The So-Called Jenin “Massacre”: The Media at its Worst

The myth of Jeningrad, ten years on

Media commentator and analyst Tom Gross who originally took the media to task for its coverage of Jenin in 2002, has recently published the following in his Middle East Dispatch, which is adapted here with his permission.


Ten years ago, in April 2002, Israel was subjected to the most incredible wave of media misreporting and nastiness I have ever witnessed on any subject. This followed a supposed massacre of hundreds (or thousands, according to some initial CNN reports) of Palestinian civilians in Jenin. In fact at most 14 Palestinian civilians died (together with 23 Israeli soldiers). This was far fewer than the hundreds of Israeli civilians killed in Israeli towns by suicide bombers dispatched from Jenin, a wave of attacks that Israel was trying to prevent from continuing.

I attach two articles below. The first concentrates on The Guardian’s coverage and is by a British university student who (fearing for his reputation with other students and professors) uses the pseudonym “Myrrh”.

[This article can be viewed separately on the HonestReporting site here.]

The second article is my own analysis of the Jenin massacre myth, originally published ten years ago, which I titled “Jeningrad” after British journalists took seriously Yasser Arafat’s claim that the “massacre” of Palestinians in Jenin could only be compared to the World War Two Nazi sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad. (800,000 Russians died during the 900-day siege of Leningrad; 1.3 million died in Stalingrad.)

As I noted in my piece, the British media was particularly emotive in its reporting. In April 2002, they devoted page upon page, day after day, to tales of mass murders, common graves, summary executions, and war crimes. Israel was invariably compared to the Nazis, to al Qaeda, and to the Taliban. One report even compared the thousands of supposedly missing Palestinians to the “disappeared” of Argentina. (No Palestinians were in fact missing.) A leading columnist for the Evening Standard, London’s main evening newspaper, compared Israel’s actions to “genocide.”


By contrast on the very same days, American reporters in Jenin – unlike their British counterparts – reported accurately. Molly Moore of The Washington Post wrote there was “no evidence to support allegations by aid organizations of large-scale massacres or executions.” Newsday’s reporter in Jenin, Edward Gargan, wrote: “There is little evidence to suggest that Israeli troops conducted a massacre of the dimensions alleged by Palestinian officials.”

The Boston Globe correspondent reported that after extensive interviews with “civilians and fighters” in Jenin “none reported seeing large numbers of civilians killed.” On the other hand, referring to the deaths of Israeli soldiers in Jenin, Abdel Rahman Sa’adi, an “Islamic Jihad grenade-thrower,” told The Boston Globe “This was a massacre of the Jews, not of us.”

By contrast the Jerusalem correspondent for the (London) Independent, Phil Reeves, began his report from Jenin: “A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed.” He continued: “The sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human tomb. The people say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed beneath the dust.”

Reeves spoke of “killing fields,” an image more usually associated with Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

Even the right-wing Daily Telegraph ran headlines such as “Hundreds of victims ‘were buried by bulldozer in mass grave’” and utterly fabricated accounts such as “Israeli soldiers had stripped him [the Palestinian] to his underwear, pushed him against a wall and shot him.”

Only one British paper, the Rupert Murdoch-owned daily tabloid The Sun, castigated the rest of the British media for their lies.

[Read “Jeningrad: What the British media said by Tom Gross here.]

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Image: CC BY-SA, flickr/Photo Giddy,