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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Israeli papers reject massacre charge
Israeli soldiers surveying the rubble of Jenin
Israel insists there was no massacre in Jenin
The Israeli press has vehemently denied that a massacre took place in Jenin while the town was under occupation.

As Israeli Defence Force (IDF) troops pulled back to the outskirts of Jenin - but continued to surround the town and its refugee camp - the right-of-centre Jerusalem Post was adamant that the massacre allegations were largely the result of Palestinian propaganda.

The evidence that's come to light has failed to corroborate Palestinian allegations

Jerusalem Post
The outcome of the battle for Jenin was both a defeat and a victory for the Palestinian side, the paper said.

"Though the Palestinians failed militarily, Jenin proved to be a propaganda bonanza," it said.

"They succeeded in spreading the word that an Israeli massacre had taken place while the IDF kept the news media at bay."

The paper insisted that the evidence seen so far was not enough to substantiate such a claim.

"The evidence that has come to light... has thus far failed to corroborate Palestinian allegations," it said.

Unflattering image

Cats in the ruins of the Jenin camp
The refugee camp has been reduced to rubble
The Jerusalem Post admitted that the images generated by the conflict in Jenin had "not been pretty", but insisted that Israel had taken "every possible measure to minimise harm to the Palestinian civilian population."

The paper said that, if Israeli forces had been prepared to be really ruthless, the situation could have been a great deal worse.

"Israel could quite easily have unleashed its air power on the Palestinian fighters, turning Jenin into a parking lot much in the way that the United States appears to have levelled villages in Afghanistan," it said.

But "such an approach would have meant large numbers of civilian casualties - something the IDF has sought at all costs to avoid," it added.

Intense conflict

The left-of-centre paper Ha'aretz said that, although allegations of a massacre deserved to be treated with the utmost seriousness, what happened in Jenin did not justify the use of such a term.

Declaring the fighting in Jenin a 'massacre' is a mistake on the part of the naive, and a slander by others

It said that a Ha'aretz reporter had spent several days in the refugee camp investigating the claims, and had come to the conclusion that the events there did not constitute a massacre.

"There is evidence of intense conflict, but... there was no massacre," the paper said.

"No order from above was given, nor was a local initiative executed, to deliberately and systematically kill unarmed people," it added.

Ha'aretz said that any loss of civilian life was to be regretted, and that perhaps an inquiry should be initiated to determine whether everything possible had been done to avoid civilian casualties.

"But declaring the fighting in Jenin a massacre is a mistake on the part of the naive, and a slander by others," it concluded.

Uphill struggle

The Palestinians still enjoy the confidence and trust of the bulk of the foreign media

Jerusalem Report
Several papers lamented the fact that such large-scale military operations had allowed the Palestinian side to score points in the public relations battle.

"When Israel goes into Palestinian territories with large forces or uses pinpoint-accurate state-of-the-art weaponry whose effect is precisely to minimise civilian casualties, the image is of a Goliath against the Palestinian David, and the natural tendency is to side with the underdog," said the Jerusalem Report.

"Clearly, Israeli PR faces an uphill struggle... Much of the deck is stacked against it," the paper acknowledged.

The Jerusalem Post also cried foul over the way in which recent events had been depicted in the foreign press.

"Despite consistently playing loose with the truth, the Palestinians still enjoy the confidence and trust of the bulk of the foreign media here in Israel," it said.

Ha'aretz accused "Palestinian propagandists" of making "perverse use of legends" it said were invented about the fighting in Jenin in order to fan "the flames of hatred against Israel".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin 'massacre evidence growing'
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel assesses Jenin action
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel launches media offensive
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