Massacres, non-massacres, and fake burials in Jenin

May 05, 2002


1. "IDF films Palestinians staging fake burials" (Ha'aretz, May 4, 2002)
2. "The real war crime" (New York Post, May 3, 2002)
3. President Katsav to Vatican: Church of Nativity cannot serve as refuge for terrorists and murderers (May 2, 2002)


[Note by Tom Gross]

Please note the underwhelming lack of press coverage and interest by the European Union in the brutal massacre last Wednesday evening of 34 civilians in their nearby Moslem neighbor, Algeria. The massacre took place in Teyart, 240 km southwest of the capital Algiers.

Below are three articles. Here is a summary for those who don't have time to read them:

(1) A report from Ha'aretz about how the IDF filmed Palestinians staging fake burials in Jenin on April 28 as part of an effort in advance of the now-canceled UN fact-finding mission to suggest that a massacre occurred there. Although, as Ha'aretz points out, the IDF presented copies of the film to the foreign media, you will be hard pressed to find international television networks that broadcast this footage, or reporters that wrote on it.


(2) An article by retired military officer Ralph Peters in The New York Post about how a "terrible war crime" in violation of international law has been committed in the West Bank the occupation of the Church of the Nativity by armed gunmen. Peters says that this move was "planned well in advance, as any veteran would recognize". He adds that the failure of the international community to condemn the taking of hostages in a church will have "far-reaching and heartbreaking consequences."

"We" as "Christians" should care not only because of the lack of "respect for the sanctity of the shrine" but because the Palestinian Authority "just set a precedent" and "got away with it." The result, he says, "will be future occupations of churches and synagogues" elsewhere.


(3) An Israel government press release: President Moshe Katsav told Pope John Paul II's special emissary that "the break-in to the Church of the Nativity by armed terrorists is both a war crime and a violation of international law." Archbishop Pietro Sambi did not comment on this, but did praise the IDF for supplying food and aid to the residents of the area. "You have soldiers who exhibit the highest human values", the papal envoy told the president.

-- Tom Gross



IDF films Palestinians staging fake burials
By Amos Harel, Ha'aretz Defense Correspondent
May 4, 2002

The Israel Defense Forces has documented Palestinians staging fake burials in Jenin, with the army charging they were part of a Palestinian propaganda effort in advance of the now-canceled UN fact-finding mission to the refugee camp. The fake burials, the IDF says, were an attempt to "prove" that there were many more Palestinians killed than actually were in the fighting there last month.

Yesterday, Colonel Miri Eisen, head of field intelligence for land forces in the IDF, presented a film shot from a military drone on April 28 and showing a group of Palestinians carrying a man on a stretcher. The man was covered with a shroud, as if he was a corpse, and among the group accompanying him was a cameraman.

But the film shown to the foreign press clearly shows how the stretcher falls and the "corpse" gets up on his own, and then gets back on the stretcher as it advances. After the second fall, the "corpse," apparently disgusted with the incompetence of the stretcher bearers, walks off in a huff.

"The film speaks for itself," Eisen said. "They tried to fabricate evidence of funerals to inflate the number of their dead."

Eisen said the "funeral" had taken place in the area between the destroyed section of the Jenin refugee camp and the local cemetery. She said that even before the drone had captured the staged funeral on film, the IDF had been certain that the Palestinians were staging funerals. "But nobody believed us," she said. "Now we have the proof."

According to Eisen, during the fighting, the IDF destroyed 130 buildings in Jenin, some 10 percent of the buildings in the camp, or an area slightly larger than a soccer field



The real war crime
By Ralph Peters
The New York Post
May 3, 2002

A terrible war crime has been committed in the West Bank. It will have far-reaching and heartbreaking consequences. But it has nothing to do with lies about an imaginary massacre in Jenin. The war crime - committed brazenly before a global audience - is the occupation of the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, by Palestinian terrorists.

Where is the outcry? International law forbids the parties to armed conflict from using churches, as well as hospitals, museums and monuments, for military activities. The Laws of Land Warfare are even stricter.

The United Nations, which is ever quick to condemn Israel, has been silent about this violation, even though the Palestinian actions violate the UN's own rules. The church is even under UNESCO designation as a protected site.

Even the ancient tradition of murderers, thieves and other criminals seeking sanctuary on holy ground denies them the right to take weapons into the sacred precincts. Under every single applicable code of law, as well as the custom of nations, every Palestinian who carried a gun into the Church of the Nativity, turning it into a fortress, is a war criminal.

Not one voice has been raised to condemn them.

Why? The fact is that, beyond Europe's reflexive anti-Semitism, liberal racism plays a role. Despite widespread criticism of Israel as inhumane, the world holds Israel to a much higher standard than it does any of Israel's mortal enemies.

Bluntly put, this is just a left-wing version of the pathetic old notion that "our little brown brothers" aren't really as capable or as responsible as "we" are. The motivations of Israel's critics are as disgraceful as their one-sided condemnations are unjust.

The Palestinians did not decide spontaneously, by telepathy, to gather in the Church of the Nativity as the Israelis approached. The action was planned well in advance, as any veteran would recognize. The church had been predesignated as a rallying point for hard-core terrorists and others who feared Israeli retaliation - doubtless with Yasser Arafat's blessing.

The immediate and well-organized occupation of one of Christianity's holiest shrines was an illegal, cynical gambit.

The Palestinians knew they could count on several things:

* First, the Israelis do observe international law, and they respect religious and cultural monuments. Unless savagely provoked, they would not even fire in the direction of the church, so the terrorists were safe from immediate capture.

* Second, despite the level of provocation from inside, any Israeli action could be portrayed as an attack on a Christian shrine.

* Third, any damage to that shrine would be blamed on the Israelis, on their tanks and firepower, by those portions of the world anxious to paint Israel as a land of devilish aggressors. In that regard, we should be prepared for an orgy of destruction on the part of the church's occupiers.

The Palestinians stole a lesson from, of all people, Gandhi, though they corrupted it hideously. Despite his litany of complaints about British inhumanity, Gandhi knew the British courts in India would never hang him, and he turned London's sense of decency and fair play - as well as the rule of law - against the British themselves. So, too, the Palestinian terrorists count on Israel's sense of decency and morality, as well as its laws, to save them from the justice they deserve.

Why does this matter to us? Apart from our emotional and spiritual ties to the site, if we are Christians? And our respect for the sanctity of the shrine, no matter our religion?

It matters because the Palestinian terrorists in Bethlehem just set a precedent. They broke all the laws and rules - and got away with it. Instead of condemning them, the world "community" has shown a tragic, nearsighted tolerance for their deed. By turning the Church of the Nativity into a gangsters' hide-out, the Palestinians placed themselves on the same level as the Taliban savages who destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas. Instead of expressing its outrage, this time the world showered the criminals with sympathy.

The result will be future occupations of churches and synagogues, the military use of hospitals, the betrayal of symbols such as the red cross and red crescent, and the inevitable destruction of cultural monuments in the name of one deluded cause or murderous movement after another. The Church of the Nativity has just been turned into the Golgotha of the remaining rules of armed conflict.

Welcome to war in the 21st century.

Ralph Peters is a retired military officer and the author of the soon-to-be-released "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World" (Stackpole).



President Katsav to Vatican emissary: Church of Nativity cannot serve as refuge for terrorists and murderers
Israel Government press release
May 2, 2002

(Communicated by the President's Spokeswoman)

President Moshe Katsav met Thursday, 2.5.2002, at his Jerusalem Residence with special Papal emissary Roger Cardinal Etchegaray, who has come to the region on a special mission regarding the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem; Vatican Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi also attended the meeting.

President Katsav told his interlocutors that the holy places and houses of worship must not become part of the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, and added the break-in to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem by armed terrorists is both a war crime and a violation of international law. The President said that the terrorists must leave the Church since nobody has the right to exploit it as a refuge or place for blackmail. Terrorists who flee into houses of worship cannot be immune from the law. While Israel has no interest in remaining in Bethlehem, it cannot allow Palestinian terrorists to go free.

President Katsav criticized the Christian world for criticizing the Israeli position regarding the Church and added that such criticism should be directed at the Palestinian Authority.

President Katsav said that he saw two possible solutions. The first would be for the Palestinians to leave the Church of the Nativity. Following short checks, they would all be released except for those terrorists who are known to have taken shelter in, seized control of, and looted it, and turned the clergy and innocent Palestinian civilians inside into hostages. The second would be for the terrorists to concentrate in one area of the church while all the other Palestinians and clergy would be released; this is so that the hostages clergy and innocent civilians who have been in the church under harsh conditions, will be released first.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi equated with a miracle the fact that the Israeli soldiers positioned around the Church of the Nativity have supplied food and aid to the residents of the area, and mainly to children. "You have soldiers who exhibit the highest human values", the Archbishop said.

At the end of the meeting President Katsav asked Cardinal Etchegaray to convey to Pope John Paul II his concern over the dramatic increase in anti-Semitism throughout the world in general, and in Europe specifically.

President Katsav expressed the wish that the Pope will act against expressions of anti-Semitism with great determination, and warned him that whereas we know how anti-Semitism begins, we do not know how it ends.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.