11 years ago: How the Guardian reported 2002 Netanya Passover Massacre

The attack

On March 27, 2002, a Hamas terrorist named Abdel-Basset Odeh broke into a Passover Seder at the dining hall of the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel, and set off powerful explosives in a suitcase he was carrying, murdering 30 of the 250 people (mostly elderly Jews) in the crowded room.  One hundred and fifty more people were injured in what would become known as the bloodiest attack of the 2nd Intifada.

Several of the victims were Holocaust survivors.


Photos of those killed in the Passover bombing

Guardian report:

One of the most remarkable elements of the Guardian’s initial report on the Passover Eve suicide bombing is how relatively little space was devoted to the actual attack and to the victims.

The opening sentence of the March 28, 2002 report on the bombing, by Suzanne Goldenberg (in Beirut) and Graham Usher (in Jerusalem), is telling.  Note that the immediate focus is on the diplomatic ramifications, not on the Israeli dead and injured.

“A Palestinian suicide bomber walked into a hotel lobby crowded with Israelis gathered for the ritual Passover meal last night, dealing a crushing blow to efforts at the Arab summit to open a new chapter with the Jewish state.”

Goldenberg continues:

“Police said 16 people were killed and more than 140 wounded after the bomber detonated a large bag of explosives in a dining room of the Park hotel in the seaside town of Netanya. It was one of the deadliest attacks in 18 months of fighting.”

Actually, 22 civilians were killed instantly in the blast and another 8 died of their wounds over the next few days. 


“The explosion tore through the hotel, blowing out walls and windows and overturning tables and chairs. “Suddenly it was hell,” said one of the guests, Nechama Donenhirsch, 52. “There was the smell of smoke and dust in my mouth and a ringing in my ears.”

Televised scenes showed screaming women, wailing ambulances, cloaked bodies and shop awnings buckled by heat. Israeli police reported that several of the wounded were in “life-threatening condition”.”

The murderer’s bag was packed with 20 lbs of explosives, as well as ball bearings and metal pellets to maximize the carnage from the blast. 

Metal pellets and metal pieces added to the explosives to increase casualties

Metal pellets and metal pieces added to the explosives to increase casualties

Goldenberg continues – again expressing concern for the diplomatic fallout, and the potential for Israeli ‘revenge’.

“The Islamic militant group Hamas told an Arab satellite television station that it was responsible for the attack. The bombing threatened to derail the latest US truce mission, which survived two suicide attacks last week. George Bush denounced the bomb attack as “callous, cold-blooded killing”.

The Palestinian Authority said it “strongly condemned” the bombing and Palestinian security sources said Yasser Arafat had ordered the arrest of four key militants in the West Bank.

Many in Israel saw yesterday’s attack as an event which could goad the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, into launching a crushing military offensive on the West Bank and Gaza. An Israeli government spokesman talked of a “Passover massacre”, vowing “far-reaching responses against Palestinian Authority facilities”. “

Again, Goldenberg:

“The bomb went off at about 7.20pm, as dozens of guests settled down for the Passover Seder in the dining hall.

Netanya has been targeted several times by Palestinians during the 18-month intifada, due to its proximity to the West Bank border. On March 2 Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis, including a baby, in the same area as last night’s attack.

The town had been put on maximum alert after warnings of attacks during the Passover holiday. But it is impossible to prevent suicide attacks, said Netanya’s mayor, Miriam Feyerberg. “This is a city that can be infiltrated from many different directions.” Ms Feyerberg, who witnessed the carnage, said: “I saw little children, bodies. And I want to say something to the Arab leaders in Beirut. This is not resistance. This is murder.” “

And, then the Guardian story strangely changed focus.

Almost all of Goldenberg’s next 663 words (out of a 1072 word report) pertains not to the savage murder of dozens of innocent Israeli civilians but to Arab regional politics and infighting.  The final sentence of the story, in bold (emphasis added), is simply surreal in the context of the Jewish suffering which had just occurred.

“The bombing offered a cruel contrast to attempts by Saudi Arabia to contain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by conjuring up the prospect of a broad Arab peace.

Minutes after Crown Prince Abdullah outlined for the first time his ideas for a land-for-peace deal with Israel in Beirut yesterday, the summit was thrown into chaos with the Lebanese hosts blocking Mr Arafat from addressing Arab leaders via satellite link.

The Palestinian delegation marched out. It was eventually persuaded to remain in Beirut overnight, but the outburst exposed the internal rivalries among the 22 Arab League states.

While the crown prince appealed to the Israeli public to put their trust in peace, Syria’s Bashar Assad called on Arab leaders to support the Palestinian uprising, and condemned the Jewish state as a “living example” of terrorism.

An Arab newspaper said last night it had received an email it believed to be from Osama bin Laden, denouncing the Saudi peace initiative and praising Palestinian suicide attacks. Associated Press said the language of the email, sent to al-Quds a-Arabi, a London-based daily, resembled that used in previous statements by Bin Laden.

The two-day meeting opened in Beirut with two key moderate leaders distancing themselves from the proceedings after Israel barred Mr Arafat from leaving his headquarters in Ramallah. Jordan’s King Abdullah withdrew early yesterday, and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stayed home.

Palestinian officials said Mr Arafat waited in a Ramallah television studio for hours yesterday listening to a succession of speeches before giving up on his fellow Arab leaders and delivering his speech to al-Jazeera television.

“He was kept waiting from 11am to 2.30pm,” said Majdi Khaldi, an adviser to Mr Arafat and a member of the delegation. “We cannot accept that.”

After the Palestinian leader was put on hold for a speech by Mr Assad, “we understood the message: that the summit chairman will not allow Mr Arafat to make his speech – even if he wants to”.

At first the Lebanese organisers said they pulled the plug on Mr Arafat because they feared a live broadcast could be hijacked by Mr Sharon. Later, they blamed technical reasons and egos.

“Our Palestinian friends wanted their chairman to speak first, and when they saw the list was long, they lost patience,” said Ghassan Salameh, Lebanese summit spokesman.

The explanations suggest that more radical states such as Syria and Lebanon were working behind the scenes to deflect attention from Prince Abdullah’s peace proposal.

In his speech on al-Jazeera, Mr Arafat endorsed the Saudi initiative. However, Mr Assad and Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud were deeply unsettled by the gesture towards their sworn enemy.

Some of those reservations were acknowledged by Prince Abdullah yesterday, who toughened the original conditions of his proposal and down graded its reward for Israel.

The changes are a reversion to traditional Arab positions: a full Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied since the 1967 war, a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees – which was absent from the original proposal.

In an unusual appeal to Israelis, Prince Abdullah said that if their government accepted the plan: “We will not hesitate to accept the right of the Israeli people to live in security with the people of the region.”

Hopes that other states would rally behind the Saudi initiative to produce a collective Arab vision for peace were undercut by Syrian and Lebanese addresses.

“The real danger resides in our collective submission to ‘pressures’ to put an end to the resistance and intifada in return for halting aggression, totally discarding the occupation,” said Mr Lahoud. He called for the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes.

In a rambling discourse on terrorism and the aftermath of September 11, Mr Assad called on Arab states to support the uprising and to sever – or suspend ties – with Israel until peace was achieved.

It’s time to save the Palestinian people from the new holocaust they are living in,” he said.” [emphasis added]


Shortly after the attack, at Al-Baset Odeh’s home in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, “the suicide bomber’s father, brother, uncle and other relatives sat at a wake, and received congratulations from friends and neighbors“. ”Everyone’s proud of him,” his older brother, Issam Odeh, reportedly said.

The following week, in early April, the Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg was one of the journalists who covered Israel’s military response to the Passover Massacre, Operation Defensive Shield.  Her report on the especially hard fighting in the West Bank town of Jenin, which involved house to house fighting in a neighborhood known to be a terrorist enclave, advanced the lie that an Israeli atrocity against innocent Palestinians had taken place. Her dramatic report on April 16, which used terms like “massacre” and “summary executions”, and accepted the most risible Palestinian claims at face value, were proven wildly inaccurate by a subsequent UN investigation.  Goldenberg never apologized, nor was a retraction ever published.  

Less than a year later, the Palestinian Authority named a football tournament after Shahid Abd Al-Baset Odeh.

A poster in which the Hamas movement in Tulkarm announces the death as a martyr of Muhammad Abd al-Basset Oudeh.

A poster in which the Hamas movement in Tulkarm announced the martyrdom of Abd al-Basset Oudeh.

Among the Palestinians released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011 was Hamas terrorist Nasser Yataima, who was sentenced to 29 life sentences for having planned the 2002 Passover Massacre.

Arafat’s terror war from 2000 to 2005 claimed 1064 Israeli lives.  Over seven thousand more were injured. The overwhelming majority of the Israeli victims were civilians.

65 replies »

  1. Today a Munich style massacre of Jews would be reported by BBC/Guardian as a consequential minor image problem for the PLO.

    • Obama referred to settlements and rocket attacks as a ” mere irritant “. Obviously a Guardian reader.

  2. The Islamic militant group Hamas told an Arab satellite television station that it was responsible for the attack.

    “But … but … Hamas have honorable intentions. They’re a partner for peace …”

  3. “Goldenberg never apologized, nor was a retraction ever published. ”

    She was ultimately booted out of Israel and now spends her days as the environment reporter in Washington DC between flying back to the UK to slander Israel at Guardian conferences.

    She is a poster child for the self-hating Jew. An utterly vile, conscienceless person.

  4. Can someone pleeese answer this fool. I have no energy left.

    7 minutes ago

    This thread is FULL of people who claim Islam is fundamentally against Jewishness.

    What does the historical evidence suggest? A quick look shows that Jewish people
    have for millennia fled to Islamic lands when faced with persecution in Europe and

    The holocaust happened in Germany – not Tehran.. which incidentally has one of the largest and oldest Jewish communities in the world.

    Be realistic. This beef between Islam and Judaism only started after the creation of Israel

    • I take it this earlofbrigand person has never read all the anti-jewish verses in the quran a book which has been around for 1400 years a bit longer than the state of Israel

  5. Jewish lives are always cheap, and always expendable. There is a new book, “Anti-Judaism,” by David Nirnberg which clearly explains how Western and Muslim cultures are riddled with, almost based on, the hatred of Jews. I simply despair.

  6. Joginder that is not how Guru Nanak read the Quran – Perhaps you have not read the Quran or the Granth Sahib because if he did he would know how much Sikhism has taken from Islam – I think Joginder is a fake Sikh – definitely one who is ignorant of Sikhism and its roots.

    • jasbir so take just two differences between Islam and Sikhism, non-believers entering holy places and the role of women;
      Non-Sikhs are allowed to visit and enter the most sacred shrine of the religion, The Golden Temple.

      “Believers, know that the idolaters are unclean. Let them not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year is ended” (9:26, Quran)

      “Blessed is the place, and blessed are those who dwell there, where God’s Name is meditated upon. The sermons and songs of God’s praises are sung there and there is nothing but peace, poise and tranquillity.” (Guru Arjan, Raga Bilaval, pg. 816)

      “If the Lord Allah lives only in the mosque, then to whom does the rest of the world belong? …The God of the Hindus lives in the southern lands, and the God of the Muslims lives in the west. So search in your heart – look deep into your heart of hearts; this is the home and the place where God lives.” (Bhagat Kabir, pg. 1349)

      Attitude towards women. Sikh women are allowed to lead congregations of men at the temple or administer all religious ceremonies involving either men or women.

      “Man have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.” (4:34, Quran)

      “We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her. Only the One True Lord is without woman” (Guru Nanak, Var Asa, pg. 473)

      jasbir you might be able to find some similarities between Islam and other religions as well as Sikhism, but there are a number of important differences as well.
      Would you describe yourself as a Khalsa Sikh?

  7. I read a horrific story of how Palestinians, celebrating the life ofone of their early leaders, a man responsible for the crime against humanity of ethnic cleansing, decided to name their national airport after him! DIsgusting. Oh no…wait…that was Israel. Sorry!!!!

    • First you have to demonstrate that your accusation of ethnic cleansing is any more than a racist slur.

      • Well, right-wing Israeli historian uses this term. I’m all for leaving these sorts of questions (i.e. questions of history) to historians. But perhaps you prefer crystal balls or false accusations of “racial slurs”? I guess that’s what you get from idiots of the village variety?

        • Dear syphilis-infected troll:
          The commonality between David Ben Gurion, and, just as a FE, Yassir Arafat begins with each man having an “A” and an “I” in their first nazmes and it ends…well, actually, that is where it ends.]
          If you’re the intellectual equivalent of a 98-pound weakling, you really need to start taking on people you can match up with. And DGB is just out of your league. Sorry.

        • Why do you post in this blog, oh Knight of Hypocrishire? You are eternally unhappy with it. So, go whine elsewhere. Moronic troll.

        • So, you use “right-winger”‘s opinions when it suits you and demonize them for the rest of the time. That’s very leftist of you, Knight of Hypocrishire.

    • Well, there was some Amin al Husseini (aka Mufti of Jerusalem) and the revered leader of palarabs, who was Hitler’s buddy and Nazi war criminal. So, the very source of palestinianism is a racist genocidal ideology. But I bet that a shameless hypocrite like you will rather leave this inconvenient facts to historians.

      Right, moronic troll?

      • the very source of palestinianism is a racist genocidal ideology

        Nice way to denigrate an entire people group! I think most people would say that comments like this are actually racist themselves. At the very least you should try to educate yourself away from this errant view – try reading some Rashid Khalidi.

        • Nice dodge, Knight of Hypocrishire. So typical from a Jew-hating troll. When cornered, shout “racism” and some such bullcrap. You are a true failure.

          • I have no wish ro defend Husseini. He’s an easy and worthwhile target, Which is why I don’t understand why you have to resort to racism when attacking him? Maybe it’s because you’re a bigot?

            • Well, you came up with a blatant LIE about David Ben Gurion, when in fact the real genocidal ideology is at the origin of palestinianism, and that doesn’t seem to bother you one bit.

              So, YOU are the real bigot, hiding behind your ridiculous fantasy of champion of anti-racism. Just drop your mask and quit your shameless hypocrisy.

              • I didn’t mention genocide at all. Or genocidal ideology. Please explain where I did that. Provide links please.

                • Don´t be mendacious, Knight of Hypocrisy. You mentioned your favorite “ethnic cleansing” lie, implying that it was at the origin of the Zionist enterprise. Stop pretending and demanding. Go fight the *real* racist that can be witnessed on a dayly basis in palarab society. Go earn some credentials before lecturing people here.

                • If you don’t know the difference between genocide and ethnic cleansing, I sggest you take a course in Humanitarian Law 101. I think it’s about time you gave me an apology for misrepresenting what I say. Wouldn’t be the first time, would it?

                  As for the ethnic cleansing, this is of course a historical fact, even right-wing historian Benny Morris acknoweldges this widely known fact:

                • Aww, piss off, Knight of Hypocrishire. YOU are the one owing a massive apology to all people of this blog, for your stupid posts, full of lies, innuendoes, insults, bigorty, self-righteouness and unbridled hypocrisy and pathetic whining. You contribute NOTHING but only attempt to disrupt threads with your hit-n-run sophomoric provocations and accusations of “bigotry”, “racism” and other politically correct BS.

                  Just apologize and then clear off.

                • Benny Morris also said, in an interview:

                  “When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it’s better to destroy.”

                • Please point out where I raised the isue of genocide. Include a link. Otherwise please retract your comment.

                • Apologize for bringing the off-topic issue of Ben Gurion in yet another pathetic attempt of yours to disrupt this thread. In fact, Knight of Hypocrishire, you should apologize for all the stupidity and noise that you bring to a blog that you yourself clami to despise.


  8. Here’s what stands out to me about this article.
    Syria’s Bashar Assad called on Arab leaders to support the Palestinian uprising, and condemned the Jewish state as a “living example” of terrorism.

    Its good to know Assad who’s slaughtering his people, over 70,000 killed in Syria the last 2 years by this butcher, is condemning Israel against Arab barbarians who target elderly Jewish people.

  9. Joginder Singh – next time you are on a pilgrimage to Hasanabdal on your way in Lahore visit the Shahi Masjid

    I did and was allowed in no probs – beautiful calligraphy inside – You do know Guru Nanak went to Mecca –

    Have you heard Guru Nanak’s famous saying associated with Mecca trip – Guru Nanak was lying on a Charpai and was asked by a passing Muslim that his feet is facing Mecca’s mosque the house of God – He asked the man to turn his Charpai such that his feet do not face God. The man apologized and walked away

    As to this Gerald does he not know that the Quran is a reproduction of what is in the Torah and the Bible – That is why Gerald would not find any Muslim insult any of the Prophets.

    • Hey, kublai khan, have you heard that deepak chopra’s toilet points to Mecca? BTW, how’s your Guru Nat?

  10. How will the Guardian cover this latest Palestinian blood libel?

    Click on the link to read the full article.
    March 28, 2013

    Why the Miftah antisemitism story is so important
    On Thursday, I reported exclusively that Miftah, an NGO that was founded by Palestinian Arab media darling Hanan Ashrawi, had published as pure an
    anti-semitic screed as is imaginable – resurrecting the reprehensible blood libel that Jews ritually slaughter Christian children and consume their blood on Passover

  11. Perhaps Gerald does not know but the origins of all religious texts are very similar – particularly, Islam, Christianity and Judaism as the Father of these three faiths is Abraham. Sikhism being a fusion between Hinduism and Islam has also features that are common to Abrahmic faiths.
    Perhaps here is the supposed Torah on death and Mayhem – as they say in India if you live in glass houses do not throw stones at others houses.

    As soon as it was published late last year,Torat Ha’Melech sparked a national uproar. The controversy began when an Israeli tabloid panned the book’s contents as “230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guidebook for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew.” According to the book’s author, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, “Non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and should be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “If we kill a gentile who has has violated one of the seven commandments… there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira insisted. Citing Jewish law as his source (or at least a very selective interpretation of it) he declared: “There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

  12. And that cba they call no difference as reflected below – we can go on do you not think you should quit when you are ahead.

    In January, Shapira was briefly detained by the Israeli police, while two leading rabbis who endorsed the book, Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef, were summoned to interrogations by the Shabak. However, the rabbis refused to appear at the interrogations, essentially thumbing their noses at the state and its laws. And the government did nothing. The episode raised grave questions about the willingness of the Israeli government to confront the ferociously racist swathe of the country’s rabbinate. “Something like this has never happened before, even though it seems as if everything possible has already happened,” Israeli commentator Yossi Sarid remarked with astonishment. “Two rabbis [were] summoned to a police investigation, and announc[ed] that they will not go. Even settlers are kind enough to turn up.”

    In response to the rabbis’ public rebuke of the state’s legal system, the Israeli Attorney General and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kept silent. Indeed, since the publication of Torat Ha’Melech, Netanyahu has strenuously avoided criticizing its contents or the author’s leading supporters. Like so many prime ministers before him, he has been cowed into submission by Israel’s religious nationalist community. But Netanyahu appears to be particularly impotent. His weakness stems from the fact that the religious nationalist right figures prominently in his governing coalition and comprises a substantial portion of his political base. For Netanyahu, a confrontation with the rabid rabbis could amount to political suicide, or could force him into an alliance with centrist forces who do not share his commitment to the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

    • That is your statement to the terror massacre?
      Is this a form of supporting terror against Jews?

  13. Ask the Rabbis concerned – it is their statement of terror against the Non Jews – Ask the Netanyahu also why he did not force the Rabbis to be held accountable.

    • Nonsense. You go solve your own troubles, dude. Your country is a total mess. I mean, if you truly are from India. Probably you are just another Jew-hating coward sock-puppet.

  14. Gerald of course all Singh’s are all Khalsa – and to start with Khalsa meaning pure has its origins in Arabic – The Guru Garanth Sahib is a collection of Bhagats from both Hindu and Muslim saints – The Guru Garanth Sahib is a collection compiled over a long period from the 5th Guru to the 10th Guru

    The title Singh Signifies Khalsa – Maybe Joginder will verify –

    • all Singh’s are all Khalsa – and to start with Khalsa meaning pure
      That sounds kinda racist to me.

    • jasbir wrong and wrong again.
      Not all people who use the name Singh are Khalsa, you clearly are not.
      Your definition of The Guru Granth Sahib is not only wrong but severely disrespectful for which you should hang your head in shame.
      Now that you have demonstrated your ignorance about Sikhism will you stop pretending to be a Sikh as it is not only annoying but also insulting to many of my Sikh friends.

  15. Gerald – I share my ignorance with Wikipedia – I suggest your Sikh friends in the IDF belong to the lost tribe that had to be found for the sake of Zionism

    A Sikh male at being initiated into the Khalsa is titled Singh meaning “Lion” and a female is entitled Kaur meaning “Princess”. From then on they are commonly referred to as Amritdhari (having taken Amrit).

    The usual interpretation of the Khalsa is made as “Pure” as in the following statement: (Arabic خالصة) (“pure/devoted”) word khāliṣa[h] is the recognition of every Sikh that follows the discipline and text from the Guru Granth Sahib.
    There is also another word from Arabic “خالسا” which is pronounced as “Khalsa” and is adapted in Punjabi/English/Hindi and many other languages. So, there are two different words in Arabic: “خالسا” (Khalsa) and “خالصة” (Khalisa(h)). Furthermore, there is a word in Persian “خالص” meaning “pure” and pronounced as “Khalis”. A reader of Urdu can testify the “Khalis” in the Persian script and language as described below.
    “Khalsa” is also used for a property which belongs to the emperor directly. The official language in the Mughal era was Persian and Persian language contains a word “Khalis” which directly translates to “Pure” in English. This may give a new meaning to the word “Khalsa”. On these grounds and as per writings of the Guru Gobind Singh, the father of the Khalsa, wherein the great Guru describes the Khalsa as army of the timeless-being, it is evident that Khalsa means timeless sovereign. The Khalsa does not serve any monarch or a wordly sovereign country because it is a government in itself which acts only according to Guru Granth Sahib.