Images of bloodshed in Gaza obscure truth
HAMAS is to blame for the destruction in Gaza but few condemn it
Many friends have berated me about Israel's "crimes" in Gaza during the conflict between Hamas and Israel. I understand how they felt. When I saw the images of women and children, victims of that war, I couldn't help, still can't, but feel a profound sense of loss. At the same time, however, my friends only saw the international media hysteria against Israel, which was predictably exactly the same as in past conflicts. But consider this: it was Hamas that formally declared all peace agreements with Israel null and void, which formally ended the ceasefire on December 19, 2008, after having violated it with the firing of thousands of rockets on the southern Israeli populations prior to Israel's invasion of Gaza.
I did not notice any media hysteria about these attacks on southern Israel, in fact, barely a mention. What country in the world would allow 3500 missiles to be fired during a 12-month period on its civilian populated areas and not retaliate? Some commentators have said that the rockets fired by Hamas claimed only a few Israeli victims, as if this somehow justified the attacks. I was in the southern Israeli town of Sderot last June when the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange screened the opening film of our annual Australian Film Festival there as a mark of solidarity with the local population.
Given its proximity to Gaza, Sderot had until recently been the main target for Hamas's rockets. The reality on the ground there is this: the population had stopped breathing for over a year. In order to protect civilian life from the Hamas rockets, extraordinary measures are taken. Shopping is planned like a military operation and taking kids to school becomes an operational nightmare. The siren alarm system gives people less than 30 seconds to reach the nearest shelter. The people of Sderot, and now Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva, observe this rule with great discipline. This duty of care to protect civilian life by the Israeli state and their local civic leaders explains why there are so few casualties on the Israeli side. The psychological trauma of living with the anticipation of the next rocket attack and the threat of danger, day in day out, is the real definition of the word "terror" for these people.
What is so galling and paradoxical to average Israelis, is the consistent call for Israel to be apologetic for the fact that it puts the welfare of its citizens first and seeks to minimise civilian casualties on both sides, despite the thousands of rockets hurled at its towns by Hamas. In contrast, Hamas's stated aim is to kill Israeli civilians, yet they are virtually exempt from criticism in regards to these acts. Some media outlets even go so far as to justify Hamas's targeting of civilians as a legitimate form of resistance.
Sure enough, some television programs did invite a token Israeli guest who tried to explain Israel's case. But the answers given seemed to be presented as propaganda, and the implication was that the only story to be believed was the Hamas narrative. If Israel has learned the lessons of the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas has learned from that war too. Hezbollah was able to use the southern Lebanese population as human shields, and get away with it. You would think that such a crime would be denounced by humanitarian groups, by the UN and by Western media.
Alas, the strategy has worked for Hamas: it produced the images that screamed from the front pages of newspapers and TV screens, pushing the buttons of people across theworld. Emotions cloud the context; the result is a circus. It is mind-boggling that barely any media outlet outside Israel has consistently denounced Hamas for using Palestinian women and children as human shields. By forgetting the context, voluntarily or not, much of the Western commentators have implied this: it is permissible for terror groups to use civilians as human shields, but not fora legitimate country to mistakenly kill civilians in the course of battling an enemy. The latter is being portrayed as a crime against humanity. However harsh it is to lose civilians, this logic isabsurd.
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy said recently that you must not confuse the intentional act of shooting rockets on civilian populations with the clear intention of killing them (a crime against humanity) and the fire that is aimed at the enemy combatant that mistakenly kills civilians (however unacceptable and heartbreaking the loss of civilians always is). After all, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Hamas has built an infrastructure of bunkers and tunnels that were located under the most populated areas of Gaza. These were not for the benefit of the civilian population, but for Hamas's own leaders to smuggle arms and hide.
The Hamas leadership had even taken refuge at the Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, and at the UN Relief and Works Agency, which normally provides humanitarian and health services. There has been a lot of ranting by the UN regarding the attacks on UNRWA. It is interesting to note how the UN places the blame on Israel but does not place any responsibility on Hamas.
The rocket shootings against southern Israel take place from the buildings where civilians live. Mosques and schools are used as ammunition caches and arms depots. Hamas combatants had taken off their military fatigues from the start of the Israeli invasion and were wearing civilian clothes, surprising Israeli soldiers by mixing with civilians. In such an environment, it is no wonder civilians were caught in the crossfire. The only surprise is the low number of civilian casualties in an area where 1.4 million Palestinians live. This is a result of the care with which Israel has operated.
Israel says 12 per cent of casualties are civilians, Hamas say 40 per cent. Whatever the percentage, it is a tragedy. But citing numbers and showing images while forgetting the context creates one more casualty: the truth. Immediately after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unilaterally declared a ceasefire on Sunday, accepting the Egyptian plan, Hamas fired eight rockets on southern Israel.
Fiat and Chrysler enter into strategic alliance: "Chrysler has reached across the Atlantic Ocean for help in a move that could foreshadow more consolidation in the automotive industry this year. The smallest and most endangered of Detroit's three major carmakers, Chrysler forged a major alliance Tuesday with Fiat, in which Chrysler grants the Italian automaker a 35 percent ownership stake. The partnership promises to help the storied Chrysler brand name survive - something some analysts saw as doubtful without an alliance or merger. The deal will help Chrysler bring more fuel-efficient cars to market, plugging a big gap in its product line. And it will help the most domestic of America's Big Three to become more global." [And all this with no taxpayer bailout? How can that possibly be??]
They don't know how to put Humpty Dumpty together again (1) : "Remember when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson warned us, back in September, that the economy was about to collapse unless Congress immediately authorized him to spend $700 billion on `troubled assets' held by banks? Remember when he said banks would never lend again as long as they remained saddled with these bad investments? You do remember? So it's not just me. I was beginning to think I had dreamed the whole thing. In November, Paulson said the Treasury Department would not be buying any troubled assets after all. Instead it would use the $700 billion to buy the banks themselves, which I could almost swear Paulson had said was a bad idea a couple of months before."
They don't know how to put Humpty Dumpty together again (2): "It's difficult to make the case that the first $350 billion bailout of Wall Street - so-called `TARP I' - fulfilled its goals, unless one argues that the Street would have imploded without it, which is pretty much what Hank Paulson is saying these days. And since it's impossible to prove a counter-factual, especially when the Treasury was never clear about TARP I's goals to begin with, Paulson may have a point. But the easier and probably more correct argument is that American taxpayers wasted $350 billion. No one knows exactly where it went - at least two recent reports reveal that the Treasury had no idea - but we do know the money did not go to small businesses, struggling homeowners, students, or anyone else needing credit, which was the major public justification for the bailout."
AK: Icy Gore depiction unveiled by critic: "A critic of global warming is responsible for the icy glare Al Gore is giving this Alaskan community. Local businessman Craig Compeau on Monday unveiled an ice sculpture of the 2007 Nobel Prize winner and leader in the movement to draw attention to climate change and global warming. The 8 1/2-foot-tall, 5-ton bust of the former vice president dominates a downtown street corner from its perch on the back of a flatbed truck. Compeau says he's a `moderate' critic of global warming theories. He used the unveiling of the sculpture to invite Gore to Fairbanks to explain his global warming theories. He says it will stand through March unless it melts before then. It was 22 degrees on Monday."
Jail for British animal rights extremists who waged six-year blackmail campaign: "Seven animal rights extremists who waged a campaign of blackmail and intimidation, seeking to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences, were jailed yesterday. The ringleaders, Gregg Avery, 41, his wife Natasha, 39, and Avery's ex-wife Heather Nicholson, 41, were described as "veteran, fanatical animal rights activists" likely to return to extremism on release. Sentencing the members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty to up to 11 years in prison, Mr Justice Butterfield called for a change in the law to allow blackmailers to be detained indefinitely. He said the campaign group was a "vehicle used to terrorise ordinary decent traders carrying out perfectly lawful businesses" with the sole aim of closing down Huntingdon Life Sciences and its Cambridgeshire laboratory. Hundreds of people whose employers did business with the firm received hoax bombs, sanitary towels allegedly contaminated with the HIV virus and letters threatening violence against their children, and were visited by vandals. Their neighbours were sent letters warning that they lived close to a paedophile, and victims were told the persecution would continue until their company severed links with Huntingdon Life Sciences. More than 270 businesses gave in."
Toyota overtakes General Motors as biggest carmaker: "Toyota has become the world's biggest carmaker for the first time, knocking General Motors off the top slot after a 77-year unbroken period in pole position. The Japanese group had been expected to take the lead a year ago after pushing ahead in a much stronger global market than the current one, but GM confounded car industry experts by holding on by a slim margin. Yesterday, however, the American company said that its global sales had fallen 11 per cent the previous year to 8.35 million vehicles, which allowed its rival to overtake it. This week Toyota said that it had sold 8.97 million cars last year, a fall of only 4 per cent. Both carmakers played down the shift in positions, coming as it did in one of the bleakest car markets for many years, although GM had said previously that it had been important for it to keep the top slot for corporate pride".
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