Common Sense: How Naive Does Israel Think the World Is?
The past two weeks of following mainstream news coverage of the Israeli assault on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been excruciating in many ways.
First, of course, is seeing and hearing about all the civilian casualties and the brutality of the Israeli military in mercilessly bombarding a helpless population.
Secondly, so much of what the Israeli spokespeople and their supporters spew makes absolutely no sense. Any half-wit can see right through the bullshit, and the fact that these people have a platform to speak from is nauseating. Is it that these people are really that stupid, or do they think everyone else is stupid enough to believe their half-baked stories?
I Don’t Think the Word “Surgical” Means What You Think It Means
One of the talking points we hear repeatedly in mainstream media outlets is that the difference between Israeli and Palestinian military operations is that Israel is “surgical” in its attacks on Gaza, carefully avoiding civilian deaths, whereas Hamas “indiscriminately” fires rockets at Israel with no concern for civilian life.
Contrary to this impression, however, human rights groups have carefully investigated numerous Israeli strikes of the past week and concluded that most of them “did not attack a legitimate military target or attacked despite the likelihood of civilian casualties being disproportionate to the military gain.” Furthermore, the Israeli military has presented no evidence “to show that it was attacking lawful military objectives or acted to minimize civilian casualties.” As such, these strikes constitute war crimes.
Even in the absence of formal investigations, the numbers don’t lie. As of July 16th, according to the official United Nations report, as high as 80% of the dead in Gaza since airstrikes began have been civilian casualties and nearly half of those civilians were women and children. Of the 1,585 Palestinians injured, over 45% have been women and children.
How “surgical” can Israeli bombardment be if as high as 4 out of every 5 killed are civilians and 2 out of every 5 are women and children?
The Vague Notion of “Militant”
If Israel is not purposely targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, it is doing a rather poor job of demonstrating otherwise. The Israeli Defense Force, for example, maintains that it only strikes militant homes as well as “command centers” it claims store weapons.
First of all, it would be good to understand how Israel defines “militant.” Statements from the army claim that “anyone affiliated with Hamas terrorism” is considered a militant.
But, let’s not forget that Hamas is the ruling political party in Gaza, democratically elected in 2006, with 42,000 public servants, including police officers, firemen, municipal workers, etc. As such, if Israel considers any connection to Hamas as a tie to terrorism, then a large proportion of Palestinian civilians — men, women, and children — will have some connection to the group and, hence, fall under Israel’s loose definition of “militant.”
Furthermore, what kind of “affiliation” matters? If someone’s wife’s cousin’s barber’s uncle is a member of Hamas, does that mean that that person is “affiliated” with Hamas terrorism? Israel has not addressed these basic but crucial questions.
An Imaginary Gazan Weapon Supply Line
Well, what about the bombing of “command centers” purported to store and deploy weapons?
For argument’s sake, we can disregard recent examples of Israel, for instance, bombing a beach, killing 4 kids playing soccer. Maybe the Israeli bombers mistook sand castles for Hamas command centers, or maybe those children were militants.
Beach bombing aside, the UN estimates that 1,660 Gazan homes have been destroyed in a week of air strikes. Are we to seriously believe that Hamas has stockpiled enough weapons to need well over a thousand separate buildings to store it all, buildings that also serve as homes for civilians? My question is, where is Hamas getting all these weapons that Israel claims it has? It’s not like Gaza has open borders or an airport to smuggle in major weapons shipments.
Let’s ignore the fact that Israel has produced no evidence of these stockpiled weapons, other than some grainy aerial photos that show nothing other than rooftops. When asked for more compelling evidence that homes in Gaza are being used for military operations, army spokesmen never provide specifics, only saying, “Our intelligence knows where [militants] are.”
Humanitarian Aid vs. Weapons
In fact, Israel has done a fantastic job at blocking all kinds of humanitarian aid from getting into Gaza over the years. Yet, Israel claims that Hamas is able to import hundreds of tons of weapons into Gaza unimpeded and then stockpile these weapons throughout civilian areas.
You can’t have it both ways — you can’t successfully block all manner of humanitarian aid, on the one hand, and, on the other, claim Gaza has a weapons supply line.
After all, has it been that difficult for Israel to control Gaza’s borders? To get a sense of how small the Gaza Strip is consider that it is one-tenth the land area of Long Island, New York, half the size of Tampa, Florida, or slightly smaller than Victorville, California or Plano, Texas. So, we’re not talking about a lot of border to monitor.
Besides the small size of Gaza, its borders with Egypt and Israel itself are blocked with heavily secured barriers, hermetically sealing Gaza from all sides. Yet, we’re supposed to believed that, against all odds, somehow Hamas is still able to get substantial amounts of weapons and the material for weapons from outside its borders.
Is the Iron Dome a Bluff?
In any case, if Hamas has this ominous rocket capability, where is all the damage to Israel from “indiscriminate” rocket fire? Where are these Hamas rockets causing damage to property and civilian life? Again, real evidence is sparse to non-existent. Consider this video footage of a Hamas “rocket” disturbing the sleep of a poor cat. As it turns out, a lot of Israel’s pets and farm animals are losing valuable shut-eye because of those pesky Hamas rockets.
Well, what about the “Iron Dome” that is supposedly protecting Israel by intercepting Hamas rockets day and night? Wouldn’t it be crazy if it turns out that “Iron Dome” is just a bluff, that there is no real threat from any rockets that Hamas might have the wherewithal to launch? Wouldn’t it be crazy if “Iron Dome” and all the rocket sirens Israelis hear on a regular basis are just part of an elaborate show with all the pyrotechnics and high production values? That’s exactly what some scientists and aerospace engineers speculate, as investigated by Haaretz and the MIT Technology Review:
“Israel Defense Prize laureate and aerospace engineer Dr. Moti Shefer, whose specialty is interception missiles, says Iron Dome is a bluff. It doesn’t intercept anything but rather invents virtual rockets. The explosions we hear are the sounds of Iron Dome missiles self-destructing. As of the writing of these lines, Hamas rockets have done very little damage to people and property. We see this as proof of Iron Dome’s efficacy and reliability; [but] Shefer says the number of rockets coming in from the Gaza Strip is immeasurably smaller than what Iron Dome reports and in any case they are tinpot weapons, so 95 percent of the time we are safe anyway, irrespective of Iron Dome.”
Of course, from the perspective of occupation, this would all make sense. At some point, Israeli leadership had to realize that the Palestinians would be too destitute, too feeble to muster any kind of serious resistance to the occupation. But without precisely that resistance, neither Israel’s moderate to left-leaning citizens nor the world would stand for what would be seen as mass displacement, at best, effective genocide, at worst. So, you simply invent the threat. This is not something Western governments are inexperienced with.
The IDF often argues that Hamas uses human shields to deter Israel from attacking “legitimate military targets.” But what does this “shielding” consist of? Again, Gaza is an area not larger than a small American city like Plano, Texas. Whereas Plano has 270,000 residents, Gaza has 1.6 million and is one of the most densely populated areas in world. So, in effect, any operation, military or otherwise, will have to be within some distance of civilians. And Israel knows this because, again, Gaza’s borders are all but sealed.
What is ironic is that it is Israel’s aggressive expansion onto Palestinian land that forces Palestinians to live in such overpopulated ghettos like Gaza. And then, when Palestinians attempt to defend themselves and their land from these tight quarters, Israel accuses them of using human shields!
But, let’s be honest. Even if Hamas were deliberately using human shields, it is not like that has deterred the IDF one iota in its brutal bombing campaign. Again, were the 4 boys playing soccer on the beach human shields?
Finally, the UN has reported that it is Israel that uses Palestinian children as human shields:
“Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings before them and to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing.
“Almost all those using children as human shields and informants have remained unpunished and the soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a nine-year-old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted.”
Advanced Warning for Militants
By far the most outlandish claim that the Israeli military makes is that it tells Palestinian civilians to evacuate an area by sending advanced warning to the neighborhoods it plans to strike via pamphlet drops, text messages, and even “roof knocking” warning mortar shells.
First of all, as Jon Stewart pointed out, where are civilians going to evacuate to when every land border is blocked? The Mediterranean Sea?
Second, what is the logic of sending advanced warning to a bombing target?
Presumably, the Israeli military wants to kill militants and destroy weapons caches, you know, allegedly the whole point of these air strikes. Doesn’t sending advanced notice kind of defeat the purpose? I’m sure any “Hamas affiliated” militants appreciate the convenience of receiving text messages from the IDF specifying exactly when and where the next bomb will drop.
To a person more cynical than myself, it might even seem that Israel is only using these advanced warnings as a ploy to give the appearance that they are concerned with preventing civilian casualties.
I may not be a cynic, but I’m not naive either. For me, Israel’s justifications for its brutal siege on Palestinian civilian infrastructure don’t pass the common sense test. Hopefully, other people of conscience and basic logic will continue to stand up against what has become the latest humanitarian crime against Palestine.