- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

It is not very strange that many Jews have started to suggest the world is seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism. Some will counter that charges of anti-Semitism constitute a kind of race card that can be played whenever political disagreements over the Middle East arise. On occasion that may be the case, but the extraordinary readiness of many, particularly in Europe, to believe the very worst about Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is striking.

Take, for instance, the so-called "Jenin massacre." Remember the screaming headlines and the front- page pictures of devastation as Israeli troops fought their way through the Palestinian refugee camps in early April? Bad as it looked, the evidence is now clear evidence presented to the United Nations, no less that the operation in no way justified the accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity that were being flung at Israel.

Palestinians and Israelis are unmistakably in a state of war, irrespective of endless attempts to resurrect the "peace process." It is in this context and in the context of the suicide bombings that Jenin should be seen. Over the 22 months of the most recent Palestinian uprising, 600 Israelis have been killed and 1,800 Palestinians. And still, the killings go on. On Aug. 4, Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers killed 12 Israeli civilians in one day. Nine Palestinians, mostly militants, have died since that day.

That Palestinians are dying in disproportionate numbers reflects two things: One is the unconscionable terror tactics of radical Palestinian leaders and Yasser Arafat, who are calling Israeli retaliation down on Palestinian West Bank cities. The other is the vastly superior might of Israeli military power. Let no one doubt where the violence originates, though.

Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, which started in Ramallah on March 29 and included six West Bank cities, was provoked by escalating suicide bombings and, in particular, the suicide bombing in Netanya on March 27 during a Passover Seder, which killed 29 Israelis and wounded 140. This act of terror committed against a family celebration on a religious holiday caused absolute outrage in Israel and provoked the Sharon government to take military steps to stop it.

If you believe Palestinian officials and much of the world usually does 500 Palestinian civilians were murdered in Jenin in cold blood by the Israel Defense Forces. Civilians, women, children were supposedly slaughtered by Israeli troops, bombed, rounded up, executed. According to such news reports as were available, just about the entire Jenin camp was demolished and even the hospital shelled. "Many credible sources have reported atrocities committed in the camps and about the presence of prima facie evidence of war crimes," says a report by the Palestinian Authority. British intellectual A.N. Wilson articulated what many believed at the time, that "we are talking here about a massacre, and, a cover-up, of genocide."

Actually, no we are not. There was no mass murder of Palestinian civilians at Jenin. Israel's critics will find this hard to accept, and it is therefore not surprising that precious little news coverage has been given to the report issued by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Aug. 1, which effectively destroys the myth of the "Jenin massacre."

According to the report, which was mandated by a U.N. resolution on May 7, the number of Palestinian casualties in Jenin was 55, most of whom were combatants. Fourteen were civilians. On the Israeli side, 23 soldiers were killed during the 12 days of military action. That 14 Palestinian civilians were killed is certainly a matter of concern, but the question is who is to blame?

The U.N. report, which is harsh when it comes to the destruction and the suffering inflicted by the Israeli forces in their hunt for terrorists, is clear on that: "Much of the fighting during Operation Defensive Shield occurred in areas heavily populated by civilians, in large part because armed Palestinian groups sought by the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] placed their combatants and installations among civilians. Palestinian groups are alleged to have widely booby-trapped civilians homes, acts targeted at IDF personnel but also putting civilians in danger."

Now, it will be recalled that the Israeli government itself was none-too-keen on having the United Nations investigate these allegations back in the spring. But as Israel had nothing to hide, the world should have been so informed at the time. What the U.N. report shows is a picture of a fight into which civilians were drawn by the terrorists in their midst.

Now, it is the turn of those who have accused Israel of war crimes to speak up. Ready to accuse, they should also be ready to retract their statements and offer acknowledgements that they were wrong. (Apologies are probably too much to expect.) Their failure to do so will give substance to the charge that anti-Semitism has indeed made an ugly return.

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