What really happened in Jenin? That question is well beyond the scope of these pages. The best I can hope to do is examine the degree to which various sources that were posted on the web or distributed via e-mail appear to be accurate or believable.
One report I received was a soldier's monologue, posted by someone who spoke with/interviewed him. The gist of the monologue was that Israeli soldiers acted much more humanely than was reported in the international press. Was this a believable report? In this particular case the poster of the monologue was someone I've known personally (though I didn't receive it from him), and knowing his general political point of view, I think it's fair to assume that what he was reporting was accurate. Had I not known him, I doubt that I would have been able to make a judgment of this sort either way.
Another friend forwarded an interesting report that he received in an e-mail correspondence, part of an ongoing debate about what happened in Jenin. In late May, 2002, Dan Gordon (a writer whom I don't know and about whom I can find very little information on the web) published an article in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles: "A Question of Blood". The article was circulated and reprinted almost countless times. In that article Gordon tells a story told to him by Dr. David Zangen who was serving 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.
It's certainly a moving story, but is it true? The e-mail I received from my friend was a forward of a letter from someone who spoke with Dr. Zangen when he was in Australia on a speaking tour. He reported:
The Palestinians refused it because it was Jewish blood.
At the end of his address I quoted the following extract from Gordon's article from The Jewish Journal - titled "A Question of Blood"
I personally tracked down this person's e-mail address and wrote him, asking him about what he wrote about Zangen, and he told me the e-message was accurate, and that he had sent it.
"I was in the Jenin refugee camp on April 16. ... I heard a story ... 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 ... offered the Palestinians blood for their wounded. The Palestinians refused it because it was Jewish blood."
I asked Dr Zangen whether this was true. In front of 250 people he categorically denied ever having said anything like that to Gordon or that the incident ever occurred!"
The poet Karen Alkalay-Gut, in her often fascinating online journal also reports this story and then asks whether this blemish on the story about Jenin is supposed to cause us to question everything we've learned about Jenin from certain sources. She reaches the rather sober conclusion that it shouldn't.
And yet a certain balance has been broken, cracks have appeared in the wall, and it's hard not to relate to the entire Jenin story without a certain feeling of discomfort.
Go to: Believe me when I tell you ...