Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fissures in the Story

Remember - you must, always - how the entire world castigated Israel for the massacre in Jenin in April 2002; how the UN demanded an international investigation and Israel was castigated a second time when it refused to cooperate with a commission whose report had been written before it was even set up. All this for a massacre that never happened. If you're older, you may remember how Israel was cursed world-wide for the massacre of thousands (Yasser Arafat said, six thousand) of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila; after the frenzy was over it turned out there were "only" hundreds of murdered, not a single one by an Israeli (which is not to defend Israel for its ugly role of allowing its Lebanese allies into the camp in the first place).

I don't know how many innocent Palestinian civilians died in the recent Gaza operation. The investigations are still going on. I won't be surprised by a number in the low hundreds, though I rather doubt there will ever be any way of knowing how many were killed by Israelis and how many by Hamas itself, by blowing up their own buildings and so on. In any case, each one of them is tragic.

But tragic isn't necesarily criminal. In the meantime, look at this:
UN backtracks on claim that deadly IDF strike hit Gaza school
This is not a new result of an investigation. It's something the UN spokesmen knew perfectly well at the time: that Israel had in fact not targeted, and also not hit, a school. The civilians killed were all outside the school, however many of them there were.

Does it make any difference, you ask? Well, yes, actually it does. First, because it responds to the statement of the Economist:
In other ways, military technology has raised the bar for what is considered acceptable. The skies above Gaza are buzzing with surveillance drones. Israeli command-and-control systems are doubtless as sophisticated as American ones, which give commanders vast digital maps in which structures are individually numbered and clearly identified if they are not to be attacked; they even have “splat” graphics to estimate the area that will be affected by a blast. Mishaps do happen; on January 5th three Israeli soldiers were killed by one of their own tanks. But without more facts, it is hard to believe the Israelis did not know about the presence of civilians at Zeitun and at the UN school.

Even more, it matters because the UN officials are now admitting they were baldly lying three weeks ago. Don't expect the Guardian ever to do the same.


adam d. said...


sri lanka hospital shelling

Media coverage and the UN and ICRC responses are comparatively tame. They're saying the right things, more or less, but notably without hysteria.

There doesn't seem to be a movement among the intellectual western elite to demonize Sri Lanka. There are no boycotts. Sri Lankan army officers are not being threatened with war crimes prosecutions.

In fact if you google the words "sri lanka officers war crimes", you get mostly articles about gaza.

Maybe I just don't now where to look.

adam d. said...

forgot to add --

Imagine the outcry if an Israeli gov't spokesman had said something to the effect of "we can't guarantee the safety of people in Hamas controlled hospitals", which would be equivalent to what the Sri Lankan gov't spokesman says in this article.

Gavin said...

On the media front Gaza was eerily similar to Lebanon 2006. I've never been able to understand why Israel can't seem to extend the principle of military tactics into the media war. This article here illustrates the problem and how opportunities are being missed;

Why aren't Israel fighting back hard on the media front Yaacov? Deterrence would have just as much effect on the media, if they get hit with overwhelming force every time they file a false report then they'll start hesitating before they print the next ones.

Rgds, Gavin.