The Meaning of Jenin

Jenin – the name is now a synonym for the brutality of the Israeli war machine, and for the heroism of the Palestinian people as they seek to defend themselves against a merciless assault. The Israelis and their amen corner aren’t going to spin their way out of this one, and they know it. Here’s Janine di Giovanni in the London Times:"The refugees I had interviewed in recent days while trying to enter the camp were not lying. If anything, they underestimated the the carnage and the horror. 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."

Using civilians as human shields, the Israelis went on a rampage of vengeance and bloodlust that only ran its course when the streets of Jenin were running with blood – not only the gore of fighters, as the Israelis are now claiming, but that of innocent civilians wantonly murdered. Here’s Marie Colvin, of the Times, tracking down the horrific truth. Apparently, she had only to – literally – follow her nose:

"The first medical teams allowed into the Jenin refugee camp last week followed the chickens. Human senses were overwhelmed by the devastation and the stench of death, but the birds were not distracted. They were hungry. Two rusty-colored fowl pecking away at a bundle in the street drew a Red Cross team to the remains of Jamal Sabagh.

"He wasn’t really recognizable to an untrained eye. His body had been lying there for more than a week. The Israeli army had banned ambulances from the camp for 11 days, and neighbors were too terrified to go to him."

"Tank tracks led to his body, over it and onwards through the mud. What had once been a young man was rotting flesh mingled with shredded clothing, mashed into the earth. One foot was all that looked human."


Oh, can’t you just hear Bill Bennett and his fellow Israel Firsters trying to justify this atrocity? After all, Sabagh was a terrorist, a potential suicide bomber, a fanatic bent on the destruction of Israel, and was killed in the course of what the IDF calls a "battle." Except that Sabagh wasn’t a fighter. A diabetic too ill to flee, he was also fearful that he might be mistaken for a fighter if he left his house. So he stayed – definitely a mistake:

"Two days later, he left his house when the Israelis yelled over megaphones that they were going to blow it up. He walked, directed by soldiers in armoured personnel carriers, with other men to Seha Street at the centre of the camp, carrying his bag of medicines. He joined the crowd. Soldiers yelled at him to take off his shirt, then his trousers. He clung to his bag of medicine as he tried to unbuckle his belt, and he was slow. The soldiers shot him, friends say."

The editorially pro-Israel Telegraph was equally damning, with one story headlined "Horror Stories from the Siege of Jenin." Summary executions, including the murder of young children, vicious beatings of women, and a complete disregard for the elementary rules of war, marks the Israelis’ "Operation Defensive Shield" – what a name! – as the devilish work of homicidal maniacs. Why else would the IDF have bulldozed houses, without warning, while whole families were still in them? This was the Homicide Offensive, meant to deliver a death blow to the Palestinian nation. But swiftly burying the bodies under tons of rubble wasn’t deep enough: as Nahum Barnea, whom the Telegraph describes as Israel’s leading newspaper commentator, put it:

"If Israel does not find some way to give them a dignified burial, the bodies will bury Israel."


Barnea recognizes that the main front in the war for a Greater Israel is not on the West Bank, but in the West Wing – and in the West generally. In the propaganda war for the hearts and minds of their American patrons – without whom Israel would not last a year – the Sharon government is conducting a desperate struggle to suppress the truth not only about Jenin, but about their own annexationist agenda. "Operation Defensive Shield," eh? Now comes the news that Sharon plans to absorb half the West Bank into Israel proper. The Israeli blitzkrieg was about as "defensive" as Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in the dark days prior to World War II – and just as ominous.


For weeks, the pro-Israel lobby in the US has been on the offensive, mirroring the IDF’s scorched earth tactics with a take-no-prisoners propaganda blitz. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the charge up Capitol Hill, with the usual array of sniper pundits giving him plenty of cover. Bob Novak archly remarked that Bibi’s trip seemed to be an electioneering jaunt – perhaps to get his old job back – but left tantalizingly open the question of which election in which country. In a dress rehearsal for the key Florida election, putative presidential candidate Joe Lieberman and the Democrats competed with right-wing Republicans to see who could roll out the red carpet faster. The Los Angeles Times pointed to the emergence of a Lieberman-Hillary Clinton-conservative Republican alliance in Congress giving unconditional support to Israel  – surely the ugliest marriage of convenience since the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Hillary joins the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy – or is it the other way around? At any rate, who woulda thought it would come to this? – the conservatives and the Clintonistas, together at last.


As the story of Jenin unfolded, the Israeli disinformation campaign went into high gear, with an op-ed by Netanyahu in the War Street Journal that would win an Academy Award if ever they gave one for rank hypocrisy. As the stench of the bodies rises up from the rubble of Jenin, this vulture brays that the root cause of terrorism is not "the deprivation of rights" – after all, Gandhi didn’t resort to suicide bombings to free India from British rule – but totalitarianism:

"Those who fight as terrorists rule as terrorists. People who deliberately target the innocent never become leaders who protect freedom and human rights. When terrorists seize power, they invariably set up the darkest of dictatorships–whether in Iraq, Iran,Afghanistan or Arafatistan. In short, the reason why some resort to terror and others do not is not any absence of rights, but the presence of a tyrannical mindset."

Israel, as we are continually reminded, is a "democracy," but so was South Africa under the Boers. And remember, we aren’t talking about Israel proper anymore, but about Sharonistan – the Jewish state plus the annexed territories. Israel may have started out as a liberal democracy, but can a Greater Israel remain one? Contra Bibi, people who deliberately target the innocent have become the leaders of the Israeli state – so can we now confidently predict "the darkest of dictatorships" as Israel’s future?


My good friend Emmanuel Goldstein, writing in his really quite excellent blog, Airstrip One, has a very interesting theory that impacts on this issue: he thinks Israel has been Orientalized by the influx of Sephardic (largely Arab) and Russian immigrants, and asks "are we expecting too much of Israel?" "Until recently," he writes,

"I’ve always rooted for Israel. So why do I get so upset when they flood the airwaves with porn? Well perhaps because I see them as being Westernized. The same reason that I support them is the same reason I expect such high standards."

But with Jenin, something seems to have happened to the Western idealism that motivated the original Zionist movement, the souring of a once sweet wine that no amount of sugar can mask. Goldstein, I think correctly, points to the Orientalist mindset of more recent immigrants, with their higher birthrate, as the future of Israel:

"So what are the cultural implications of this? Well it is orientalizing Israel. Whereas the predominantly Ashkenasi Zionist movement was heavily influenced by the ideas sweeping around Western Europe because of the years spent in or near Western Europe – what is the likely outcome of a longer immersion in Arab culture for the Sephardic Jews?

"So is this hand wringing all misplaced. Is Israel simply orientalizing, or to be more accurate Arabising? As anyone who followed the Lebanese civil war – and the behaviour of the Phalangists – knows, it is not enough to look to the West to act Western….Maybe what we are seeing is that Israel is becoming a foreign country to us."

An Israeli island in the sea of Araby has been inundated and conquered, culturally and spiritually, if not yet demographically. That is the significance of Jenin, and of all the Jenins to come.


My regular readers will remember that I alerted you to the forthcoming publication of an anthology containing one of my past columns, and now I can report that Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American Foreign Policy (second edition), is out – and I am jazzed. Not just for reasons of egoboo – although there is some of that – but because it turns out this is a textbook, presented in a "Crossfire"-style debate format, intended for college and advanced high school students. That, of course, is precisely where needs to be: in the classrooms, where tomorrow’s leaders and voters are learning about the vital foreign policy issues of our time. By the way, my own contribution is not the only reason to buy this little volume: Gee, I can’t wait to read chapter 17, which deals with the question: "Did US Military Action Against Yugoslavia Violate Just War Theory?" Defending the rape of the former Yugoslavia is none other than Bill Clinton, but even more intriguing is the opposing piece by Marine lieutenant colonel William T. DeCamp III, whose article, arguing in the affirmative, was first published in the Marine Corps Gazette! The book seems to be doing well, so far: Amazon says they have only three left in stock, but more are on the way.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].