MSNBC: MAKING SENSE – Transcript for Wednesday, May 1, 2002
ALAN KEYES, HOST: Welcome to MAKING SENSE. I‘m Alan Keyes.
Up front tonight, Jenin and the issue of Palestinian credibility. I know from e-mails and other communications that some of you wonder sometimes why I‘m so hard on some of the Palestinian spokesmen. Well, we‘ll be taking a look tonight at one of the major reasons why I have been frustrated with some of those spokesmen who have appeared on the program. We‘re going to get to that story.
But first, there are some late-breaking developments in the region. Israel says its military forces have completely pulled out of Ramallah, including Yasser Arafat‘s compound, ending the month-long siege. This comes after six Palestinians wanted by Israel were transported to a Palestinian prison under U.S. and British guards.
And there was also some action at the besieged church in Bethlehem. MSNBC‘s Tom Aspell is in the West Bank with the latest – Tom.
TOM ASPELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Alan, just before midnight, shots rang out between Palestinian gunmen inside the Church of the Nativity and Israeli soldiers surrounding them from the rooftops and from Manger Square itself. Within a few minutes, it had escalated almost into almost a full-scale firefight, the thump of heavy machine guns, a couple of plugs from grenades being fired from the Israelis towards the church, and the rattle of small arms coming from the windows and doors of the church, aimed at the Israelis surrounding them in the darkness.
The Israelis moved up a couple of armored personnel carriers. They used heavy machine guns. And two fires were ignited inside the compound, one in the Franciscan section of the church and another in the Greek Orthodox section. Those flames lasted for about half an hour before those inside the compound managed to bring them under control. A spokesman for the Palestinians holed up inside the Church of the Nativity told us that at least three people have been injured by the flames.
And when the gunfire was at its height, suddenly the church bells began tolling out. Now, Bethlehem has been under lockdown since the siege began a month ago, everybody inside their houses, 8:00 at night. It was a very eerie sound to hear that gun battle going on and then the tolling of the church bells, a traditional call in times of distress here.
Remember, the Church of the Nativity, built more than 1,400 years ago, a traditional refuge for those seeking safety when under attack. So, a great deal of symbolism going on here. And Yasser Arafat himself saying this is a crime against Christianity and determined not to leave Ramallah until an agreement has been reached to end this siege. Back to you, Alan.
KEYES: Tom Aspell, thank you very much. We‘ll have another update on those stories at the bottom of the hour.
But for now, back to the issue of Jenin and the controversy that has swirled around it and the issue of Palestinian credibility. There was this story in today‘s “Washington Times,” that a Palestinian official put the Jenin death toll at 56. The “Times” said it spoke to the director of Yasser Arafat‘s Fatah movement for the northern West Bank, who, quote, “No longer used the ubiquitous Palestinian charge of massacre, and instead portrayed the battle as a victory for Palestinians in resisting Israeli forces.”
Quote: “Here, the Israelis, who tried to break the Palestinian willpower, have been taught a lesson,” Mr. Kadoura said.
It‘s interesting, isn‘t it, that we have now what appears to be the beginning of a more accurate appraisal of the Palestinian death toll in Jenin. Here‘s what we know from some other sources.
The Jenin hospital confirms 52 dead. The Associated Press could confirm only 48 dead so far. MSNBC reports that there have been no bodies found as people have been going through the rubble for the last week.
We do remember, don‘t we, that there had been earlier claims by Palestinian officials of a death toll in the hundreds. And this wasn‘t coincidental, my friends. This often came in the context of political attacks against Israel, demands made for Israel to withdraw, questioning of Israel‘s justification and moving against terrorism and so forth and so on.
Listen to some of the things that have been said on this network, MSNBC, on my program, about how bad it was in Jenin.
MICHAEL TARAZI, LEGAL ADVISER TO PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: We‘re hearing reports that we have hundreds of people facing a siege, hundreds of thousands of people facing war crimes. And the rest of the world isn‘t doing anything about it.
HASAN ABDEL RAHMAN, PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.S.: What happened in Jenin obviously is a war crime. You have to be blind not to see those atrocities in the camp. And what I saw is reminiscent of what the Nazis did in Europe in the Second World War.
KEYES: Now, you will remember as well that the representative of Kofi Annan, who was there, also spoke in hyperbolic rhetoric about what had happened in Jenin and lent some credibility to the charges of massacre and massive atrocity that filled the air for the last fortnight and more.
Well, tomorrow, Kofi Annan will officially disband his investigative team. He said tonight – quote – “With the situation in the Jenin refugee camp changing by the day, it will become more and more difficult to establish with any confidence or accuracy the recent events that took place there.” Fascinating, isn‘t it?
Well, it seems that now that things are moving in a direction that gives the lie to these charges of hundreds of deaths and massive outrages and so forth and so on, all of a sudden the unbiased United Nations is losing its fervor and interest in going in and getting at the facts. It does lead some folks to suspect that maybe it wasn‘t facts they were after in the first place. Maybe in the end it was simply an effort to add to the flames and furor that was moving against Israel in this slanderous way.
And I wish I could say that it stopped with the United Nations. But we know it didn‘t. The European countries, elements in our own State Department, including the secretary of state, stampeded by a campaign of propaganda and disinformation aimed at portraying the Israelis as massive brutalizers who are massacring people in Jenin. And I think it contributed substantially to the heavy pressure that was then placed on Israel with the result of Yasser Arafat‘s liberation in the deal that was struck over the last weekend.
In that sense, I think, the spokesman who said that this was a victory, that Jenin represented a victory, was right, but not necessarily in the battle itself, in the way in which the battle was abused for propaganda purposes to win and score a major political and diplomatic victory in the resuscitation of Yasser Arafat despite the continued abuse of terrorism as a negotiating tactic. In that sense, it would seem to me, that this Palestinian tactic has succeeded very well.
But I would raise the same question here that I raise with respect to terrorism, for instance, in general. The success of this campaign of disinformation raises serious questions about whether we‘re just going to continue to see the same tactics practiced over and over again because of the gullible, feckless, fatuous kind of response that comes from folks in our own State Department, from Europeans and others, who won‘t insist that we look at facts and not act on charges instead of facts. And that‘s what has happened in the course of the last fortnight, what I think what could be momentous results for the Middle East for the entire region.
Well, we are going to be taking a look that the question in the course of this half hour. And we‘ll be discussing whether or not the success of this campaign is going to lead to more of the same and the issues that that has to raise for me, for a whole lot of people, about the credibility for the Palestinian spokesmen who have made themselves the instruments of this kind of propaganda.
Now, I know that there are some folks who were educated in the Communist school of public relations to believe that the big lie and the Goebel‘s approach and the propaganda stuff works somewhere. It doesn‘t work with me. I don‘t think it works with a lot of fair-minded Americans who would rather take a look at the hard facts and try to make their judgment in a fair way on the basis of those facts than be stampeded by emotional propaganda campaigns that then turn out to have been based upon, what? A willingness to play games with the truth in order to achieve for political purposes.
We‘re going to debate this issue with Hussein Ibish of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and Mark Regev of the Israeli Embassy. That‘s coming up next. You‘re watching America‘s news channel, MSNBC.
KEYES: Coming up in our next half hour, I have a special treat. Two of my favorite people in the whole world, Jim and Shirley Dobson, are going to be on the program talking about tomorrow‘s National Day of Prayer. I hope you‘ll stay tuned.
A reminder that the chat room is humming tonight. And you can join in right now at
But first, we get back to the issue of Palestinian credibility in the wake of increasing indications that the claims of hundreds of dead and Nazi-style atrocities and other things were heavy exaggerated, abused for propaganda purposes to achieve a political result.
And I think that it is a serious question. I see it happen all the time in the media and we need to look folks in the eye and say, “Why should we believe you after this?” What is accomplished for a cause when this kind of thing becomes the basis of presentation to influence public opinion?
Well, joining us now to get to the heart of this matter, Mark Regev, spokesman for the embassy of Israel in the United States, and Hussein Ibish, spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Gentlemen, welcome to MAKING SENSE.
KEYES: Hussein Ibish, I have to start, obviously, with you tonight.
IBISH: I would hope so.
KEYES: I am looking at the emerging facts here. And I‘ve got to tell you, I have to listen patiently for a long time to all these claims and so forth and so on. It begins to look pretty clear that those claims were heavy exaggerated…
IBISH: Have you read Amnesty International‘s report?
KEYES: … we have some coming forward right now on the Palestinian side talking about the fact that we‘re not finding dead and so forth that correspond to these exaggerated claims. What does this do to the credibility of all the folks who have come forward to stampede us with these claims of massacre?
IBISH: Well, I can‘t answer that question, because it‘s absolutely preposterously phrased. Look, first of all, the figure of 500, which is the highest figure I ever heard, came first from an Israeli general. So, that‘s the first thing.
And the number of dead in Jenin is absolutely not known. And it‘s absolutely not known because the Israeli army shot at and arrested any journalist who tried to cover their activities there. And now it is the Israeli government that is refusing any international fact-finding. You don‘t have the facts because the Israeli government has something to hide.
And let me say one other thing, you and everyone out there, I appeal to your audience, go to Amnesty International‘s web site and read their preliminary report on Jenin. Look at the Human Rights Watch website and read their report on Jenin. Both of them are seeing major evidence of serious war crimes, including using people as human shields, including excessive force against civilians, deliberate targeting ambulances.
All of this needs to be looked into. And they‘re very, serious allegations.
KEYES: Let me finish, sir. When I start talking, after I‘ve given you a fair amount of time, you stop, OK?
IBISH: Yes, go ahead.
KEYES: The problem is that a lot of those kinds of reports are based on the same exaggerated hyperbole that we were getting from you. I could have made a report based on what I heard from a Palestinian spokesman. Only it‘s turning out that it‘s not born out.
And I do have a problem, sir, because I can see us right now at the beginning of another one of these cycles where the facts don‘t bear out these claims, but where folks like yourself…
KEYES: … let me finish, sir. You can answer me when I get done…
IBISH: You just spoke for 10 minutes.
KEYES: …. keep coming forward with the same sort of big lie expecting that just because you repeat a lot it‘s true.
IBISH: What do you mean a big lie? What do you – big lie? That‘s so foolish.
Look, Amnesty International is not my cat‘s paw. Human Rights Watch is not controlled by me and my friends. This is absurd.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch sent teams of investigators into Jenin. They do very serious work. It is the Israelis who won‘t let the facts come out.
Why do you think the Israelis have refused to cooperate with this international fact-finding mission that we voted for, that the United States wanted, that the U.N. wanted to do? The Israelis clearly have something to hide. If you can‘t see that, it‘s the height of gullibility…
KEYES: What I can see…
IBISH: … it‘s the height of gullibility.
KEYES: … Hussein Ibish, what I can see is the beginning of another one of these periods where folks like yourself will go on building these lies of propaganda in the air…
IBISH: Why don‘t we have a fact-finding mission?
KEYES: … But when the facts are actually laid on the table, nothing to back up your claims. But first…
IBISH: Alan, can‘t you see that its the Israelis who are hiding the facts?
KEYES: Let me get to Mr. Regev, because I think it‘s pretty clear the Israelis blocked that team because the U.N. had made up its mind before it even went in. And now that they think they won‘t find…
KEYES: … let me finish. Now that they think they won‘t find a basis for their slanders, they have decided to back off.
Mark Regev, it does seem to me, meaning no offense, a fortnight ago, folks on the Israeli side were estimating that casualties on the Palestinian side would range between 50 and 60, as I recall. It would seem as if developments are starting to verify that kind of count. What are we to make of this?
REGEV: I think we Israeli spokesman always try to be as accurate as we can, as precise as we can, and if we don‘t know the facts we don‘t make them up. We say we‘re looking into it, we‘re investigating it.
But the stories about Jenin, Alan, it‘s one example of many – I can think offhand of at least half a dozen cases where Palestinian spokesmen, officials, have lied and I think have done so knowingly. Nabil Shat (ph) and Saeb Erekat, two men who are very respected, specifically used the number 500 people massacred in Jenin. We know that now not to be true.
I remember a Palestinian spokesman denying any connection of the Palestinian Authority to the Karinay (ph) incident. You‘ll recall the incident of cooperation with the Iranians to bring in weapons, terrorist weapons, C-4, kitusha (ph) rockets. And, of course, afterwards they had to backtrack. They lied about that.
I‘ve seen Palestinian leaders talk about Israelis using depleted uranium. It‘s not true. It‘s a lie. They say we deliberately target children. It‘s a lie.
And I think there‘s a pattern here. And one problem is I think people understand that despotic regimes do tend not to tell the truth.
But the Iraqis and the Cubans, when they do it, everyone knows it. But when Mr. Arafat‘s dictatorship tells a mistruth, somehow it‘s more generally accepted.
IBISH: What are you hiding, Mark? What‘s your government hiding?
KEYES: Mr. Ibish, Mr. Ibish…
KEYES: … I‘ll get back to you in a minute. Mark, I have a follow-up question…
IBISH: It‘s the most basic question possible.
KEYES: … I have a follow-up question because it does seem to me as I listen to Mr. Ibish, I can anticipate, and did in fact anticipate, the next stage of this. The Israeli government blocks the U.N. team and without any basis, in fact, there is the inference and insinuation, “Oh, they must have something to hide. They blocked the…”
IBISH: Of course. Of course.
KEYES: … Mark, isn‘t your government concerned that that kind of campaign of innuendo is fed by a decision not to allow an investigation into establish the facts and to verify them?
REGEV: First of all, we‘re willing to have the U.N. team come in…
IBISH: No, you aren’t.
REGEV: … What we don‘t want is a politicized team.
IBISH: You have blocked the U.N. team.
REGEV: We want a team of fact finders…
IBISH: You have blocked them.
REGEV: … you have refused. Mr. Ibish, I didn‘t interrupt you. We want an independent team of fact finders. We want a team of professionals, notary people, people who have dealt with forensic scientists, people who have got experience from Bosnia, from Rwanda, people who can look at let‘s say at a dead body and say when was that person killed, how was that person killed?
We want a professional team. And we want terms of reference that will be objective. We don‘t want Israel‘s head on the chopping block. We want to look at the whole issues. You know, Alan…
IBISH: All of that was there.
REGEV: … the U.N. is also culpable, the U.N. camps. The refugee camps are under the control, direct control, of the U.N., its refugee agency. And according to the U.N. Security Council‘s own resolutions, they‘re not allowed to have any weapons there – explosives, no terrorism. And yet we know, everyone knows, that there were terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad functioning under the U.N.‘s own authority.
Surely the U.N. should also be looking at its own agencies. Same thing as the U.N. won‘t look at the Palestinian Authority, that the Palestinian Authority allowed terrorists to function from these camps.
KEYES: Hussein Ibish, go ahead.
IBISH: If there‘s any viewer out there who doesn‘t understand that the reason that Israel has blocked this very respectable mission, made up mostly of friends of Israel– you have refused to allow them to go in. You have done it.
REGEV: That‘s not true.
IBISH: That is a colossal lie. You want a big lie, there’s one for you. Of course it‘s true. Of course it‘s true. Kofi Annan today said that he had to give up on this mission because of the lack of cooperation with Israel. All the world‘s press, including the Israeli press, has reported your government has refused to cooperate, has refused to allow this team led by…
REGEV: We want this to work here, Mr. Ibish.
IBISH: … Mati Atasari (ph), no, your government has refused to cooperate with that investigation…
KEYES: Hussein…
KEYES: … if I may interject…
IBISH: … because you clearly have something to hide.
KEYES: … if I may interject, though.
IBISH: Of course.
KEYES: I make one objection to this notion that this was some kind of unbiased and respectable team. We have one guy on the team who made efforts to block Israel when it was trying to get into the International Red Cross, compared the…
IBISH: That‘s not true.
KEYES: … will you let me finish? … compared…
IBISH: That‘s not true.
KEYES: … compared the Star of David to a Nazi – to the admission of the Nazis…
IBISH: That‘s such an absurd falsehood.
KEYES: … There are others who are clearly identifiable with an anti- Israeli position…
IBISH: Who are we talking about? Let‘s talk about this.
KEYES: … Hussein, let me finish. The thing I find most problematic about the so-called U.N. investigative team, on my show we talked with forensic experts, anthropologists, and a forensic expert. And they made it clear that to have a scientific investigation requires a team that has people like themselves doing the investigation so that you can actually look at the situation and understand what you see.
KEYES: Why did the U.N. team include all these political types without including the people with the scientific knowledge to do what was required?
IBISH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Because, of course, it has forensic pathologists on it. There are 25 people on that team. And let‘s look at who leads it.
Marti Atasari, the former prime minister of Finland and a great friend of Israel. Terry Larson, who won the Shimon Peres prize. No one on that team ever blocked Israel from getting into any international organization. No one compared the Star of David to the swastika or anything of the kind. Those ideas are so absolutely, completely false. Look (UNINTELLIGIBLE)…
KEYES: The thing I find interesting about you is that by denying a fact you think that you establish credibility. But right now, you are sitting there…
KEYES: … as the representative of a group of people who have paraded on this program time after time after time thinking that they were going to stampede me and others into some kind of guilt trip over a terrible massacre in Jenin where the evidence mounts that that massacre…
IBISH: I’m not the representative of any of those people and I never did that on your show.
KEYES: … What we actually saw in Jenin was an intense battle where there were casualties on both sides…
IBISH: You don‘t know that. You‘re making that up. You don‘t know that.
KEYES: … intense casualties. And, in point of fact, if there were war crimes, those crimes may have been committed in the course of booby trapping the area, which is against international law, not removing civilians from danger…
KEYES: … which is against international law. And yet, and I need to address this question to Mark Regev. Mark, one of the things that surprised me on the…
IBISH: I don‘t get to respond to that?
KEYES: … (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one of the things that surprised me on the part of the Israelis, Mark, is that you haven‘t insisted that the U.N. team investigate the involvement in terrorism and the possible war crimes committed by those who were fighting against you using tactics and techniques that are outlawed under international law. Shouldn‘t they be looking at that?
REGEV: We have. In a letter and in the conversations between Shimon Peres and secretary general of the U.N., we have asked precisely that. There‘s the whole issue of the Palestinian terrorists using the refugee camp as – civilians there as human shields. The fact that they did booby trap houses, that they did shoot from civilian neighborhoods, that they made no effort to help the civilian population, on the contrary.
Then there‘s the whole issue of ambulances, how they‘ve used ambulances to traffic in explosives. There‘s even documented cases of ambulances where suicide bombers were found inside. And so I think there‘s a whole list of things that we could look into.
KEYES: Now, Hussein Ibish, I presume that you will deny…
IBISH: Obviously.
KEYES: … the documentary evidence that has established these facts, right?
IBISH: Well, of course. The International Committee of the Red Cross has, in fact, denied it.
REGEV: That‘s not true.
IBISH: Look, I‘m not going to accept what Mark Regev says. Mark Regev has just told your audience that Israel did not block this investigation. The whole world knows it blocked it. It openly blocked it. Then it announced it decided to block, all right? So, I mean, I don‘t have to take his word for anything.
Now, look, Alan, here‘s the point. The point is that this commission, this inquiry that we voted for, that the United States wanted and that passed unanimously in the Security Council was going to look at everything. It was going to look at what happened, what the Israelis did, what the Palestinians did. It was a very balanced team, extremely credible.
Israel‘s objections were accommodated. They said they wanted military experts in the leadership. They put an American general in there. Everything was done to make this – to bend this to Israel‘s will. And they still won‘t go for it because they have very serious things to hide.
Anyone who doubts it, just go and read the preliminary reports on Amnesty International‘s web site and Human Right Watch web sites. And the only way to come to the conclusions you‘re coming to is to think that the whole world is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, and Israel stands surrounded by people who just hate it, which is I think just completely preposterous.
REGEV: Can I just say, Alan…
KEYES: Go ahead.
REGEV: … the Amnesty International says very clearly there is no evidence of a massacre. The “Washington Post” and “New York Times”…
IBISH: What they say is major war crimes.
REGEV: … admit there‘s no evidence of a massacre…
IBISH: We‘re talking about war crimes, Mark.
REGEV: … (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it‘s the French socialist paper, it‘s not pro-Israel at all, says there‘s no evidence of a massacre.
IBISH: We‘re talking about war crimes.
REGEV: I have yet to see one serious person…
KEYES: Mark…
REGEV: … produce any evidence of a massacre. And I‘m sorry…
IBISH: We‘re talking about war crimes. I said war crimes.
KEYES: I think that…
KEYES: No, no, Hussein Ibish, now I watch these tactics, and excuse me, I‘m about to lose my patience with this again. The old tactic that once you‘ve been shown, caught in a lie on one thing, you shift the ground and pretend that you never said that. We have heard massacre time and time again…
IBISH: Tell me one lie that I said.
KEYES: … Massacre was the keyword in the last two and three weeks from every Palestinian spokesman I heard from…
IBISH: Certainly not me. That’s not a word I used.
KEYES: … Well, suddenly you‘re not guilty. I understand, sir…
KEYES: Mr. Rahman and others who came on this program were more than guilty…
IBISH: … what I have said consistently, Alan…
KEYES: … and were promoting an impression that now we‘re suddenly supposed to forget, right?
IBISH: We don‘t know yet what happened. What I have been saying consistently from the moment the attack on Jenin started is serious evidence of possible Israeli war crimes. That is exactly the phrase I’ve been using. And that is still what is being endorsed by Amnesty International, by Human Rights Watch, by almost all the journalists who have gone in. And that is a fact. And I‘ve actually been…
KEYES: We‘re up against…
IBISH: … (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by Israel‘s refusal to have a fact-finding mission, simplest thing in the world.
KEYES: … I would have to reinforce one point, though, Mark, which I am a little concerned about. We have a historical track record of people who will come forward. And some of them will be absolutely trying to falsify history every way they possibly can. Somebody the other day tried to claim that the Arabs weren‘t aggressing against Israel in 1967. When we start seeing people selling big lies like this, it‘s very important…
IBISH: You know, Israel attacked Egypt in 1967.
KEYES: … not to leave open questions. And I do believe we face a challenge in Jenin. We need to close the book on this in a factual, credible way. I frankly don‘t believe the U.N. is credible.
But I think we need find somebody with the credibility to go in and verify the facts that are emerging because I think if they don‘t, we‘re going to be haunted by a continued effort of insinuation. How does the Israeli government intend to stop that?
IBISH: Alan, if you won‘t believe the UN, Amnesty…
KEYES: I‘m addressing a question to Mark right now, Hussein.
IBISH: … all right.
KEYES: Mark, how does the Israeli government tend to stop this?
REGEV: I think, first of all, if the U.N. team doesn‘t work in the end, and once again, we‘re still hoping it can work where we can reach agreements and where we‘re ready for ongoing negotiations to reach agreement.
But can I say – and I think this typifies the problem at the U.N. – you have on the U.N. Security Council Syria, which represents the Arab group there now. Syria is a state recognized by the United States as a state that sponsors terrorism. It occupies Lebanon illegally. It‘s a state with a terrible regime where the dictator passed on to his son the regime.
Now, they‘re going to be president of the U.N. Security Council next month. I mean, what are we supposed to think about that, a regime that supports Hezbollah, that has the basis of 12 terrorist organizations…
IBISH: The United States voted for this.
REGEV: … sitting in its capital.
IBISH: The United States voted for this resolution.
KEYES: Gentlemen, we‘re going to have to wrap it up for the night. I really want to say I appreciate having both of you here. But I‘ll be blunt…
IBISH: Thank you, Alan.
KEYES: … with you, Mr. Ibish. I‘m going to appreciate more having Palestinian spokesman when I can feel that they are showing me the respect of sticking to the facts when they come on this program because I promise you that folks who do otherwise aren‘t going to get away with it with me. I don‘t appreciate it.
IBISH: Right back at you, Alan.
KEYES: Next, I‘m going to have on some favorite people of mine, Jim and Shirley Dobson. They‘re going to be talking about a favorite subject of mine. And that subject is prayer. Tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer, all of us joining together to ask for God‘s help as we face the challenge of our time.
You‘re watching America‘s news channel, MSNBC.

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