By John Podhoretz, April 22, 2002
THE Palestinian big lie against Israel keeps shifting as the truth emerges.
The first big lie was that the Israelis had perpetrated a massacre in Jenin, killing
more than 500 people and then stashing them in mass graves. Then, as aid
workers and journalists uncovered no evidence of mass graves, the lie was that
the Israelis had secretly transported the dead bodies in refrigerated trucks.
Now it’s that the Israelis have violated international law relating to war.
According to the BBC on Thursday, “International officials say some actions by
troops, there and elsewhere, would appear to have breached the
Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the protection of civilians in war or under
Why? Well, “the convention forbids violence being used against civilians, as
well as inhumane or degrading treatment . . . It is claimed that civilians died in
Jenin when their houses were demolished. The convention prohibits the
destruction of property except where military operations make it absolutely
Lies. Lies lies lies. Damnable, outrageous, unseemly lies.
The simple truth is this: International law relating to the conduct of the
incursion exculpates the Israelis and convicts the Palestinian Authority. Period.
The Israelis went into Jenin and made a systematic search for bomb
laboratories and terror cells that had been hidden among civilians. The purpose
was to destroy the laboratories and take prisoner or kill those who had been
building the suicide bombs and directing the suicide attacks.
The Palestinian intifada describes itself as an armed struggle, an uprising. The
word that describes the leaders and planners of such an armed struggle, in legal
parlance, is “combatants.”
And international law could not be any more plain. On June 8, 1977, the Fourth
Geneva Convention was updated. The document is called “Protocol Additional
to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection
of Victims of International Armed Conflicts.”
Article 37 outlaws the use of civilian populations as a shield for military actions.
It explicitly prohibits “the feigning of civilian, noncombatant status; and the
feigning of protected status by the use of signs, emblems or uniforms of the
United Nations or of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict.”
What the leaders of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas and Islamic Jihad do
is hide among civilian populations to make it as difficult as possible for their
enemies to attack them. The Geneva Convention denounces this as “perfidy.”
Peter Bouckaert, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in New York who
sneaked into Jenin on Thursday, told the Washington Post, “It’s been incredibly
difficult to tell the difference between fighters and civilians. If a combatant uses
the civilian population as a shield in this way, the deaths incurred are the moral
and legal responsibility of those who are hidings out in this grotesquely
Previously, Palestinians and their apologists had claimed the Israelis were
violating the Fourth Geneva Convention by refusing to allow ambulances
operated by the Red Crescent Society to move freely between Israeli hospitals
and the West Bank towns in which the incursions were taking place.
Article 38 specifically addresses the ambulance issue: “It is prohibited to make
improper use of the distinctive emblem of the red cross, red crescent or red lion
And yet this is precisely what the Palestinians have done. The Israelis
have stopped and searched ambulances emblazoned with the Red Crescent and
found suicide belts hidden in them. One of these incidents, on March 27, was
captured on videotape.
By using this internationally accepted symbol as a diversionary tactic – in
essence turning ambulances into tanks – the Palestinians thus bear the moral
and legal responsibility under international law for the Israeli refusal to allow the
free conduct of Red Crescent vehicles.
The violators of international law – the criminals in this war – are the Palestinians
who devised these shameful tactics.