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SEVEN LIES ABOUT JENIN

Commentary by Dr. David Sangan, Ma'ariv, 8.11.2002, Weekend Supplement [Translation by Israel Government Press Office]

 watched Muhammad Bakri's film Jenin, Jenin in a limited forum, with Jerusalem Cinematheque Director Leah Van Leer and several journalists.

After the private screening, I responded and indicated each lie and lack of credibility. One of those present at the screening was outraged: "If you don't accept the facts in the film, you apparently don't understand anything; how can you be a doctor?"

For a moment, I forgot that I had been in Jenin last April, serving as a regional brigade doctor, while this viewer had, at best, been fed on rumors. Bakri expertly weaves together lies and half-truths until it becomes very difficult not to be seduced by the distorted picture he creates.

I did not succeed in convincing the Cinematheque management to cancel the screening. I was told that the pictures of destroyed homes were authentic and that there was, therefore, truth in the film, and that the film would be shown around the world in any case. Even so, I was invited to its premiere screening in Jerusalem and I arrived in order to explain my position to the audience.

Following are several points that I wished to raise to the audience:

1. Dr. Abu Riali, director of the hospital in Jenin, claims in the film that the western wing of the hospital was shelled and destroyed and that the IDF knowingly hit the hospital's water and power supplies. There never was any such westernwing and in any case, no part of the hospital was either shelled or blown up. IDF soldiers took care not to enter its grounds even though we knew that it was serving as a refuge for several wanted fugitives. We guarded the water, electricity and oxygen supplies to the hospital all throughout the fighting and assisted in setting up an emergency generator after the city's electrical system was damaged. Bakri himself is seen in the film wandering the hospital's clean and well-kept corridors, but not in the blown up wing. I met him outside the theater and asked him if he had visited the western wing. At first he said no, then he corrected himself and said, "You remember one moment in the film with shattered glass - it was from there." It is important to point out that this Abu Riali is one of the "authorized sources" for the claim of a "massacre." At the beginning of the operation, he was interviewed on Al-Jazeera television and spoke of, "thousands of victims."

2. Another impressive part of the film is the interview with a male 75-year-old Jenin resident who mumbles and cries, and tells how he was taken out of his bed in the middle of the night, shot in the hand, and after he failed to obey the soldiers' command to get up, was shot again in the foot. I met this very same old man as he was brought to me after an operation to clear one of the Hamas cells' houses in the refugee camp. He had indeed been lightly injured in the hand and was suffering from a minor scratch on the foot, but certainly not as the result of a bullet. IDF soldiers transferred him to a secure station that had been set up to treat wounded, and there he was treated by me, among others. One of the military doctors identified diagnosed a heart problem. We suggested that he be transferred immediately to Haemek Hospital in Afula for treatment. He asked to be treated at the hospital in Jenin since he did not speak Hebrew. After the hospital refused to admit him, we transferred him to Afula and he stayed there for three days in the internal medicine department for treatment of his heart problems and the anemia that he suffered from as a result of another chronic illness.

3. Another person who was interviewed spoke about a baby who suffered a chest wound from a bullet that entered through his chest and exited his body, creating a hole in his back. According to the film the baby died after IDF soldiers prevented his evacuation to hospital. A baby's body with this type of injury has never been found. Moreover, such an injury would have been fatal, and evacuation would not have saved his life. What is this baby's name? Where did his body disappear to?

4. The same person interviewed also told how, using his finger, he opened the baby's airway in his neck after he was injured. Again, a complete lie. Such an action cannot be carried out with a finger. This "witness" adds that tanks ran over living people many times until they were completely crushed - this never happened and is imaginary.

5. The film mentions a mass gravesite that IDF soldiers dug for Palestinian dead. Every international organization that investigated the matter concur that there were 52 Palestinian dead in Jenin, and that all the bodies were returned to the Palestinians for burial. Bakri does not bother to show the supposed location of this mass gravesite.

6. Israeli planes that supposedly bombed the city are mentioned in the film. There were no such planes. In order to prevent civilian casualties, only focused helicopter fire was used.

7. It is interesting to note that Bakri was not present in Jenin at the time of the operation, and only arrived two weeks after it was completed. In pictures shot at the site in the center of Jenin, the damage appears much larger than it was in actual fact, and the martyrs' pictures and jihad slogans - which had been present at the time of the IDF military operation - had disappeared from the walls of houses. The film systematically and repeatedly uses manipulative pictures of tanks taken in other locations, artificially placing them next to pictures of Palestinian children.  In general, this is a vulgar, but extremely well done, work of manipulation.

At the conclusion of the film, hundreds of viewers gave Bakri and the film's editor a standing ovation. Bakri asked the audience if there were any questions. I presented myself, I went up to the stage and began to systematically list the lies and inaccuracies in the film.

At first there were whispers in the audience, and later scornful calls, and I was labeled a "murderer," "war criminal" etc. I had barely succeeded in finishing my second point when a man in the audience aggressively came up on stage and tried to take the microphone out of my hand. I decided not to be dragged into violence. I allowed him to take the microphone and left the stage. I was surprised that only a few people stood up for my right to free speech and free expression. I was shocked that the audience was unwilling to hear the facts from someone who had physically been there.

It was difficult for me as a person, as a father and a doctor to hear calls of "murderer" from my people. I said that I did not kill anyone. But the calls became more heated, immense hatred was directed towards me. It left me with a hard feeling that has not subsided. I am not sorry that I went to the Cinematheque that evening. I am certain that in any case there were people who heard my doubts, and that this changed a small amount of their feelings towards the "facts" they saw. I am sure there were other people who were shocked at the intolerance demonstrated by the audience, but even so, it is hard for me [to accept] that they were the silent minority.

Allow me to say what I was unable to say to those people that evening. I am proud that I was part of this excellent and ethical force that operated in Jenin, regular army soldiers and reservists with motivation and a fighting spirit, who went to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in its capital. Many suicide-bombers came from Jenin, and were responsible for the murder of the elderly, women and children on our streets. I am proud that we were there, that we fought, and I also am proud of the morality of the battle.

The camp was not bombed from the air in order to prevent innocent civilian casualties, and artillery was not used even though we knew about specific areas in the [refugee] camp where terrorists were holing up. IDF soldiers fought against terrorists, and terrorists only. Before destroying a building where terrorist fire against our soldiers had originated from, as many warnings as could be allowed, were given, so that the people could leave without injury. The medical team administered medical aid to all casualties, even if they had Hamas tattoos on their hands. At no point was any person refused medical treatment.

This battle, heroic on one hand and ethical on the other, took a heavy toll from the best of our fighters! We who had to be there - the soldiers that fell there, their families and the IDF - do not deserve that Muhammad Bakri should incite the world to murder and hatred at our expense.
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