26 March 2009

More on the Israeli war crimes in Gaza

In a way the rise of this subject was as inevitable as the next sunrise. After eight years of Qassam bombardment and the callous (and documented) use of Gazan population as one formidable human shield during the Cast Lead operation, Hamas propagandists have desperately looked for a way to raise some stink. With willing assistance of many Western media outfits and, of course, the Arab media hungrily lapping up any soundbite, the Hamas propaganda machine went into overdrive, producing numerous "documented reports" on IDF atrocities.

There is no special finesse to the process. To take one example:

The report said a working group had documented and verified reports of violations "too numerous to list." For example, on January 15, in a town southwest of Gaza City, Israel Defense Forces soldiers ordered an 11-year-old boy to open Palestinians' packages, presumably so that the soldiers would not be hurt if they turned out to contain explosives, the 43-page report said.
Yep. The violations are "too numerous to list" - so why bother, let's give a (verbal) example that is just a mirror copy of a video clip of Hamas "freedom fighters" using a kid to move around under the eyes of IDF soldiers. The only difference is that there is no video recording in this case... Crude, but everything goes when you have an eager audience clamoring for more.

Of course, there is a legal side to the issue as well, and who better to judge IDF than a Jooish "UN rapporteur" Richard Falk (the 911 troofer, not to forget)? It is also inevitable that this expert on international law would find the following interpretation of this law:
Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians. "If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk said.
I don't know where our professor finds the inspiration for his creative legal opinions (is it the same mind rays that cause him to look for explosives in WTC remains or the alcohol fumes that color his considerable schnozzle?). You see, Geneva conventions do not prohibit attacks when civilians are in vicinity of the military targets, they only demand that the warring forces do their best to minimize the civilian losses. In any case, the smell raising from the bovine excrement of the above quoted is awful. And it (the quote) doesn't have a lot to do with international law, rather with Falk's hate for Israel... but who cares?

On the other hand, there are some attempts to check and disprove some of the allegations. And Haaretz and The Guardian have indeed to answer some questions for their shoddy and tendentious "reporting". I have no doubt that in many cases that are in the realm of hard facts, the allegations will be refuted, and they are being refuted. But many of the accusations that are based on the Hamas' "eyewitness reports", like the one quoted at the top of this post, will remain what they are: propaganda pieces built for the consumption by the willing, and there are no facts in the whole world to change that.

But not in all the cases, and here we come to the other side of the propaganda strife. I mean the IDF brass heads sweeping responses. Here comes our Defense Minister Ehud Barak:
I have no doubt that what needs to be probed will be probed, but I also have no doubt in my heart that the IDF is the most moral army in the world.
I cannot tell how much I resent the oxymoron "moral army" that is used by our politicos so frequently. Army is an organization that has as it chief purpose state-authorized killing of humans. As such, it is quite difficult to find a more immoral line of business.

Besides being put in almost impossible (as far the number of civilian victims is concerned) situation when fighting Hamas thugs in densely populated area, besides doing their best to minimize the number of victims, as any military expert will find, IDF is a human collective designed to kill people. For that purpose members of this collective are issued deadly weaponry. And, as in any given group of humans, there are all kinds in IDF. There are nervous novices whose fingers are light on the trigger. There are tired sleep-deprived gunners that in some cases misinterpret commands transmitted over noisy radio links (clear proof of this is that most IDF losses where from "friendly fire"). And of course, there is a small percentage of trigger-happy individuals, for whom a war is an opportunity to play out their darkest desires. It will be stupid to deny - every army in the history has their share of such characters, and the "most moral" IDF is not an exception, much as it pains me to say so.

And it is not that other armies don't make mistakes (or intentional trigger squeezing, as it happens). Two examples from today's on-line news:
NATO-led troops shot dead two Afghan farmers who were watering their land in east Afghanistan, a police chief told Reuters on Wednesday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said civilian casualties are the biggest cause of tension between him and his Western backers...

A missile strike believed to have been launched by a US drone aircraft killed at least four people in Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan on Wednesday, intelligence officials and Taliban sources said.
But here the difference between IDF and any other army as far as the treatment by the media comes into play. Don't expect NYT, Guardian and others to start trumpeting for a special UN rapporteur to get to Afghanistan or Pakistan in a hurry. Don't expect any pre-recorded conclusions of "investigation committees", pompous announcements by legal beagles and media storms.

Why, indeed? But it's an issue for another time and another post.

P.S. Saying all that, I still cannot avoid mentioning a person that, as usual, takes the cake: the Guardian's own Stalinist Seumas Milne, who, of all the dirty hacks, has the temerity to teach somebody about universal values, moral norms and human rights. Bleh...

Cross-posted on Yourish.com