Monday, July 28, 2014

Obama defends killing civilians - when the US is doing the killing

The rules for Israel are, as always, different than the rules for the rest of the world.

From The New Yorker, January 27, 2014:

“I think any President should be troubled by any war or any kinetic action that leads to death,” Obama told me when I brought up Yousafzai’s remarks. “The way I’ve thought about this issue is, I have a solemn duty and responsibility to keep the American people safe. That’s my most important obligation as President and Commander-in-Chief. And there are individuals and groups out there that are intent on killing Americans—killing American civilians, killing American children, blowing up American planes. That’s not speculation. It’s their explicit agenda.

Obama said that, if terrorists can be captured and prosecuted, “that’s always my preference. If we can’t, I cannot stand by and do nothing. They operate in places where oftentimes we cannot reach them, or the countries are either unwilling or unable to capture them in partnership with us. And that then narrows my options: we can simply be on defense and try to harden our defense. But in this day and age that’s of limited—well, that’s insufficient. We can say to those countries, as my predecessor did, if you are harboring terrorists, we will hold you accountable—in which case, we could be fighting a lot of wars around the world. And, statistically, it is indisputable that the costs in terms of not only our men and women in uniform but also innocent civilians would be much higher. Or, where possible, we can take targeted strikes, understanding that anytime you take a military strike there are risks involved. What I’ve tried to do is to tighten the process so much and limit the risks of civilian casualties so much that we have the least fallout from those actions. But it’s not perfect.

“Look, you wrestle with it,” Obama said. “And those who have questioned our drone policy are doing exactly what should be done in a democracy—asking some tough questions. The only time I get frustrated is when folks act like it’s not complicated and there aren’t some real tough decisions, and are sanctimonious, as if somehow these aren’t complicated questions."

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a pair of reports in October fiercely criticizing the secrecy that shrouds the administration's drone program, and calling for investigations into the deaths of drone victims with no apparent connection to terrorism. In Pakistan alone, TBIJ estimates, between 416 and 951 civilians, including 168 to 200 children, have been killed.

Every single justification Obama gives for killing civilians applies to Israel. With one major difference: he is killing people a half a world away.

Israelis all live at the front, under direct, immediate threat - less than two minutes away from possibly being killed, day in and day out.  Nothing theoretical or indirect about it. Israelis would gladly trade places with Americans to have enemies thousands of miles away.

But they aren't allowed to eliminate the threat, according to Obama - even when the threat is more immediate, more concrete, more real, and the actions needed are far more clear and direct.

Someone should ask Obama why his critics aren't allowed to be "sanctimonious" about the difficulty of waging a war without civilian casualties - but he is.

Some of today's tweets (including ElderToons)

See also this.

07/28 Links Pt2: Why Zionism is more important than ever before; Gal Gadot Slams Hamas Cowards

From Ian:

Chloe Valdary: To the Students for Justice in Palestine, a Letter From an Angry Black Woman
The student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is prominent on many college campuses, preaching a mantra of “Freeing Palestine.” It masquerades as though it were a civil rights group when it is not. Indeed, as an African-American, I am highly insulted that my people’s legacy is being pilfered for such a repugnant agenda. It is thus high time to expose its agenda and lay bare some of the fallacies they peddle.
• If you seek to promulgate the legacy of early Islamic colonialists who raped and pillaged the Middle East, subjugated the indigenous peoples living in the region, and foisted upon them a life of persecution and degradation—you do not get to claim the title of “Freedom Fighter.”
• If you support a racist doctrine of Arab supremacism and wish (as a corollary of that doctrine) to destroy the Jewish state, you do not get to claim that the prejudices you peddle are forms of legitimate “resistance.”
Brendan O'Neill: Is the Left anti-Semitic? Sadly, it is heading that way
Indeed, some of the most influential trends in Left-wing politics over the past five years – including the Occupy movement and the Wikileaks movement – were both given to conspiracy-theorising and both also had a bit of a problem with anti-Semitism. So Occupy was kickstarted by Adbusters, a magazine convinced that powerful corporations control the masses’ fickle minds. In 2004, Adbusters published a disgustingly anti-Semitic article titled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?”, which listed the neocons in the Bush administration and put a black mark next to the names of those who are Jewish. Not surprisingly, Occupy itself, which was obsessed with the baleful influence of small cliques of bankers and other faceless, evil people, often crossed the line into anti-Semitism, as the Washington Post reported. And Wikileaks, too, which is also a borderline conspiracy-theory outfit, what with its obsession with the “conspiratorial interactions among the political elite”, has had issues with anti-Semitism: one of its key researchers, Israel Shamir, was exposed by the Guardian as being “notorious for [his] Holocaust denial and publishing a string of anti-Semitic articles”.
It is not an accident that the three key planks of the Left-wing outlook today – the anti-Israel anti-war sentiment, the shallow anti-capitalism of Occupy, and the worship of those who leak info from within the citadels of power – should all have had issues with anti-Semitism. It is because the left, feeling isolated from the public and bereft of any serious means for understanding modern political and economic affairs, has bought into a super-simplistic, black-and-white, borderline David Icke view of the world as a place overrun and ruled by cabals and cults and sinister lobby groups. And who has always, without fail, been the final cabal, the last cult, to find themselves shouldering the ultimate blame for the warped, hidden workings of politics, the economy and foreign turmoil? You got it – the Jews.
Wonder Woman Gal Gadot Slams Hamas 'Cowards' Who Hide Behind Women and Children
The brunette stunner sent out an unapologetic prayer for Israel over the weekend via Facebook. Her social media message didn't end there. She then savaged Hamas for what she called horrific and cowardly behavior.
"I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children...We shall overcome!!! Shabbat Shalom! #weareright #freegazafromhamas #stopterror #coexistance #loveidf”
Within two days, the post gathered 172,303 “likes” and 4,692 “shares.” In addition, it attracted 15,786 comments – both in support of the Fast and the Furious star (and soon-to-be Wonder Woman) and harshly critical of her in particular, and Israel in general."
Where Orim Almost Gets Lynched
Lucky escape from an attack by Islamic mob on Al Quds Day
Our friend Orim – a pro Israel Arab – decided to turn up at an Al Quds march.
Waving an Israeli flag.
Near-lynch hilarity ensues.
Orim, we admire your bravery, but please be safe.
And if you try a stunt like this again, I will kill you!

Ambassador Ron Prosor slams the hypocrites at the UN (video)

Who said this statement in Sderot?

I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens.

The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. And so I can assure you that ...if somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries. I think that Hamas leadership will have to make a decision at some point as to whether it is a serious political party seeking to represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people. And, as a consequence, willing to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce violence as a tool to achieve its aims. Or whether it wants to continue to operate as a terrorist organization. Until that point, it's hard for Israel, I think, to negotiate with a country that -- or with a group that doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist at a country..
New York Times, July 23, 2008.

Press conference by presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Not exactly consistent with a demand for a ceasefire that would leave the status quo, is it?

(h/t TIP)

07/28 Links Pt1: Kerry, come quick! The Jews are winning!; Israel offered aid to Gazans, PA refused

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Kerry’s mediation
On Saturday, he flew from Cairo to Paris to meet with his Qatari and Turkish counterparts. Also present were the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Britain and Italy.
Conspicuously absent were representatives from Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Why would Kerry agree to engage in talks with Turkey and Qatar – two countries openly hostile to Israel and supportive of Hamas’s terrorist agenda that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with a caliphate run in accordance with a reactionary version of Islamic law? Isn’t the US supposed to be on the side of nations, such as Israel, that support freedom, democracy and equality and are enemies of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and its patrons?
What does this incident say about Kerry’s ability to confront other challenges to world security such as Iran’s nuclear weapon program? Since Kerry took over as secretary of state a year-and-ahalf ago, there have been a number of disputes between the US and Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu openly criticized Kerry’s support for the interim deal with Iran. During Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon derided Kerry’s security proposals along the Jordan border, calling the secretary “messianic” and “obsessive” about the prospects for peace.
Kerry’s mistakes strengthen Hamas’s resolve
Kerry and his staff made an outrageous decision to turn their backs on the Egyptian framework for a ceasefire in a manner that encouraged Hamas to continue shooting rockets.
This first mistake was exposed by none other than the political leader of the organization, Khaled Mashaal, who said in a press conference in Doha, the Qatari capital, that Kerry had turned to al-Attiyah and Davutoglu two days after the Israeli operation in Gaza began and asked them to push for a ceasefire. At the time, Kerry knew full well that a major Egyptian effort was underway to persuade Hamas to stop firing immediately. By turning to Doha and Ankara behind the backs of Cairo and Jerusalem, Washington — no doubt unintentionally — strengthened Hamas’s resolve against Egypt and Israel.
But the mistakes didn’t stop there. The farce continued with the amateurish draft that was immediately rejected by Israel’s security cabinet; it then reached new heights on Saturday in Paris, when Kerry decided to participate in an international summit on Gaza, attended by his new friends al-Attiyah and Davutoglu as well as the foreign ministers of the European Union, but not by a few players that Kerry apparently perceives as marginal – representatives of Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and, of course, Israel.
When numbers in Gaza masquerade as fact
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center found, on July 23, that 775 people had been killed in Gaza, of whom 229 were militants or terrorists (135 Hamas, 60 Islamic Jihad, 34 from other terror organizations); 267 were civilians; and 279 could not yet be classified.
Many of the Palestinian figures subsequently quoted, by the UN and other international organizations, “are not worth the paper they’re written on,” Reuven Erlich, the director of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, told The Times of Israel. “They’re based mostly on Palestinian sources in Gaza, who have a vested interest in showing that we’re killing many civilians.”
His center, he said, thoroughly researches the casualties. In order to ascertain an accurate identity of the dead, the center’s staff researches the person’s background on Palestinian websites and searches for information about their funerals and for other hints that could shed light on the person’s true occupation.
The authorities in Gaza generally count every young man who did not wear a uniform as a civilian — even if he was involved in terrorist activity and was therefore considered by the IDF a legitimate target, military sources said.
Latest Al Jazeera Data Shows Gaza Casualties Still Mostly Combat-Aged Males
On Sunday, blogger Elder of Ziyon posted new charts, updating the data released by Al Jazeera last week and the week before, and confirming the same trend.
The first chart shows the male-female split and then graphed by age group, with most of the men being 20 to 24 or 25 to 29. The second chart compares the results to Gaza’s actual age distribution, casting further doubt on Hamas’s claims, as the majority of the dead fit the profiles of fighters, men in their 20s, rather than the broader population.
The blogger also published a link to a Google Document created by Guy Bechor based on the official list of Gazan dead from the International Middle East Media Center, for others to examine the raw data.
IDF Soldier in Al Jazeera Interview on Hamas Human Shields: They Throw Civilians at Us ‘Like Cannon Fire’ (VIDEO)
An Israel Defense Forces reservist addressed Hamas’ use of human shields in a recent interview on Al Jazeera America, saying the terror group uses Gaza’s civilians like cannon fodder as weapons against IDF troops.
When confronted by the Al Jazeera correspondent about child casualties in Gaza during Israel’s current Operation Protective Edge, Ezagui said the world “isn’t getting a clear picture of what’s going on.”
“Yes there’s a death toll, but it’s not something that’s on Israel’s hands. It’s not on the young soldiers. The brave men who are going in there to protect their people. It’s Hamas that are throwing Palestinians at us like cannon fire and it’s devastating,” said Ezagui, who lost his left arm while on duty in 2008.
The lone soldier asserted that the terrorist organization should be held responsible for putting Gaza civilians “in such a terrible situation.” Gazan children “don’t deserve to be used as human shields, to be indoctrinated at such a young age,” he said
IDF Soldier Izzy Ezagui on Al Jazeera

Again, every reporter gets it wrong (Shati and Shifa blasts)

There were two explosions in Gaza today, one at the Shati camp and the other outside the Shifa hospital.

Immediately, every single journalist in Gaza that tweeted it said that these were Israeli airstrikes.

Even though it was during the calm. Even though Israel wasn't doing any airstrikes. Even though Hamas continues to shoot rockets during "cease fires".

For once, the IDF didn't wait hours to release what really happened.

Times of Israel's timeline showed pretty early that this was a Hamas rocket:

‘Attack on hospital may have been from Hamas fire’
Channel 2 reports there are “indications” that the explosion in the area of Shifa hospital are the result of Hamas fire.

He says the blast may have been the result of a technical malfunction in an attempt to fire a long-range Fajr-5 rocket at central Israel from Gaza.

On the Gaza border, a Channel 2 reporter adds that the IDF has no immediate information on any firing by Israeli forces in the area.

IDF says it was not operating near hospital
A military source tells Channel 2 that the IDF was not operating in the area of the Shifa hospital when the attack occurred.

Camera crews barred from site of hospital blast

Camera crews are prevented from filming the area of impact at Shifa Hospital.

Health official Ayman Sahabani says several people were wounded in the strike.

The prevention of cameras, and the cleaning up of evidence without any witnesses, is a hallmark of Hamas rocket attacks.
Palestinians report casualties in Al-Shati refugee camp blast

A Palestinian health official says at least 10 people are killed and 46 wounded in an Israeli strike on a park in the Gaza Strip at the al-Shati refugee camp.

Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at the Shifa hospital, which was also hit, gave the casualty toll in Monday’s strike.

The IDF maintains that the two incidents were the result of failed rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas operatives.

More than anything else, this shows the bias of the reporters in Gaza who cannot be bothered to tweet the facts and instead make assumptions - assumptions that are miraculously always against Israel. At the very least their reports - and tweets are exactly that, reports - should say simply that  there was an explosion, without assuming one way or the other.

The stunning part is that their employers, supposedly dedicated to truth and fairness, don't fire them or re-assign them on the spot. A reporter who shows that they cannot maintain objectivity should not be working, period.

Anti-semitism in anti-Israel protests? I'm shocked! (ElderToon)

From the socialist Worker's Liberty site:

I told the man that racism had no place on the demonstration, that his presence harmed the Palestinian cause, and that the document he was promoting was a racist hoax. In the course of what was probably a not a very coherent tirade from me, I mentioned that I was Jewish.

“Well, you're blinded by your bias because you're a Jew”, he said. “Only Jews make the arguments you're making.”

Thereafter the “discussion” became more heated, and several onlookers were drawn in. Several people backed me up, but several defended him.

Their defences ranged from, “he's opposing Zionists, not Jews”, to “he's not racist, Zionism is racist!”, to the perhaps more honest “Jews are the problem. If you're a Jew, you're racist, you're what we're demonstrating against.” One man, topless, but wearing a balaclava, said “fuck off, unless you want your fucking head kicked in.”

I walked away, angry and upset. I returned a short while later to find the placard-holder embracing two young men, before leaving. When me and some comrades challenged them, they told us he wasn't anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist. “Look, it says 'Zion'”, not 'Jews'. 'Zion' means Zionists”, one helpfully informed us.

...In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, some Workers' Liberty members in Sheffield (three of us, incidentally, Jewish) took placards on a demonstration against the assault which, amongst other things, said “No to IDF, no to Hamas.” As it happens, I now think, for various reasons, that our slogan was misjudged. But no-one attempted to engage us in debate or discussion about it; we were simply screamed at, called (variously) “scabs” and “Zionists”, and told we must immediately leave the demo (we didn't). Our placards were ripped out of our hands and torn to pieces.

I don't make the comparison in order to express a wish that what happened to us in 2009 had happened to him in 2014. I wouldn't particularly advocate physically destroying the man's placard, or attempting to physically drive him and his supporters off the demonstration. But a movement in which “no to IDF, no to Hamas” is considered beyond the pale even for debate and discussion, and must be violently confronted, but a placard promoting The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion can be carried without challenge, even for a moment, and its carrier find numerous defenders, needs to change its political culture.
The author still downplays leftist antisemitism as an aberration despite his own experiences. Perhaps he should read this report from one of those horrible right-wingers about what is happening across  Europe nowadays:

People who are "visibly Jewish," people wearing identifiably Jewish dress, have found themselves targeted for abuse. Demonstrators at the biggest central London march assaulted and verbally abused a Jewish woman who had expressed her support for Israel, calling her a "Jew Zionist" among other things, before stealing her mobile phone. In North London, a rabbi was abused by a group of 'youths' who shouted "F*** the Zionists," "F*** the Jews" and "Allah Akhbar."

All of this is mild compared to what has been going on across the English Channel in France. In suburbs and parts of central Paris the violence being perpetrated against the Jewish community culminated in the disturbing spectacle of Parisian Jews barricaded in a synagogue by a crowd of young North Africans seemingly intent on violence. When the police failed to turn up in any numbers, the Jews fought for themselves. These were not all "Jewish vigilantes" as some of the press disturbingly reported -- Jews in their 40s and 50s fighting their way through a mob.

Since then, the French authorities have banned -- as French authorities have the right to do -- some other planned "pro-Palestinian" protests. But the bans seem not to have worked. "Youths," as the media are prone to title the rioters, who mainly come from the suburbs of Paris and other cities, have taken to the streets, anyhow. There are videos of them smashing up pavements in order to get chunks of asphalt to hurl at police. A Paris suburb with a large Jewish -- not Israeli, just Jewish -- population has been a particular focus of protestors. In some video footage, protestors have been shown attacking police cars and assaulting public and private property. The French authorities are clearly trying to get a handle on the protests, but to a considerable extent, events have slipped from their control.

Similar scenes have been seen across the continent. In the Netherlands -- fresh from witnessing a pro-ISIS rally in Amsterdam -- there have been serious incidents at protests. There have been anti-Semitic chants, and the home of the Chief Rabbi in the Netherlands has been attacked twice in one week. In Austria, a soccer game involving an Israeli team had to be called off after Palestinian demonstrators broke onto the pitch. The stands had people waving anti-Israel banners and Turkish flags. But once they were on the pitch, the protestors assaulted the Israeli players, doing flying kicks at them and then further kicking and punching them. Some of the Israeli players fought back and the game was halted.
Most disturbing of all, perhaps, have been events in Germany. During pro-Palestinian protests in Berlin and other German cities, there were chants of "Death to the Jews" and "Gas the Jews." The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, described some of the demonstrations as "an explosion of evil and violence-prone hatred of Jews. Never in our lives did we believe it possible that antisemitism of the nastiest and most primitive kind would be chanted on the streets of Germany."

And it is in Germany that such sentiments have met their most appropriate public and political opposition. There, at least, the nature of these protests has not been glossed over. On the contrary there has been a suitable soul-racking over this. How could such a cry have gone up in this country, of all countries? The major German magazine, Bild, has run a cover with the headline, "Raise your voice: Never again Jew Hatred!" The cover is dotted with famous figures in German public life from the President and Chancellor Merkel to other political and public figures. The montage sends out a powerful message. The question is, of course, whether that is enough.

The IDF is not a person. Stop treating it as one.

One of the fundamental mistakes in the coverage of Gaza in the media, in the UN and by so-called "human rights" groups is the utter inability to understand  a basic fact:

The IDF is not a human being.

It is not acting out of malice, or frustration, or revenge.

The IDF have perhaps thousands of targets in Gaza - tunnels, weapons caches, rocket launchers, command and control facilities, terrorist communications infrastructure. It has limited time and resources to destroy them all. It bases its decisions and priorities on intelligence, on real time battle circumstances, on the presence or absence of civilians, and dozens of other factors.

The IDF has layers of command, teams of lawyers reviewing every major decision, checks and balances, auditing and accountability - like any decent sized organization. It has to. It cannot possibly be effective without it.

But from watching the images and listening to the reporting in Gaza, the journalists make assumptions as if the IDF is a whiny toddler who is lashing out at anything and everything.

In other words, the media and politicians are using their ignorance of modern warfare as an excuse to project their own human emotions of irritation or revenge or spite, emotions they might have while driving or at the bar or at work, onto an organization that by definition cannot be driven by knee-jerk emotions.

It is no coincidence that the people who defend the IDF the most are often those with military experience. They know what an army is like and they can see the extraordinary lengths Israel is going to in order to minimize casualties.

This morning, Al Arabiya published this video showing, within one hour, the destruction of a series of building in Beit Hanoun. It is easy, and lazy, to anthropomorphize this to some sort of desire by the IDF to lay Gaza to waste within a single hour before a ceasefire. But let's look at it a little more closely:

The implication is that Israel is wantonly and methodically destroying buildings for no reason.

But the video actually shows what is almost certainly an attempt to destroy a Hamas terror tunnel under the buildings.

Nearly all of the explosions seen are in a straight line from left to right, only the second explosion seems to be in a different area, probably a different operation.

More than once, there seem to be secondary explosions of (presumably) weapons caches, at least at 0:17 and 0:42.

Tunnels under buildings cannot be destroyed without destroying the buildings. And we know that Hamas has built hundreds of such tunnels under buildings in Gaza. By any measure, they are a valid primary military objective.

People who think that the IDF is bombing buildings just for fun, or for revenge, or purely for spite to hurt Gazans show that they are biased from the outset. Professional armies don't act the way humans do - not when each bomb costs tens of thousands of dollars and when every shell must be accounted for and justified. There are plenty of real targets in Gaza thanks to Hamas and the other terror groups, and the idea that the IDF is only trying to make people miserable - a subtext of many clueless reporters' stories - is nothing but slander.

The media and NGOs cannot admit when they don't know what's going on, That's why you are hearing  a constant refrain of "indiscriminate bombing" and the like. But two seconds of thought show that this is a reflection of ignorance, not of knowledge. There is no military or political  advantage for indiscriminate bombing, and as even HRW admits when it is defending terrorists, intention is the key. Without knowing the intent of the IDF  - something that it cannot reveal in real time without affecting its abilities - everything else is just guesswork, and those guesses more often than not reflect the biases of the reporters and NGOs rather than anything approaching reality.

Without understanding Arab/Muslim honor, you cannot understand the Middle East

Ma'an reports that Hamas politburo leader Khaled Meshal was interviewed by Charlie Rose:
Asked by veteran interviewer Charlie Rose whether he could foresee living beside Israelis in peace, Meshaal said only a future Palestinian state could decide whether to recognize Israel.

"We are not fanatics, we are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers," he said.

"I'm ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs," he said. "However, I do not coexist with the occupiers."
Of course, Rose apparently wasn't astute enough to ask Hamas about their charter which says something a little different:

Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realised.

..."The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

...The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews' usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised. To do this requires the diffusion of Islamic consciousness among the masses, both on the regional, Arab and Islamic levels. It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters.
To understand Meshal's words and his Hamas Charter, one needs to understand the twin concepts of dhimmitude and honor.

In Islamic thought, Jews and Christians who live in Muslim lands are considered "dhimmis" - citizens who are allowed to live in relative peace as long as they pay a poll tax and are denied equal political rights. The tacit assumption is that Christians and Jews are meant to be second-class citizens, forever weak and obedient, under Muslim rule.

When European Christians started to beat back Muslim imperialist conquests in the 16th century, it was a huge turning point for Islam, which had until then assumed that its power would remain unchecked. (remember that Islam is both a religion and a political system.) Losing to huge Christian forces, while a big setback, was not considered disastrous to the Muslim psyche, because there is still some honor in losing to a superior enemy.

The tiny Jewish people, on the other hand, were seen as permanently weak and easily subdued. The idea that they could defeat Muslims militarily is a huge source of shame, and Muslim (especially Arab) society cannot abide shame.

The rise of Zionism and the eventual birth of Israel is considered the prototypical Muslim and Arab catastrophe - the "Nakba.:"

Keep in mind that Israel was not created by the UN's 1947 partition plan, as people mistakenly believe. That resolution was not accepted by the Arabs and therefore had no legal weight as a General Assembly resolution. No, Israel was wholly created by the military victory of the supposedly weak, dhimmi Jews over the combined, seemingly superior armies of the Arabs and Muslims.

Even worse, this tiny country divided the Arab world in half, severing the land bridge between Egypt and the African Arab countries and those in Asia.

The idea that Jews - weak, dhimmified Jews - could beat Arabs militarily was a stunning blow to Arab honor. And everything that Arabs have done since 1948 has been in pursuit of regaining their lost honor.

The Yom Kippur War was nothing but an Egyptian bid to eliminate its shame at losing the Six Day War. During peace negotiations, Sadat insisted that every grain of sand in the Sinai be returned to Egypt, because even a loss of a square millimeter of land would be an admission of defeat and therefore shameful.

Egypt's goals in both war and peace were driven primarily by the Arab need for honor.

For Palestinian Arabs, their national identity is defined not by who they are but by what they claim to have lost. There was no Palestinian identity before Zionism - no nation, no language, no flag, no culture that was considered "Palestinian" as opposed to Levantine or Arab. Their modern self-perception as a nation is a reflection of their resentment of Israel, not of any positive "Palestinianism."

Hamas and Fatah, the two leading Palestinian Arab political parties today, agree that Israel must be destroyed in order to rectify what is to them an anomalous Jewish nationalism and a shameful failure of their people and of the Muslim/Arab nations as a whole (respectively.)

Fatah is using the Arafat-designed strategy of "phases," by first gaining political power and land, and then leveraging it to consolidate and increase its power until Israel no longer exists as a Jewish state.

Hamas is more direct: they want to destroy Israel outright, both by direct military action and their hope that they can make life for Israelis so unbearable that they will force a mass migration. (Hamas isn't even interested in a Palestinian state except as a means to rebuild the Caliphate, and Zionists are considered the main obstacle to that much larger goal.)

But both groups are motivated, above all, by their seeking to regain their lost honor. Ordinary Palestinian Arabs have internalized this goal as can be seen in even recent surveys. As long as Israel exists, real peace is not possible (although detente with a strong and convincingly invincible Israel is the best that can be imagined.)

Meshal's supposedly generous offer to co-exist with Jews means that he wants to erase Israel, destroy Zionism and magnanimously allow Jews to return to their rightful place as weak, politically impotent dhimmis under benevolent Muslim rule. It is slightly more generous that the still unmodified PLO's 1968 charter, that states "The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion [1917] will be considered Palestinians" when Israel is destroyed.

In short, Israel's existence is an unspeakable affront to the honor of Arabs and Muslims. Just as murder is often considered the only way to remove the stain of family shame, the destruction of Israel is the only way for Arabs to remove the shame of being defeated by weak Jews. The methods vary from military to political to demographic to public relations, but the desired end state is the same.

Without understanding this you cannot understand the Middle East.

Al Ahram writer who praised Netanyahu suddenly dies

A few weeks ago, Azza Sami, deputy editor of Egypt's'Al Ahram newspaper, wrote a controversial post on her Facebook page blessing Netanyahu for going after Hamas, and later clarifying that she really only meant to talk about her disgust for Hamas.

On Thursday, while on vacation in an Egyptian resort, Sami suddenly died.

Her Facebook page no longer has those posts.

(h/t O)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why are the only stories out of Gaza the ones Hamas wants the world to see?

David Zurawik, TV critic for The Baltimore Sun, is ecstatic over the coverage of dead kids in Gaza:
From an Al Jazeera story
“There were only a couple Western journalists in Gaza when Israel invaded in 2008,” says Michael Calderone, Huffington Post senior media reporter. “Now, there are dozens covering every air strike in real-time through social media, complete with graphic images of Palestinian civilians, and even children, being killed and injured. So there's a disconnect between Israeli officials' repeated claims on TV about fighting terrorism and extensive footage we're seeing of Israel bombing schools, shelters and hospitals in Gaza.”

As Calderone sees it, such images have upended traditional packaging of stories out of Gaza.

“The American public may have seen a few stray images or video clips from Gaza in the past as part of a TV package, but such scenes would be interspersed with the views from experts and government officials,” he said in an email to The Sun. “A network correspondent now can take a heartbreaking video of a Palestinian mother grieving for her lost son, post it on Facebook, and the video will go viral several hours before the evening newscast.

An online headline from New York Magazine last week put it this way: "'Telegenically dead Palestinians:' Why Israel is losing the American media war."

No one is doing a more thorough job of covering the death and destruction in Gaza than Al Jazeera. Social media are absolutely a driving force in the shift in coverage, but I also believe the heavy presence of Al Jazeera and the excellent work its correspondents and producers are doing have raised the games of all the news organizations on the ground.
Not that Al Jazeera is alone in showing the carnage — far from it.

NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin has been filing superb reports since the start of the month...[including] coverage this past week of four Palestinian teens being killed by Israeli artillery fire while playing soccer on a beach was heart-rending.

That’s the story that tipped the balance,” Seib said. “It was so moving, and journalists were right there to report it rather than recounting it third-hand after the fact.”

CNN’s Ben Wedeman has done outstanding work as well. As Israel stepped up artillery and air strikes, Wedeman filed a report in which he followed a Palestinian family of five trying to flee a neighborhood in Gaza City that had been served notice by the Israel Defense Forces that it was about to destroyed.

The CNN camera caught the panic and horror in the faces of two little girls as the first artillery shell rocked the ground on which they stood. The look on one girl’s face and the shriek of terror from her little sister at the sound of the explosion spoke volumes about the kind of emotional and psychological damage being inflicted on another generation.

And now comes Richard Engel, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, who on Wednesday filed as powerful a report as I have seen in the past two weeks. It featured him riding in Palestinian ambulances that were hopelessly trying to keep up with the injured and dying.

Graphic footage from the report included that of a 24-year-old Palestinian woman buried alive under the debris of a building. She looked like a corpse, with only her grime-encrusted head showing above the dust and dirt. Then her eyes opened slightly and lips moved — followed by a hand rising from the rubble.
Even worse, Zurawik takes it as a given that bullets that hit the Al Jazeera offices last week came from a command from the IDF brass, an absolutely baseless and absurd accusation. There are a lot of layers of command in a modern army, and the idea that an entire chain of command told some Israeli sniper to gratuitously send a message to Al Jazeera - one that would obviously backfire - is nothing but a conspiracy theory.

But how can he know any better? All he sees is one-sided video coverage from Gaza, coverage that is intended to pluck the heartstrings and to attract journalism prizes. All he sees - as a TV critic - are images that demonize the IDF.

And he calls this outstanding journalism.

There is no doubt that those heartbreaking videos are newsworthy. But there are a lot of stories that are not being covered, or that are being buried, in Gaza. A real critic would not only fawn over the coverage that is being broadcast but demand the coverage that isn't.

Hamas' Interior Ministry instructed Gazans not to discuss anything about Hamas militants, or rocket positions, or military funerals, or anything else that would discuss terrorists shooting rockets in Gaza or using human shields. Some Hamas members or sympathizers are taking that directive much further, actually threatening journalists who report on Hamas firing positions, Hamas gunmen hiding, or Hamas rockets that fall short, or Hamas using civilians as human shields, according to a Jerusalem Post report last week.

It seems unlikely that a bullet would stop Al Jazeera reporters. On the contrary, they would wear it as a badge of honor. It seems far more likely that physical threats against reporters in Gaza would place a chilling affect on their choice of topics.

There are other stories that are being all but ignored by journalists. As I reported, a French-Palestinian journalist told another reporter that he was intimidated by members of the Hamas Al Qsssam Brigades from their office next to the emergency room at Shifa Hospital.

That story was taken down at the reporter's request, no doubt because of threats.

Similarly, Wall Street Journal reporter Nick Casey noted that Hamas created a TV studio in the same hospital and tweeted a photo of a Hamas politician being interviewed there.

He took down that tweet as well.

There is a pattern here. The most prominent stories out of Gaza are the ones that Hamas wants the world to see. The stories that Hamas emphatically do not want want covered are being given short shrift, and finding them is not easy. And too many journalists are seemingly self-censoring out of fear of Hamas.

That is a story a real journalist would cover.

There are essentially no photos or video showing Hamas militants. No coverage of militant funerals (a Fatah funeral was covered incidentally.) Next to no coverage of Hamas rockets falling short in Gaza. Reporters aren't even entertaining the possibility that Hamas could be responsible for any of the damage they are seeing.

Hamas is heavily armed. Hamas has thousands of mortars, rockets, anti-tank guided missiles and more. The fighting has been fierce by any account, killing dozens of IDF soldiers. Hundreds of Hamas rockets aimed at Israel are falling in Gaza Why is every projectile that hits every home and school assumed to be from the IDF?

By any measure, the IDF spends more effort safeguarding the people of Gaza than Hamas does.

By any measure, Hamas has more to gain by the deaths of civilians than the IDF does.

Yet the journalists in Gaza are more interested in blaming Israel for dead children than in actually researching whether Hamas may have killed them - accidentally or otherwise.

Here is a story you will never see from any Gaza reporter, or even from an international reporter in Israel, of testimony from an IDF soldier:

At first, when we crossed the fence and went into Gazan territory, it looked like another training exercise. We felt they would be no match for us, that we were a lot stronger. But the next day, Friday morning, I realized what the difference was between Hamas and us. We saw an elderly man lying wounded on the ground with a bullet in his leg. I approached him to help him up. I stretched out my hand and touched him, and it was then I realized that there were grenades around and underneath him. We moved back, and then he came to throw the grenade at us. One of the soldiers reacted quickly and shot him. Then we learned that he had been 76 years old, and that he had already been in prison in Israel. The level of cynicism they can reach is just beyond belief.
Perhaps reporters have reason to be skeptical of such a claim. That is not a reason not to cover it. They are reporting on Gaza civilian casualties without any skepticism as to whether they are really civilian.

The Israeli side of the story is not getting nearly the same attention as the stories that Hamas wants the world to hear. The narratives of a terror organization are being repeated verbatim while Israeli officials, who have a lot more to lose by lying, are assumed to be doing exactly that.

A real journalist would be uncomfortable by this double standard. Praising the relentless one-sided reporting because it is more emotional betrays journalism itself.

(h/t Soccer Dad's Dad)