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It seems like it’s in the distant past but not really. For thousands of years there have been stories floating around by word of mouth (and today through the Internet) of atrocities committed by one group or another against innocents. But the one that has lasted longest is the blood libel against Jews. In one form or another Jews have been accused of kidnapping or buying a child and then sacrificing them to collect their blood for various uses — the most popular use in these stories is for the baking of Matzot before Passover. While we expect this recitation of this story from the Arabs and Muslim world, you would expect better from the news media. Not Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya but NPR and the BBC (although this one may be stretch).

In the latest campaign to stop Hamas from shelling and firing rockets against Israeli communities like Sderot and Ashkelon the IDF has been accused, repeatedly, of shelling civilians, purposely causing massive civilian casualties, shooting individuals indiscriminantly, disproportionate responses, and using illegal weapons against civilian populations. All of these accusations are designed to demonize Israel and incite violence against Jews all around the world in. Let’s look at one example.

The number of civilian dead in Gaza currently, officially, stands at anywhere from 1100 to 1200. The claim from Hamas and from the Palestinian Health Ministry is that the majority of these (if you belive Hamas’ claim up to 95% of these casualties) are civilians (Hamas claims that only some 50 of its fighters died in the recent battles). However, reports are beginning to filter out from Gaza that the numbers of dead and wounded were inflated and that the number of civilians killed was greatly exaggerated. Italian reporter Lorenzo Cremonisi wrote in Italy’s Corriere della sera that the number of casualties in the Gaza strip did not exceed 500 or 600 and, according to a doctor that he spoke with noted “Most of them are youths between the ages of 17 to 23 who were recruited to the ranks of Hamas, who sent them to the slaughter,” (“Gazan doctor says death toll inflated“, YNET news, January 22, 2009).

This is nothing new. We’ve seen this before. Look back to Jenin, back when Operation Defensive Shield took place in 2002. At first the Palestinian Authority claimed that thousands had been killed and then buried in mass graves. The Secretary-General of the Palestinian Authority Cabinet, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, claimed that the Israelis “took hundreds of bodies to northern Israeli to hide their massacre they committed against our people. This massacre is not less than the massacres committed against the Palestinian people in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon.” (“Palestinians: Hundreds in Mass Graves“,, April 13, 2002). Immediately Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the media took up the claim and cried out that Israel committed war crimes in the Battle of Jenin:

Israel’s actions in Jenin were “every bit as repellent” as Osama bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11, wrote Britain’s Guardian in its lead editorial of April 17.

“We are talking here of massacre, and a cover-up, of genocide,” said a leading columnist for the Evening Standard, London’s main evening newspaper, on April 15.

“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,” reported Janine di Giovanni, the London Times’s correspondent in Jenin, on April 16

(Tom Gross, “Jeningrad: What the British Media Said“, The National Review Online, May 13, 2002)

The NGOs also took the cry based on flimsy and inaccurate evidence — U.N. Special Envoy to the region Terje Roed-Larsen told the BBC on April 18 2002 that the devastation left by Israeli forces in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank is “horrific beyond belief” and that it was “morally repugnant” that Israel had not allowed emergency workers in for 11 days to provide humanitarian relief (“Jenin camp ‘horrific beyond belief’“, BBC, April 18 2002). In it’s initial report on April 22, 2002 on the fighting during Operation Defensive Shield Amnesty International notes that

Amnesty International’s delegates have just returned from Jenin, and found credible evidence of serious breaches of human rights and humanitarian law. These include unlawful killings, excessive use of lethal force, and failure to give civilians warning before attacks by helicopters.

(Amnesty International, “Amnesty International Statement to the United Nations about the fact-finding team to inquire into the events in Jenin“, April 22, 2002)

But when asked to document specifics, Amnesty came up empty handed. According to Professor Alan Dershowitz “Organizations like the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are having their credibility absolutely destroyed. Amnesty International has reported that Israeli soldiers deliberately aim at Palestinian children. When asked to document that they couldn’t come up with a single case.” (NGO Monitor, “Transcript of Interview with Umri Shah from HRW“, NGO Monitor, July 1, 2004).

The initial U.N. team that went into Jenin after the fighting in Operation Defensive Shield consisted of the former Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, former president of the International Committee of the Red Cross Cornelio Sommaruga (notorious for rebutting then American Red Cross head Dr. Bernadine Healy when she made a passionate speech questioning the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for having denied entry to Israel for 50 years. Sommaruga confronted her in a private meeting shortly thereafter. Eyes bulging and furious, Sommaruga said to her, “If we’re going to have the Shield of David, why would we not have to accept the swastika?” (Krauthammer, Charles, “Kofi’s Choice: The U.N. secretary general gets entangled in l’Affaire Sommaruga“, May 10, 2002)), and former UN high commissioner for refugees, Sadako Ogata. The Israelis objected based on the argument that the investigative commission did not include military experts and that it was biased from the beginning to blame Israel. In the end, then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan disbanded the commission as information came to light that no massacre occurred in Jenin.

Recently, Lorenzo Cremonesi of the Italian paper Corriere della sera noted in an Analysis in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that with regards to the fighting in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield:

On April 13, I succeeded in crossing through the army barricades on foot and reached the hospital bordering on the refugee camp. I was prepared to see scenes of a bloodbath. Anyone who follows what takes place in the arena of war knows that generally speaking, the ratio of dead to wounded is one to three. That is to say, if there are 500 dead, there will be at least 1,500 wounded. What did I find? Absolutely nothing. The hospital was almost deserted, doctors were playing cards in the emergency room, there were two women in labor and one old man who had had an appendectomy.

In one of the wards I finally saw wounded – 25 people who had been lightly wounded. And the stories they told were indeed heart-rending. “I saw a woman and three children who were shot close by here,” one of them told me. Nonetheless, when they were asked for the names of the dead and to show where the bodies were, the responses became evasive. In short, it was all talk and nothing could be verified, nothing was concrete. At the end of that day, I wrote that the death toll was not more than 50 and that most of them were combatants. And indeed, a few weeks later, following a UN investigation, it was reported that there had been 53 dead.

(Cremonesi, Lorenzo, “ANALYSIS / Why Israel should let foreign journalists into Gaza“, Haaretz, January 12, 2009)

Applying this forward to the recent fighting in Gaza, Cremonesi notes:

Thirty years of experience in areas of confrontation, 20 of them as correspondent for Corriere della Sera in Jerusalem, have taught me to relate with maximum caution to reports about the number of casualties and the dynamics of the events.

I recall the exaggerated data about victims among the Palestinians during the first intifada, the perpetual comparisons between the military repression and the Holocaust, and the baseless reports about civilians dying of hunger during the previous siege of Gaza. Yasser Arafat and Palestinian sources in Beirut and Tunis were grand masters in the dissemination of this kind of disinformation.

(Cremonesi, Lorenzo, “ANALYSIS / Why Israel should let foreign journalists into Gaza“, Haaretz, January 12, 2009)

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are using the same tactics that they tried in Jenin and in other conflicts with Israel to inflate the casualty numbers, make false accusations of Israeli war crimes, to demonize Israel and Jews in general and to generate sympathy for themselves. The new blood libel does not involve the false stories of the murder of innocent Christian children but rather the intentionally concocted fabrication of stories of Israeli malfeasance and crimes against humanity…and the world media and NGOs sit as willing and active players in this effort.

August 2020

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