Sunday, May 10, 2009

Clarity over Gaza



Note: I was asked to asked to justify Israel's operation in Gaza in January. My opinion on the operation can be found throughout my posts and articles. Rather than right an entire article, I thought that I would refute point by point the lies and misinformation disseminated by fellow blogger Young Activist. His article can be found in italics, with my commentary.

An Israeli intelligence officer acknowledged the IDF was targeting "both aspects of Hamas -- its resistance or military wing and its dawa, or social wing," Bombing schools, hospitals, universities, the water system, police stations, and other civilian infrastructure was entirely justified because, as NYT correspondent Stephen Erlanger makes clear, "in a war, [Hamas's] instruments of political and social control were as legitimate a target as its rocket caches." Of course, when Hamas acts on a smaller scale, but in a similar fashion, it must be denounced as terrorism.

My fellow blogger is making a false distinction between Hamas's military and "social" wings. They are both parts of the same entity, Hamas using its "social" wing to build schools that indoctrinate Arab children in hatred. Just as the Allies during WWII made no distinction between the Nazi Wehrmacht and the social centers built by the Nazi regime, so too this is completely irrelevant. The media has succeeded in portraying the Arabs of Gaza as poor victims of Israeli aggression. Such a characterization is demeaning and in fact bigoted, because it implies that the Arabs cannot be held accountable for their own actions, essentially infantilizing them. Israel withdrew its 7000 Jewish citizens from Gaza in 2005, in a bid to give the Arabs a chance at self-government and a better future. Israel poured aid into the Gaza and even left behind the greenhouses and agricultural infrastructure that had made the Jewish communities so successful. [1] While Israel extended the olive branch, they got terror in return. In the 2006 Palestinian elections, Hamas was elected with a clear majority of 74 of the 132 available seats. Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. It was founded with an explicit dedication to the destruction of the State of Israel and has carried out hundreds of murderous suicide and other terrorist attacks against Jewish targets. Hamas' charter is based on rejections and says that "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." Lest anybody claim that Hamas makes a distinction between Jews and Israel, its charter declares its genocidal intent. "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim)." Concerning this intended genocide, the charter promises that " the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take." To claim that the Arabs who voted for Hamas as their legitimate representatives were not aware of their goals and aspirations is simply dishonest. The Arabs of Gaza must take collective responsibility for freely choosing Hamas as their government. During the past 3 years, there was not a single protest against Hamas using homes, schools, hospitals and mosques to fire rockets against Israeli civilians. The Arabs cannot allow Hamas to use their homes as rocket launch pads while at the same time claim innocence.

NYT correspondent Stephen Erlanger's statement reveals a dangerous lack of moral clarity and hypocrisy. There is no comparison between a terrorist organization attacking civilians and a sovereign state trying to protect its civilians. This is the same twisted mentality that would denounce both a robber and the law enforcement officer who tries to neutralize him.

If Israel's apologists are to be believed these actions, namely the firing of rockets, necessitated the bombing and subsequent invasion of Gaza. The attack was launched to save lives, Israeli lives that is, Palestinian blood is worthless. But even if we accept the premise that Palestinian deaths are of no consequence this justification quickly falls apart.

This last statement is mere rhetoric, intending to portray Israel as a racist state. The obligation and responsibility of the Israeli government is to protect Israeli citizens, just as it is Russia's duty to protect Russian citizens.

Six months before the offensive began in earnest Hamas and Israel signed a cease fire: both sides would halt their attacks and Israel would open the borders. Rocket attack essentially stopped, although a trickle of fire from dissident groups continued with no fatalities, but Israel refused to open the borders. Nonetheless Hamas was interested in a renewal of the cease fire before it expired, Israel repudiated this offer with violence. This was not the long term settlement endorsed by Hamas and the entire world save Israel and the U.S where Israel and Palestine would recognize each other on the June 1967 borders and all hostilities would cease, this was a short term agreement to end immediate attacks. Israel not only refused to renew the cease fire, it violated it with a Nov. 4 raid that killed several Palestinian fighters.

Hamas never abided by the truce for even a moment. Almost immediately after the truce was signed in June 2008, Hamas fired rockets into Israel. Despite such a flagrant violation of this truce, Israel promised "restraint" [2]. In fact, during the entire 6 month truce period, Hamas fired a total of 329 rockets at Israel [3].

Immediately, and predictably, Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets in what the MFA acknowledged was "retaliation" for Israel's violation of the cease fire agreement. If the sole objective of Israel's leaders was to save Israeli lives they would have pursued an extension of the cease fire. The attack, as predicted, resulted in more Israeli deaths. As it launched its offensive the IDF was preparing for scores of Israeli casualties, in the end only eleven Israeli soldiers were killed, several by friendly fire, but this was still many more than had been killed in the preceding six years by rocket fire.

Dozens of Israelis have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks. The small number of casualties has been nothing short of miraculous yet it is twisted thinking to argue that Israel should have waiting until a higher number of Jews had been killed before responding.

The air attacks began shortly before noon on the Sabbath, Dec. 27 just as children were returning from school and midday crowds were out on the streets. Within moments over two hundred people were dead. Israel's deterrent capabilities, terrorism is lay man's terms, were quickly reestablished to the applause of over 90% of the non-Arab population. One Israeli political analyst predicted that the parties of then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's governing coalition would capture one additional seat in the upcoming Parliamentary elections for every forty Palestinians killed, a prediction that ultimately proved false but still reflected well on the mood of the country.

Israel's PR arm has claimed civilians were warned to leave by the world's most moral army before the fighting began, they couldn't leave the conflict zone through the sealed border crossing, but Israel nonetheless quickly absolved itself of all blame for deaths inflicted by its forces. Unfortunately civilians were not given an opportunity to flee, the result was nearly a thousand dead Palestinian non-combatants. Writing in the nation's leading newspaper Israeli intelligence analyst Reuven Pedatzur noted "[t]he IDF, which planned to attack buildings and sites populated by hundreds of people, did not warn them in advance to leave, but intended to kill a great many of them, and succeeded." Indeed, on one occasion Israeli soldiers ordered a family to evacuate the fighting to a shelter which they promptly bombed, killing scores of people.

Israel's army went to great lengths to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties, unfortunately often putting Israeli soldiers in harm's way. Following international allegations that Israeli soldiers acted immorally in Gaza, Israel's military launched an investigation into the matter. The military probe revealed that there was little truth behind the accusations. [4] Maj. Yehoshua Gurtler, a military lawyer, said that "these allegations were based on hearsay. They were not based on firsthand evidence. They were rumors. They did not reflect the operational circumstances which had actually taken place on the ground." We are still waiting for the NY Times and other news agencies to publicize the findings with the same zealousness with which they smeared the reputation of the Israeli army.

The IDF made little effort to distinguish between civilian and military targets, often it deliberately attacked civilian targets. It bombed a U.N school housing refugees killing scores of innocents claiming it was sheltering Hamas fighters, a claim the IDF was later forced to retract, it destroyed the warehouse of UNRWA on whom most Palestinians depend for sustenance, it used banned chemical weapons against civilians, it destroyed the al-Quds hospital where hundreds of terrified residents had taken shelter, it refused to allow emergency aid in, ramming and nearly sinking a relief vessel in international waters, and shooting at ambulances attempting to evacuate the injured during Israel's "three hour daily humanitarian cease fire". These reports come from Palestinians, the U.N, and those westerners in Gaza when the attack began, the IDF refused to allow foreign doctors or journalists into Gaza. Who did they want to die from lack of medical attention? What were they hiding? Perhaps the scale of the violence was too great even for Israel's well oiled propaganda machine to talk away. IDF soldiers, some of whom proudly dawned T-Shirts bearing images of a pregnant Palestinian women in a sniper's crosshairs with the words "1 shot 2 kills", killed even the animals at the Gaza zoo during their rampage through the coastal enclave.

Just as in the case of the case of the 2002 Jenin massacre that wasn't, Israel was falsely accused of crimes against humanity. rael faced a similar rush to judgment after reports of an Israeli attack on January 6, 2009 on a UN-run school in Jabalya. The building was not being used as a school at the time but was sheltering Palestinian noncombatants. Initial reports said at least 30 (the figure was later revised to 43) Palestinians were killed and UN officials claimed they had given Israeli forces coordinates of this building and others that they said were not associated with Hamas. The incident was immediately portrayed as a deliberate Israeli attack on innocent people.

Israel maintained that the building was being used as a shelter and that Israeli forces fired in the direction of the building because they were attacked by Hamas terrorists launching mortars from the area. Israel later identified two of the casualties at the site as Imad and Hassan Abu Asker, who served as heads of the Hamas mortar units in Gaza. A witness from Jabalya said that he had seen Abu Asker in the area of the school right before the attack when he answered a call for volunteers to pile sand around the camp “to help protect the resistance fighters.” [5a] In addition, two residents of the area near the school told the Associated Press they had seen a small group of terrorists firing mortar rounds from a street close to the school. [5b]

Journalists who investigated the incident and spoke to eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, concluded that no one in the school compound was killed. “The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.”[5c] As the Globe and Mail noted, this is very different than the UN’s allegation that the IDF had fired into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.

Nearly a month after the incident, following the publication of accounts discrediting UNRWA’s story, Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, was forced to admit that Israel’s account was true after all, that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself. Gaylord said that the UN “would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school.” [6]

One explanation for the inflated civilian casualty figures is that Hamas routinely hides among civilians, since more Arab dead is better for their propaganda purposes. Hamas has stored weapons in schools, mosques and hospitals, and used them as bases for rocket attacks. United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes told the UN Security Council, “The reckless and cynical use of civilian installations by Hamas and indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations are clear violations of international humanitarian law.” [6a]

Norwegian Mads Gilbert, one of only two western doctors on hand for much of the conflict, estimated half of the casualties were woman and children and almost all casualties in Israel's "[a]ll out war against the civilian population of Gaza," were civilian. But perhaps the onslaught was justified, because as the Jersusalem Post noted one Sephardic Rabbi wrote to the Prime Minister that there is "absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings," Perhaps the only fault in killing over 1,300 people, mainly civilians, was that it did not go far enough in reestablishing Israel's deterrent and it failed in returning Kadima to power. Perhaps a 100:1 kill ratio was just not good enough. Perhaps what Israeli commentators frequently refer to as the "Palestinian peace offensive" was not sufficiently thwarted. As for the official pretense, the attack was, as predicted by Israeli officials, counterproductive to its declared aims. When the fighting subsided thirteen Israelis were dead and Hamas remained in power in Gaza, more popular than ever.

Pure anti-Israel rhetoric. Official Israeli statistics put 300 of the 1200 casualties as civilians [7]. This amounts to one-third, not the two-thirds Arab propagandists claimed. This is a much lower rate of civilian casualties than the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan, Russia in Chechnya or NATO in the Balkans. It is despicable to argue that Israel's operation was not justified because a fair or equal amount of Jews hadn't been killed. Close to 100 000 civilian have been killed by violence in Iraq [8]. When Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001 in Afghanistan, the US launched an indiscriminate bombing campaign. Two US jets accidentally killed 100 people and wiped out an entire village in Eastern Afghanistan. [9] The high number of civilian deaths have led Afghan President Hamid Karzai to complain to the US. [10] To combat Chechnyan terror, the Russian army essentially decided to level Grozny, killing over 200 000 people since 1994 [11]. Of course, only Israel, the one country that went to pains not to harm civilians (and had a relatively low percentage of civilian deaths) is singled out for abuse, condemnation and vilification.

Hamas also bears direct responsibility for civilian casualties in Gaza because it is a violation of international law to launch attacks from civilian infrastructure. According to the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war, civilians are to be protected and distinguished from combatants. This protection extends to civilian areas to minimize harm to innocents. Hamas provoked return fire on civilian areas by launching attacks from densely populated areas and, specifically, from inside and the vicinity of private homes, schools, mosques, and hospitals. In a report to the Israeli cabinet, Israeli intelligence chief, Yuval Diskin, indicated that the Gaza-based leadership of Hamas was hiding in an underground bunker beneath Shifa Hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip. [11a] Hamas also endangered civilians by ordering its forces to discard uniforms and dress in regular clothes that made them indistinguishable from the civilian population.

The rage over the T-shirts worn by Israeli soldiers highlights the selective anger of the world. While many brimmed with righteous indignation about these T-shirts, nary a word has been said about Hamas' explicit genocidal statements and the constant and deadly anti-semitic and murderous incitement in Arab culture. Some might argue that Hamas does not have the capacity to carry out these threats. However, when these threats are coupled with the proclamation of "wiping Israel off the map" by Hamas's Iranian puppet-masters, the situation becomes frightening. Former Canadian Justice minister, member of the Canadian Parliament and expert on international law, has said that Hamas is a "case study per excellence in war crimes" [12].

Finally, Hamas is in violation of the prohibition against using child soliders. Hamas regularly indoctrinates children in anti-semitic, anti-Israel hatred and the glorification of "martyrdom". [13]

We are told if there were no rockets than Israel would not have been compelled to massacre Gaza, but in the West Bank there are no rockets, but there are land seizures, there are checkpoints, there are regular IDF kidnappings, there are daily incursion into Palestinian communities, there are Jewish only roads, there are illegal settlements, there are attacks on peaceful demonstrations, and there is still the occupation. If peace is what Israel wants than it will engage the Arab world with words and not weapons.

In typical anti-Israel fashion, history began yesterday. The Arab assault on Jews in Israel has continued unimpeded for over a hundred years. In 1920-21, 1929 and the 1930s, Arabs rioted and massacred hundreds of Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Hebron, Safed, etc. This was before there was a state, let alone an "occupation" or checkpoints. When Israel declared its independence in 1948, its was attacked by a million Arab soldiers from 7 different countries. Again in 1967, Israel was threatened and attacked, before any "settlements". Israel has offered the Arabs peace numerous times. Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert recently announced that he offered the PA more than even Ehud Barak did [8]. Barak offered Yasser Arafat practically 95% of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, with a capital in East Jerusalem and control over the Temple Mount. In typical Arab fashion, Arafat wanted everything and walked away. "At one point, I put everything on the table and offered Abu Mazen [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas – ed.] an offer that had never been made before, that touched on the core of the conflict and the most heavily emotionally charged issues, the rawest nerves, the historical baggage,” Olmert said, recalling his negotiations with Abbas. “I told him, 'Come on, sign.' That was half a year ago, and I'm still waiting,” he added. I wouldn't hold my breath.

3 comments:

Young Activist said...

I have to admit this is a noble, though seriously flawed attempt. Although I am revolted by your view that civilian infrastructure is a legitimate target I do appreciate your honesty. It is a sad thought though that you would attempt to use past war crimes to create new norms of conduct. Of course, like I said in my original argument it is not really a norm of acceptable conduct, because when Hamas bombs Israeli schools or other aspects of civilian infrastructure it is rightly condemned as terrorism, not a legitimate act of resistance.

Israel's decision to withdraw its settlers offers no justification for its decision to attack the civilian population of Gaza. But you seem to think of this as some altruistic move when in fact it was not. The relatively small number of settlers in Gaza required a relatively large number of soldiers. The settlers in Gaza were withdrawn so that the soldiers protecting them could be redeployed to protect the larger settler colonies being constructed and expanded in the West Bank. This was in fact not an olive branch. Israel has terrorized the Palestinians for the last sixty years.

Hamas won the Palestinian elections with a minority of the vote in a move of frustration with the corruption of Fatah, however it is the sovereign right and sovereign prerogative of the Palestinians to elect whatever party to represent them that they please. This is called democracy. I have not heard anyone suggest that the Egyptian air force has a right to bomb Israeli towns because Israel has elected a fascist foreign minister who has in the past suggested the Israeli air force should bomb Egyptian dams to kill as many civilians as possible. A threat far less remote than any Hamas has made. Hamas's charter can say what it will, but Hamas's leadership has already joined the international consensus on peace with Israel. Just because the Israeli parties laid claim to Jordan in their founding documents does not mean that Israel wasn't able to achieve peace with Jordan. The same is true here. And at any rate Hamas lacks the capability to carry anything similar to this out.

Of course "[t]here is no comparison between a terrorist organization attacking civilians and a sovereign state trying to protect its civilians," unfortunately this is not what Israel was doing in Gaza. The IDF deliberately attacked civilian targets and the Israeli political leadership pursued a military option when they knew this would be counterproductive to their stated goals. I do not support Hamas, but in Gaza it was the IDF that was the terrorist organization and Hamas which was the elected government fighting to defend itself, in Gaza.

The statement that the operation was harmful to its declared objectives is not rhetoric, it is a reflection of the fact that the operation both strengthened Hamas and lead to the deaths of more Israelis.

Your sources are very sparse, most of your statements are not sourced, but I find it interesting that both sources 2 and 3 contradict your assertion that "Hamas never abided by the truce for even a moment. Almost immediately after the truce was signed in June 2008, Hamas fired rockets into Israel. Despite such a flagrant violation of this truce, Israel promised 'restraint'" saying "Hamas, the militant Islamic group that rules Gaza, promised to rein in the Iran- and Syria-backed faction that carried out the rocket attacks and pledged to remain committed to the truce that went into effect June 19 and urged restraint by all sides." and also noting that Israel originally violate the truce on Nov. 4 and that Palestinian rockets were in response to this violation.

As for your other sources, you cite official Israeli propaganda, not exactly a reliable source. Gaza is the most densely populated area in the world. Everything is near civilian areas, this is hardly a deliberate effort by Hamas to kill Palestinian civilians.

I'll leave your revisionist history for another day, it has nothing to do with the Gaza attacks.

Bar Kochba said...

"Hamas won the Palestinian elections with a minority of the vote in a move of frustration with the corruption of Fatah, however it is the sovereign right and sovereign prerogative of the Palestinians to elect whatever party to represent them that they please. This is called democracy."

I certainly agree with that. It means that the Arabs freely chose an organization that is committed to murdering Jews and destroying Israel, and has tried to make good on those threats, as their representatives. Certainly a society must be held accountable for the democratic government that the majority of its citizens choose.

Hamas has never, ever, ever, recognized Israel. (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1079063.html) Speaking after the Gaza assault (from hiding like cowards, of course), Hamas leaders announced that they have no intention of recognizing Israel. "We cannot, we will not, and we will never recognize the enemy in any way, shape or form," Mahmoud Zahar, one of the two leaders, said in a mosque sermon broadcast on the Islamist movement's radio station.

As for Gaza being the world's most densely populated area, that is a complete lie.
Compare Gaza (8666 people per square mile) with Monaco (41,608 people per square mile).

Compare Gaza (8666 people per square mile) with Cairo (82,893 people per square mile) !!

Area
Population Density (persons/sq. mile)
Gaza
8666
District of Columbia
9176
Gibraltar
11,990
Singapore
17,751
Hong Kong
17,833
Monaco
41,608
Macau
71,466
Cairo
82,893
Calcutta
108,005
Manila
113,810
(Sources – Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2004-2005, Tables 18 and 1321; Demographia -- Population Density: Selected International Urban Areas and Components )

In kilometre terms Tel Aviv at 7,221 people per square kilometre is more densely populated than the Gaza Strip at only 3,900 people per s.k.
----

They say that in war, truth is the first casualty.

Young Activist said...

Are Israelis not also accountable for their choices at the polls? They have elected a fascist government, whose leaders are responsible for far more deaths than Hamas. Or is only Jewish blood of consequence and other fatalaties are the result of well deserved retaliation, or perhaps "self defense", in the same sense that a suicide bomber is acting in self-defense.

Hamas supports a two state solution, that amounts to de facto recognition.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5122822.stm

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/hamas-takes-step-towards-recognition-of-israel-405775.html

Yes you are right, I should have put the words "one of" in front of "most densely", but this does not effect the crux of the issue that Gaza is, by your source, an extremely densely populated area.

You have failed, however, to raise a single substantive issue or even source many of your comments, indeed some of your sources continue to contradict claims you made in rebuff to my "lies"