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ARABS NEED THE TRUTH ABOUT JENIN



Published: Fri, August 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



ARABS NEED THE TRUTH ABOUT JENIN

St. Petersburg Times: The United Nations has set the record straight. There was no massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli military inside a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin.

The April incursion by the Israelis into areas previously controlled by the Palestinian Authority was part of a military operation dubbed Operation Defensive Shield. It had been prompted by a horrific suicide attack during a Passover seder in which 29 people died and 140 were wounded. The Israelis sought to re-occupy the camp in search of Palestinian terrorists and weapons caches, but militants put up armed resistance. In the aftermath, Palestinians claimed upward of 500 of their own had died in a bloody slaughter. This accusation echoed around the world, raising international anger and condemnation, particularly from countries in the Arab world.

But in a report released last week, the United Nations says the Israeli army's stated figures were the correct ones. Fifty-two Palestinians died during the fighting in Jenin, as well as 23 Israeli soldiers. Because of varying reports, the U.N. investigators hesitated in labeling the Palestinians who were killed as noncombatants, saying only that up to half "may have been civilians."

Misinformation

While the report laid blame for unnecessary human suffering on both sides, it also demonstrated the degree of misinformation generated by the Palestinians following the incursion. The fact is, there was no wholesale massacre of civilians as Israel had maintained all along, but it is doubtful this finding will be given the same credence on the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera as was the initial inflammatory charge.

The U.N. report was cautious. It drew conclusions from evidence gathered by a number of human rights groups, because a fact-finding mission on the ground was blocked by Israel over concern about bias.

According to the report, Israel used powerful weapons in a densely populated civilian community, blocked aid workers and medical personnel from serving needy Palestinians and destroyed Palestinian homes without a military purpose. Alternatively, the report accused Palestinian terrorist groups of using civilian areas in violation of international law, apparently referring to the use of the Jenin camp to hide combatants, munitions laboratories and weapons.

The report also noted Israel's claims that ambulance and medical services were slowed because they had been used in the past to transport terrorists. And it confirmed the Israeli assertion that buildings had been booby-trapped by Palestinian militants. This is the reason, said Israelis, the process of conducting house-to-house searches caused such damage.

The Israelis may not have conducted the most humane military operation in Jenin, but they didn't engage in a massacre. This is news the Arab world needs to hear.

THE AL AND JOE ROUTINE

San Francisco Chronicle: Here we go again.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore couldn't decide whether he wanted to be seen with President Clinton.

Now Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman are giving us a repeat performance of that tortured "should I or shouldn't I" routine.

Like Clinton and Gore, Gore and Lieberman once professed their love for another. But now they're quarreling openly. It's all about "the people versus the powerful," says Gore. No, it's not, Lieberman responds. It's about being fiscally responsible, pro-growth and pro-middle class.

No replays, please

Al and Joe, go to see a counselor. Express your feelings -- in private -- and decide what you are going to do. But please spare us a replay of the agonizing between Gore and Clinton during the last campaign.

If the Al and Joe routine is any glimpse of what the Democratic campaign for president might look like -- President Bush will be able to really relax in Crawford, Texas.

Trust Democrats to start squabbling long before the presidential campaign has even started.




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