The Truth Is Out There

Now that things have quietened down somewhat, I have had time to search out all manner of interesting video clips and articles pertaining to the truth of Israel’s claim that Hamas not only made cynical use of civilians as human shields, in flagrant violation of international law, but even used UN premises as military bases. Here, for example, a Finnish reporter confirms the use of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, as a rocket-launching site: This particular reporter, Aishi Zidan (note the Arab surname), reacted to the publication of this video with an angry demand that her reportage not be used as “Israeli propaganda”.

In fact, the Shifa Hospital served as one of the main Hamas command centres, with a vast network of tunnels and bunkers beneath the hospital (but not for the use of civilians as air-raid shelters).

In this next clip, a journalist from the Indian TV channel NDTV not only films and comments on how Hamas terrorists set up a rocket launch site on an open plot of land right outside his hotel, in a densely populated area, but also mentions in passing the fact that the IDF did, in fact, issue a warning of its intention to target the area. Later on, he shows the rocket actually being fired.

 

Want some more? Here is France 24 reporter Gallagher Fenwick  with proof that Hamas terrorists fired their rockets from right next to UN facilities:

 

So why has it taken so long for the mass media to admit the truth? In the case of Ms. Zidan (see above), possibly her own personal bias is at play. In other cases, such as that of Gabriele Garbati (see below) and others, fear of Hamas retaliation no doubt played its part.

Remember the claims that Israel fired on a UN-run school? The mainstream western media were quick to condemn. But see here an analysis demonstrating how the event was stage-managed by Pallywood to make it appear an Israeli mortar strike near the school was actually a deliberate Israeli assault on the school.

How about the Israeli assertion that, in many cases, casualties falsely attributed to Israeli air and mortar strikes, were, in fact, caused by misfired Hamas rockets? For example, the alleged Israeli attacks on Al-Shifa Hospital and on the Al-Shati refugee camp.
Be my guest. Italian journalist Gabriele Garbati – once he was safely out of Gaza and beyond the reach of Hamastweeted the truth.

And, while we’re on the subject, suppose Israel had targeted UN-run schools? By using those schools for storing rockets on at least three occasions, Hamas turned UN premises – and schools, at that – into legitimate military targets. Note that on the third occasion, UNRWA did not publicise the “discovery” on their official website. Shame? Maybe. But I very much doubt that UNRWA – 99% of whose employees are locally-recruited “Palestinian” Arabs  – was really as surprised as they claimed to be. If, as their official website assures us, the organisation has “strong, established procedures to maintain the neutrality of all its premises, including a strict no-weapons policy and routine inspections of its installations, to ensure they are only used for humanitarian purposes, how could they have missed the fact that rockets were being stored in at least three (and who knows how many more) of their schools? And how does the handing over of the rockets to “the authorities” (ie. Hamas) conform to UNRWA’s “neutrality” policy?

Let’s take this a stage further. How could a clinic under UNRWA’s auspices be constructed, with over 80 kilograms of explosives built into its very walls, without the knowledge, if not the actual connivance of UNRWA personnel?

In short, the UN – which has consistently demonstrated its hostility towards Israel – is in no position to take the moral high ground in any discussion of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Come to think of it, neither is Israel’s supposed best friend, the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The First Forty Years

Forty years ago today,  on July 29th 1974, my family and I made aliyah and came home to Israel.

On the 32nd anniversary of our homecoming, on July 29th 2006, I started this blog. Then, as now, my country was at war. In fact, looking back over eight years of blogging, I see how little things have changed.

When we made our aliyah, forty years ago, it was in the wake of the Yom Kippur War – a war in which, as in previous wars, Israel stood on the brink of annihilation. Since then, I have lived through the 1st Lebanon War, the 2nd Lebanon War, the 1st and 2nd Gulf Wars (remember the Scud missiles, anyone, and the sealed rooms which were supposed to protect us from the effects of chemical and biological warheads which Saddam Hussein had threatened to rain down on us?).
I have lived here through Operation Litani, which came in the wake of the Coastal Road Massacre, the First and Second Intifadas, the “Palestinian” suicide bombing campaign in Israel which reached its peak in the years 2000-2002, Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defence and now, Operation Protective Edge. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve missed a few on this list.

War, terror, attrition, boycotts.

Forty years.

They are still trying to break us. Ten more  soldiers – young boys in their teens and twenties, gave their lives last night in defence of our children, our homes, our lives. Each morning, the radio announces more deaths and the next item is always the announcements of the times and places of the funerals to be held today.

I want to cry out, in the words of Ari Ben-Canaan, hero of the Leon Uris best-seller “Exodus” -

“Why must we fight for the right to live, over and over, each time the sun rises? …..God! God! Why don’t they let us alone! Why don’t they let us live!

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Not So Random Thoughts for the Weekend

Let’s start with a few rhetorical questions, shall we?

A fragment from an intercepted rocket lands in Yahud, some 9 kilometres from Ben Gurion Airport. The FAA immediately issues a ban on American aeroplanes flying to Tel Aviv, and the European air traffic authorities follow suit. At the same time as the flight ban is in effect, US Secretary of State John Kerry flies to Tel Aviv on a US Air Force jet. (Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg went one better and, banned from travelling to Israel in his own private jet, bought a ticket and flew here with El Al).
Does that sound logical to you?

Earlier in the week,Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over the Ukrainian – Russian border. Did the FAA or the European Aviation authorities halt air travel to Russia or to the Ukraine, even for so much as a day?
Don’t bother to answer – that was another rhetorical question.

Syria, Israel’s northern neighbour, is a war zone and has been for months now. Has anyone even suggested stopping civilian air traffic to Damascus?
Yeah, you’ve got it. Another rhetorical question.

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Yesterday, at least fifteen people were killed when either a rocket or a shell hit an UNRWA school in Gaza. Even the UNRWA spokesman admitted that Hamas forces were firing at Israeli forces from a site adjacent to the school.  It is possible that the missile which struck the school was a stray Israeli shell, intended for the Hamas forces which were firing on IDF forces. It is also possible that it was an anti-tank missile fired by Hamas. Yet the international media, without waiting for the results of the investigation, immediately condemned Israel for the “massacre”.

Twice during the past week, UNRWA officials have been “surprised” to find rockets stashed in UN-run schools. In at least the first case, they turned the missiles over to “the authorities” (ie. Hamas) – who were no doubt delighted to have their contraband property returned to them.  As for the “surprise” – bearing in mind that the majority of UNRWA personnel in the Gaza Strip and “West Bank” are locally recruited “Palestinians” – does the discovery of Hamas weaponry in UNRWA schools surprise anybody?

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While we’re on the subject of the UN, the UN Human Rights Council decided on Wednesday to launch an investigation into purported “violations of human rights” by Israel while condemning what it called  “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations since 13 June.”
Lewis Carroll would no doubt recognise this world of “Sentence first – verdict afterwards”, but I was naively under the impression that one investigates first and then, if the investigation warrants it, condemns.
Also notable is the fact that the condemnation is defined in such a way as to ignore events immediately preceding the start of Operation Protective Edge, and in particular, the fact that Hamas rockets had been raining down on Israeli civilians for weeks before and had reached the rate of over 70 in a single day, before Israel decided to put a stop to it.

About the consistent, blatant anti-Israel bias of the UNHRC – as well as of the UN in general – I have written many times in the past, and will therefore say no more on the subject today.

                                                                   ********

Since I have already mentioned, in passing, Lewis Carroll, I am reminded of that famous rabbit-hole down which Alice fell. Rabbit-holes have a habit of branching out into networks of tunnels, although not usually as extensive as the vast, underground labyrinth built by Hamas, and fortified with concrete and cement which they claimed they did not have (due, so they said, to the Israeli  blockade). It has been claimed that these were supply tunnels, used to smuggle in goods from Egypt.  Some of them no doubt did serve this purpose – “goods” covering such varied items as cars, luxury items for wealthy Gazans, and also weapons, including rockets to be fired on Israeli civilians. The world has long known about these tunnels. In fact, I remember a few months back that the National Geographic magazine published an article about them. The whisp of straw  that broke the camel’s back, however, was the infiltration of an armed Hamas terror gang into Israel, near Kibbutz Sufa on the Israel-Gaza border, in the pre-dawn hours of July 17th, about which I have already written. Pro-Hamas apologists have tried to claim that the terrorists were actually waiting to surprise and ambush an Israeli patrol, but the discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels leading from Gaza right into Israeli kibbutzim belies the claim, as does testimony from Hamas prisoners. Many of the tunnels ran directly under the dining-rooms and kindergartens of kibbutzim such as Nir Am, Sufa and Erez, as well as the outskirts of towns such as Sderot and Netivot.

It has been reported that Hamas planned to carry out a concerted attack on multiple civilian targets this coming Rosh Hashana – basically, to conduct a full-scale invasion of all the kibbutzim and towns in the area. I don’t know how reliable this report is, but judging by the extent of the tunnels, reaching, as they do, almost every Israeli settlement on the Gaza border, such an attack would certainly have been possible. In fact, had Hamas not refused the ceasefire offered them before Israel began the ground offensive, we would not have discovered the extent of the tunnels and their true targets before it was too late.

So, in a way, it was the obduracy of Hamas which saved us.

We have a saying in  Hebrew which means: “The work of the righteous is carried out by others.”

Shabbat Shalom and a peaceful weekend to you all.

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Darkness and Light

My heart is heavy tonight, with the news that seven more IDF soldiers were killed today, bringing the total count to 27 – including two civilians. On the TV and radio, there are interviews with friends and families of the fallen – some of them fathers already, who leave behind widows and orphans; others, young men who were just starting out on life’s adventure and who have now been cut down and will never have children of their own. And all this, because of a war that could have been avoided, had the international community put as much pressure on the terrorist Hamas government of Gaza to stop its rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as it does on Israel to make more and more concessions which never seem to bring peace any closer. Particularly moving was the funeral of lone soldier, Texas-born Nissim Sean Carmeli, whose parents live in the US. Sean was one of the 13 Golani fighters killed in Gaza on Sunday.  As a lone soldier, there were fears that only a few mourners would attend his funeral. Accompanying the dead to their final resting place is considered a mitzva (a meritorious deed) in Judaism. Members of the Maccabi Haifa football team, of which Sean was an ardent supporter, urged their fans to attend the funeral, a campaign was hastily organised on Facebook, and – according to the report I just heard on TV – 40,000* mourners from all over the country are, at this very moment, accompanying Sean to his final rest.

If I had any lingering doubts as to the necessity of the ground offensive, they are receding with each discovery of a terror tunnel under the houses in the Saja’iyya district of Gaza. Even as I write these words,  the kibbutzim in the Gaza Envelope are on high alert, as there is fear that, once again, terrorists have infiltrated Israel through this vast network of tunnels, many of which have exits no more than 200 metres or so from one or other of the kibbutzim. Only this morning, two teams of terrorists (fifteen  in all)  managed to sneak in near one of the kibbutzim and were confronted by our soldiers, who undoubtedly prevented a major terrorist atrocity.

So much for the darkness. But I don’t want to go to bed in tears. I want to end on an optimistic note. Earlier this evening, I was watching the news. In the top corner of the screen was a Code Red Alert notice for Ashdod and Ashkelon, and at the same time, the newscaster was broadcasting an item about a large group of several hundred new olim who arrived from France yesterday and who, today, moved to their new homes – in Ashdod and Ashkelon. Questioned by journalists if they weren’t afraid, they replied that in France, they were afraid. In France, the rising tide of antisemitism makes them fearful of leaving the house. In France, there is no-one to protect them. Here in Israel, they feel safe. They are not afraid of the rockets. They are not afraid of the war. Here in Israel, we have an army to protect us. And they began to sing Hatikva (The Hope), the Israeli national anthem. This is my people. I am proud to be a part of them.

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* UPDATE: I am hearing from other sources that there were “only” 20,000 participants, but even so, that is impressive and heartwarming.

 

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Crunching the Numbers

You’ll hear it every day: “The number of civilian casualties in Gaza is completely disproportionate to the number of Israeli casualties.”

And yes – as of writing these words, there have so far been “only” 7 Israeli fatalities – two civilian and five military – whereas, if we are to believe the figures put out by Hamas, the Gazan death toll stands at about 336, “mostly civilians”, to use the phrase almost automatically tagged on by the world media.

At first sight, 336:7 certainly appears “disproportional”. But if we put these figures under the microscope, a different story emerges.

My argument is three-fold and hinges, firstly, on the use of the term “proportionality”. In the context of self-defence, this does not – cannot logically – restrict the defending party to administering a counter-blow equal in force to the one received (“tit for tat”). The whole concept of self-defence rests on the idea that the use of force is legitimate if it is necessary to put an end to the violence of the other side and prevent them from renewing the attack. Thus, if someone is threatening me with a knife, I am entitled to disarm him, even if, in the course of doing so, the knife slides into his own heart and kills them. Likewise, let us imagine a woman sleeping with a gun under her pillow, because there is a known rapist terrorising the neighbourhood. Waking up to find a strange man leaning over her bed, she draws out her weapon and cries out that she has a gun and is prepared to use it. He ignores her and attempts to pin her  to the bed. She shoots and kills him. No-one in their right mind would claim that this was anything other than self-defence, even though the rapist was not attempting to kill her. (I am aware that many people would claim – and I am not sure that I would disagree with them – that the damage inflicted on a rape victim is as bad as killing them.)

What I am trying to say here, is that “proportionality” refers to the degree of force necessary to neutralise the threat.

According to the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public Law, “Whether action purportedly taken in self-defence meets the requirement of proportionality is to be assessed not by reference to the degree of force which was employed in the initial armed attack, but rather the threat posed by the armed attack. It is not simply a matter of comparing the number of forces or the types of weapons employed or even the scale of casualties and damage occasioned.

In Israel’s case, the threat posed by scores of rockets raining down on the civilian population is not mitigated, for the purpose of this rule, by the fact that, so far, our luck has held and – thanks to the discipline of the civilian population and their following of Civil Defence regulations – few Israeli civilians have, so far, paid with their lives. The relevant point here is the potential for loss of life posed by the Hamas rockets.

It is further stated there : “Whether the victim State’s use of force in self-defence meets the criterion of proportionality depends not upon its relation to the force initially used, but upon whether it is required in order to reverse the effects of the armed attack.”

Thus, Israel is not required to restrict herself to firing back an equal number of rockets, but is entitled to use whatever means are necessary to liquidate Hamas’ missile-firing capability.

“Ah,” I hear you say. “But what about the ground offensive? That wasn’t necessary in order to disable the Hamas missile network, and is therefore a disproportionate response.”

Not so. The Israeli ground offensive was preceded by an infiltration by Hamas terrorists into Israeli territory, by means of an underground tunnel which emerged minutes away from an Israeli civilian settlement, Kibbutz Sufa, with the intention, if the weapons they carried were any indication, of carrying out a large-scale massacre, or else kidnapping large numbers of Israelis for use as hostages. They did this hours before a UN-initiated ceasefire was due to go into effect (a ceasefire to which, by the way, Israel adhered and Hamas did not). Hamas has a vast network of such tunnels, the entrances to which are to be found in the basements of schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes throughout Gaza. They cannot be destroyed, or even located, from the air and the only way to eradicate this threat is by entering Gaza on the ground, and searching for them in situ.

Which brings me to the second hinge of my argument. It is not only the terror tunnel entrances which are located in schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes. It is also the Hamas command posts, weapons and ammunitions stores and, crucially, the rocket launchers from which, over the years, literally thousands of missiles have been rained down on the Israeli civilian population. These have been deliberately placed in the midst of the civilian population, for three reasons. One is camouflage. The second is that Hamas knows well that the morality of Israel’s Defence Forces is such as to make them think twice and thrice, before attacking a “civilian target” – even though, under international law, the moment these places are used for military purpose, they become legitimate military targets. See below for an illustration of this – the aborting of an airstrike by the IAI, because of the possible presence of children:

 

The third reason is that Hamas knows, perfectly well, that in the event of a mistake by Israeli forces – and mistakes do happen – nothing better serves their cause than the sight of dead Palestinian children, even if those deaths were caused by their own use of those children as human shields, which is, in itself, a war crime. This is a tactic they have used often in the past, and continue to use:

 

This video clip proves two things: one, that the IDF gives prior warning of airstrikes on “civilian” targets; and two, that Hamas encourages the elderly, women and children, to act as human shields. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Hamas actively hopes for civilian casualties, as these further their cause by producing the predictable knee-jerk anti-Israel, anti-Jewish reaction, both of the already inflamed Islamic masses now poised, like a Fifth Column, throughout the western world, and of the Useful Idiots of the Loony Left.

The final hinge of my argument turns on the veracity (or lack thereof)  of the claim that “most of the casualties are civilians”. Fellow-blogger “Aussie Dave”, on his excellent blog Israellycool, has analysed data from Al-Jazeera, regarding the casualty statistics provided by the Gaza Health Ministry. A similar, though less detailed analysis, has been carried out by CAMERA – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. The gist of the argument is this: although approximately half the population of Gaza is female, only 18% of the casualties (according to Israellycool) are female (12% according to CAMERA). Moreover, although half the males in the Gaza Strip are under the age of 15 (according to CAMERA) only about 13% of the total casualties fall into this age group. If Israel were indiscriminately killing Gazan civilians (ie. non-combatants), you would expect to see a more even division of the casualties among the sexes and the different age groups. Yet, according to both these analyses, both based on data from Al-Jazeera (which, in turn, was relying on information from Hamas), the vast majority of the Gazan dead (over 80%) are male, and the majority of these (around 65%) are young men of military age (18 – 38) – leading one to wonder, how many of these “innocent civilians” really were “non-combatants”.

 

UPDATE: Really, events are taking place on the ground faster than I can keep up with them. Since writing the above, the tragic news has been made public that 13 more Golani Brigade soldiers were killed in 4 separate incidents last night and early this morning. That brings the number of Israeli dead to 20 – 18 soldiers and two civilians. I don’t suppose that will satisfy those who demand “proportionality” however.

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Into the Inferno

So, it has started – the long-awaited ground offensive. To tell the truth, I feel deeply conflicted about this. On the one hand, there are bound to be more casualties – one Israeli soldier was killed already, yesterday evening, at the beginning of the operation. Furthermore, any incursion into the Gazan Labyrinth is fraught with the potential for becoming hopelessly entangled – because no-one really knows the answer to the question: “What Next?”

On the other hand, there are targets which must be dealt with, which cannot be dealt with from the air alone, and in particular, the vast network of Terror Tunnels. In the nine years since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, Hamas and other terrorist groups have constructed what amounts to an underground city beneath the streets and houses of Gaza. And I am not just talking about the supply tunnels, used for smuggling in weapons from Sinai. I am talking about Terror Tunnels – tunnels dug beneath the fence guarding the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, with exits on the Israeli side of the (internationally recognised) border, whose sole purpose is to enable the entrance of terrorists into Israel in order to kidnap Israelis (this is how Gilad Shalit was abducted, in the same area)  or to perpetrate large-scale terror attacks on Israeli civilian targets.

One such tunnel was detected in the pre-dawn hours of yesterday morning, thanks to the alertness of an IDF look-out, who observed the emergence of thirteen terrorists from a tunnel, very close to Kibbutz Sufa. She alerted air and ground forces, who ambushed the terrorists and blew up the tunnel, into which they had retreated.

 

 

Had the terrorists, who were heavily armed, succeeded in reaching the nearby kibbutz, there is no doubt they would either have taken many hostages or else carried out a large-scale atrocity, in order to be able to claim a “victory” against Israel. Thank God they were foiled – this time. But Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and other such terrorist groups are highly motivated and are likely to try again. That is why the tunnels MUST be destroyed – and if the only way to do this is from the ground, then so be it.

Meanwhile, I continue to pray for the safety and welfare of our soldiers and citizens.

Shabbat Shalom.

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And The Ceasefire That Was – Sort Of…

Okay. This is the situation. We are now four hours into a ceasefire that was supposed to start at 10 am and end at 3 pm. This is what is described as a “ceasefire for humanitarian purposes”, proposed by the UN emissary to the Middle East – in order to allow the residents of Gaza to get to hospitals for medical attention, if necessary, or to stock up on essential supplies. By “essential supplies”, I assume they mean food and so on – although, for Hamas, I wouldn’t be surprised if that definition includes ammunition. In addition, there are constant news reports hinting that there might be a more comprehensive ceasefire from 6 am tomorrow morning.

Despite heavy rocket bombardment of most of the rest of the country, including the nearby town of Beit Shemesh at about 2 o’clock this morning, Jerusalem hasn’t been targeted since Shabbat evening. I have no idea how long our luck will hold out. Whenever I take a shower, for example, it is with a feeling of trepidation. Suppose the warning sirens go while I’m washing my hair. I’m not sure I’d even hear them.

So, despite knowing that Hamas has already broken the ceasefire, by firing a barrage of rockets at the Eshkol Region in the North-Western Negev round about noon (two hours into the ceasefire), I took the opportunity to shower and wash my hair.

Hell, I’ve got a party to go to this evening. It’s my choir’s end of the year party. And, as all my regular readers know, the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir is more than just a hobby. It’s a way of life :-)

And  – “in spite of all terror” (to borrow a phrase from Churchill) – life must go on.

 

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UPDATE: I returned from the party at about 10:30 pm and of course, the first thing I did was to turn on the television – to be greeted by the news that the IDF ground operation has begun. I am too tired to blog about it now. That will have to wait till tomorrow. Meanwhile – let us pray for the safety and well-being of our soldiers, and the success of their mission.

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