The Lost Lessons of 9/11 and the New UN Jenin report


Israel’s war is our war, or so it has repeatedly been said by pro-Israeli analysts on various news shows.

When Israel gets out of line and receives the occasional US slap on the hand, the response is that the Israelis are fighting the kind of terror that the Americans are fighting in Afghanistan. Setting aside the fact that Israel’s illegal Occupation of the Palestinian Territories is resulting in the violence and setting aside the fact that we were victims on 9-11 and the Israelis have deprived liberty to an entire population, let us examine the lessons of 9-11 in the face of the new United Nations (UN) report on the Jenin events of Spring, 2002.

As Executive Director Hanny Megally of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch stated only days ago, “The report doesn’t move us forward in terms of establishing the truth.”

“Its watered-down account of the very serious violations in Jenin exposes the risk of compiling a report without any first-hand information.”

Background facts? A UN fact-finding mission had been forced to disband after Israel objected to a UN investigation into the Israeli invasion of the Jenin refugee camp this past spring. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was then given the responsibility of putting a report together. Annan gathered information from existing sources. However, the report was hindered further when the government of Israel did not fulfill the UN’s request for information.

The report makes a few references to the obligations of the parties under international law but does not raise the issue of accountability for serious violations that may have been committed, some of which rise to the level of war crimes. In all fairness, the information is strongest when dealing with the blockage of humanitarian and medical access to the camp, but the report is considered “seriously flawed” by human rights groups, in general.

The UN has acknowledged that it did not even visit Jenin — unlike Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. This is akin to solving a murder mystery without going to the scene of the crime.

Interestingly, Israelis have said all along that any report by the UN would be “seriously flawed.” Not surprisingly, many are now regurgitating the results for exoneration purposes.

When Israel invaded this camp of approximately 15,000, there were plentiful stories of beatings, indiscriminate murder, the demolitions of hundreds of homes, the prevention of medical personnel from reaching wounded Palestinians, the prevention of much-needed relief supplies from reaching Palestinians, as well as the prevention of media coverage é sometimes even resulting in Israeli soldiers shooting at journalists.

According to Israel’s Ha’aretz, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was very worried about the expected international reaction as soon as the world learned the details of the tough battle in the Jenin refugee camp. In private, Peres referred to the battle as a “massacre.”

How many bodies were there exactly? And what about the Israeli truck filled with bodies é the bodies that were refused burial in Israel by the Israeli High Court of Justice, as the IDF had hoped?

An investigation into Jenin was ordered to answer these and other questions. Despite President Bush’s plea that “the United Nations and the Red Cross be permitted to have unhindered access to Jenin,” no such investigation took place. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, openly thanked the American government for ultimately scuttling the proposed UN investigation in Jenin. His remarks were made only hours before he met President Bush in the White House.

And only months earlier, an anonymous IDF officer’s shocking confession was reported in a January 25 article by veteran Ha’aretz reporter Amir Oren. The officer had admitted that IDF officers were studying the Nazi Warsaw Ghetto strategy.

A journalist at a White House press conference raised this admission. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, on January 27, refused to answer questions about it. He stated that he “does not respond to reports with no names attached.”

But Sharon spokesman Ra’anan Gissen had no problem answering the question. “Some officers may have been looking at that. They thought that it was similar, because you would be fighting street-by-street against the Palestinian Authority.”

Such an admission should have raised the antennas of the world’s public about the murders and devastation that Israel would later wreak. Instead, our response has been to roll out the unending red carpet for Ariel Sharon; to provide weaponry for Israeli invasions into refugee camps, like Jenin; and to aid Israel in avoiding accountability for its actions . . .leaving one to wonder whether the lessons of 9-11 have been lost.

Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.

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