Last week we noted that with the recent brouhaha over Judge Richard Goldstone’s backtracking on the most sensational charge leveled against Israel in his 2009 report to the UN, “much has been made of the damage done by that document to Israel’s standing in the court of international opinion.”
But the fallout from the Goldstone report paled in comparison to the outrage directed at Israel in the spring of 2002 when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, following a wave of increasingly bloody suicide bombings, dispatched Israeli forces to Palestinian areas.
The reaction in the U.S. media was bad enough (several salient examples were highlighted in last week’s column), but it was in Britain, particularly after the IDF attacked terrorist nests in the town of Jenin, that journalists descended into an all-out anti-Israel feeding frenzy theretofore seen only in the most rabid precincts of the Arab media.
And so you had The Guardian calling Israel’s behavior in Jenin “every bit as repellent” as Osama bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11.
And here was London’s Evening Standard: “We are talking here of massacre, and a cover-up, of genocide.”
Read the words of The London Times’s Janine di Giovanni: “Rarely in more than a decade of war reporting from Bosnia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, have I seen such deliberate destruction, such disrespect for human life.”
And pay attention the Independent’s Phil Reeves: “A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed…. The sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human tomb. The people say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed beneath the dust.”
In articles published by The Jewish Press among other news outlets in May and June of 2002, media critic Tom Gross accused The Evening Standard’s Sam Kiley of “conjur[ing] up witnesses to speak of Israel’s ‘staggering brutality and callous murder.‘“
The aforementioned Janine di Giovanni, wrote Gross, “suggested that Israel’s mission to destroy suicide bomb-making factories in Jenin (a town from which at the Palestinians own admission 28 suicide bombers had already set out) was an excuse by Ariel Sharon to attack children with chickenpox.”
And Gross quoted The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg, who alleged that “The scale [of destruction] is almost beyond imagination” as well as Evening Standard columnist A. N. Wilson, who accused Israel of “the poisoning of water supplies.”
Even when subsequent investigations by the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Time magazine and the BBC – not exactly a Who’s Who of pro-Israel propaganda – all concluded that there had been no massacre, there was a general lack of accountability, let alone remorse, among those who had written tens of thousands of words defaming and slandering Israel.
The Independent’s Justin Huggler wrote that “The UN report is carefully worded not to give offence to Israel or its allies.”
The Guardian ran an editorial refusing to concede anything: “As we said last April, the destruction wrought in Jenin looked and smelled like a crime. On the basis of the UN’s findings, it still does.”
And an article in The Guardian implied the UN report was untrustworthy because “Israel objected to members of the fact-finding team and then imposed a series of conditions which led the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, to call off the mission.”
On the other hand, The London Times, no doubt recognizing the sheer absurdity of the idea that the UN would give its imprimatur to a flawed report that failed to find evidence of an Israeli massacre, bit the bullet and wrote: “A United Nations report broke new ground yesterday by accusing Palestinian militants of violating international law when they fought attacking Israeli troops in the Jenin refugee camp.”
And The Independent’s Phil Reeves filed what had to be painful mea culpa titled “Even Journalists Have to Admit They’re Wrong Sometimes.”
Reeves confessed that his reporting on Jenin “was highly personalized” and added, “It was clear that the debate over the awful events in Jenin four months ago is still dominated by whether there was a massacre, even though it has long been obvious that one did not occur.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com