By Jerome Marcus, April 30, 2002
The United Nations is intent on investigating charges that Israeli forces violated
the human rights of Palestinians during this month’s raid on the Jenin refugee
camp. Because noncombatants were killed there, the word “massacre” is being
bandied about in the press.
Many in the “human rights community,” however, have already reached a
verdict. “When we are confronted with the extent of destruction of the Jenin
refugee camp,” says Rene Kosirnik of the International Committee of the Red
Cross, “it is difficult to accept that international humanitarian law has been
Amnesty International claims it too has evidence of human-rights abuses
Mr. Kosirnik and friends are right about one thing: International law was
violated in Jenin, and the violations should be investigated. But the law was not
broken by Israel, which has responded carefully and proportionately to the daily
murder of its citizens.
Under international law, the people violating the human rights of
Palestinian noncombatants are Palestinian terrorists, who have hidden
themselves and their weapons – without uniforms or other identifying insignia
required by the laws of war – among the civilian population of the West Bank.
In Article 58 of its Protocol relating to the Protection of Victims of International
Armed Conflicts, the Geneva Convention says those in control of territory must
“endeavor to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian
objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives; Avoid
locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas; Take the
other necessary precautions to protect the civilian population, individual
civilians and civilian objects under their control against the dangers resulting
from military operations.”
George H. Aldrich, the chief American negotiator of this treaty, has explained
that under it, “a party in control of territory” – as the Palestinians were in each
West Bank town until the Israelis defeated them – “is instructed to take all
feasible measures to protect civilians and civilian objects from the effects of
combat, largely by trying to separate them to the extent possible from military
objectives.” Such a party must therefore “avoid unnecessarily siting military
objectives near civilian dwellings.”
The Palestinian terrorists did the exact opposite. Rather than “avoid
unnecessarily siting military objectives near civilian dwellings,” they hid such
“objectives” almost exclusively in dwellings and other civilian buildings: The
bomb factories Israel found throughout the West Bank were located in homes,
schools and other civilian sites.
And rather than “trying to separate, to the extent possible, from military
objectives,” the Palestinians went out of their way to hide military objectives
behind, in, around and under civilian (and even humanitarian) objectives.
The ambulance containing the bomb belt; the pregnant young woman in
“labor” who turns out to be about to give birth to a bomb – these are the most
explicit possible violations of the international human rights of the population in
whose midst these military objectives are hidden.
In a post-battle interview with the Cairo weekly Al-Ahram, an Arab bomb maker
named “Omar” proudly laid out the Palestinians’ strategy of militarizing homes:
“We had more than 50 houses booby-trapped around the camp,” he said.
Unarmed women lured Israeli soldiers to their deaths.
The Palestinians used the civilian population like this, we know, because that is
part of their strategy: make victims and then cry about victims.
Plus, knowing they cannot face the IDF in the field, the Palestinians tried
to cripple the Israeli army by hiding among civilians, thereby forcing the real
soldiers to hold back. The Palestinians knew that the Israelis – a disciplined
army of husbands and fathers – would restrain themselves to avoid killing
Even Arab fighters have admitted the Israelis did exactly that. Captured
Jenin-based terrorist Thabet Mardawi told CNN last week that he “and other
Palestinian fighters had expected Israel to attack with planes and tanks.”
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw the soldiers,” he said. “The Israelis
knew that any soldier who went into the camp like that was going to get
killed.” Shooting at these men as they walked cautiously down the street “was
like hunting . . . like being given a prize. . . I’ve been waiting for a moment like
that for years.”
Can it be any clearer? The 13 Israeli soldiers killed in that Jenin deathtrap died
precisely because they were trying to discriminate between military and
nonmilitary “objectives” the way a Daisy Cutter can’t.
In other words, they were trying to undo the effect of the human-rights
violations inflicted on the population of Jenin by the terrorist army that made its
Eventually, of course – as was certain to happen so long as they were not
pulled out too soon – the Israelis were successful in their mission. But the
Palestinian terrorists, having planted themselves among civilians, have
harvested a fresh crop of victims, which they are now using for public-relations
The U.N. investigation in Jenin is the fruit of that PR campaign. What the
Palestinians did to harvest that fruit, however is the real violation of the West
Bank residents’ human rights.
The only proper question for the U.N. to ask about Israel’s conduct, by
contrast, is whether it was a proportionate response to this provocation and to
these methods of fighting. If the U.N. wants to investigate that question again,
it should be free to do so.
But it cannot even pose the question properly without an accurate
understanding of the unceasing human-rights violations that Israel confronted
as its soldiers walked slowly down the booby-trapped streets of Jenin, trying to
tell the difference between innocent victims of war and the terrorists hiding
among them, using them as human shields.
That fraud is the real human-rights violation in Jenin, and throughout the West Bank.