Hundreds of Palestinians riot following Israeli raid in West Bank

An Israeli soldier was wounded, possibly by friendly fire, during clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians following an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Israeli soldiers, as well as officers from the Shin Bet security service officers and Israel Police, came to Jenin early Tuesday morning to arrest a senior Hamas operative, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. Security forces surrounded the home where the alleged operative was hiding, ultimately demolishing it when the wanted man refused to come out.

Following the arrest, hundreds of Palestinians rioted in the area, throwing rocks and firebombs, according to the IDF, leading to the injury of the soldier as well as at least five Palestinians.

The IDF is investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting of the soldier.

Hours after the arrest, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, triggering the Code Red warning in towns on the ssouthern border. The rockets landed in Gaza territory, however.

A group affiliated with the Islamic State claimed responsibility for firing two rockets at Israel, saying it was in retaliation for the Jenin raid, Ynet reported.

Israel Electric cuts Palestinian power again

Two West Bank cities had their electricity cut for the second time in a week because of unpaid bills.

The state-owned Israel Electric Corp. cut power for an hour to Nablus and Jenin on Wednesday to protest what it says is $482 million in debt. The company also briefly cut power to the cities on Monday.

In a statement released by the Israel Electric on Wednesday, the company said, “Having issued numerous warnings and attempts to reach an agreement, the IEC’s board instructed the CEO to take action to minimize the debt,” the Times of Israel reported.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen criticized the electric company’s decision, citing the potentially high humanitarian and diplomatic costs the blackouts would cause, according to Haaretz.

The Palestinian Authority blamed its unpaid bills on Israel withholding approximately $127 million in tax revenues in retaliation for the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood recognition efforts.

Palestinian mob attacks Israeli troops in Jenin

Residents of the Jenin refugee camp attacked a unit of Israeli soldiers who entered the area to arrest a Palestinian wanted for involvement in terrorism.

Some 500 Palestinians on Thursday morning surrounded the troops and threw stones and Molotov cocktails, as well burned tires in the street, according to reports. The soldiers, who used crowd control methods such as tear gas to turn back the mob, had entered the area during daylight, which is rare.

The troops left Jenin without the wanted man, who was determined to be out of the area.

An elderly Palestinian woman reportedly was injured when she was bitten by a military dog, and a 23-year-old man was shot in the leg.

It was the second time in a week that local residents attacked soldiers operating in a Palestinian area.

‘Israeli actor’s murder in Jenin most likely pre-meditated assassination’

The murder of Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis in Jenin on Monday was most likely a pre-mediated and well-planned assassination, Palestinian former militant Zakarya Zubeidi told Haaretz.

“There is one organization or body, central, big, behind this act,” said Zubeidi, who once headed the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade in Jenin and went on to co-manage the Freedom Theater in the West Bank city with Mer-Khamis. “This was not a simple operation. There is a big hand directed.”

A lone masked gunman waited for Mer-Khamis at his car near the theater, said Zubeidi, and shot him at close range. It was still not yet clear who stood behind the murder, but Zubeidi said the Palestinian security forces were investigating with vigor.


Israeli-Arab actor fatally shot in Jenin

Juliano Mer-Khamis, a well-known Israeli-Arab actor, was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Mer-Khamis, whose mother was an Israeli-Jewish activist for Palestinian rights and father was a Christian Palestinian, was killed Monday after being shot five times while driving in his car, according to reports.

Mer-Khamis, 53, reportedly had received death threats after establishing the Freedom Theater in a Jenin refugee camp. The theater, a popular cultural center in the camp, has been the target of several firebomb attacks since its establishment five years ago, Ynet reported.

He had been called a “fifth column” in a pamphlet distributed in the refugee camp in 2009, according to Ynet.

Mer-Khamis was well-known for his film and theater roles in Israel and abroad. He was born and raised in Nazareth.

Taming a Former Suicide-Bomber City

The streets of Jenin are still plastered with posters commemorating Palestinian “martyrs” killed fighting Israel. Buildings are still pocked with bullet holes from the fighting when Israeli troops stormed this West Bank city several years ago. That’s hardly surprising in a place long notorious as one of the fiercest hotbeds of Palestinian militancy, home to at least 30 suicide bombers and site of the bloodiest battle of the last intifada.

Today, however, Jenin is gaining attention in an unexpected way: as a model of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

Suicide attacks have stopped. Militant leaders have laid down their weapons. Even during Israel’s ferocious war with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip last year, there were demonstrations but no violence in Jenin.

The newfound calm is largely thanks to an American-trained Palestinian police force that first hit the streets, with Israel’s support, three years ago.

“When we first got here, it was chaos,” says Col. Rade Asedeh, commander of the Jenin branch of the new National Security Force (NSF), sitting in his office beneath a mural of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. “Jenin was famous as the place with the most illegal guns on the streets. They were in the hands of outlaws and drug dealers as well as resistance fighters. Now, we challenge any city in the world to match our security situation.”

Every one of a dozen-odd residents of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp I spoke with on a recent visit agreed that the new force has made the city much safer. “Now I can sleep at night without having to worry about my car or my sheep getting stolen,” says Talal Waimi, a middle school teacher. “I don’t have to fear that if I get in a fight with someone, he might come back and kill me.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has declared Jenin “a great success.” Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair lauded the city as “a model,” and ex-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it “a place of hope.”

Asedeh and the several hundred men under his command were trained by American, Canadian and British military and police advisers in neutral, neighboring Jordan under a program launched in 2007 to rebuild the Palestinian Authority’s security capabilities. The PA, dominated by the late Yasser Arafat’s secular nationalist Fatah movement, needed a serious boost at the time, having just lost control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody power struggle with its longtime rivals, the Islamist group Hamas.

The National Security Force recruits are all screened by American, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian intelligence agencies to root out potential infiltrators from Hamas or other hard-line groups. The U.S. is providing more than $160 million in funding and equipment for the force.

The new troops, armed only with assault rifles and pistols, are being deployed in other West Bank towns as well. The idea is to build up a professional Palestinian force that can enforce, someday, a full-fledged peace with Israel.

The NSF has disarmed local militias, arrested some of their leaders and given amnesty to others on condition they pledge not to attack Israel — pledges that have so far been kept. NSF troops have even shot it out with Hamas gunmen in the town of Qalqilya, leaving a total of nine dead on both sides. Their efforts — along, of course, with the Israeli-built wall that now cordons off much of the West Bank — help explain why last year was the first in a decade in which not a single suicide bomber hit Israel. In 2002, at the peak of the Second Intifada, 429 Israelis were killed in attacks from the West Bank; last year, the figure was six. All of this is part of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ strategy of renouncing violence in favor of a political approach to winning statehood for his people.

“In the end, violence yields nothing for us or the Israelis,” says Asedeh, who fought the Israeli army as a Palestinian Liberation Organization soldier in Lebanon in the 1980s. “We’ve had five or six wars, and it’s only brought thousands of deaths. We think a political solution is best.”

But the experiment is still perilously fragile. Though security is much improved, Jenin’s economy is in shambles. Before the last intifada, the city of 40,000 was a major shopping destination for Israelis crossing over the then-unmarked Green Line separating the West Bank from Israel. Now, that line has become a heavily fortified, de facto border crossing. Cars are not allowed through, and pedestrian travelers must navigate a series of gates under the watchful eye of rifle-toting soldiers. Many Israeli citizens are denied permission to enter — including the photographer who was supposed to accompany me — and almost no Palestinians are allowed to leave via the crossing, cutting off Jenin from both trade and jobs in Israel.


Off the Shelves

Recently, I found a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel DVD documentary, “Jenin, Jenin,” in my city of White Plains, N.Y., library, produced by an Arab organization (“Libraries: The New Mideast Battlefront,” Jan. 20). I assume it was distributed countrywide to libraries.

I wrote to the head librarian and stated that the Arab version of what happened in Jenin has already been discredited with facts by the Israeli government, and cited by American columnists as well. I did not see any DVDs from Israel discrediting Arab propaganda.

I hope pro-Israel groups everywhere will expose “Jenin, Jenin” and other films cited by CAMERA online.

I was told that after a library board meeting the DVD “Jenin, Jenin” was removed from the shelves.

Ellen J. Singer
White Plains, N.Y.

‘Munich’ Debate

The apology for the film “Munich” defends “an honest discussion of the issues surrounding terror,” but that film is anything but honest (“The ‘Munich’ Concern Is Us — Not Film,” Jan. 20). The portrayal of the Israeli as conscience-stricken and as distancing himself from his homeland is a foul lie. Nor need we credit the terrorists with pure motives rather than a lust for blood and notoriety.

“Munich” is an attack on the propaganda front of Israel’s war for survival; an attack against Steven Spielberg’s own people, in support of those who seek to kill him, too. Is he, then, a knave? Of course not; just a fool!

Louis Richter

My husband and I saw “Munich” and we were very disturbed by the movie. It rings false.

Instead of filming the Palestinian terrorist carrying his groceries, why not show him planning future atrocities? Instead of filming the cute little girl Palestinian answering the phone, why not film her father telling her that Jews are the sons of monkeys, as I’m sure he must have believed?

Why in the world would Tony Kushner want the world to believe that Avner couldn’t stay true to his country after accomplishing his mission, and why in the world would he put words in Golda Meier’s mouth that she never uttered? After all, she is a hero to most Jews. Steven Spielberg’s timing couldn’t be worse. We Jews are again faced with extinction. Any attempt to confuse the moral clarity that we must have now is not helpful.

Marsha Roseman
Van Nuys

Olmert’s Conversion

Larry Derfner’s article (“Olmert’s Conversion from Pol to Leader,” Jan. 20) makes some interesting points. There is, however, a big misjudgment, when he states the following:

“I’d probably feel enthusiastic about [Amir] Peretz becoming prime minister if we were living in a country whose overriding problem was poverty.”

In Israel, one-third of the children live under the poverty line (the second-highest percentage in the Western world). It has one of the highest gaps between rich and poor in the Western world: While public schools in affluent areas like Herzliyah have excellent high-tech equipment, in other public schools (especially in the Beduin-dominated Negev) there isn’t even enough money for chalk, not to mention air conditioning. [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s economic policy has cut benefits for disabled people, Holocaust survivors, single mothers, pensioners and everyone else who won’t be able to make it through the month without those benefits. However, it is (and always was) very easy to push these issues aside and vote for any budgets that make it even worse by just saying one word: security.

So the overriding problem is poverty, and it was about time a prime ministerial candidate chose this topic to be on top of the agenda. Hopefully, he will win the election and follow the old biblical saying: “justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20).

Benjamin Rosendahl
Los Angeles

Sharon’s Legacy

I pray that Ariel Sharon has a complete recovery, and I appreciate his long career of service to Israel. However, I do not share the popular view that his final achievement, the removal of Jewish settlements from Gaza, represents wise statesmanship (“After Sharon,” Jan. 13). True, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) no longer risk the lives of soldiers in patrols of Gaza or policing the Gaza-Egypt border. But it is at best questionable whether that represents progress toward peace and security for Israel. Gaza is now is now in a state of anarchy. Various well-armed clans fight for control of smuggling across the porous Gaza-Egypt border. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah have set up shop along side the established terrorist militias of the Al Aksa Brigade, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Missiles and shells are fired daily from Gaza at Ashkelon and other Israeli towns and cities. The IDF may well have to return to Gaza in bloody fighting, as it did in Jenin. Only the sort of self-delusion that viewed the Oslo accords as a “peace process” would call the Gaza withdrawal a success.

Ralph Kostant
Valley Village

Lieberman’s View

I was very encouraged to see Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) repudiated by some L.A. Jews for his support of the immoral U.S. intervention in Iraq (“Lieberman War View Triggers Backlash,” Jan. 20). In backing the Bush administration’s misguided Mesopatamian invasion, Lieberman –notwithstanding his claim this past week on Air America’s “Ed Schultz Show” that he is a John F. Kennedy Democrat — has demonstrated that he is no longer in accord with his party and should have left it years ago to sit with supporters of the president in Congress. When he launched his quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, I even suggested that he would have done better running against Bush in the Republican primaries to at least give GOP voters a real choice for their party’s nomination. It is sad to see Lieberman go over to the dark side if you will, but this is a choice he made freely and he must obviously live with its consequences!

David L. Blatt

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A Question of Blood

The circus of Palestinian victimhood has struck its tent temporarily in Jenin, and gone to church instead in Bethlehem. The Jenin story has petered out because the world, in general, now knows that there was no massacre in Jenin. The world now knows that of the two estimates of the death toll in the fighting which took place in the Jenin refugee camp, one was true and one was false. The Palestinians originally claimed that 500 to 1,000 people had been massacred by the Zionist entity. The Israel Defense Forces estimate was that the death toll was in the dozens, not in the hundreds, and that the majority of those killed in the fighting were gunmen, who had booby-trapped a civilian neighborhood in the hopes of killing as many Israeli soldiers as possible. Today even Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, two organizations that can certainly not be said to be part of a pro-Israel cabal, have both now come to the conclusion that no evidence exists that any massacre took place. The total number of bodies recovered thus far is 56 by one account and 52 by another, the overwhelming majority of which, they acknowledge, appear to be combatants. Don’t bother looking for an apology for that blood libel. None will be forthcoming.

So Gen. Arafat, as he now calls himself, went instead to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and cried out to the international community to make sure that the crime perpetrated by the Israelis against this holy place would never happen again. Never mind that it was armed Palestinian gunmen who stormed the church, terrorized priests, stole relics and, in one case, ripped the crucifix off the neck of an Armenian cleric. Never mind that in footage televised by CNN, albeit on one day only, the Israeli flares, which the Palestinians claimed set fire to the Church of the Nativity, can be clearly seen sailing harmlessly over the church on the right side of the screen, while the fire itself has already been started inside the church, on the left side of the screen. Don’t expect any apology on that one either.

There is, however, one thing to ponder before the circus sideshow moves on completely. I was in the Jenin refugee camp on April 16. In addition to noting that there was no smell of death in the camp and that the booby-traps and anti-personnel bombs laid out by the Palestinian gunmen were still very much in evidence, I heard a story, which I did indeed find chilling. It was told to me by Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit, which bore the brunt of the fighting in Jenin. Zangen stated that the Israelis not only worked to keep the hospital in Jenin open, but that they offered the Palestinians blood for their wounded.

The Palestinians refused it because it was Jewish blood.

That is a chilling story to an American of my age, with memories of white, bigoted-racial purists refusing to accept blood from African Americans in the segregated South.

The Israeli response, which could easily have been, “fine, have it you own way,” was to fly in 2,000 units of blood from Jordan, via helicopters, for the Palestinians. In addition, they saw to it that 40 units of blood from the Mukasad Hospital in East Jerusalem went to the hospital in Ramallah, that 70 units got to the hospital in Tul Quarem and they facilitated the delivery of 1,800 units of anti-coagulants that had come in from Morocco, and thus, were somehow acceptable to the Palestinians where Jewish blood was not. (This information was later confirmed to me by Col. Arik Gordin [reserves] of the IDF Office of Military Spokesman, who supplied the exact numbers of units of blood and anticoagulants and the names of the hospitals to which they were delivered.)

So the question to ponder, before the circus leaves town, is how do you negotiate with a hatred so great that it will refuse to accept your blood, even to save its own people’s lives? How does an international community vilify a nation that offers its own blood to its enemies, while its own soldiers lie dying, and that, when faced with race hatred that brands their blood unfit, diverts military flights to bring blood more suitable to the taste of those who would destroy them?

Dan Gordon is the author of five books and the screenwriter of such films as “The Hurricane” and “Murder in the First.” He is also a former sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces and a peace activist who has held meetings with Arab leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.

What really happened in Jenin?

After the Israeli army’s 12-day action against armed Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp, a London Times headline read: “The Camp of Death,” conjuring up a clear association with Nazi death camps like Auschwitz.

And U.N. Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, as he walked through the rubble in the Jenin refugee camp last week, just three days after the fighting had died down, virtually accused Israel of war crimes and spoke of “a shameful chapter in Israel’s history.”

European hyperbole in condemning Israel comes easily, and the historic reasons for it are many and complex. But it is a phenomenon of more than passing academic interest, for it feeds into a consistent Palestinian narrative aimed at delegitimizing Israel in the most fundamental way.

In this context, Jenin was a human tragedy waiting to happen from the moment Israel launched its military operation. From day one of the intifada, Yasser Arafat’s strategy has been to provoke Israel into overreacting to get the international community to step in and force concessions he could not otherwise get.

Characterizing the military operation of the past month, and especially the events in the Jenin refugee camp, as indiscriminate and a criminal use of overwhelming military force is more than a PR exercise for the Palestinians — it is the essence of Palestinian strategy. That is why the perception of what happened in Jenin is so important — though Israel decided Tuesday not to cooperate with the United Nations-sponsored fact-finding team to determine what happened there, because the criteria for appointing the panel differs from those agreed upon by Israel.

Late Tuesday, Israel raised objections to the composition of the team and the scope of its mandate, arguing that the United Nations seemed to be stacking the team and defining its goals in a way that would prejudice it against Israel.

Israel said the team should include military and counter-terrorism experts should be limited to the Jenin camp and should examine not just Israel’s actions but the terror network that had flourished in Jenin and prompted the Israeli invasion.

Attempts continued Wednesday to address the impasse, and both Israeli and U.N. sources seemed to feel that the dispute would be resolved.

So what, as far as we know, did happen in Jenin?

First, it can be said that there was no massacre.

Second, that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians.

Third, that the Jenin refugee camp was a major center of Palestinian terror, used especially by Islamic Jihad to send suicide bombers into Israel on a regular basis. About a quarter of the bombers since the beginning of the intifada in fall of 2000 set out from the Jenin refugee camp.

The fighting in Jenin started on April 3. According to Israeli soldiers who took part in the battle, armed Palestinian gunmen had taken up positions inside the buildings. Explosive charges were strewn all over the camp. Some of the buildings were booby-trapped. In some cases, Palestinian gunmen forced civilians to remain holed up with them. Israeli soldiers entered the camp from four directions, forcing the Palestinian fighters away from civilians into a small central area.

Israeli soldiers, using loudspeakers, called on all Palestinians who did not want to fight to leave the camp peacefully. Some did and were not harmed. Israeli reservists, fighting from house to house, encountered fierce resistance and had to regroup.

The Israelis could easily have solved the military problem, as most other Western armies probably would have done, by sending in planes or using artillery. In both cases, resistance would have been broken in hours. But civilian casualties would have been heavy. Israel chose instead the much more hazardous house-to-house ground combat, precisely to avoid civilian casualties. It now appears that fewer than 100 Palestinians, mostly armed fighters, were killed.

When helicopters were called in, it was to silence heavy fire from precise locations. All the houses in the camp had code numbers and the pilots were able to make precise hits.

But seven days after it started, the fighting was still fierce. On April 9, 13 reserve paratroopers were killed when a booby-trapped building exploded and collapsed on them. It was then that the Israelis decided to bring in the bulldozers to destroy potentially booby-trapped buildings.

During the fighting, Israel supplied truckloads of food to the camp and a generator and oxygen to the Jenin hospital. Israel also offered blood, which was rejected. Israeli army doctors and medics say they treated injured Palestinians.

Every stage of the Jenin operation was filmed and this material, Israeli officials say, will help prove the Israeli case. The officials are confident the U.N. fact-finding mission, appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan after the U.N. Security Council voted for it unanimously, will corroborate their account and lay to rest the Palestinian claims of a massacre.

As for the question of humanitarian aid after the battle, the Israelis say it was the Palestinians who objected to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) burying the dead and refused Israeli offers of assistance. International aid and relief agencies were not allowed into the camp for three days after the fighting, the Israelis say, because of fear for their safety. And they point out that several people were wounded by explosive devices and booby-trapped bodies after the IDF left. The Israelis also intend to raise with the fact-finding team the fact that Jenin was administered by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

Yet a culture of terror and death was allowed to thrive in the camp. Posters of suicide bombers adorned the walls everywhere. And the camps’ children were taught to emulate them. Armed elements, which by international law should not have been allowed in the camp, actually controlled it.

Israeli officials are asking how the United Nations, so quick to point fingers at Israel, had not only tolerated this situation, but had never lodged a single complaint about it. For the Palestinians, Jenin has spawned two new national myths, regardless of what the fact-finding commission reports: the myth of heroic resistance against a superior Israeli force and the myth of an Israeli massacre.

Both demonize the Israeli enemy and reinforce the Palestinian sense of heroic victimhood. Both militate against compromise and galvanize young Palestinians for further struggle and sacrifice.

For some Israelis, Jenin reinforces notions of Palestinian mendacity and international unfairness. For others, it is evidence of the pressing need to find a political solution to stop a cycle of violence that can only have tragic consequences for both sides.

And precisely because it has the power to endorse or refute these very different perceptions, the U.N. probe could have far-reaching effects. If unfavorable to Israel, it could lead to attempts by the international community to further restrict the military steps Israel can take to defend itself, while implicitly legitimizing the worst Palestinian excesses.

It could also lead to demands for an international force to separate Israel and the Palestinians, a situation the Israelis believe will do nothing to stop the suicide bombers but will greatly hinder the IDF’s capacity to respond. And it could start a process leading to attempts by the international community to impose a solution on the two recalcitrant parties.

By using Jenin to delegitimize Israel’s use of force in self-defense, Arafat could get the imposed settlement he has been striving for all along — although in substance it might not be entirely to his liking.

Israeli officials, however, are confident the report will, on the whole, be favorable. Indeed, they hope it will lead to some rethinking in Europe. Even more importantly, they hope it will undermine Arafat’s authority, as his internationalization strategy will be seen to have failed, and help pave the way for a new Palestinian leadership more able to do business with Israel.