A number of stories have appeared in both the local and overseas media over the past few days containing allegations of Israeli war crimes during the recent operation in Gaza. These include reports on claims filed against the Israeli army from the United Nations and various human rights organisations.
The latest round of accusations began with an expose in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on the conduct of the Israeli army during Operation Cast Lead. The newspaper provided testimonies from soldiers claiming that soldiers killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed Palestinian property (see more here and here). It turned out that one of the soldiers involved was repeating a story that he heard and that the soldier in question wasn’t even in Gaza during the operation.
Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak has declared that he “is sure the IDF will examine the matter with all seriousness,” and added, “we have the most moral army in the world … I spent dozens of years in uniform, I know what happened in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and I say to you that from the chief of staff down to the last soldier, the most moral army in the world stands ready to take orders from the government of Israel. I have no doubt that every incident will be individually examined” (see more). The Military Police investigating unit has been instructed to open a probe into these allegations.
The news was followed by a declaration from Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories that the IDF had committed war crimes stating that “launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law.” He said that Israel violations included the “targeting of schools, mosques and ambulances” and its use of weapons including white phosphorus. Almost as an after thought, he conceded that Hamas was in violation for firing rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel (see more).
Today’s Australian covers Falk’s statements in ‘UN told Israel’s Gaza attack a ‘war crime’ but unlike other media stories, this one discloses what others have failed to do. It exposes Falk who has a long history of bias against Israel. US State Department spokesman Robert Wood is quoted as saying, “we’ve expressed our concern many times about the special rapporteur’s views on dealing with that question … We’ve found the rapporteur’s views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We’ve made that very clear.”
Indeed, last December Israel prevented Falk from entering the country. At the time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement declaring that Falk “ignores all human rights violations by Palestinians, either against Israelis or against other Palestinians. Thus, the rapporteur is prevented from considering, even if he wanted to, the issue of Human Rights violations… In the case of Prof. Richard Falk, beyond the imbalance in his mandate, the bias is further exacerbated by the highly politicized views of the rapporteur himself, in legitimising Hamas terrorism and drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust.” (see more)
The Guardian newspaper published a very large spread dubbed as a “special investigation” about Israel’s alleged war crimes, including deliberately targeting civilians, using young boys as human shields and deliberately targeting ambulances, medical personnel and hospitals. The Gaza war crimes investigation features videos, commentary and editorials about the issue. It should be remembered that these are allegations which have been made in many instances by undisclosed parties, some of who might have allegiances with Hamas. There has been no corresponding “expose” of Hamas war crimes such as the indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets at Israeli population centres or the undisputed fact that Hamas is dedicated to destroying Israel and committing genocide against Jews.
The Guardian’s agenda in pushing these allegations is questionable and is based on shoddy journalism. Barry Rubin posted two notes on his Facebook page entitled ‘The Blood Libel’ and ‘And now for something completely different… an end of the media as we have known it’ which I have set out below this email. Melanie Phillips’s article entitled ‘The Guardian goes to Pallywood’ demonstrates that the Guardian report is almost totally lacking in credibility and reeks of hypocrisy.
Many of the accusations have come from Palestinian sources but these have often come under question. The latest statistics of the number of Palestinians killed during the Operation have been released by the IDF, listing 600 of the dead to be terrorists and another 309 to be civilians. The lists released by the Palestinians includes discrepancies and inaccuracies in numbers and names. In an article from Haaretz an interesting example is given about Tawfiq Ja’abari, the commander of the Hamas Police, and Mohammed Shakshak, a personal assistance to the head of Hamas’ military wing, who are both described as dead children on the Palestinian list (see more).
Notwithstanding these anomalies, The Melbourne Age has run with the Guardian investigation in a piece entitled ‘War crimes charges mount against Israel’. The article covers the standard misrepresentation of proportionality when it states ‘human rights groups say the vast majority of offences were committed by Israel, and that the Gaza offensive was a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks. Since 2001, 21 Israelis have died from Hama rockets fired out of Gaza.’ This misuse of proportionality (would they prefer that more people died in rocket attacks?) is used as segue to the war crimes allegations. With select quotes the Guardian report is presented as some form of ultimate truth rather than what it really is – speculative at best.
The issue of the behaviour of a nation’s army is a complex one. Every army in the world would have individual instances of soldiers doing the wrong thing or not acting in accordance with the army’s moral standards. The military chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi declared “I tell you that this is a moral and ideological army. I have no doubt that exceptional events will be dealt with.” As has already been mentioned, the IDF will carry out a full investigation and one can rely on the transparency of the system in Israel. We should remember that civilized nations operate under the rule of law and that we will not know the truth of the claims made against the IDF and its soldiers until these matters have been properly investigated.
By contrast, the reports have indicated that Hamas has refused to investigate anything. This is not surprising since its fighters have often been accused of the crimes alleged against Israel by the UN, such as using children as human shields and targeting civilians, on a daily basis and Hamas has often admitted to using these tactics. Neither the Guardian nor the Age seem take any special interest in exposing Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organisations for their behaviour in the conflict. A case in point is the failure of both newspapers to cover the attempted terror attack on a Haifa shopping mall a few days ago (see more). Had the bomb not been located and disarmed hundreds of shoppers could have died. It seems that neither the Guardian nor the Age care.
Israel Advocacy Analyst
Zionist Council of Victoria
The Blood Libel Continues but Isn’t Very Well Done
23 March 2009
The blood libel against Israel continues to expand. Yet there is something very curious about it. The project is being conducted with such vague and shoddiness it makes me more and more suspicious of how little they have.
In fact, this kind of work would flunk a journalism school course. Consider:
This is an article on a report. Who is publishing the report, who wrote it, doesn’t say. Examples? One of a teenage boy used as a human shield by Israeli troops allegedly. (You think they’d have some shame and not use precisely the thing Hamas did with thousands and then demonize Israel with one case.)
But while at least a date is given, no documentation is cited. The name of the boy isn’t given. It never says whether there were witnesses or who they were.
In contradiction to the most basic journalistic practice, a woman is cited extensively but not identified–it is hinted she is a UN human rights expert but it doesn’t say what agency she works for. Her sole qualification? A five-day visit to Israel and Gaza.
I suspect that if we were to see this report it would be the usual junk. In other words, Palestinians mostly Hamas sympathizers doing Pallywood. What strikes me though is if the Guardian wants to push this why it isn’t more credible by giving several examples and making them sound firmly proven. (I guess they don’t have to as they can make up anything.)
It sounds like the reporter didn’t see the report. Who are these human rights experts mentioned? It doesn’t even say who is publishing or compiled the report. .
As I’ve said before, it is amazing how much is being built on how little, how shoddy it is and how they are getting away with it. If this debate was at all fair they would be held up to ridicule but obviously the goal is to shock people into thinking Israel is monstrous by repeating all the adjectives.
But I really find this article shocking not because it shows anything against Israel but because it is just so flimsy.
As I mentioned earlier in a note but I will be more specific now, Canada’s largest -circulation newspaper, the Toronto Star, turned down an op-ed from me because they said the story wasn’t much covered there. In fact, their correspondent (who remember was in Jerusalem and not in Gaza) wrote a lurid piece of advocacy journalism even accusing Israel of using white phosphorus to burn people up (even the UN has ridiculed that notion).
There can be no doubt that we are facing the intellectual/media equivalent of a pogrom in which intoxicated people work themselves into a frenzy, pass wild rumors, and then attack the Jews confident that they will suffer no prosecution by the authorities.
And Now for Something Completely Different…An End of the Media As We Have Known It
Today s Independent–the most extreme anti-Israel “mainstream” newspaper in the English-speaking world (it is close to bankruptcy but still going) has a full page against Israel: also completely unsourced and unspecified. Headline: UN accuses troops of using boy,11, as human shield
Here is what I think happened. This UN official arrived for a four-day visit with no serious background in the Middle East. They ordered the UN people (probably UNRWA so, ironically, they are likely personal supporters of Hamas) to round up testimonies. So they went and found Palestinians willing to make charges against Israel. It is probable that Hamas even coordinated this. Pretty nice: the UN as Hamas’s propaganda agency with the Western media, too.
Note that there was no independent investigation of these charges by the UN or anyone else, so the UN can hardly make any charges. They merely collected all the things these people said–without material verification I reasonably assume and wrote them down. That’s it.
On the face of it, the idea that an 11-year-old boy as a human shield was used for a few minutes as a human shield on the initiative of a small group of individual soldiers is within the realm of possibility. But according to the story–the boy’s but now with all the prestige of the United Nations behind it–that they then took him back to Israel and held him for interrogation (as if an 11-year-old boy is a reliable intelligence asset. What were they going to do, reinfiltrate him as an agent?) sounds like the kind of wild story made up by…an 11 year-old-boy.
What has a kind of demonic charm here is that they are so totally unconscious of replaying the old blood libel. Jews kidnap little boy, though this time not to get his blood but–well in a sense to get his blood as a human shield–for other reasons.
And there’s more. Because of course the UN isn’t charging and it isn’t front-page news that Hamas used thousands of children–in many cases voluntarily for all that means–as human shields.
So these accusations are dripping more with irony than blood. How could they be so blatant unless they know that other journalists and editors will not play the role of the boy who cried wolf and say, “Have you people completely lost your mind?”
We really have gone beyond Pallywood, or perhaps we should call it UN- and media-sponsored Pallywood. It is only a matter of time until someone gets killed because of this lynch mob, and yet when that happens the UN and the media and the politicians who have taken up this chorus will be amazed that anyone might think they are responsible.
For those of American background and my approximate age, I can only end with the famous words of the opening for “The Outer Limits”:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image; make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity….”
Or perhaps the words of Rod Serling introducing the Twilight Zone:
“You’re travelling to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound… but of mind. A journey into a… land, whose boundaries are only that of the imagination… You’re entering… the Twilight Zone….”
Or maybe those of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”: “We’re no longer in Kansas.”
Well, we are no longer in the land of the Enlightenment, or a media that strives for accuracy and fairness.