Amnesty International finally came out with a long-awaited report about the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) war crimes during attacks on the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin and the West Bank city of Nablus earlier this year. But I’ve seen these reports before and what got my attention was a report by USA Today discussing Israel’s secret key role in U.S. preparations for possible war with Iraq by helping to train soldiers and Marines for urban warfare é this according to U.S. Defense and intelligence officials.
This is deeply alarming given that Israeli soldiers committed serious human rights violations — unlawful killings; torture and ill-treatment of prisoners; wanton destruction of hundreds of homes sometimes with the residents still inside; the blocking of ambulances and denial of humanitarian assistance; and the use of Palestinian civilians as “human shields.”
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 camps. In private, Peres referred to the battle as a “massacre.”
IDF officers also expressed grave reservations over the operation in Jenin. “Because of the dangers,” they said, “the soldiers are almost not advancing on foot. The bulldozers are simply ‘shaving’ the homes and causing terrible destruction. When the world sees the pictures of what we have done there, it will do us immense damage.”
And there was immense public relations damage to Israel when the world was finally able to see the devastation. Of course, the IDF had time to do some cleaning up, but the stench of corpses was enough to wake the dead. Some bodies of the elderly, women, and children were pulled from under the rubble. 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?
A United Nations (UN) investigation was soon ordered. Excuse after excuse was given by the Israelis to bungle the investigation. They didn’t like the makeup of the investigative team; they wanted an investigation done of the Palestinians, etc. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was so exasperated that the investigation was called off.
President George Bush’s spokesman, Ari Fleischer, had said, “The president has called for the United Nations and the Red Cross to be permitted to have unhindered access to Jenin. The President believes what’s important is transparency so all the facts can be developed.” Yet, 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.
Sharon thanked the US government for scuttling an investigation into what happened when Israel’s army invaded a refugee camp? Is it just me or do any other Americans feel insulted by Sharon’s “appreciation?” 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 Fleischer, on January 27, refused to answer questions about it. He stated that he “does not respond to reports with no names attached.”
Interestingly, 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,” Gissen said. In fact, “the real problem is those who refuse to serve,” Gissen continued.
Such an admission should have raised the antennas of the world’s public about the murders and devastation that Israel would later wreak. US antennas, in particular, should have been raised and turned into STOP signs. Instead, our response has been to roll out the unending red carpet for Ariel Sharon; to provide weaponry for Israeli incursions into refugee camps, like Jenin; and to aid Israel in avoiding accountability for its actions.
Now, we send our troops to train and learn from those not above studying the Nazi Warsaw Ghetto strategy? How shallow the lessons of 9/11 have become.
Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.