(Updated April 23, 2007)
Like any democracy, Israel not only has a right to defend its citizens - it has a moral obligation to protect its women, children and other civilians from homicide bombers who would kill a teenager who goes to the supermarket or a child who goes for a walk.
Like America, Israel defends its citizens from terrorists. In Israel, suicide bombers have terrorized the civilian population for the last 18 months. Indeed, we wish that Yasser Arafat had not refused the offer of a Palestinian state and encouraged terrorism. After all, Israel wants peace and wants there to be a Palestinian state - once the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist with their actions, and not just their words. However, when faced with terrorism, Israeli forces went into Jenin to root out one of the principal terrorist bases.
Sadly, Arafat's own Palestinian Authority documents call Jenin the “suiciders capital.” The camp has a long history as a base for extremists and no less than 28 suicide attacks were launched from this terror nest during the recent wave of violence. What would America do if it knew where to find terrorists responsible for blowing up pizzerias, discos, grocery stores, and religious celebrations?
Israel agreed to a U.S.-brokered cease-fire in the hope the Palestinians would do the same and return to the bargaining table, but Yasser Arafat rejected the American plan and the terrorists from Jenin escalated their violent attacks.
Israel has acknowledged that some Palestinians were killed, but the majority were gunmen. Any civilian casualty is a tragedy, but American forces have also discovered that it is virtually impossible to completely avoid them when terrorists used civilians as shields as the Palestinians did in Jenin.
"I see no evidence that would support a massacre took place," said Secretary of State Colin Powell. Indeed, there was no massacre in Jenin -- a fact confirmed by Human Rights Watch.
How is peace possible when Palestinian terrorists use refugees as shields, and refugees are forced to allow terrorists to establish bases in their homes, their churches, their schools, and their communities?
While trying to avoid endangering civilians, 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in bitter combat in Jenin, where Palestinian terrorists used bombs, grenades, booby-traps and machine guns to turn the camp into a war zone. Much of the destruction was caused by Palestinian bombs.
Israel prefers to take diplomatic action at the negotiating table, but when forced to defend the freedom of its citizens, the military will attack military targets and terrorists. By contrast, Palestinian terrorists target restaurants, places of worship, schools and busy streets - with many attacks taking place on the Sabbath. Israel's goal is to eliminate terrorism. The goal of the Palestinian terrorists is to inflict as much pain on as many civilians as possible.
There is no moral equivalence between terrorists and the people fighting them. To suggest otherwise would be similar to comparing the arsonist who sets a fire with the firefighter who puts the fire out.
Jenin was not destroyed. The Israeli operation was conducted in a limited area of the refugee camp, which itself comprises a small fraction of the city. TV pictures create a distorted image of the extent of the damage.
The hypocrisy of the UN and others concerned about Jenin is evident from the fact that they never condemn or investigate the repeated massacres by Palestinian homicide bombers.
Israel has nothing to hide and invited an impartial fact-finding team to visit Jenin. The historical animosity of UN bodies toward Israel raises questions about the fairness of its representatives as does the exclusion of military and counterterrorism experts. In fact, one delegate appointed to the UN team previously compared a Star of David with a swastika.
Palestinians have learned from fabricating atrocities stories in the past that a false claim against Israel will get immediate media attention and attract sympathy for their cause. And the corrections that inevitably follow are rarely seen, read, or noticed.