Jewish World Review May 6, 2002/ 24 Iyar, 5762
of the Arab street
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Covering a war is rarely easy (though never dull), and some of the correspondents have had a particularly tough time covering the war on terror. Most of all, our friends in England and Europe.
They fell at once into the great spin machine, sending back breathless dispatches from the front about how the Americans hadn't learned anything in Vietnam and soon would fall prey to the mighty Pashtun warriors, that George W. was about to sink into the great Afghan quagmire, or if the Americans did not fall to the mighty Pashtun warriors "the brutal Afghan winter" would get them. And even if the Americans escaped the mighty Pashtun warriors and the brutal Afghan winter, they would surely be ambushed on "the angry Arab street." This would be First Manassas all over again, with the Americans, including most of all the president and his men, falling back in wild confusion to Washington.
Instead, we got the mother-in-law of all battles again, and what a sad sack of a little Arab mother she turned out to be. Jerry Rivers, aka Geraldo Rivera, hadn't even lost the crease in his expensively tailored pants before it was time to come on home. By then it was time to move on to the West Bank, where the Israelis, having decided that George W. was right, enough was enough, had moved into Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jenin to roll up the Palestinian terror machine.
What the British correspondents found in Jenin was not a massacre, but hysteria, and of their own making. It was breathless reporting of the worst human-rights atrocity since the Dutch took charge at Srebrenica, as Mark Steyn of Toronto's National Post wrote in a mocking send-up of the London papers, "but you can't help noticing a curious sameness."
We were assured by the London scribes that "hundreds" of Palestinians were massacred by the Israelis, so you might think there would have been dozens of witnesses, scores of survivors and hundreds of angry relatives, but the British correspondents could find only one, so they all quoted him. The Times of London described him as "Kamal Anis, a labourer." The Independent (the shrillest Fleet Street critic of America) identified him as "a quiet, sad-looking man called Kamal Anis," and only the Telegraph got specific: "Kamal Anis, 28 ..."
Mr. Anis, whoever he was, turned out to be an unreliable witness, because there was no massacre at Jenin. What there was was a fierce fight between armed men, fighting each other with weapons that kill people and break things. It was a fair fight but not an even fight. The poorly trained and poorly motivated Palestinians, who took cover amongst the women and children of Jenin, were no match for the highly trained and highly motivated Israeli Defense Force.
The casualties taken by both sides should have given the lie early on to the Palestinian accusation of "massacre." The Israelis suffered 33 dead, 13 of them in a single ambush, when they refrained from calling in heavy fire lest they kill civilians. The Palestinians suffered 56 dead by their own count, finally conceded by Kadoura Mousa Kadoura, the director of Yasser Arafat's Fatah in the northern reaches of the West Bank.
This startling admission, reported in The Washington Times and largely ignored by other media, led to the dismissal of a United Nations "fact-finding" team that was originally scheduled to go into Jenin to find out what had happened. But with the Palestinian admission that the massacre stories were so much bunk, Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary-general, didn't see much point in trying to slip his ringers - men like Cornelio Sommaruga of the International Red Cross who make no pretense of impartiality - past the Israelis.
The correspondents who finally inspected the "massacre" site in Jenin hardly recognized it. In the television footage the entire refugee camp looked to be flattened, an impression the television reporters, desperate for dramatic "visuals," did not discourage.
Here's the cool description by correspondent Paul Martin in this newspaper: "The destruction, pictured graphically on television, appeared linked to Israeli bulldozing of the houses from which the remnant of the resistance forces were firing. In fact, it covers the size of a large football field and constitutes only about 10 percent of the housing in the camp, and a far smaller proportion of housing in the city, which was largely left untouched by the Israeli incursion."
The most embarrassing footnote to this episode comes
from the Palestinians in Jenin. They now tell the
correspondents that only about 10 percent of the Palestinian
fighters stayed to engage the Israelis. The rest fled to the
nearby hills at the first sound of the guns. There was shame
aplenty in the story of what happened in Jenin, and how the
story was told, but none of it was shame on the