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Justice, Jenin and Janner

There is outrage in Britain over the decision not to prosecute a senior British peer over child sex offences. Lord Greville Janner should have been charged with historic child sex offences on three occasions over the past 25 years but he has now apparently escaped prosecution because, at 86 years old, he has dementia. It is not known for certain why previous allegations were not taken to court by the public prosecutor.

Frankly, I have no idea if Lord Janner is a predatory paedophile or not, but now that he will not be charged it is unlikely that he will ever face his accusers in court. Certainly the many alleged victims who say that they were groomed, assaulted and exploited by him are outraged that justice has been denied to them.

On previous occasions, Janner had denied such accusations vehemently, but since I believe that his lordship has a long distance relationship with the truth, his word means little to me. I say this because way back in 2002, while he was actively being investigated — yet again — by British police for child sex offences, he visited Palestine around the same time that I did.

The West Bank town of Jenin, a name now synonymous with heroic resistance, was under siege and there were several reports of an Israeli military-led massacre. I was one of the first journalists to get into Jenin within hours of the siege being lifted and to this day I am haunted by what I saw. I’ve never been able to speak about Jenin without tears coming to my eyes; they are welling up again as I write.

That day in April I arrived to see Palestinians still recovering the bodies of their loved ones from beneath the rubble where their homes once stood. Around 50 were missing and 25 of those had been buried alive as Israelis moved their tanks in to bulldoze the buildings. I saw one widow whose hands were shredded and bloodied as she dug desperately through the concrete, stones and crushed mortar to try to find the body of her wheelchair-bound uncle. “We had less than two minutes’ notice to get out and he didn’t make it,” she cried.

Not one home had escaped the onslaught as F16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters sent their hellfire missiles and shells into the civilian areas.

A man called Marwan told me how he watched the lifeblood of his wife ebb from her body over several agonising hours after shrapnel from one of the shells tore through the kitchen window and sliced her jugular vein as she peeled vegetables in her kitchen. Israeli soldiers refused to let him carry her to a nearby hospital for help and those medics held back on the outskirts of Jenin with their ambulances were refused permission to enter.

Amidst all of this carnage, some Palestinian women told me, Israeli soldiers stole their jewellery. Others explained to me that they were used as human shields while the soldiers went about their dirty work. I walked around the town with a delegation of Labour MPs and saw the evidence with my own eyes. The world knew that something horrific had happened in Jenin but few were allowed in to give an eye witness account. I’m still not sure how or why our delegation led by the then Labour MP George Galloway gained access, but we did.

In the meantime, friends and allies of the Zionist state tumbled in to Jerusalem to carry out some damage limitation. Among them was Lord Janner, a leading light in Westminster’s pro-Israel lobby, and Colin Powell, US Secretary of State.

Powell gave a press conference in the luxurious King David Hotel in Jerusalem and told the media that he had seen no evidence of a massacre in Jenin. This was the same man, you may recall, who in December 1968 said that there was no evidence of a massacre at a place called My Lai in South Vietnam. Of course, there had been a massacre; in both places.

The reason Colin Powell “saw no evidence” is because he never left the hotel and I have often wondered if Greville Janner ever actually put a foot in Jenin. If he didn’t then he lied to his House of Lords colleagues about going to Jenin and if he did go to the town and saw what I saw then he lied about there being no massacre. He said back then that he did not find “evidence of allegations of disproportionate force.” Either way, his lordship’s word is not something upon which I would ever rely.

Not only is he a man who cannot be trusted, but he is also a hypocrite. Five years before the massacre of Jenin, in January 1997, an Old Bailey jury decided that a man aged 86 –Janner’s age now – was too ill to stand trial for atrocities that had taken place in 1941 and 1942.

Lord Janner’s reaction, as chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, certainly makes interesting reading in the light of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to pursue him on child sex offences. “I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand,” said Janner at the time. “War criminals have managed to evade prosecution under our system of justice for decades. There were absolutely no reasons why he should have escaped charges for ever.”

The man in question was Szymon Serafinowicz, a retired carpenter from Surrey, who was arrested in 1995 as the first British person to be charged under the War Crimes Act in connection with the murder of three Jews during the Second World War. He had denied the allegations but could not answer questions because of the severity of his dementia. Lord Janner, a former Labour MP for Leicester West and co-founder and co-chair of the Holocaust Educational Trust raged, “I don’t care what bloody age they are… these criminals should have been dealt with years ago.”

He has now been suspended by the Labour Party following the revelation that he is facing charges of 14 indecent assaults on a male under 16 between 1969 and 1988; two indecent assaults between 1984 and 1988; four counts of buggery of a male under 16 between 1972 and 1987; and two counts of buggery between 1977 and 1988.

More than a dozen people claim that they were abused by the politician, who is alleged to have used his position to prey on vulnerable young boys from children’s homes in Leicestershire. Now it seems that Janner’s alleged victims will be denied their day in court. The people of Jenin were promised a full investigation and enquiry by the United Nations but, 13 years later, they are still waiting. Justice for them is elusive as, indeed, it looks like it is going to be for those who claim to have been abused by Lord Greville Janner. Justice, Jenin and Jenner; an alliterative disgrace in every respect.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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