The so-called “Jenin Massacre” of 2002 — a massacre that never happened — is emblematic of the way the truth is violated, over and over in this conflict.
I’ve written about this several times. I discussed Palestinian filmmaker Mohammad Bakri, and his “Jenin, Jenin,” an effective propaganda piece full of false accusations and made-up atrocities (including the bombing of a hospital wing that never existed). I wrote about the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by slandered IDF soldiers. I drew attention to biased journalist Philip Reeves, now a respected correspondent for NPR, who wrote some of the earliest reports from the site, suggesting that “hundreds of corpses” were buried in the rubble.
Dr. David Zangen, a doctor who works at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, was an eyewitness. As a reserve medical officer, he was present during the nine days of the battle. He was interviewed recently by the IDF blog:
During the operation, we made a point to leave the hospital in Jenin unharmed so that injured people would be able to receive medical treatment. Whenever we passed by it snipers on the roof shot at us, but we didn’t fire a single bullet back at them.
Despite that, the people who were there at the time told the media that we killed 16,000 people — even though there were only 54 casualties — and that we shut off the hospital’s electricity. This lie drew a lot of harsh criticism from international organizations and news agencies.
Dr. Zangen wrote an article a few years ago called “Seven Lies about Jenin” in which he gives more details about what was in fact a massacre, not of Arabs, but of the truth.
The most shocking aspect of the affair, for me, was the cynical way in which Bakri and others were comfortable with inverting reality for ideological reasons. Bakri himself admitted that many “details” were not exactly correct (a massive understatement), but that he served a higher truth.
And here is how Dr. Zangen, who was present at the scene (as Bakri, of course, was not) was treated when he tried to speak out:
A few months after the operation, Mohammed Bakri was about to release the movie ‘Jenin Jenin’, which projected many lies. A member of an Israeli bereaved family called me and asked me to try talk to a cinema manager in Jerusalem who was about to screen the film, and ask him to reconsider.
The manager called me and invited me to watch the film and give her my personal opinion. I came to the cinema and watched the movie, which was filled with lies. She still decided to screen the film, but invited me to stay and speak when the movie was over. I agreed. When I arrived, Mohammed Bakri was on stage and telling the audience that the reason he created the film was to show both sides of the conflict in order to promote peace.
Then I got up on the stage, told him and the audience who I was, and told him that the things he put in his movie never happened. The audience got upset, yelled at me that I was a child murderer and took the microphone from my hands. It was a tough moment for me. That’s why whenever I can, I fight to spread the truth.