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“War Crimes” Propaganda Against Israel By: Rachel Neuwirth
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, February 16, 2009


Most of the American and European media have accused Israel of having committed “war crimes” in its recent “assault” on Gaza, and of waging war indiscriminately on its civilian population. Israel is said to have damaged schools, hospitals, ambulances and mosques and to have inflicted an immense number of deaths and injuries on innocent civilians. The same accusations have been hurled at Israel by the United Nations, by many of the world’s governments, and by numerous pseudo-do-gooder “Non-governmental organizations” (or “NGOs”), such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The International Criminal Court in the Hague is considering whether to file war crimes charges against Israeli military and political leaders, and the nations of the European Community are debating amongst themselves whether to support such a move.[1]

But when we probe into the matter a little deeper by looking at the reports of journalists who did some independent investigating, and who interviewed Gaza civilians who agreed to talk with them (anonymously or using nicknames, for fear of Hamas reprisals), we get a completely different picture: Israel took great care to avoid hurting innocent people, while Hamas deliberately tried to cause as many casualties among the Gazan people as possible.

Let’s go through some of the biggest media lies one by one, and then expose the truth.

The Lie: Israel waged war on Gaza’s civilian population; it deliberately killed innocent civilians.

The truth: Israel exerted more care than any other country in history to avoid inflicting casualties on civilians, even at considerable cost to the effectiveness of its military operations.

Israel’s Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog, who is coordinating Israel’s humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza, has pointed out that "[The IDF] made 250,000 phone calls], it has sent text messages and delivered leaflets by air. It has [made] broadcasts on television and on radio and asked people to move away. It did whatever it could to prevent human suffering[2]."

250,000 phone calls? That is virtually every single individual household in Gaza! (total population 1.4 million, with many large families). There is no precedent in history for an army calling up each individual household in enemy territory to warn them in advance to take shelter from bombing or shelling by the army. The Israelis even went so far as to call up leading terrorists 45 minutes in advance of bombing their houses, which were used for storing weapons and ammunition and for concealing terrorist tunnels and bunkers in their basements, in order to give the terrorists and their innocent families time to escape unharmed.

When Israeli planes tracked trucks carrying weapons and ammunition to Hamas, they sometimes deflected the missiles in mid-flight, causing them to fall harmlessly in open spaces, if the trucks happened to pass by civilians on a crowded street. In deflecting their own missiles by remote control, the Israeli pilots and ground controllers passed up the opportunity to destroy enemy weapons and ammunition, solely in order to protect Arab civilians. These humanitarian measures by the Israeli forces have been abundantly documented by “live” video cameras, and the resulting video records have been broadcast by the IDF on YouTube.[3]

These unprecedented humanitarian precautions in time of full-scale war must have enabled thousands of terrorists to escape from Israeli bombing and shelling attacks by forewarning them. Israel was willing to undermine the effectiveness of its anti-terrorist operation solely in order to save the lives of “innocent” (and in some cases not-so-innocent) civilians. No other army -- not the Americans, nor the British, nor French or much the less the Russian ,Chinese, Japanese or German armies -- has ever exercised even comparable restraint and care to protect noncombatants on the “enemy” side of a war zone as the Israel Defense Forces routinely does. [4]

The Lie: Israel killed six hundred or more civilians in Gaza. More than half of those killed by Israel were innocent civilians.

If Israel took such extraordinary measures to protect noncombatants, why then, you will surely ask, were so many civilians killed or injured during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” counter-terrorism operation? One part of the answer is that relatively few civilians actually were killed or injured. Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent reporting from Gaza for the Italian “newspaper of record” Corriere della Serra, writes:

. . .there is [a] fact coming to light ever more obviously, visiting the hospitals, clinics and families of the victims of Israeli fire: In reality their numbers appear much lower than 1300 dead and another 5000 injured, as reported by the men of Hamas and repeated by the UN officials and the local Red Cross. “The dead can’t be more than 500 or 600. There are many youths between 17 and 23, recruited by Hamas, who sent them quite literally to the slaughter.” Said the doctor from the Shifah hospital who under no circumstances wanted to be quoted for he risked his life.

This data has been confirmed by [a] local journalist. “We already pointed this out to the heads of Hamas. Why do they insist on inflating the number of victims? It’s strange on the other hand that the NGOs, also the western ones, report them without any verification. In the end the truth may come to light. It could be like Jenin in 2002. Initially we spoke about 1500 dead. Then it came out that there were only 54, of whom at least 45 were militants who died in battle. ”

. . . It’s sufficient to visit a few hospitals to understand that the numbers don’t add up. There are many empty beds in the European Hospital in Rafah, one of the [hospitals] that should be most involved with the victims of the Israeli “war of the tunnels.” The same goes for the “Nasser” of Khan Yunis. Only 5 out of the 150 beds in the private hospital of Al-Amal are occupied.[5]

Analysts who regularly monitor the Palestinian Arab media have come upon much information that corroborates Cremonesi’s report. These media monitors have discovered that over 75% of the individuals whom the Arab media have identified as having been killed in the fighting were males between the ages of 15 and 50—the ages, and gender, of the overwhelming majority of Hamas and other Palestinian fighters. They have also found that the names of many Palestinians who turn up on lists of “civilians” killed in the Gaza war published by Palestinian “human rights” organizations are identified as Hamas fighters by other Palestinian news publications. The “human rights” organizations also omitted from its casualty reports the names of Hamas fighters who are known from other sources to have been killed in the fighting. This misreporting and selective reporting result in a sizable overstatement of the percentage of civilians killed in the fighting. Yet much of the news media relies on these organizations, such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), for their data on civilian casualties in Gaza.[6]

The second part of our answer to the question, “why were Gazan civilians killed or injured during Israel’s Gaza operation?” is that Hamas deliberately forced its “own” Gazan civilians to serve as hostages and “human shields,” behind which the terrorists conducted their assault. Hamas regularly sent its troops to occupy schools, hospitals, mosques and office buildings, their grounds and adjacent streets, as well as many private Palestinian houses and business, and used them to fire at Israeli soldiers and to launch rockets against Israeli civilians. The Hamas men used mosques as weapons and ammunition storage facilities, and fired anti-aircraft guns from them The Israelis have even caught on camera, and have subsequently broadcast on YouTube, videos of Hamas fighters launching rockets and mortars from the courtyards of schools, or streets directly adjoining them [8] On at least one occasion, Hamas operatives even launched a rocket from a building used by foreign journalists; a reporter from an Arab television and radio station reported on the incident “live” as she viewed the rocket launching from her office window, in a bizarre sequence that has subsequently been broadcast in a YouTube video![7] Hamas gunmen hijacked ambulances, and sometimes even fired at Israeli soldiers from them.

These Hamas ‘tactics” put Israeli soldiers in the invidious position of having either to allow the Hamas terrorists to keep firing at them and/or at the Israeli civilian population,; or to return fire, and risking killing or injuring civilians. Israel sometimes has had no choice but to permit its soldiers to return fire in self-defense. This return of fire has sometimes resulted in civilian casualties and/or damage to civilian buildings; but in view of Hamas’ of use of Arab civilians as human shields, blaming Israel for these casualties and calling them Israeli “war crimes,” seems to us almost as vicious and unjust as the actual war crimes perpetrated by Hamas. Apropos this situation, Cremonesi reports:

“Get away! Get away from here! Do you want the Israelis to kill everyone? Do you want our children to die under the bombs? Take your missiles and weapons away,” the inhabitants of the Gaza strip yelled at the Hamas militants and their allies in Islamic Jihad. The more courageous were organized and blocked the entrances to their courtyards and locked the doors to their buildings, barricading quickly and furiously the stairs to the highest rooftops.

But for all of that the guerrillas didn’t listen to anyone. “Traitors, collaborators with Israel, spies of Fatah, cowards! The soldiers of the holy war will punish you. And in any case you will all die, like us. Fighting the Zionist Jews we are all destined for paradise. Do you not wish to die with us?” This is what they yelled furiously as they broke down doors and windows, hiding themselves on high floors, gardens, using ambulances and barricading themselves near the hospitals, schools and buildings of the UN.

In extreme cases the [Hamas militants] shot those who sought to block them from their streets and houses to save their own families, or they beat them savagely. “The Hamas Militants looked for good places to provoke the Israelis. They were usually youths, 16 or 17 years old, armed with submachine guns. They couldn’t do anything against a tank or jet. They knew they were much weaker. But they wanted the [Israelis] to shoot at the [the civilians’] houses so they could accuse them of more war crimes” asserted Abu Issa, 42, resident of the Tel Awa neighborhood.[9]

Another Gaza civilian, calling herself Umm Abdallah, told Mr.Cremonesi that

“Practically all of the tallest buildings in Gaza that were hit by Israeli bombs, like the Dogmoush, Andalous, Jawarah, Siussi, and many others, had rocket launching pads on their roofs, or were observation decks for the Hamas. They had also put them near the big UN warehouse, which went up in flames. The same goes for the villages in the valley along the border that were more devastated by the mad fury and punishment of the Zionist[10].”

A third part of the answer is that the Hamas terrorists may have directly caused some of the civilian casualties themselves. Numerous Gaza residents and foreign reporters confirm that Hamas took the occasion of Israel’s Gaza operation to kill Palestinians whom it claimed were collaborators with Israel. Many, although not all of these alleged collaborators were actually members of the rival Palestinian terrorist group Fatah, with whom Hamas has long been at loggerheads.[11]

We have already seen the Corriere della Serra report that Hamas sometimes killed Gazan civilians who tried to refuse to allow themselves and their families to be used as human shields, declaring them to be “collaborators” worthy of death. Gazan ambulance drivers told a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald ( Australia ) of similar experiences with Hamas gunmen: these sometimes attempted to hijack ambulances for their own use, and threatened the drivers with their guns if they resisted surrendering them.[12] While the particular ambulance drivers interviewed by Sydney Morning Herald’s reporter Jack Koutsoukis survived their ordeal, others may not have been so lucky.

Then there is the question of “work accidents.” The Israel defense and intelligence forces have documented numerous cases in which explosives that Hamas was storing or that its operatives were manufacturing exploded accidentally, inflicting deaths and injuries on nearby civilians. In nearly all such cases, Hamas first tried to blame Israel for the civilian casualties, although it sometimes eventually admitted to the truth. How many of the civilian casualties reported during the Gaza operation were similar “work accidents?”[13]

In addition, when Hamas chose to fight the Israeli counter-terrorist forces in densely populated urban streets, rather than in open country, as the Israelis much preferred, Hamas operatives as well as Israeli soldiers fired off numerous rounds of bullets, mortars and rockets in areas crowded with civilian residents. As a result, many of the civilian who were killed or wounded in the fighting are just as likely to have been hit by Hamas gunman as by Israeli soldiers. [14]

How many civilian deaths and injuries inflicted by Hamas gunmen, one wonders, found their way into the civilian casualty statistics released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), various NGOs, and the media? Yet the press and the “humanitarian” agencies have attributed all of the civilian casualties to Israel.
.
The Lie: Gaza has been utterly devastated and left in ruins by the Israeli “assault.”

The Truth: The Israelis targeted buildings very carefully and selectively, aiming at buildings used for military purposes by Hamas, and rarely hitting other buildings.

While much of the media has claimed that Gaza suffered universal and complete devastation during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead,” a few journalists who were on the scene have admitted that Israel’s air and ground forces in Gaza were almost incredibly precise and careful in their selection of targets, and that as little damage as possible was caused to civilian buildings. Tim Butcher, in a report on the war for London’s Daily Telegraph, wrote that

One thing was clear. Gaza City 2009 is not Stalingrad 1944. There had been no carpet bombing of large areas, no firebombing of complete suburbs. Targets had been selected and then hit, often several times, but almost always with precision munitions. Buildings nearby had been damaged and there had been some clear mistakes, like the firebombing of the UN aid headquarters. But, in most the cases, I saw the primary target had borne the brunt. . .

But, for the most part, I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be. It has been a tatty, poorly-maintained mess for decades and the presence of fresh bombsites on streets already lined with broken curbstones and jerry-built buildings did not make any great difference. And the same can be said for the mindset of many of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Outsiders might have expected some sort of collective anger at the loss of life, or mass outrage at the Hamas authorities whose policy of firing rockets against Israel had brought down the wrath of the Israeli armed forces.[15]

The Lie: Israel has been blockading Gaza for years and denying its people access to vital humanitarian supplies, creating great suffering among its population. This blockade was intensified during the recent Gaza war.

Of all of the media’s lies about Israel’s relationship to Gaza, this is the most brazen and absurd. There has never been an Israeli blockade of Gaza. In reality, Israel has allowed thousands of truckloads of supplies into Gaza in the past eight years, despite the almost continuous armed attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers originating in Gaza. It continued to supply Gaza with food, medicine and all other needed civilian goods even during the three weeks of intense fighting during the recent war (December 27, 2008 - January 19, 2009). It has supplied Gaza with electricity, fuel, and water and even money to pay its officials, (who of course work for Hamas) throughout the long years of Gazan aggression against Israel. Israel continued to supply all of these things to Gaza, except the money, even during the three weeks of intense fighting during its “Operation Cast Lead.” Since the “cease fire” on January 19 of this year and even at the height of the fighting in January, Israel observed three a hour truce daily to allow supplies to get through to the Gazan civilian population (Hamas violated even these brief truces by using them to fire rockets at Israeli civilians). Israel has continued to send massive humanitarian supplies to Gaza and to allow the UN relief organizations to do so as well, even though Hamas has been hijacking the relief shipments for its own fighters—which is a serious war crime. It has even resumed its money payments to the Hamas government, despite Hamas’ daily violations of the cease-fire with rocket attacks on, and terrorist raids into, Israel .[16]

No other nation in history has treated the people of a country that was committing armed aggression against their own with the kindness, compassion, humanity and forbearance that Israel has lavished upon the people of Gaza. But none of Israel’s extraordinary humanitarian efforts have prevented the international press, United Nations officials and the “NGOs” from portraying Israel as guilty of monstrous war crimes and crimes against humanity. That they have done so does not speak well for the “international community,” or indeed for the human species as a whole.

In subsequent columns we look at a few of the specific atrocity allegations made against Israel during the Gaza war, and consider the question of who gave the press so much misinformation about Gaza, and why?

John Landau contributed to this article

FOOTNOTES:

[1]Avraham Zuroff ,”EU Leaders Debate whether to Condemn Israel for UN Bombings,”

IsraelNationalNews, January 25, 2009, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/129599; “Indicting Israel for Self-Defense.” P. David Hornik - Feb 04, 2009 http://www.israelunitycoalition.org/news/article.php?id=3626. Reprinted from
FrontPageMagazine.com.

[2]Haviv Rettig Gur, “UNWRA: Hamas didn’t fire from Un Compounds.” Jerusalem Post, Jan. 18, 2009, http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1232292898771&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull.

[3] “IDF Vlog: Strikes Aborted to Protect Civilians. Lt. Barak Raz. http://www.mefeedia.com/entry/idf-vlog-strikes-aborted-to-protect-civilians-lt-barak-raz-11-jan-2009/13678771; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUeSE3WWX_M .

[4] “BBC: Former British Army Colonel Richard Kemp Discusses IDF Gaza Ops,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WssrKJ3Iqcw

[5] Lorenzo Cremonesi, “Doubts on the Number of Victims: Could be 600 rather than 1300. Il Corriere Della Sera, January 21, 2009. Translated by Noa Landes. http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2009/01/28/cremonesi-article-in-english.

[6] Steven Stotsky, “ Gaza Casualties: Civilian or Combatant?” Camera, January 29, 2009. http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1603 .

[7] See “Hamas Uses Schools and Ceasefire to Shoot Rockets at Israel, “http://www.mefeedia.com/entry/hamas-uses-schools-and-ceasefire-to-shoot-rockets-at-israel/13864006; “Hamas Rockets During Cease-Fire and From Schoolyard 8 Jan. 09,” http://www.mefeedia.com/entry/hamas-rockets-during-cease-fire-and-from-schoolyard-8-jan-09/13678752 ; “Mortar Bombs Shot from UN School in Gaza 29 Oct. 2007,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmXXUOs27lI&feature=channel_page; “Weapons Horde in Gazan Mosque, 13 Jan. 2009,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Zd55Zhj5gQ&feature=channel_page ; “Weapons Hidden in Mosque Neutralized by Israel Air Force 31 Dec. 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCVr7MBhgj0&feature=related; and numerous other videos at http://www.mefeedia.com/feeds/70791/youtube-videos-by-idfnadesk and http://www.youtube.com/user/idfnadesk , the web sites for the Israel Defense Forces public information desk

[8] “Hamas fires from foreign Press building in Gaza January 2009 - Unintentional News from Al-Arabiya -TV,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY50cktUKbA

[9] Cremonesi, “Doubts on the Number of Victims,” op. cit.

[10] Cremonesi, op. cit.

[11] Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas Moves on Fatah ‘Collaborators’,” Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2009, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230733155685&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull ; Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, “PA Internecine Killings Continued as War Raged,” IsraelNationalNews, January 19, 2009, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/129517; and “Gaza War Crimes: Hamas Terrorists Tried To Hijack Ambulances,” :IsraelNationalNews, January 26, 2009, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/129608.

[12] Jason Koutsoukis, “Hamas tried to hijack ambulances during war”, Sydney Morning Herald, January 26, 2009, http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/hamas-tried-to-hijack-ambulances-during-gaza-war/2009/01/25/1232818246374.html

[13] “Using civilians as human shields: ten Palestinians killed and several dozens (including women and children) injured in Beit Lahiya as a result of a ‘work accident’: an explosion flattened the house of Ahmed Hamouda, a senior Hamas operative in the northern Gaza Strip.” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, June 22, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/gaza_120608e.htm

[14] Alex Safian, “Myths and Facts about the Fighting in Gaza,” CAMERA, January 8, 2009, http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_print=1&x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=1585

[15] Tim Butcher, “Gaza has been hit hard, but has it made any difference?” Telegraph.co.uk, January 20, 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/4300408/Gaza-has-been-hit-hard-but-has-it-made-any-difference.html

[16] Alex Safian, “Myths and Facts about the Fighting in Gaza,”Op. Cit.; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Humanitarian aid to Gaza during IDF operation,”18 Jan 2009, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2009/Humanitarian_aid_to_Gaza_following_6_month_calm.htm; Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell, “International Law

and the Fighting in Gaza,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, http://www.jcpa.org/text/puzzle1.pdf ; Rani Sneh, “IDF Opens Border Crossing for Humanitarian Aid Transfer to Gaza,” December 28, 2008,

http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/2008n/12/2803.htm; and numerous other articles on the Israel Defense Forces web site, http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Humanitarian aid to Gaza during IDF operation,” Jan. 18 2009, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2009/Humanitarian_aid_to_Gaza_following_6_month_calm.htm , and numerous other articles on the Israel ministry of Foreign Affairs web site, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA; Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), “Continual humanitarian aid to Gaza despite grad rocket launched at Ashkelon,” February 4, 2009, http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=42670; “Humanitarian aid continues under intense mortar and rocket fire,” Feb. 2, 2009, http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=42645, and numerous other bulletins from COGAT, as well as other articles, on the on the Independent Media Review Analysis web site , http://www.imra.org.il/; Tamar Yonah’s interview with David Bedein about Gaza, UNRWA, and Hamas. Israel National Radio's "Weekend Edition," Feb 8, 2009; http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/News.aspx/623;

Hana Levi Julian, “ Israel Pumps Fuel into Gaza , Terrorists Launch Rockets in Return,” February 11, 2009, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/124999 ;

Walter Bingham, “A Different View of Israel,” November 11, 2007, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/7471, and numerous other articles on the IsraelNationalNews, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/; Rachel Ehrenfeld, “Israel's suicidal choice,” http://www.israelunitycoalition.org/news/article.php?id=3089, Reprinted from the Washington Times, Aug 27, 2008, and many other article on the Unity Coalition for Israel site, http://www.israelunitycoalition.org/; Israel Insider staff, Olmert admits transferring hundreds of millions of shekels to Hamas,” June 26, 2008,
June 26, 2008, http://web.israelinsider.com/Articles/Diplomacy/12941.htm,, and other articles on the Israelinsider site, http://israelinsider.ning.com/cover .


Rachel Neuwirth is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.


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