Friday, January 09, 2009

How to kill 1.5 million people: On turning Gaza into a landfill.

Well, it's been a while since I last posted here, I've been doing all my posting over at DU, but this Gaza story really has got me hot under the collar. I figure I'll string together a few thoughts on what's going on in the Middle East, just for fun.

Blitzkrieg Redux:

Yes folks, it's that time again: An election coming up in Israel and everybody wants to prove they can kill more Palestinians than the other guy. Add to this the imminent departure of George W. Bush (their best friend ever) and the the timing is just right for another blitzkrieg on Gaza, which has now been going on now for about 14 days.

14 days of the best Israeli firepower America can buy raining down on the most densely populated strip of land on earth. The best part is the 1.5 million people who live there can't get out, they're locked in like fish in a barrel. Such a war!

As usual, the casualty numbers are perfectly proportionate: 11 Israelis (four of whom were killed by their own guns) to almost 700 Palestinians dead and over 3,000 wounded. [Bloomberg]

Typically, also, the U.S. is supporting Israel to the hilt -- Condi Rice is playing the same old broken record about "sustainable" ceasefires -- while the the rest of the world gets completely apoplectic over Israel's daily outrages. Israel's surgical strikes aimed only at terrorists are missing their targets - - here, there and everywhere - - causing protests to break out all over the world as the images of children blown to pieces filter out.

Bombing the Messenger:

Not that too much of that sort of thing is getting out, however. An article in the NYT reports that Israel has learned some lessons from the Summer War of 2006, one of which is to control the story. No more of these world press types running around reporting on all the carnage being inflicted on civilians. "Disinformation and impediments to real-time press coverage on the ground," is the new order of the day.

And the Israeli press is going along for the ride, too. What you can't see, can't hurt you, are their marching orders.

The NYT:

"A headline in Tuesday’s issue of Yediot Aharonot, the country’s largest selling daily newspaper, expressed well the popular view of the issue. Over a news article describing the generally negative coverage so far, especially in the European media, an intentional misspelling of a Hebrew word turned the headline 'World Media' into 'World Liars.'

This attitude has been helped by supportive Israeli news media whose articles have been filled with 'feelings of self-righteousness and a sense of catharsis following what was felt to be undue restraint in the face of attacks by the enemy,' according to a study of the first days of media coverage of the war by a liberal but nonpartisan group called Keshev, the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel."

And bombing the press doesn't hurt either.

The London Daily News reported today:

"The Press TV Gaza bureau has been destroyed by IDF troops in an attack that took place in the last hour 15:38 GMT, despite the GPS co-ordinates being held by the Israeli troops . . . Press TV has been one of the few international news networks able to broadcast live feeds of the Israeli attacks in Gaza. Speaking to Press TV Hamoudi Gharib the Gaza correspondent confirmed that IDF troops targeted the studios of Press TV with repeated attacks. This would be a clear contravention of international law with the targeting of journalists and civilians.'No one is safe in Gaza, the UN, civilians or journalists.'"

How about that?

Targeting UNRWA . . . and the Truth:

Speaking of the UN; On the 6th, the IDF bombed a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Jabalya, killing 43 civilians and wounding about 15 others seriously. The civilians, mainly children, had huddled there for protection. Israel claimed Hamas had been using the school to fire at IDF troops.

This was the way the fair and balanced Israeli press described it:

Artutz Sheva:

"Hamas fired mortar shells from a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Jabalya before the IDF retaliated with aerial bombing that killed Hamas terrorists as well as children, according to an initial IDF investigation.

'Amongst the dead at the Jabalya school were Hamas terror operatives and a mortar battery cell who were firing on IDF forces in the area,' the IDF said. 'We face a very delicate situation where the Hamas is using the citizens of Gaza as a protective vest,' according to IDF spokesman Brig. General Avi Benayahu . . .

Despite the IDF clarification, foreign media played down the Hamas' use of the school and emphasized the IDF shelling. Reuters reported, 'The Israeli military said its forces fired mortar rounds on a school in the Gaza Strip where about 40 Palestinians were reported killed on Tuesday, but said troops were responding to mortar fire from the U.N. premises."

There's just one little problem with this "clarification," though . . . it's hogwash.

Haaretz, Jan. 9:

"UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Haaretz yesterday that the army had conceded wrongdoing. 'In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school,' Gunness said. 'The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional.' He noted that all the footage released by the IDF of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself. 'There are no up-to-date photos,' Gunness said. 'In 2007, we abandoned the site and only then did the militants take it over.'"

Whoospe a' daisy! How did those photos from 2007 get in there! Boy, are our faces red!

Why do I feel like I could just reprint anything I wrote from 2006 here and not have to change a word? You got your bombing media outlets; you got your bombing of UN compounds (4 hit in one 24 hour period on Tuesday); telling families to move, like the Samouni family, and then bombing them when they do move; shooting tank shells at aid workers thus ending all relief work; and then (this is priceless) claim, as foreign minister Tzipi Livni did while in Paris last week, "There is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce."

In a hilarious new twist, the IDF actually did declare a truce and then they attacked anyway, killing a truck driver in a UN flagged truck.


"'Operations will remain suspended until Israeli authorities can guarantee the safety and security of our staff,' said Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency . . . The decision came after one person was killed when a UN-flagged truck convoy was hit by two tank shells as it travelled to the border with Israel to pick up humanitarian assistance. The Israeli military said it was investigating . . .

'Staff members have been killed, our installations have been hit, our refugees have been killed. All this in spite of the fact we have coordinated in detail the GPS coordinates of our installations and movement of vehicles and personnel with Israel,' Gunness told AFP."

Well geez, you give them your GPS coordinates, you're sure to get bombed! Just ask the guys at PressTV.

House Of Horrors:

As bad as all the rest of the above is, this story is just appalling. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a statement yesterday accusing the IDF of "unacceptable" conduct.


"The ICRC said that it had spent four days seeking Israeli guarantees of safe passage so that it could gain access to the houses in the badly damaged Zaytun neighbourhood of the city. It was finally allowed to send in a rescue team and four Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances yesterday afternoon and said today that what they found was shocking.

In one house they discovered four small children, alive but too weak to stand, next to the bodies of their dead mothers. In all their were 12 dead bodies lying on mattresses.
In another house they found 15 survivors of the Israeli bombardment, several of them wounded, and in a third, three corpses . . .

The children and the wounded had to be taken to the ambulances by donkey cart because earth walls erected by the Israeli army made it impossible to bring the vehicles close enough to the houses

The ICRC said that it believed there were more wounded sheltering in the ruins of other houses in the same neighbourhood, and in an unusually robust public statement issued by the organisation's Geneva headquarters it demanded that the Israeli military grant it immediate access to search for them.

'This is a shocking incident,' Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said. 'The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded.'"

Words just fail me here. WTF? What kind of "democratic" country does this to defenseless people? To children, no less?

All of this to stop rockets that have killed about 14 Israelis in three years and to shut down tunnels Israel claims Hamas uses to smuggle weapons. One note about the tunnel issue. Dan Murphy, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, told Melissa Block of NPR's ATC last night that these tunnels are "rudimentary," at best, and weapons aren't what comes through them.

Murphy: "They're moving tons of goods through these things - cigarettes, maybe weapons, you know, everything from milk to illicit booze to chocolate wafers goes through these things . . .

Block: "You say maybe weapons. But Israel has been quite emphatic that weapons are absolutely coming through shipped from Iran and from Syria."

Murphy: "Well, I do want to emphasize that I haven't been there in quite some time. It's possible that this has changed. But after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah, they took all Fatah's weapons which had been supplied by the U.S. more or less in Egypt. So, a lot of the tunnel smugglers at that time were telling me that unfortunately, as far as they're concerned, they're just businessmen.

They're capitalists red in tooth and claw, that the gun business wasn't a good business anymore. Gaza quite simply was awash in weapons and they were shifting to other uses. I'm sure that a lot of explosives do move in and out of those tunnels from Egypt that are used to make the rockets that are fired in Israel, and so forth. But I do think that the level of weapons that are coming through those tunnels and the notion that if those tunnels are shut, there would be no weapons in Gaza is at best overstated."

So, bombing the crap out of Gaza, turning it into a pile of rubble, might not end the rocket fire? Might a political solution be more advantageous? What a concept. Don't tell that to the Israelis or Hamas, though, they're both nuts:

Case in point: last night the UN finally got around to passing a ceasefire resolution which Israel and Hamas quickly rejected.


Hamas: "In Beirut, a Hamas spokesman, Raafat Morra, said the resolution 'does not suit us because it is not in the best interest of the Palestinian people,' Agence France-Presse reported . .

Israel: 'This morning’s rocket fire against residents of the south only proves that the U.N. Security Council Resolution is not practical and will not be honored in actual fact by the Palestinian murder organizations,' Mr. [PM Ehud] Olmert said."

What do you do with people like this? Right now, Barack Obama has got to be wishing McCain had won the election.

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