January 10, 2009

Gaza and Afghanistan

Readers of this site know I support Israel’s war in Gaza. Long-time readers also know I opposed Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon. Unlike some, I do not automatically assume critics of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead hate Jews or support terrorists. I’d be a patent hypocrite if I did, since I’ve had the very same accusations unfairly hurled at me in the past.

I do, however, object to the entirely predictable hysteria about Israeli “war crimes” by critics who demonstrate that they don’t know what a war crime actually is, and who have no objection, or at least little or no vocal objection, to the war crimes Hamas commits every day.

There is a non-hysterical case to be made against Israel’s war in Gaza. The fact that people are being killed in the war is not it. Innocents as well as combatants die in every war. If you have nothing to object to besides that, then you should oppose the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan for the same reason. That war is also being fought “disproportionately.” Far more innocent civilians have been killed over there than in Gaza. No doubt the rage among some in the Islamic world at the sight of those innocents killed encourages them to join the fight against us.

And Afghanistan isn’t currently shooting rockets at the United States.

Nearly every argument I have read and heard about Israel’s war in Gaza applies ten-fold to the war in Afghanistan. Yet many, if not most, of the very same people who deploy those arguments support the war in Afghanistan.

I find that curious.

So here’s some free advice to the critics of Israel. Find an argument that applies specifically to the war in Gaza that can’t also be said about every other war fought by a democracy against a terrorist army. If you cannot do that, you are not going to convince anybody.

UPDATE: Here is an example of a well-reasoned and non-hysterical argument. And here is an indirect rebuttal that is also well-reasoned and non-hysterical.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 10, 2009 2:23 PM
Comments

And here is another well-reasoned argument by a Harvard Law professor on the "war crimes" debate.

Our friend Juan should take note.

Posted by: Andrew Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 2:54 PM

Find an argument that applies specifically to the war in Gaza that can’t also be said about every other war fought by a democracy against a terrorist army.

I'm less interested in this particular argument than I am in the one about how stupid this attack on Gaza is. Israel is quickly eroding support even among its friends. Gaza is already close to a prison camp. It's crowded, there are no safe zones, and any military action is going to result in many dead civilians. Given the large number of children in Gaza, there are going to be a lot of horror stories coming out.

No matter how careful Israel might be, this is a gift on a silver platter to Israel's enemies. It's twice as stupid as the invasion of Lebanon, and to tell you the the Michael, I'm sorely disappointed in your postings on it so far, especially the one that repeated the IDF claim that Hamas itself blew up that school. The fact that this was in a post decrying irresponsible journalism was stunning.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 4:17 PM

DPU,

The Associated Press, hardly a pro-Israel media institution, first published the claim that Hamas rigged that school with explosives.

You are free to believe Hamas didn't do that, but reports all over the world describe Hamas' rigging of Gaza with explosives and booby traps and using civilians as human shields. Gaza is hardly the only place in the Middle East where this happens. It also happens in Lebanon and Iraq on a regular basis, and has been so widely reported for so many years by so many correspondents that I really shouldn't have to get defensive about it.

I hate reading about dead civilians. It pisses me off, probably more than it pisses you off. I meet Arab civilians all the time, and I am not happy when I imagine them being killed in an airstrike.

The difference between you and me is who we blame for their deaths. I'm sticking with the laws of war on this one. They were written the way they are for good reason by very careful and civilized people who spent an enormous amount of time and energy figuring out how to protect innocent people in war zones. And I am not going to overturn their work and blame the party that adheres to the laws of war in favor of a terrorist organization.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 4:49 PM

Nearly every argument I have read and heard about Israel’s war in Gaza applies ten-fold to the war in Afghanistan. Yet many, if not most, of the very same people who deploy those arguments support the war in Afghanistan.

“Pro-Israel” commentators (and I use quotation marks because I consider myself pro-Israel, if that means supporting the right of Israelis to live in security, in their own state) are fond of the argument that goes, “we gave Gaza back to the Palestinians, we gave them everything they wanted, now why haven’t they built schools and roads instead of firing rockets?” The implicit answer to this question, most often, is that Gazans are deranged anti-semites. Now, some of them may, in fact, be deranged anti-semites. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the desire of most Gazans to live a quiet, prosperous life trumps their desire to wage total war on Israel. The answer to the above question, then, must be that some impediment underlies their inability to prosper, namely, the life-strangling economic blockade that Israel began enforcing as collective punishment for Hamas’ coup against Fatah, but which existed in less catastrophic form since the so-called disengagement. So it turns out, by controlling the air space and the sea coast, imports and exports, gas and electricity, Israel didn’t really “disengage” from Gaza, but it did make it impossible for Gazans to “build schools and roads.” According to B’Tselem, “Since June 2007, no raw materials have entered Gaza, forcing 90 percent of the enterprises to cease operations.” Prior to that, things were not considerably better, especially when the West cut off its aid to the Hamas-led PA.

Then the question arises, “why did the Palestinians elect Hamas?” Again, evidence indicates that the answer is not because they are deranged anti-semites, but rather because Fatah was associated with subservience to a “peace process” that saw nothing but creeping settlement construction and a plummeting standard of living for ordinary Palestinians (the latter, of course, was due as much to PA corruption as Israeli closures, strict licensing and permit requirements formulated to protect Israeli industry, and a distorted customs union). Meanwhile, Hamas was organizing soup kitchens and daycare centers. And, of course, dispatching suicide bombers in retribution for various instances of settler and military violence. And when the elections came along, their good-governance and perceived integrity outweighed any reservations the more secular-minded Palestinians may have felt about their theocratic worldview and culture of martyrdom.

My point with this narrative is that Israel bears much, though certainly not all, of the responsibility for the rise of Hamas to formal power and the sorry humanitarian state of the Gaza Strip. And Palestinians know this, because they are acutely aware of their history. Fascinatingly, while Gazan infrastructure is a shambles, the female literacy rate in Gaza is something like 8th in the world. These people are educated, and not only in death-cult fanaticism. And when Israel now bombs them, they aren’t going to say “we must get rid of Hamas! Look, Israel was just sitting their peacefully and our maniac leaders attacked them!” They won’t say that because, unlike Western media-consumers, they have a full picture of Israeli-Palestinian history. They may not love Hamas, and they may even deplore its methods (some, on the other hand, may love both Hamas its methods), but they understand Hamas as the last available option, the culmination of an utterly fucked-up twenty year saga.

So you can’t look at the “war in Gaza” as an isolated event. It’s a battle in a larger, ongoing war for peace that Israel has waged, in my opinion, sloppily and half-heartedly for quite some time. Does my argument against this particular episode equally apply to Afghanistan? Yes and no. Yes, I object to tactics like air-raids that may wipe out dangerous targets but ultimately alienate the people we’re supposed to be protecting in the process. David Petraeus would lodge a similar objection. And no, I don’t object to the larger project in Afghanistan, namely the replacement of an insidious and unpopular theocracy with some kind of democratic arrangement. Just like I don’t object to the overall struggle against Hamas, only to the tactics currently being deployed. What is (or would have been) the alternative? I’ve said it elsewhere: try removing the blockade, restoring a modicum of sovereignty to the elected government, and resuming the flow of humanitarian aid to ordinary Gazans. Remove all vestiges of Israeli occupation. And then, if after that has been undertaken, Hamas persists in lobbing rockets, then maybe I can be convinced that overwhelming military force is the only solution.

And a final note: your friend Yaacov asks why the West Bank Palestinians don’t fire rockets. Well, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they’re still under Israeli occupation, and that, despite this, they aren’t immediately starving to death.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 5:48 PM

MJT,

Is Hamas the legal legitimate government of Gaza? The answer isn't obvious.

If Hamas is the legal government of Gaza, then they have gone to war with Israel by firing rockets. Their firing rockets seems to be better described as an act of war rather than 'terrorism.' Does this make sense? Should we treat the Hamas/Israel war as a war between states?

Hamas can say that it is going to war to:
1) lift sanctions
2) dismantle West Bank Settlements
3) preventive war to weaken Israel's ability to harm Hamas or the Palestinian 'nation.'

If Hamas is the elected government of Palestine (which isn't clear since voters were divided between Fatah and Hamas), then is Hamas going to war with Israel the same as the Palestinian people deliberately choosing to go to war with Israel?

I am trying to make sense of all this and can't. What is Israel's strategic objective in this war? How will this all end?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 5:58 PM

MJT and everyone else; what is the long term solution to half a million Israeli settlers who live in the occupied west bank? Without managing this issue, won't there continue to be perennial Israeli Palestinian wars?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:01 PM

Matt,

That's a much better argument than what you said earlier. Thanks for the shift in substance and tone.

Palestinians know as well as you and I do that the blockade of Gaza is in place to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons. All they have to do to have the blockade lifted is stop acquiring weapons and stop shooting them those weapons at Israelis.

And a final note: your friend Yaacov asks why the West Bank Palestinians don’t fire rockets. Well, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they’re still under Israeli occupation, and that, despite this, they aren’t immediately starving to death.

And that, my friend, is the reason so many Israelis are now afraid to withdraw from the West Bank. I think they should do it anyway, but I understand the reluctance.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:12 PM

Anand: MJT and everyone else; what is the long term solution to half a million Israeli settlers who live in the occupied west bank?

Moving them back inside Israel proper. Pretty much everyone in Israel understands this, but they're afraid to do it for two reasons.

1) They don't want an Israeli civil war.
2) They're afraid to withdraw from the West Bank after they were attacked in the wake of withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:14 PM

And I am not going to overturn their work and blame the party that adheres to the laws of war in favor of a terrorist organization.

I don't think anyone is asking you to, and have no idea where that came from. When you were critical of Israel's attack on Lebanon, were you implicitly being in favor of Hezbollah?

You are free to believe Hamas didn't do that, but reports all over the world describe Hamas' rigging of Gaza with explosives and booby traps and using civilians as human shields.

From Haaretz::
The United Nations is claiming Israeli military officers have admitted there was no Palestinian gunfire emanating from inside an UNRWA school in Gaza which was shelled by an IDF tank. ... "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."
From Time:
after a preliminary investigation of the Jan. 6 attack at the Fakhura girl's elementary school, "we're 99.9% sure that no militants were at the school," says Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The agency questioned survivors, including UNRWA staff that run the school under U.N. auspices.Before the school was hit by Israeli bombs, some 400 Palestinians fleeing shelling of the Jabalya refugee camp had taken shelter inside Fakhura, hoping that the U.N. flag would shield them from harm, according to survivors. Earlier, the U.N., which oversees relief efforts for more than 800,000 Palestinians in Gaza, had passed along the coordinates of all its schools and buildings to the Israeli military so that its humanitarian missions would be spared attack.
It's interesting to note that IDF has changed it's story as well. Now they at least admit that it was Israeli fire that killed the refugees. From CNN:
Gunness, whose agency runs several schools in Gaza, spoke about Tuesday's incident in Jabalya in a joint CNN interview with Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, which at times became quite heated.Palmor told CNN's Finnouala Sweeney that Israel "know(s) for a fact that a Hamas squad was firing mortar shells from the immediate vicinity of the school, from the school grounds.""The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) responded to that fire, and the tragic result was what we all know."
So, the timeline goes something like this. The incident occurs, and it is reported that Israeli fire on the school kills a number of people hiding from the fighting. The IDF says that they didn't do it, it was Hamas who blew up the school themselves (this is repeated here). Then they say that they did it actually, but they were firing on Hamas members who were using the location to launch mortars (to my mind, blowing up refugees to kill a couple of Hamas members is criminal, but whatever). Israel distributes photos of the rocket or mortar team in action to back up their claim. It turns out that the photos were from 2007 when the school was abandoned. The UN asks for credible evidence that there were Hamas members using the site at the time: Israel refuses. The UN asks for an independent international inquiry: Israel again refuses.

Is it still responsible journalism to say that Hamas blew up those refugees?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:14 PM

DPU: When you were critical of Israel's attack on Lebanon, were you implicitly being in favor of Hezbollah?

No. But I never blamed Israel for killing civilians that Hezbollah used as human shields. I properly blamed Hezbollah for that.

The United Nations is claiming Israeli military officers have admitted there was no Palestinian gunfire emanating from inside an UNRWA school in Gaza which was shelled by an IDF tank.

If the IDF admits this, I will post a correction.

In disputes between the UN and Israel, I trust Israel. I am sorry if that offends you.

I'm not saying the UN is lying in this particular case, but I have more reasons not to trust them than I have reasons not to trust Israel. Israel is not always right, but the UN is wrong far more often. The UN blew their credibility with me more than a decade ago in Bosnia, and has done nothing to improve my opinion since then.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:22 PM

Michael,

If the sole purpose of the blockade was to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons, then the Israelis should prohibit weapons, not severely restrict the flow of food, medical supplies. But that could not possibly be its sole purpose, since, as BTselem clearly reports, the traffic of supplies was unnecessarily curtailed even before Hamas came to power. Let me remind you that this doesn't mean no ice cream after dinner. It means starvation and poor or no health care.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:24 PM

what is the long term solution to half a million Israeli settlers who live in the occupied west bank?

That is very good question. I tried to answer it myself but not sure how good the answer is. Anyway, here I go.

Whether Palestinians will want to have a state or not I do not know but they should have an opportunity to have one.
And if they do, if 1M+ Arabs can be Israeli citizens why 250K Jews cannot be Palestinian citizens.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:27 PM

In disputes between the UN and Israel, I trust Israel. I am sorry if that offends you.

It doesn't offend me at all, my opinion of your analytic skills suffers considerably, however. And in turn, I'm sorry if that offends you.

If the IDF admits this, I will post a correction.

As Israel is already saying that their fire killed those people (as I reference above), and as there were witnesses inside the building who would have surely reported that, I'd have to say continued belief that Hamas did it is entering 9/11 truther territory.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:27 PM

Matt,

I am not a fan of sanctions and blockades. I very nearly agree with you about this. But Gaza was full of terrorists long before Hamas came to power.

If you think the blockade isn't about preventing the arming of Hamas and other terrorist groups, what do you think it's about? Do you believe the Israelis are "starving" Palestinians for sadistic pleasure? I'm not sure I'm following you here.

If the blockade were structured differently, that would be fine with me. Not that it matters. I am not in charge of such things.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:29 PM

DPU,

A reporter sayd the UN says the Israelis admitted it. I need to hear it from the Israelis. I want a word for word quote, not a third-hand paraphrase of what the Israelis said.

There is nothing "truther" about this. Hamas rigged half of Gaza to explode and uses civilians as human shields as a matter of course. The US government, on the other hand, isn't known for flying airplanes into its buildings.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:33 PM

I think I can provide an informed speculation without demonizing Israel: Sharon felt he needed to take some punitive measures against the Gazans so they would not perceive the disengagement as a military victory. This is also why they demolished all settlement infrastructure before departing. The withdrawal could not, in their strategic logic, look like a surrender, otherwise Israel would be demonstrating weakness.

My personal feeling about Sharon is that he didn't have high regard for Palestinians, or Arabs generally. He spent most of his career battling them. Thus, its not surprising he took these initial measures despite the humanitarian repercussions.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:37 PM

Oh, and that was initially. Once Hamas came to power, I think the government wanted to incite a rebellion against them by, yes, depriving the public of basic goods. This is exactly what we did in Iraq during the 90s, and it clearly did not work.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 6:40 PM

Matt,

Interesting theory. It's possible. Everyone is terrified of showing weakness in the Middle East, with good reason, I might add. It's geniunely dangerous.

That said, I detest punitive sanctions. The only time I've known them to work was in South Africa. In Iraq they actually stengthened the Saddam regime when the oil-for-food program was added into the mix because it centralized the distribution of everything in Baghdad. And sanctions haven't exactly done wonders in Cuba.

Sanctions to keep weapons out of the hands of Hamas, though, are not going to be lifted, nor should they.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 8:05 PM

A Gaza Full of Traps and Trickery - NY Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/world/middleeast/11hamas.html?hp

The evolution of urban asymmetrical warfare. Nasty and sly.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 8:59 PM

Gaza never starved during the blockade. This is, simply put, a lie. Here's a video of the starving Bergen-Belsen Gaza.

http://www.jewlicious.com/2009/01/scenes-from-the-gaza-concentration-camp/

A picture paints a thousand words.

"And, of course, dispatching suicide bombers in retribution for various instances of settler and military violence."

Well, this can only be answered with a big "fuck you". Hamas was blowing up buses in Tel Aviv at the height of the peace process, during a labor government. They did it to derail the peace process, not in reaction to settlements, or anything else.

Israel is by no means blameless in the history of the conflict, but this does not explain or comprehend the phenomenon of Hamas and Islamist ideology. This is the great fallacy of left wing thinking.

Furthermore, to talk about what "ordinary Gazans" want is irrelevant. Politically, they don't exist. Yes, there were elections, but now Hamas rules by force. All that matters is what they want, and that is clearly stated in their charter. Their charter doesn't talk about economics. Hamas was elected primarily out of hatred for the utterly corrupt Fatah regime. I imagine a lot of Gazans would vote differently now.

Matt's posting sounds well-reasoned and intelligent, but is actually based on nothing but false facts and false reasoning. This conflict is not an intellectual parlor game for nerds. It's a tragic situation that requires a solution, not explanations. Hamas will not be part of any solution. Only after they are eliminated is any peace between Israel and the Palestinians possible. This must be the goal.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 9:35 PM

Matt: "This is also why they (Israel) demolished all settlement infrastructure before departing (Gaza in 2005)."

What was demolished exactly?
I thought wealthy Jews bought off a lot of infrastructure from the settlers and donated it to Gazans.
Am I wrong?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 9:54 PM

MarkC, thank you.

"Hamas will not be part of any (peace) solution. Only after they are eliminated is any peace between Israel and the Palestinians possible. This must be the goal."

To add, Israelis are dying in this war for the future of Palestinians as well.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 10:18 PM

MarkC:

From B'Tselem:

"As a result of the siege, the stocks of imported food products in Gaza are dwindling, driving their prices sky-high, while fruit and vegetables that were intended for export are being sold in Gazan markets at a loss. Many families cannot afford to buy them, however, due to the high poverty rate in Gaza. 80 percent of Gazan households now live below the poverty line, subsisting on less than 2,300 shekels a month for a family of six. Households in deep poverty, living on less than 1,837 shekels a month, currently comprise 66.7 percent of the population. 80 percent of all Gazan families would literally starve without food aid from international agencies."

http://www.btselem.org/english/Gaza_Strip/Siege_Tightening.asp

So there you have an explanation for the vegetable stocks in that little clip of yours.

As for Hamas suicide bombings, to my knowledge there wasn't a bombing (or wave of bombings) undertaken that didn't have an accompanying rationale. People familiar with the history of Hamas will know that their first suicide bombing was in retribution for the Baruch Goldstein massacre. And yes, this took place at the "height of the peace process," what is your point? Settlement expansion continued apace during Oslo, with settlers growing increasingly militant, as Rabin found out.

And please, I am no fan of Hamas, but please read a book or a newspaper rather than acquiring all of your information from Alan Dershowitz's twitter account. As I told Michael before, I'd recommend the Azzam Tamimi profile. It makes very clear that the upper echelons of Hamas leadership view the charter as, in their words, "an historical document," rather than an accurate account of Hamas' current platform. Hamas has repeatedly made public their willingness to end hostilities against civilians if the IDF would do the same. Here is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post:

'In an interview with Sky News broadcast Monday, Mashaal said the offer was identical to one made to Israel 10 years ago.

"We renew our offer to Israel to let the civilians on both sides not be a part of this conflict," he said. "We renew this offer today."

Mashaal asserted that if the IDF refrained from killing any Palestinian civilians, Hamas would only carry out attacks against Israeli military targets'

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1206632372365&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

And thanks for saying my posting sounds well-reasoned and intelligent. That's because it is. Again, read a book.

And for leo:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1206632372365&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

What the Jews you're referring to were attempting to buy was some greenhouses and a dairy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/international/middleeast/15mideast.html?pagewanted=2

But to my knowledge, most of the structures were demolished.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 10:40 PM

Sorry, leo, I meant to post this link, not that JPost one:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4107800.stm

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 10:41 PM

As for Hamas suicide bombings, to my knowledge there wasn't a bombing (or wave of bombings) undertaken that didn't have an accompanying rationale.

So you are saying that deliberately targeting civilians is NOT a war crime? It's justifiable? It's 'proportional'? Does that also hold true for using civilians as human shields? Holding a POW for 28 months with no Red Cross or UN contact? Glad to hear it. Now shake well and either apply evenly or shove it up your ass.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 10:52 PM

AZZenny:

Where did I say any of that, exactly? Quite a conclusion you drew from my pointing out that Hamas usually provides a rationale for what they do. So does al-Qaeda. The writings and audio recordings of bin Laden and Zawahiri repeatedly provide justifications for their attacks. Does that mean they are not war crimes? Does that mean they're justifiable or proportional? Give me a fucking break.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 10:58 PM

We agree on at least one point: those who support the "war" in Afghanistan while decrying Israel's complete disregard for some sort of wartime etiquette are selective moralists. Either both are wrong or neither if they commit the same offenses. Thank you explicating this double standard.

Posted by: Matt D. Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 11:22 PM

You may not see that you said it, but your context is quite plain: You systematically rejected every defense of Israeli behavior and found support for whatever Hamas did or said. You quoted Mesha'al approvingly, for God's sake!

"As for Hamas suicide bombings, to my knowledge there wasn't a bombing (or wave of bombings) undertaken that didn't have an accompanying rationale. People familiar with the history of Hamas will know that their first suicide bombing was in retribution for the Baruch Goldstein massacre. And yes, this took place at the "height of the peace process," what is your point? Settlement expansion continued apace during Oslo, with settlers growing increasingly militant, as Rabin found out."

You offered an explanation of why Hamas felt its war crimes were justified -- and you do not dispute it, but present it in their defense. You point out they retaliated against a crazed Jewish terrorist, as if gee, that's a good enough reason to target busloads of Israelis. You equate their multiple civilian bus and cafe bombings to property disputes and nasty settlers in derailing diplomatic efforts.

In short, you are an apologist for Palestinian war crimes; there is no other way to interpret your consistent and vigorous defense of their attacks on civilians. For everything violent or malign the Palestinians have done you offer a justification, always that it was triggered by an Israeli behavior or due to the Palestinians' chronic frustration.

When they hit Tel Aviv or Dimona, you will be saying "Well, the Israelis can only blame themselves" -- yes you will, you know you'll be thinking it.


MJT, I suggest you open a contest for the best quote illustrating the riddle, "When is a war crime not a war crime?" I'm sure we can come up with a good prize.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 10, 2009 11:51 PM

AZZenny, If you're unable to differentiate a clinical inventory of Hamas' statements and deeds from some kind of endorsement, then you're really not worth talking to. Nobody quoted anything "approvingly" or rejected any defense of Israel. Honestly, I'm done with you.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:01 AM

Matt;

So, then the Gazans aren't starving. Your own article says so. I used to be a D.A., and I loved to argue against people like you.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:04 AM

Oh, you got me MarkC! They aren't literally starving, but subsisting just above starvation levels. The difference is striking, indeed.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:09 AM

You're the one who used the word "starving", and you used it for a very particular reason. You even qualified it by saying that it didn't mean just not eating ice cream.

By the way, I think there is a very big difference between someone who is starving and someone who isn't. Just ask someone who is starving.

Sorry to deprive you of one of your nifty propoganda tools.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:18 AM

Subsisting at starvation levels is not starving, but it is malnutrition for children who can develop any number of terminal ailments. Anyway, quibble with B'Tselem, not me. They are the ones who document the depredations in Gaza.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:23 AM

Actually, I don't need to quibble with Betselem (an organization I have a lot of respect for). Unlike you, they are honest. I read your link. They don't say the Gazans are starving, nor do they even say they are subsisting at starvation levels. You just pulled those words straight out of your ass.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:36 AM

Matt,

Thank you for the links.

I was not able to read NYT link because it requires registration.
BBC link says:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Jewish homes in the Gaza Strip will be destroyed when Israel pulls out its troops and settlers.

Speaking after talks in Jerusalem with Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, Ms Rice said the move had been agreed by Israel and the Palestinians.

It looks like destruction of houses was coordinated with PA rather than done out of spite.

Thank you again.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 8:27 AM

Can that piece from Dan Byman even be qualified as disagreement with the current state of affairs? I'd be hard-pressed to tell.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 9:07 AM

That war is also being fought “disproportionately.” Far more innocent civilians have been killed over there than in Gaza.

Oh, come on. You'd think that if you were going to take this up again, you'd at least include a rebuttal to how I shot it down last time.

The Taliban in Afghanistan have killed tens of thousands of Afghanis civilians. They've killed between as many and twice as many civilians as we have. They're doing it to destroy a Western government that still exists in Afghanistan - and doesn't exist in Gaza. Al Queda is heavily involved in Afghanistan, and has conducted attacks in tens of countries, while Hamas is a local problem. Lastly, Al Queda bombed the hell out of America, and we at least have potentially the capacity and interest to create a better situation in Afghanistan than we found it - Israel doesn't have either of those.

The humanitarian case in Afghanistan is vastly better. The security threat - with an unstable, insurgency fighting nuclear state next door - is vastly more serious. And I still don't support what we're doing, specifically in Afghanistan. Our Air-Force led campaign there is insane. But I still support some kind of campaign there.

And I support reasonable and proportionate military responses in Gaza roughly equivalent to the threat. And this isn't it. This is a) massive escalation and b) collective punishment with not even the pretense of a progressive plan.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 9:19 AM

Not that I didn't basically win the argument about whether this is, or is not, collective punishment in the last thread, but I've been thinking about how to further follow up this point:

So the "happy ending" scenario here is...

1. Israel breaks things and kills people in Gaza.

2. The people of Gaza rise up and overthrow Hamas.

3. Peace process.

Since Hamas remains popular in Gaza, the only paths to #2. are:

1. Hamas loses popularity because the people of Gaza get tired of suffering and blame Hamas - thus, collective punishment, by the textbook definition -

or, 2. The PA takes control by force and uses repression to crush dissent.

I don't know much about what's going on in the West Bank. Perhaps the Gazan example is in fact making Palestinians in the West Bank feel lucky to have the PA. I'm sure the occupation helps keep the quiet. It did so successfully for thirty years. I've been assuming that this state of affairs can't be replicated in Gaza - I haven't even heard Israel express interest in permanently reoccupying Gaza. But maybe I'm wrong. If so, best case, it's a series of unethical actions leading to an improved situation. Sometimes that happens. Look at Egypt. Unethical as hell, but boy do they keep that peace. If you want peace at any cost, you can get it.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 9:32 AM

Moving them back inside Israel proper. Pretty much everyone in Israel understands this, but they're afraid to do it for two reasons.

It's more #1) than #2), along with a healthy dose of, we want to own the West Bank.

There's no reason to link the withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank with the withdrawal of soldiers. I'm actually - not in favor per se, but quasi-okay with the IDF in the West Bank right now. I don't want to see Hamas take over there, either. But there will eventually be rocket firings in the West Bank unless Israel gets a Middle-East-wide peace process. The Jordanian government is an apartheid time bomb. It will not last forever.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 9:41 AM

Glasnost:

1. Israel breaks things and kills people in Gaza.

2. The people of Gaza rise up and overthrow Hamas.

3. Peace process.

That's a possibility. Not a large one, but it's possible.

Since Hamas remains popular in Gaza

We don't actually know that right now.

1. Hamas loses popularity because the people of Gaza get tired of suffering and blame Hamas - thus, collective punishment, by the textbook definition -

That is not collective punishment. What the Russians did in Chechnya was collective punishment.

or, 2. The PA takes control by force and uses repression to crush dissent.

Yeah, dissent and terrorism. The PA has done a pretty good job keeping the West Bank quiet of late. They're better than they were under Arafat, you have to admit. And Arafat was better than Hamas. A small achievment, to be sure, but it's something.

Anyway, Gazans will be miserable as long as Hamas is in charge, and nothing will change that. If you care about these people you should want to see the end of that violent fascist regime.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 9:45 AM

If you care about these people you should want to see the end of that violent fascist regime.

So, I should be cool with, say, half of them dissapearing in order to better the lives of the other 50%?

Obviously, that's an exaggeration rather than a feasible scenario, but it's an example of why things aren't quite that simple. Sorry.

I think Matt Yglesias has a good metaphor here:

http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/01/self_defense.php

He follows up with some quotes from Anthony Cordesman, who I do not need to give you a bio on, I assume:

This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?

To blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent.

Giving the benefit of the doubt that you opposed the 2006 action vs. Lebanon (I remember more of a mixed bag), I'd like to see you expand upon exactly how what's being done now differs from that somehow.

What the Russians did in Chechnya was collective punishment.

It certainly was. It's certainly debatable whether Israel has worked in the negative effects of its actions on Gazan citizens as a deliberate part of its strategy. But it's in no way an open-shut case. There's a lot of assumed Gazan punishment inside the logic of this action, as I just demonstrated. Either way, it's certainly less overt than the Russians, and more civilized. But it's still collective punishment.

You put a lot of value on intentions. I don't disregard rhetoric, either, but I put a lot of value on what actually happens. Gazans are being massively internally displaced in Gaza. It's being done for their own protection, arguably, rather than being done, like the Russians do it, specifically to make people hurt, but the net result is exactly the same. I don't unequivocally buy the magic act of doing the exact same thing but having different reasons for doing it, thus making it okay!

(Which isn't to say that one act cannot be wrong in one circumstance and okay in another. But I don't buy it here).

Hey, speaking of the Russians, what's the difference between Israeli policy on the media during this conflict and the Russian one during Georgia?

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:06 AM

Glasnost,

Quickly, here are two differences between the Gaza and Lebanon wars. There are others. I will write about this at greater length.

1) Hezbollah can easily rebuild and rearm in Lebanon over the Syrian land border. Hamas will not be able to do that in Gaza. Eventually they will run out of rockets and bullets.

2) Lebanon is the most democratic and least anti-Israel Arab country in the world. It was on the right track in 2006 to cease being a problem for Israelis forever. Bombing Lebanon poisoned all that. Gaza, meanwhile, is the most viciously anti-Israel Arab "country" in the world, and if left alone it will become an even bigger problem later than it already is.

You may have noticed that Israel's border with Lebanon is quiet, however. Hezbollah seems to be deterred. The West Bank is also quiet. Something the Israelis did in both places worked better than most of us may have thought at the time. Gaza is the only place on the border that Israel hasn't hammered in the last couple of years, so maybe it's not surprising that it's also the only place where people still feel safe shooting at Jews. That's changing. I think it will work, at least for a while.

You are overvaluing a peace process with people who are wholly uninterested in peace, and you're undervaluing the necessity of deterrence.

Deterrence works. You know why no government would dare fire missiles at American cities: because we would destroy them, and nobody doubts it. Israel, on the other hand, took fire from Gaza for years without fighting back in a serious way. Hamas says Israel retreated under fire, is weak and vulnerable, and therefore ought to be shot at some more. That's changing, too.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:23 AM

"No matter how careful Israel might be, this is a gift on a silver platter to Israel's enemies."---dpu

No it's not. If you hate me already,will continue to hate me, and would extinguish me if you could, BUT YOU CAN'T, then my kicking your teeth down your throat every so often, does me no harm whatsoever.

All that it does is make you less willing to annoy me too much in the future. You won't hate me more, but you WILL fear me more. Works for me.To-may-toe ; to-mah-toe, as they say. Israel's MAJOR mistake in the recent past, has not been punitive expeditions per se; it has been ineffective punitive missions. This one looks MUCH more effective.

And pray tell why the concern about 'fairness to Hamas' ? Do you really care about their reputation being unfairly besmirched, or are you just all about the truthiness of things, no matter what? Truth setting you free and all that good stuff.

"Hey, speaking of the Russians, what's the difference between Israeli policy on the media during this conflict and the Russian one during Georgia?" --glasnost

Don't know, don't care. BUT, the similarity of the approaches is clear. They both WORK. When the media is an actively tendentious participant in defining reality, then excluding it from the 'zone', is not only an option, it is almost a duty. I frankly could not care less. The media will just have to rely on their 'fair and balanced' local stringers. You know the ones who just happen to be 'there' when something magically happens. The ones who could not possibly have a personal agenda to drive via their 'stories'.

Oh wait ---- that's about all the media does now anyway, so really no harm no foul.

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:33 AM

Glasnost: what's the difference between Israeli policy on the media during this conflict and the Russian one during Georgia?

My blog has been banned in Russia since I reported from Georgia in August. Israel doesn't ban blogs. So that's a difference.

Otherwise, the media policy is similar. Yesterday I was interviewed by an American commander who asked how they can improve their service for journalists. And I used Israel's policy in Gaza as an example of what not to do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:39 AM

MJT: "Lebanon is the most democratic and least anti-Israel Arab country in the world."

Iraq is the most democratic and least anti-Israel Arab country in the world. Most Iraqis remain upset with Hamas over backing Zarkawi in 2006; and the perception that Palestinians collaborated with Saddam. Anti Israeli sentiment in Iraq seems to be much less intense than any where else in the Arab world. After all, the IA (Iraqi Army) is buying a lot of stuff from Israel.

Muqtada tried to organize a protest against Israel last friday; only 2000 showed up in Sadr City. Even Muqtada's supporters are apathetic about Israel. Anecdotally, many Iraqis seem to be much less passionate about Israel too.

After January 31st, 2009, Iraq will be the most democratic country in the Arab world. Iraq has less violence per capita than Lebanon. Iraq has had 70 violent incidents a week recently versus 1200 to 1800 violent incidents a week in 2006. In November, 0.9 Iraqis suffered violent deaths per 100,000 Iraqis . . . or a 11 violent death per 100,000 annual rate. By comparison:
- Caracas, Venezuela, has 150 violent deaths per 100,000 per year
- South Africa has 60 violent deaths per 100,000 per year
- Mexico has 13 violent deaths per 100,000 per year

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:53 AM

Ah, Doug, there you are. Have you paid the result of our bet to Michael yet?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:57 AM

A reporter sayd the UN says the Israelis admitted it. I need to hear it from the Israelis. I want a word for word quote, not a third-hand paraphrase of what the Israelis said.

NYT:
Also on Sunday, Israeli officials told the Haaretz newspaper that a military investigation concluded that an Israeli mortar shell, despite having a guidance system, was 30 yards off its target when it hit near a United Nations school, killing as many as 43 Palestinians.

Two other mortars hit their target, a Hamas cell that had fired mortars at Israeli troops, killing at least two of the fighters, the army said.

Close enough? Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:01 AM
From Haaretz:
The probe, which was conducted by the Paratrooper Brigade whose troops were responsible for the area, found that the army's location system to pinpoint launch sites indicated that militants had launched a Qassam rocket into Israel from within a yard adjacent to the courtyard of the UN building. The troops had intended to launch a smart missile to take out the Palestinian launch team but a technical malfunction made this impossible, according to the probe. The commanders of the force instead decided to fire on the Qassam team with mortar shells equipped with a Global Positioning System for accurate fire. ... in discussing the incident with Haaretz, some IDF officers say the force should have refrained from using mortar rounds and relied instead on more accurate fire. Military sources said the UNRWA building was marked on the maps of forces operating in the area.
As near as I can tell, the versions of this coming from the IDF are thus: The school was fired on because Hamas was using it to launch mortars. Hamas itself blew up the building. Here are some photos from 2007 showing Hamas using the building. Okay, we did it, Hamas wasn't using the building, but the Palestinians are lying about the casualties.

And the UN are considered untrustworthy.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:14 AM

"Ah, Doug, there you are. Have you paid the result of our bet to Michael yet?"---dpu

Now hold on there for just a moment, you West Coast Wierdo. I think that YOU should have to pay up, and I say this in all seriousness. I have already contributed to MJT's current adventures in Iraq so I feel myself covered in any event, but

The SOFA has been vigorously panned by the mindless faction in Iraq (aka Sadr-The Fat & his traveling goon show), and welcomed by the more 'moderate' sectors of Iraqi society. Moreover the time frame for withdrawal(partial withdrawl most likely) is not one born of a get thee hence infidels mindset, but of a mutual agreement that the US has done about as much as it can do in Iraq and it's time to BEGIN to redeploy. Maybe to Okinawa. :-)

I think although we both missed some points about the final agreement, that I was closer to reality than you. Far closer. Sort of like the situation revolving around the Victory In Iraq contretemps.

So bottom line ---- Pay up now before the economy(ummm-now That is some scary stuff. Why are not the criminal cretins on Wall Street already behind bars ? In MY World they would all be avoiding the showers as we virtually speak.If you know what I mean and I think you do),tanks completely and you have to cry poverty as an excuse. :-)

Nyahh,nyahh ---- I WIN. :-)

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:26 AM

double-plus-ungood, is there any evidence that Hamas used the school UNRWA building? Any evidence of secondary explosions caused by the single mortar shell? Was all that destruction caused by a single mortar shell (maybe a 120 mm mortar shell)?

There are repeated reports that white phosphorous shells (versus smoke agents) were used by the IDF in Gaza. Is there any way to confirm or deny these reports? Does Israel use white phosphorous shells?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:27 AM

DPU,

Ok, so Hamas fired on Israel next to the UN compound instead of inside it. You see why I didn't trust the UN spokesperson who left out that critical detail?

I am unconvinced that I need to post a correction on this. You are free to try to convince me, though. I'll listen.

There's another detail that still hasn't been answered, to my knowledge. Was the school wired with explosives? The first report says so. I read somewhere yesterday (sorry, I don't remember where) that the school hadn't been used as a school for two years, that it was abandoned. I don't know if that's true.

I'm not following this story all that closely because I'm looking at the bigger regional picture. Since I am not in Gaza and cannot verify any of this myself, I am more equipped and qualified to focus on the big picture instead of the small, as are we all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:36 AM

Either way, DPU, you have convinced me to stop commenting on the minutiae of war when none of us know what's really happening. Lots of us need to be reminded of that, including myself. Some single incidents of wars past are still in dispute, and this problem is even more pronounced before the fog of war has been lifted.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:38 AM

I'll give you credit where credit is due, Dougf. You may have a point, or part of a point, re the journalists. It is, in fact, easier to "control" the narrative - lie, distort, and suppress information - when you block access to journalists. And frankly, that stuff sometimes works.

But sometimes your assumed control of the information flow leads you to get a little cocky. And then you get a little loose with your ROE. And then someone sneaks something out of the territory, and your house of cards crumbles.

It works better when everyone assumes from the get-go that you're an as*hole, but you're too strong for the rest of the world to do anything about it - like Russia.

Deterrence works. You know why no government would dare fire missiles at American cities: because we would destroy them, and nobody doubts it. Israel, on the other hand, took fire from Gaza for years without fighting back in a serious way.

I won't rule out the possibility that this will reduce rocket fire in the short run. Cease-fires with Hamas reduce rocket fire in the short run, too. They could have had the same thing for a lot less in blood. Reducing rocket fire isn't good enough, it needs to be ended - but we're back to square one, which is that neither side followed through on the truces completely.

Hamas has been pretty clear about wanting a long-term truce. If you want to see peaceful opposition to Hamas re-emerge, you'd be more likely to see it during a long-term truce than you will in a violent conflict. Violent conflicts do not breed political pluralism. They reduce it.
Unless Israel is willing to permanently re-occupy the place. And they have given no sign of being willing to do so.

Your line of "no peace is possible with Hamas" is okay as a prediction. As a policy, it's a death sentence for large numbers of Gazans, and I don't see much relative gain. I don't respect the calculus.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:41 AM

Glasnost: It is, in fact, easier to "control" the narrative - lie, distort, and suppress information - when you block access to journalists.

If you think the Israelis do this more than Hamas, you really haven't been paying attention. Do you really believe a terrorist army more than you believe the elected government of a democracy?

Remember the Jenin "massacre"? Remember Baghdad Bob? Remember Hezbollah's "green helmet guy"? That kind of nonsense is standard, and it goes back at least as far as the 1967 war, if not farther.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:49 AM

Glasnost: Your line of "no peace is possible with Hamas" is okay as a prediction. As a policy, it's a death sentence for large numbers of Gazans, and I don't see much relative gain.

Now look what you've done. You're forcing me to quote Dr. Phil of all people.

"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."

"No peace is possible with Hamas" has been a statement of fact as long as Hamas has existed.

I agree it's a death sentence for large numbers of Gazans, but that's the fault of Hamas for refusing to make peace with Israel.

All the Palestinians need to do if they want peace is stop killing Jews. It isn't any more complicated than that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 11:54 AM

"Your line of "no peace is possible with Hamas" is okay as a prediction. As a policy, it's a death sentence for large numbers of Gazans, and I don't see much relative gain. I don't respect the calculus."--glasnost

While I might quibble a bit about some of your word choices in this posting, all in all it was a very good read. And pretty fair as well. Pleasure to read to be candid.

However, vis-a-vis the selected passage. What matters is NOT whether as a policy it means death for Gazans. That is surely regrettable but not really the point. The point is whether the 'no peace is possible with Hamas' is accurate and true.
I take Hamas at its word, As well as at its ignorant, fanatic, and criminal actions. Hamas may insincerely offer 'truces', but it never offers PEACE.

The Gazans under Hamas are like that unfortunate bartender in 'Unforgiven', and the commentary on their situations is exactly the same---

"Well... sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!
"Well, he should have armed himself if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend."

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:02 PM

If we're reading links,

I think this link demonstrates exactly how complicated is an attempt to pretend that what's going on here is not collective punishment.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090107/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_gaza_a_reporter_s_story

I suppose it's possible that this guy's situation is worse than average, but I don't have any reason to think so. And this is exactly what I mean when I do not support this policy. The disproportion of suffering is humongous, more than neccessary, more than useful, more than just.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:13 PM

Do you really believe a terrorist army more than you believe the elected government of a democracy?

I don't make broad policies about who I do or do not believe. It's not a good idea.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:16 PM

You see why I didn't trust the UN spokesperson who left out that critical detail?

Okay, this is shocking. Why would UN personnel taking refuge in a building know or report on what Hamas was doing in other buildings? The UN did not comment on anything but Israeli charges that their building was being used by Hamas. And you take that as evidence that they are untrustworthy? Despite the IDF repeatedly lying about this incident?

I have just lost all interest in reading or commenting here. You've gone from analyst to propagandist. I'm done here.

Doug, you bet that there would not be a firm timetable for withdrawal. There is. You lose. Welch if you want, I won't be here to bug you about it.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:19 PM

"No peace is possible with Hamas" has been a statement of fact as long as Hamas has existed.

There have been temporary cessations of violence by both sides. There has yet to be a permanent cessation of violence on either side. It's not as if Israel has sat on its hands for months or years of rocket fire. Hamas has offered the cessation of rocket fire. It has never completely delivered on it, although there's evidence that they gave it a shot. The Palestinian authority used to have a lot of trouble delivering on the same thing. We haven't exactly offered Hamas much in the way of incentives or assistance to try to wipe out what is plausibly assumed to be a 10 percent of hard-liners taking orders from Iran or Syria instead of Hamas.

I'm not convinced, obviously, that Hamas' commitment to violence is anymore of an ineradicable thing than, say, Hizballah's. What happens to Hizballah in the future is equally unknown. Will Hizballah, in its actions, demonstrate a commitment to war with Israel in the next ten years? I don't think that's a sure thing. I really don't. And if violent events occur, how big will they be? To think that these things are set in stone is to fly in the face of historical evidence.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:25 PM

DPU,

The UN spokesperson said the IDF "admitted" Irsaelis didn't take Hamas fire from the school. The UN spokesperson neglected to inform us that Israelis took fire immediately adjacent to the school.

I was right to suspect something might be fishy about the UN spokesperson, and I was right.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:30 PM

Glasnost,

From your link: Israel must cease its attacks on the media immediately

You'd think from that statement that Israel is aiming at journalists on purpose.

Four Israeli soldiers were killed by their own tank fire a few days ago. Did the Israelis do that on purpose, too? Should the IDF issue a statement saying "Israel should cease its attack on Israeli soldiers?"

If the Israelis said "look, there's some journalists, let's kill them," they should be put on trial for war crimes. But I'm pretty damn sure that isn't what happened. Anyone who has taken the time and effort to study Israel's rules of engagement knows that isn't what happened.

If I were in Gaza right now I'd be pretty damn worried that I'd be hit by an Israeli strike, but I'd know better than to think they were "attacking the media."

Anyone who thinks they can report from a war zone and won't be hit unless they're a target is an idiot.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:40 PM

We issued the following statement today after at least one journalist was injured in an Israeli air strike while filing a report from the roof of the al-Johara Tower, an eight-story building in Gaza City which houses more than 20 international news organizations...

If that building were targeted by an Israeli air strike, a lot more reporters than one would have been injured.

Assad's regime in Syria is a Middle Eastern government that actually targets the media. He murders Lebanese journalists with car bombs on purpose. Using the same language to describe what Israel does is dishonest and stupid.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:48 PM

Sorry for the confusion. I was responding to Glasnost's link in a different thread.

We issued the following statement today after at least one journalist was injured in an Israeli air strike while filing a report from the roof of the al-Johara Tower, an eight-story building in Gaza City which houses more than 20 international news organizations, according to multiple news outlets...

"The Israeli military knows the location of TV facilities houses and news bureaus in Gaza. It is simply unacceptable that working journalists and their offices should come under fire in this way," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Journalists enjoy protections under international law in military campaigns such as the one in Gaza. Israel must cease its attacks on the media immediately."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 12:51 PM

I'm not accusing Israel of having attempted to bomb the hotel, but it sounds a lot like the hotel is a well-known foreign media hangout and that Israel knew where it was. I'd find a contrary assumption unlikely. It seems... odd.. that Israel putting journalists at risk by bombing so near to that location.

Don't you find it odd? I think that some line-walking intimidation is not exactly out of the question. This isn't some guy in a house nobody knew about.

I don't know exactly what occured, so I'm not drawing definitive conclusions. It's the same old paradigm, bad guys with mean words vs good guys doing... things and bad things happen.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 1:26 PM

It seems... odd.. that Israel putting journalists at risk by bombing so near to that location.

Just consider the possibility -- since we don't know -- that Hamas has put journalists at risk by setting up shop right near that location. We know they do it, they have always done it, and they do it because either the Israelis will be unwilling to risk hitting the nearby building, or because if Israel does hit nearby the journalists will be in high dudgeon, or better yet, if Israel does hit nearby Hamas's own planted bombs will take down the building and Israel gets blamed. No way to lose for Hamas.

Israel has announced that if you are in Gaza, and you are anywhere near a significant military target, then you are at grave risk. There are rockets still being fired at Israel, and many from deep in Gaza City and from residential and business areas. This is a war, and because of the urban setting and the way Hamas uses it, a very brutal one.

Finally, as MJT noted -- as many Israeli soldiers have died from friendly fire as from Hamas. I don't think we should assume the Israeli tank and artillery guys have the same surgical accuracy as IAF pilots do.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 1:55 PM

Glasnost: I'm not accusing Israel of having attempted to bomb the hotel, but it sounds a lot like the hotel is a well-known foreign media hangout and that Israel knew where it was.

Sure. Israel also knows where its own soldiers are. Sometimes they get shot, too.

You need to study Israel's rule of engagement. You also need to study America's.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 2:15 PM

glasnost, you really should read up a bit on military matters, or talk to some of your friends who are vets. What do you think combat is like? Do you expect infantry to always no what they are aiming at and to always hit it? Why are your expectations of infantry so much higher than your expectations from surgeons?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 3:34 PM

Why are your expectations of infantry so much higher than your expectations from surgeons?

Or a trivial car driver who gets into accident once in a while. Or any professional making mistake from time to time.

Just an FYI: http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=MAR_Iwq9-R0

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 6:19 PM

"So, I should be cool with, say, half of them dissapearing in order to better the lives of the other 50%?"

Let's see ... How many people live in Gaza? And how many has Israel killed so far? How long do you think this will take? Of course you're not biased against Israel ...

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:20 PM

"I'm not accusing Israel of having attempted to bomb the hotel, but it sounds a lot like the hotel is a well-known foreign media hangout and that Israel knew where it was."

Translation: "I'm not accusing Israel of attempting to bomb the hotel but I am"

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at January 11, 2009 10:25 PM
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