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Commentary :: Politics
Tempest in Santa Fe: Confronting Israeli Myth-Making
22 Jun 2005
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.
http://www.counterpunch.org/christison06222005.html

June 22 , 2005
Tempest in Santa Fe
Confronting Israeli Myth-Making
By KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON

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.

Israel’s Democracy

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.

Palestinian Education

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.

Jenin

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.

Rachel Corrie

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 [2002]. 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.

APPENDIX 1

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.]

Begin transcript

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: Okay.

MW: Thanks.

JG: All right.

MW: Bye.

JG: And, ah, Mickey, I guess we have a musical selection…..

End of Transcript

APPENDIX 2

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.”

APPENDIX 2a

The Observer (U.K.)
Peter Beaumont
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 Regio

This work is in the public domain
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