, 2002 in Jenin – 34 of whom were combatants. That means that 22 civilians were unfortunately killed, but Anyone with some intelligence can understand that “collateral damage,” though tragic, is unavoidable in our modern age of warfare. Nevertheless, I think a reasonable question to ask yourself is why do Palestinian terrorists take cover amongst civilians, use them as human shields, and endanger their own people? Why do they build weapons factories next to schools?
The U.N. Department of Foreign Affairs states: “The use of schools and clinics as detainment centers or firing points is also unacceptable.” Why is there no mention of the common practice whereby Palestinian gunmen hide in civilian areas, refugee camps and UNWRA institutions, and locate weapons factories and ammunition dumps there? Why is this widespread Palestinian practice ignored?
Onto another subject, you believe that the only true “peaceful” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a one-state, bi-national solution. Not only is that a veiled strategy to eliminate the State of Israel, it also strips away the right to self-determination from Israelis – a right Palestinians are trying to secure for themselves. Why should anyone respect Palestinians' demand for self-determination when they are so unwilling to grant that same accordance to others? Secondly, in your mind, how do you think advocating for a one-state solution advances a solution to our problems? It doesn’t! Israelis are not going to commit national suicide for a country for which they have waited almost 2,000 years and have fought four wars and endured two intifadas for. Not only is your vision of a bi-national state completely unrealistic from the perspective of our current situation, but it also forfeits a country’s (in this case Israel’s) right to maintain its national character, its culture, its heritage, and its values. Mahmoud, I suggest you research Jewish history in the diaspora as you will come to understand why having a Jewish homeland, a place where we can, without fear or doubt, express our faith and our culture freely, is so important to us.
In conclusion, Mahmoud, I wish Palestinians and Israelis could live side-by-side in peace, but I hope if peace is ever to be achieved between our two peoples that it is not a “Cold Peace” – simply an agreement to not kill each other. Instead, I hope our two peoples progress into a future of friendship and cooperation. Friendship, however, can only exist when it is based on mutual respect. Disregarding Israelis’ desire for a nation while putting Palestinian nationhood in a position of primary importance is hypocritical, and deliberately misinforming ignorant people about massacres and human rights violations is an affront to ideals of compassion and justice. Jews are a people who, as history has shown, are always taking up the cause of social justice, and I know that if the Palestinians showed a consistent desire to respect the Jewish state and live in peace and friendship with its citizens, they would find a people most happy to reciprocate. It’s 2006. We’re not going back to 1948 or 1967. It’s time to move forward and put the past behind us.