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Update – 30 January 2009

Dear All,

The dust from the Gaza War is settling and, with it, we are uncovering more and more information about the way Hamas conducted itself during the past month. Many of the stories of this conduct have not made their way into the local media while others have received only a fleeting mention. Locally, nothing has been heard about such events as the hijacking of Jordanian aid trucks and the summary execution of members of Hamas’ rival Fatah who were classified as “collaborators” irrespective of whether any proof of collaboration even existed.

Many other items that should be newsworthy are being swept under the carpet but some are simply getting harder and harder for the media to ignore even if they are sometimes treated in a spurious manner. An article written by Fairfax correspondent Jason Koutsoukis appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday under the headline ‘Hamas tried to hijack ambulances during Gaza war‘ but its sister paper, The Melbourne Age entitled the same piece: As Israel’s rockets fell, Gaza civilians also had problems with Hamas. The headline and accompanying photo in The Age reflect poorly upon whichever Age sub-editor bestowed the title to the article which is about Hamas fighters using ambulances intended for the injured for their own purposes during the conduct of a war. This is clearly a war crime, but the media is not suggesting any investigation should take place into this practice despite it being quick to make that suggestion when Israel is accused of anything that remotely appears untoward in the eyes of some observers and even on the scantest of evidence.

An example of the stories untold in our local press is an 81-page report from Terrorism Info entitled ‘Hamas exploitation of civilians as human shields’ which is a very comprehensive report with photographic evidence to support what many are calling the “calculated, cynical use of the civilian population as human shields”. The report is in line with a set of talking points passed from the IDF to the Justice Ministry in order to counter war-crimes allegations against Israel (see more). Hamas has already put together a committee in order to investigate what they call “Zionist war crimes.” (see more). 

The eminent jurist Alan Dershowitz does some excellent work in answering some of the claims against Israel in his latest article entitled ‘Israel, Gaza and International Law’. He states:

“If Hamas is the official government of Gaza and if Hamas ordered the firing of more of than 6,000 deadly rockets at Israeli civilians, then it follows that the government of Gaza has engaged in an armed attack against Israel under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. In other words, the government of Gaza has declared war against the government and people of Israel. This should not be surprising, since the Hamas Charter calls for the military destruction of Israel.”

In my last update I referred to an article by Gunnar Heinsohn entitled ‘The “Youth Bulge” Phenomenon’, which exposed the way United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) perpetuates the many problems facing Palestinian refugees in Gaza. Many others are coming out to expose the activities of UNRWA and particularly its spokespeople who not only routinely give support to the most extreme attitudes but appear to be lacking when it comes to transparency over the activities that occur under their watch.

James Lindsay, a former attorney with the US Justice Department worked for UNRWA in 2000. In a report entitled “Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN’s Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees”, Lindsay asserts that the “agency has deteriorated increasingly over the years … and that it was currently offering services to those who were not actually in need of them”. Lindsay also suggests that they “take additional steps to ensure that the agency is not employing or providing benefits to terrorists and criminals; and allow the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) … to provide balanced and discrimination-free textbooks for UNRWA initiatives” (see more).

Melanie Phillip’s latest blog also covers the problems within UNRWA – ‘A selective approach to the facts’.

Last week an Italian newspaper made the claim that a doctor had spoken out about how Hamas had heavily inflated the death toll, and that in reality it probably sat somewhere between 500-600 people mainly young Hamas fighters (see more). At the time, IDF sources said that its figure of 1,200 remained unchanged (see more). While the casualty figures and in particular the number of “militants” killed continues to change, the IDF has now said that no more than 250 were civilians (see more). Civilian deaths are always difficult to accept in any circumstances and some of the above articles make it clear that Hamas was responsible for most of these through its use of civilians as human shields. However, it remains unwise to speculate on the actual figures at this stage – the experience of Jenin where initial figures suggested thousands died and were then reviewed to 500 before finally falling to around 50 (as few as seven of them civilians) after the damage was already done.

Some interesting articles have come out about the destruction of Gaza and who is to blame. We have already seen shots such as these about how embedded Hamas was in the civilian population and the precision of Israeli attacks, but there is still a lot of damage in the city. A senior European Union official who toured Gaza declared, “It is abominable, indescribable … At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas. I intentionally say this here – Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such.” He continued, “public opinion is fed up to see that we are paying over and over again … for infrastructure that will be systematically destroyed” (see more).

And it is not just the EU that is placing the blame on Hamas for the destruction. Many residents of Gaza, including some former supporters of Hamas, have spoken out against the way Hamas used civilian areas to shield themselves. Take the story of Mohammed Sadala, who managed to flee with his family only to return to find his house in ruins and the remains of a Hamas fighter who had been shooting out at the Israeli army from the house. Sadala had been optimistic about the change Hamas had promised to bring in 2006. But as he looked over his burnt out shell of a house he declared, “That is the change that they brought about. We were blasted back 2,000 years” (see more).

Finally, for some ongoing examples of the brutality of Hamas please see this gruesome story from JPost entitled ‘Hamas executes former B’tselem field worker’. Further, Yasser Abd Rabbo, a PLO Executive Committee Secretary, declared on television “Today, Hamas gangs are unleashed like packs of animals on the streets of Gaza against Fatah members. Because the military bases and the prisons have been destroyed, they have turned Gaza schools, Al-Nasser Hospital, the radiology department at Shifa’ Hospital, Al-Aqsa University, and other places, including mosques, into centers for the detention, interrogation, and torture of Fatah members and members of other national Palestinian factions. Dozens of people have been shot in the leg, been beaten savagely, and had their bones broken, because they are members of the Fatah movement.” He also asks the question, “”Who plunders the trucks bringing aid to the Gaza Strip, and distributes it only among the follows of its party and movement, while the children of Gaza are starving?” (see more)

It’s interesting how often Al Shifa Hospital is mentioned in connection with unsavoury Hamas activity. The hospital is the very same place where Norwegian activist Dr. Mads Gilbert gave press interviews during the war condemning Israel and even becoming involved in a questionable demonstration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques that were not exactly in conventional medical handbooks.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared a video entitled ‘Open your hearts’ about Israeli students collecting all sorts of aid for the people of Gaza. That young Israelis have taken up this cause in order to help out the civilian population of Gaza that so desperately needs it is a welcome initiative and I sincerely look forward to being able to send out a similar video of Palestinian students offering to help the traumatised children from the south of Israel. 

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507