The TV Cameras Responsible For Civilian Deaths In Gaza
I write this as a member of the press. I’m proud to be a journalist and a documentary filmmaker. I’m a member of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, and the co-recipient of this year’s Edward R. Murrow Award from the American Overseas Press Club. I say this off the top because I’m not an outsider pointing my finger at the media. Every year, journalists sacrifice their lives in war zones so as to keep us informed and protect freedom of the press, a cornerstone of democracy.
But the fact is that when it comes to Israel, the media has acted irresponsibly. Good journalism has been replaced by politically correct misreporting, and one of the net results is that Palestinian civilians, including children, are paying with their lives. How so?
There is no group that can be more evil, in the narrowest sense of the word, than the rulers of the Gaza strip, Hamas. They are openly anti-democratic, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Western. The list continues. These are the people who distributed candies, danced in the street and openly celebrated after 9/11.
I simply don’t know what else they could do to make Westerners dislike them. For good measure, they are anti-Palestinian nationalism. They don’t believe in a Palestinian state. They believe that “statehood” is a Western invention. They also believe in the destruction of the Jewish state as a step toward an international Islamic Republic. And yet, despite all of this, they are portrayed as freedom fighters by much of the international media.
The Western press has taught them that if they turn their children into props, they will win the propaganda war against Israel. In today’s media war, you need a good prop. Israeli Cabinet minister Naftali Bennett understood this when he faced CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. When she repeatedly used the term “occupied territories” to refer to parts of the ancient land of Israel, Bennett was ready. He pulled out a 2000-year-old coin that says “Zion” on it.
He held it to the camera and asked something like, “I’m a Jew. How can I be ‘occupying’ Zion? How can I occupy my own land?” His point was “I’m not an occupier, I’m indigenous”, and he used an ancient coin as a prop for an audience with a limited attention span. It worked.
Turkish prime-minister Erdogan also understands that in today’s media war you need props. In 2010, the boat called the “Mavi Marmara” was just such a prop. From a PR point of view, it was a relatively cheap trick. You get a boat, you fill it with what Lenin called “useful idiots”, i.e. well-meaning politically-correct members of the bourgeoisie, espousing half-baked ideas. Then into the mix you insert a dozen jihadists ready to kill and be killed – and you’ve got yourself a media circus of incredible proportions.
The Mavi Marmara incident involved a “ship of fools” which tried to run Israel’s sea blockade around Gaza. Ostensibly they were bringing humanitarian aid, but humanitarian aid can be delivered without any problems. It’s missiles that are a problem. So when Israeli commandos armed with paintball guns so as not to hurt anyone boarded the ship, they were attacked by jihadists wielding axes and knives. The commandos called for help. The jihadists were killed.
But they had won the prop war. My fellow journalists portrayed the jihadists as victims and the Israelis as oppressors. The anti-Israel forces got billions of dollars worth of free publicity, and Turkish-Israeli relations were damaged almost beyond repair. None of this would’ve happened if there hadn’t been a prop that the cameramen could point their cameras at. The boat was the prop. Now it’s the children.
Hamas has understood what the ideology of terror has clearly espoused for over a hundred years. When attacking a democracy, the terrorist has to put it in a quandary. The way to do that is to force the democracy to kill civilians. So if you set up your terror-base under a school or a hospital, you’ve got it made in the shade. You launch missiles, for example, against Israel. Now the Israelis have a choice. Either they don’t respond, in which case the terror mounts in the face of ongoing impotence, or they do respond, in which case you’re going to have civilian deaths and dramatic pictures for the West’s nightly news.
Basically, the Western media has taught Hamas that it doesn’t matter how downright evil you are. It doesn’t matter if you launch two thousand missiles at civilian targets, including the airport. It doesn’t matter if you use your own children as human shields. You’ll get the coverage you want if CNN, BBC et al. have props to point their cameras at. Our form of news-gathering has taught Hamas to turn their children into those props, and to sacrifice them on the altar of Jihad. By misreporting, our media has encouraged the bad guys to kill their own children, and has dragged Israel into a war it did not want.
Nissim Sean Carmeli was a 21 year old soldier in Golani, Israel’s marines. He emigrated here from Texas. Until a few years ago, he went to the high school around the corner from my house. He had plans to go to university, meet a girl, start a family. When a few weeks ago Hamas started raining hundreds of rockets down on Israeli civilians, nobody wanted to send Sean and his friends into Gaza. As in Afghanistan, that would involve house to house fighting with a ruthless enemy who knows the terrain and has booby trapped every passage.
It would have been very easy for the Israeli Air Force to simply level entire blocks of Hamas dominated neighborhoods. Americans have done this with impunity in Iraq and Afghanistan. But since Hamas plants its terror network beneath schools, hospitals and mosques, such a bombing mission would have involved high Palestinian casualties. So Israel decided not to level Gaza and send Sean in. He died so as to minimize Palestinian losses.
I just came back from where his family is sitting Shiva, the Jewish custom of mourning. There were no anti-Arab speeches, no signs of militarism, just the tremendous grief of parents burying a child. As a journalist, I sat there and hung my head in shame, overwhelmed by the simple truth that while journalists feign concern for Palestinian kids, they are actually creating the environment for their deaths. In the meantime, Israelis like Sean are paying with their lives to avoid the very deaths they are being blamed for.
Kerry Undermines Israel
Secretary of State John Kerry, presumably pursuing the wishes of his boss, has badly flubbed dealings between Israel and Hamas. The main reason for his failure is an assumption that both sides want peace and that all it requires is some magic words from the Obama administration. They’re dead wrong.
Over the weekend, Kerry pushed for a cease-fire negotiated in Paris with Israel’s enemies, Qatar and Turkey, and it contained practically every Hamas demand. We’re shocked – shocked – that it failed. The White House has pushed for a cease-fire only since Israel began its ground incursion into Gaza to clear out Hamas' tunnel networks (built with forced child labor) and destroy its missile caches. In other words, once Israel started truly succeeding, the Obama administration sought to stop that progress.
A White House statement describing a call between Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The President … reiterated the United States' serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.” Furthermore, the statement read, “[T]he President made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire that ends hostilities now.”
Worse, the administration even turned on Israel at the UN, pushing a Security Council-enforced cease-fire.
Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Fatah (the other Palestinian faction that controls the West Bank) all want Hamas rule ended in Gaza. And the Obama Justice Department still classifies Hamas as a terrorist group. So why would the Obama State Department expect a good result from working for Hamas against all other interested parties?
Israel would love nothing more than to live in peace, but that’s difficult when its immediate neighbors want its total destruction. That’s why the “peace process” has yielded so little regardless of decades of trying, and that’s why Israel’s objective now is to cripple Hamas. Netanyahu warned Israelis to prepare for a “prolonged” war because Israel has no interest in quitting before its objectives are achieved, especially in the face of betrayal by the U.S.
The bumbling over the cease-fire isn’t the only thing the Obama administration is doing to enrage Israel. Nuclear talks with Iran continue to grant both time and concessions to the mullahs – who also happen to want Israel wiped off the map and support Hamas' efforts to do so. Iran is not just a thorn in Israel’s side like Hamas; it’s an existential threat.
Perhaps much of the problem is that Kerry is the wrong man for the job. In 1971, he testified before the Senate against American troops, saying, “They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”
If the man could so outrageously slander his own countrymen, why should the Israelis trust him to have their best interests in mind? Clearly he doesn’t (remember his apartheid state comments), and therefore they don’t trust him.
THE DRUG WAR IS FINISHED
The drug war is finished. Kaput. It’s now just a matter of time when the federal government calls an end to this evil, immoral, destructive, and racist government program.
Yesterday, the New York Times became the latest addition to those calling for an end to the drug war, with an editorial entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again.” That was followed by two more editorials written by members of the NYT editorial board, one entitled “Let States Decide on Marijuana” by David Firestone and the other “The Public Lightens Up About Weed” by Juliet Lapidos.
That’s about as mainstream as one can get.
Comparing drug laws to Prohibition, the Times wrote:
"It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."
While the Times unfortunately limits its call to marijuana instead of expanding it to all drugs, once people see the benefits that come from ending the criminality of marijuana, the rest of the federal drug-war apparatus will soon fall as well.
The federal government never should have enacted drug laws in the first place. For one thing, there is no authorization in the Constitution for such power. That’s why, in fact, Americans amended the Constitution to make the possession of booze illegal — and then repealed that amendment. The same thing needed to be done with drugs.
Second, governments have no business punishing people for what they put into their mouths. Freedom means the right to live your life the way you want, so long as your conduct is peaceful. That obviously encompasses what you put into your mouth. Other people might object to what you ingest for health concerns or any reasons, but such objections should never have been translated into having the state incarcerate and fine people for ingesting what they want. Drug addiction and drug usage are none of the state’s business.
Third, look at the consequences of the drug war: gangs, cartels, drug lords, gang wars, robberies, muggings, thefts, burglaries, illegal searches, ruination of lives, years of incarceration, enormous fines, asset forfeiture laws, military-type raids, infringements on civil liberties and privacy, racist enforcement, bribery, corruption, murders, assassinations, and the militarization of the police.
All that is about as far from a peaceful and harmonious society that one can get. And it’s all because of the prohibition of drugs.
In fact, try to think of one legitimate reason to keep the drug war going. You can’t do it.
Get the U.S. military involved? It already is involved, heavily. Just ask the people of Latin America, where the Pentagon has played a heavy role in waging the war on drugs in that part of the world, which has done nothing more than convert Latin American countries into cauldrons of violence. Ask the people of Mexico, where some 60,000 people have died in the last 7 years owing to a massive, military-style crackdown in the war on drugs.
Increase jail sentences for drug-law violators? It’s been done. In fact, the feds are now granting early release to many of the people whose lives they are ruined. The feds are recognizing that those long jail sentences didn’t do the trick.
Asset-forfeiture laws? They’ve been tried. In fact, they’ve been converted into a convenient way for law-enforcement people to steal cash and other valuable property from poor people. They’ve accomplished nothing else.
They’ve tried everything, and everything has failed. The drug warriors have nothing left in their arsenal.
So why the delay in ending the drug war? One reason: jobs. There is an enormous segment of society that has become dependent on the war on drugs, a segment that not only depends of things like bribes but also on legitimate income streams like salaries.
These are the drug-war addicts. We’re talking about assistant U.S. Attorneys, DEA agents, deputy sheriffs, Border Patrol, policemen, assistant district attorneys, clerks, state and federal judges, and so many others. This segment is now the principal obstacle to ending the drug war.
I can just picture a big protest in Washington against ending the drug war. There would be two groups of people all rallying together and sharing the same signs saying “Keep the Drug War Going!” The two segments would be (1) U.S. drug-war law-enforcement agents and (2) the drug lords and drug dealers. Both segments know that drug legalization would put them both out of a job immediately.
That’s what happened when Prohibition was ended. No more booze gangs, no more gang wars over turf, and no more booze bribery of prosecutors and judges. That’s because there wasn’t a black market anymore.
The same thing will happen with drug legalization. In fact, that’s one of the ironies of the drug war. It purports to go after drug lords, cartels, and gangs but in fact is the cause of their existence. The more the drug laws are enforced, the stronger the black-market sector becomes. With drug legalization, the goal of smashing the drug dealers is achieved, not by arrest and incarceration but instead by putting them out of business through the restoration of a legal free market.
The question now is: Who will be the last person punished in the war on drugs?
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)