Operation Protective Edge
Hear what a former British soldier has to say about Israeli war crimes…
No Winners In Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire
by Ben Caspit
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal have been going at it for 17 years. The saga began during Netanyahu’s first term (1996-99), as a young Israeli prime minister. After a long quiet spell, Hamas started rearing its head, conducting suicide bombings in Israel proper. Netanyahu looked for ways to carry out a “low signature” strike at the organization. Being his usual self, Netanyahu abhorred head-on confrontations, real wars or forceful moves that might have rattled his seat. He preferred to operate under the radar. Back then, Meshaal was relatively anonymous — a senior Hamas militant residing in Jordan, thought by the Israeli Shin Bet and Mossad to be one of the “heads of the snake.”
Netanyahu instructed the Mossad to assassinate Meshaal “quietly.” The operation took place in September 1997, but Meshaal survived the assassination attempt. His standing skyrocketed, making him the most prominent leader in the organization under Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. When the latter was assassinated by Israel in 2004, Meshaal became the landlord. It is uncertain whether that would have been the case had it not been for this earlier assassination attempt.
Meshaal survived thanks to an operational blunder by Kidon (“bayonet”) — the Mossad’s hit-man unit. The poison that should have been sprayed on the back of his neck hit his ear. The entire incident, designed to have been well-orchestrated and to have taken place quietly, turned into a brawl. A manhunt ensued, which subsequently led to the arrest of two of the would-be assassins, who identified themselves as Canadians. The failure turned into a resounding diplomatic defense farce, forcing Netanyahu to urgently dispatch Mossad Director Danny Yatom to Jordan and provide the Jordanians with the antidote to neutralize the effect of the poison, which would have killed Meshaal within a few hours.
That’s exactly what happened. Danny Yatom hurriedly flew to Jordan and Meshaal’s life was spared. To get its agents back, Israel was forced to release Yassin, the leader of Hamas, from prison. Netanyahu came out of this affair with a fact-finding commission, humiliation and quite a headache. Since then, Meshaal has continued to soar in the skies of the Middle East as the organization’s chief facilitator. And he remains so to date. Netanyahu’s headache turned into a migraine.
Until the morning of Aug. 26, while I was writing this article, everyone awaited Meshaal’s decision. One of the more resounding intelligence failures during Operation Protective Edge was the erroneous assessment regarding the dominant hierarchy in Hamas and Meshaal’s near-absolute power, as well as the organization’s strategic situation prior to the operation, whose mindset was “sink or swim.”
As for Meshaal himself, he was caught in a typical Catch-22. Having climbed a high horse, he brought about unprecedented devastation to Gaza as well as some 2,000 fatalities. On top of that, he also lost two of his greatest strategic assets — the tunnels and the rockets — and led to the extreme isolation of Hamas in the Arab world. To justify all this, he needed his people to see he had something to show for it.
The problem is that there were two powerful elements resolved to prevent him from making any significant gains — to wit, Israel and Egypt.
Israel, for obvious reasons, has its citizens to defend. And what about Egypt? The same applies. Hamas has long been declared the enemy of the Egyptian people. Its president, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has vowed revenge on Hamas. The Egyptians are having a great time with the current turn of events, having no intention of handing Meshaal a ladder to climb down or giving him a hand. So Meshaal continued to vacillate, had second thoughts and hunkered down. But the more he continued, the worse the situation for his people in Gaza became.
Netanyahu, too, has his share of problems. The Israeli school year is slated to begin next week, on Sept. 1. The residents of the Gaza periphery have by and large evacuated their homes. The tourist industry is paralyzed and the economy is taking a beating. Additionally, the prime minister’s approval ratings are plummeting.
So which of the two — Netanyahu or Meshaal — will reach his breaking point first? That question was on everybody’s mind in recent days. In the end, they both reached that point almost at the same time. The one who held it up was Meshaal, but in the end, he, too, consented. He didn’t really have much choice. Thus, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a cease-fire, to which Hamas gave its support. Israel followed suit immediately.
“Netanyahu has known Meshaal for nearly two decades,” said a senior Israeli diplomatic official, even before the cease-fire. “He has studied him inside out. He knows almost everything there is to know about him. I think he prefers to play against him than against any other reality that will take place once he is gone.”
The source was alluding to reports about deliberations among top Israeli officials whether to instruct the security apparatus to include Meshaal on Israel’s hit list. Certain statements to this effect have already been heard, mainly by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who also said that Hamas’ political leaders “can be killed,” too.
Some top Israeli defense officials had pushed for Meshaal’s assassination since the start of Operation Protective Edge, arguing that he is the cause of Hamas’ extremism. Being the main obstacle to reaching a resolution, he forces his will on Hamas’ military wing as well as the organization’s political leadership in Gaza. Until he is assassinated, there is no possibility of bringing some sort of sanity into the region.
Pitted against them is Netanyahu. He’s already tried to assassinate Meshaal once and barely survived it himself. He will invariably prefer the known bad to the mysterious unknown that follows. Netanyahu is very strong at making statements and threats, but Operation Protective Edge exposed him for all his failings when it comes to taking action, even to those who doubted that.
As noted, on the evening of Aug. 26, the much-hoped for response finally arrived. It is too early to say who wins, who loses and what the strategic repercussions of Operation Protective Edge will be. What is clear, however, is who did pay a price: The Palestinian people, with thousands of fatalities and casualties; the Israeli people, with dozens of dead soldiers; an entire region that was bombed and turned into a semi-deserted frontier; and peace proponents from both sides.
From Netanyahu’s standpoint, this is the lesser of two evils. He knows that as soon as the war drums in Gaza quiet down, his personal war of survival will begin.
On Aug. 25, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the prime minister’s approval ratings plummeted to merely 38%, compared with 82% just a few weeks ago. And he has yet to face the deadly political criticism, which will come mainly from the right wing. So it is not only Meshaal’s fate that will be sealed in the coming weeks, but also Netanyahu’s. These two have not been able to break loose from each other’s stranglehold for 17 years.
Nearly all Palestinians favor Gaza rockets against Israel
|A poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion has found 88.9% support the firing of rockets from Gaza at Israel and 75.4% believe that “Palestinian Resistance” deterrence has increased.|
That’s a fact worth remembering when the media attempts to create a totally bogus distinction between Gazan civilians and the Hamas terrorists whom they elected as their government.
While Hamas’s leadership goes underground, the civilian population is not only deprived of bomb shelters, it is purposely exposed to the fighting.
For instance, on recent Sunday, Israel carried out an air strike near a UN-operated school in Rafah that left 10 people dead. A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, was quick to jump to conclusions. He described the attack as “a moral outrage and a criminal act.” He went on to say “This attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable.”
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, also was quick to indict Israel. She described the bombing as “disgraceful,” adding, “We once again stress that Israel has to do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”
But closer examination of the case paints a more complex picture. An IAF fighter plane fired on three Islamic Jihad terrorists riding motorcycles. They were hit near the entrance to the UN school in Rafah. According to the IDF, it is not immediately clear whether the deaths of seven civilians killed along with the three Islamic Jihad terrorists was a result of the rocket Israel fired or whether it was caused by explosions resulting from bombs carried by the terrorists. The fact that this was a moving target further complicates the matter. But what is absolutely clear is that the school was not targeted.
Israel is also being accused of killing a disproportionate number of civilians. Many numbers are being bandied about regarding the ratio of civilians to combatants.
The UN claims that civilians make up 72 percent of the Palestinian deaths. Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, an NGO that refers to the IDF as the “Israeli occupations forces,” claims that 82% were civilians.
The IDF, based on reports by soldiers’ identity confirmations before attacks and declarations by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, says that 900 terrorists were killed.
A New York Times analysis, based on 1,431 Palestinian names, showed that the population most likely to be terrorists, men aged 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll. They are 9% of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents, but 34% of those killed.
Still, determining the precise number of combatants is notoriously difficult for a number of reasons. First, the very of definition of combatant is contested. Absurdly, if a Hamas terrorist fires a rocket and then returns to his civilian life, he ceases to be a combatant, according to a Q and A provided by Human Rights Watch on its website: “Civilians lose their immunity from attack when and only for such times as they are directly participating in hostilities,” says HRW.
Another major problem is the unreliability of the data.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations are doing their utmost to conceal the number of combatants who were killed. They do this by lying about names when providing data to the media.
And of course the most egregious violation is Hamas’s active attempts to get as many civilians killed as possible.
While Hamas’s leadership goes underground, the civilian population is not only deprived of bomb shelters, it is purposely exposed to the fighting. Rocket launchings as staged from crowded civilians areas (as documented by India’s brave NDTV news crew). Hamas and Islamic Jihad purposely use hospitals, schools and mosques to store arms. There have even been cases where Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists have forcibly prevented civilians from leaving areas slated for an IDF air strike.
At the very least, the tremendous complexities of the fighting in Gaza should engender a bit more reticence on the part of world leaders such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who called for the suspension of UK-arms export licenses to Israel, and Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, who accused Israel of perpetrating war crimes.
One wonders what motivates them to be so quick to indict Israel. Whatever it is, it has little to do with morality or the pursuit of justice.
‘Non-Kosher’ Islamists And ‘Kosher’ Ones
by HERB KEINON
Wednesday felt uncomfortably a lot like those first early days of Operation Protective Edge.
Hamas fired rockets, we attacked targets from the air; they fired more rockets, we hit more targets from the air. And in the meantime, the airwaves were full of speculation about whether Israel should commit ground forces into Gaza, and if so how far they should go.
Related: Obama calls Islamic State a ‘cancer’ after graphic threatNetanyahu: Hamas leaders are legitimate targets, no one is invincibleDidn’t we just have that debate? Forty-four days after the start of the Gaza operation, we seem to be back at the very beginning. But don’t be fooled, or, rather, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should not be fooled, because the ground has shifted – it has shifted internationally, and it has shifted domestically.
As we stand poised on the brink of what seems like the second half of this bloody round, the international leeway and legitimacy that Israel enjoyed at the beginning – largely because it restrained itself for days while rockets were fired from Gaza – has been largely depleted.
The accumulated impact of the images of the dead and dying in Gaza has taken its toll. If Jerusalem launches another ground incursion – this time with the aim of toppling Hamas – it is unlikely to merit the same degree of understanding, or be given the same amount of time to try and achieve its objectives, as at the beginning of the campaign.
Certainly not from the US, where last week’s decision to put arms sales to Israel under White House supervision was a clear indication of US annoyance and impatience.
While some might think that the sudden surge of Islamic State will give Israel a greater degree of understanding in the world – it was indeed telling to hear French President François Hollande on Wednesday talk about convening an international conference to fight the Islamic extremists – this should not be overstated.
In the fight against the Islamic extremists, there will be those in the international community who will want to signal to the world’s Muslims that they have nothing against them. One way to do this might be to differentiate between the bad evil folks, such as Islamic State – which beheads American journalists in front of video cameras – and the good evil folks: Hamas, which “only” executes kidnapped Jewish youth, something some out there find possible to “understand,” because those youths wore kippot and were hitchhiking near a “settlement.”
All those who think that as a result of the Islamic extremists’ killing of Yezidis, and the gruesome beheading of US journalist James Foley, the West will now take a more understanding view of Israel’s battle with Islamic extremist Hamas, should think again. Hamas will always be given leeway by some of the world’s “progressives” because – after all – they are fighting the “Zionist occupation.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is one of those European leaders who “gets” Israel’s battle against Hamas, penned an op-ed in the Sunday Telegraph under the headline: “ISIL poses a direct and deadly threat to Europe.”
His theme was simple: the Sunni radicals are at Europe’s gates, and the world needs to act.
“These extremists,” Cameron wrote, “often funded by fanatics living far away from the battlefields, pervert the Islamic faith as a way of justifying their warped and barbaric ideology – and they do so not just in Iraq and Syria but right across the world, from Boko Haram and al-Shabaab to the Taliban and al-Qaida.”
Not a word, interestingly, about Hamas, though how natural – considering the current news cycle – it would have been for that brutal terrorist organization to have been included in this group. That’s a sign – and Cameron is a friend.
So much for the shifting international ground.
The domestic grounds have also shifted. On Sunday and Monday, in a sign that Netanyahu had an inkling the cease-fire was going to collapse, he urged the nation to have patience over the long haul.
His words should have been directed to his inner cabinet ministers, as much as to the public. If when the military operation was launched six weeks ago, there was a degree of unity from the ministers in his security cabinet – or at least a wartime attempt to radiate a perception of unity – that has now disappeared.
Two key voices in the cabinet over the last two days have trashed the way Netanyahu is managing the operation. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she never had any faith in the Cairo process, and it was not too late to try something different – enlisting the international community to create a whole new reality in Gaza.
And Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman – who already said “I told you so” last week – repeated that message again on Wednesday, saying that the only thing that would work would be to pound Hamas into submission, something he has advocated from the very beginning.
Two of the other eight ministers in the security cabinet have voiced sharp criticisms of Netanyahu’s policies – with Finance Minister Yair Lapid jumping on the Netanyahu-is-damaging- the-ties-with-Washington bandwagon, and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett continuously repeating Liberman’s refrain: that Hamas must be pummeled.
Netanyahu has only one real ally inside the security cabinet right now: Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Among the two other ministers, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan is unlikely to vote against Netanyahu, but likely to criticize him publicly to gain points inside the Likud; while Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch is seemingly close to Netanyahu philosophically on Gaza, but completely dependent for his political future on Liberman.
If Wednesday does indeed mark the beginning of the second half of the current round of fighting, Netanyahu’s position both internationally and in his own cabinet is not as strong as it was when it all first started six weeks ago. His consolation: Hamas’s problems are even worse.
“The Hand Of God” – Miracles On The Modern Battlefield In Israel
by Debbie Smith
“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied.”(1 Samuel 17:45) These are the famous words uttered by David as he raced to battle the giant Goliath. With a stone and a sling, and the “LORD of Host’s”, David brought down the mighty Philistine hero. As David forewarned the Philistine warrior, “the LORD” delivered Goliath into the hands of David that day!
The Bible is filled with the history of battles won by the God of Israel on behalf of His chosen people. The conquest of the Promised Land and defense of the Kingdom of Israel were accomplished only by the supernatural power of God. Today, Operation Protective Edge is a reminder of the days when Israel fought battles under the protective wings of the God of Israel.
In Biblical style prose, Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Infantry Brigade, recently encouraged his soldiers with these words, “History chose us to be the spearhead in the fight against the ‘Gazan’ terrorist enemy that defies, blasphemes, and curses the God of the armies of Israel.”
Winter added a brief prayer: “I lift up my eyes to heaven and call with you, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!'” The letter ended with a plea for the fulfillment of the verse “The Lord, your God, who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies and gives you victory.”
It is possible to imagine David motivating his armies with a similar message!
s ability to give the victory to His people, Col. Winter witnessed what he called a miracle.
When a predawn raid was delayed, the darkness used to conceal the soldiers was interrupted by approaching sunrise. With the imminent risk of exposure, heavy fog descended and shrouded the fighters, allowing them to complete the mission! The fog lifted when the soldiers were secured!
In spite of such reports, many secular Israeli’s continue to believe that Zionism is enough to motivate young soldiers to risk life and limb for national security. These secularists are outraged by references, like Winters, to the involvement of God in the current Arab-Israeli conflict.
Since the Jews had been expunged out of Palestine for nearly 2000 years, the question can be asked: Was secularism enough to lead the Zionist movement to seek to reestablish a Jewish Homeland? Or was it the promise made by God to Abraham that his offspring, through his son Isaac, would possess the land of Israel forever? (2 Chronicles 20:7)
However, Israelis have been taught that the Israeli-Arab conflict is just a national struggle over territory and that it is best for all involved if God remains out of the picture. They argue that Israel’s existence is justified on the basis of distant history and modern values.
But according to a recent article in Israel Today, ”over the past 10 years, a growing number of Israelis have come to the conclusion that Israel and God are in fact inseparable, and that the existence of the former depends upon that of the latter.”
Events like the following demonstrate how the “LORD of Hosts” defends His name and secures the existence of His people.
When an Iron Dome battery failed three times to intercept an enemy rocket headed for Tel Aviv, “the hand of God” diverted the rocket, according to an operator in the battery.
The commander reported that three interceptors failed to hit their target, an extremely rare event. With only four seconds remaining before the rocket would hit, emergency services were notified of the target location and that mass casualties would occur. The missile would hit a strategically important location in Tel Aviv; hundreds of lives were at stake!
“Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that … sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, ‘There is a God!’ Even the enemy is witnessing miracles! Last month a terrorist from Gaza reportedly stated, when asked why they couldn’t aim their rockets more effectively: “We do aim them, but their God changes their path in mid-air.”
As in times past, God will intercede to fulfill His purpose and protect his people!
Just as in David’s day, wars between the native people of the land and the armies of Israel are not about Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democracy, but rather the Divine mandate of the “LORD of Hosts”, that the Jews will reside in the Promised Land forever and that He will be their Banner!
BROADCAST MEDIA HOSTILITY TOWARDS ISRAEL
by Israel Zwick (Jerusalem Post Article)
The confrontational and hostile interviews with Israeli representatives are a violation and perversion of the basic principles of journalism.
In most cases, I have been shocked and appalled by the aggressive hostility displayed against the Israeli interviewee. Such confrontational interviews are not only a violation of basic rules of courtesy, but are a violation and perversion of the basic concepts of journalism taught in an introductory course.
A journalist should not be displaying hostility and bias against an interviewee who responded to an invitation to appear on the program. A journalist has the responsibility of providing unbiased and accurate information to readers and viewers.
First of all, it isn’t a fair fight to begin with. The media correspondent was chosen for the job partially because of his superb skills with the English language and verbal expression. In contrast, the Israeli interviewee usually does not have English as his dominant language.
The journalist comes prepared with a list of questions, quotes, and statistics which have been previously rehearsed. The Israeli interviewee is not presented with the questions in advance of the interview. Consequently, his struggle with word retrieval, verbal synthesis, and verbal expression, becomes readily apparent, giving him an unfair disadvantage in the eyes of the viewer.
Very often the questions directed at the Israeli interviewee involve the concept of “proportionality” in war, without providing any explanation of the technical meaning of this concept during war. A quick search in Wikipedia reveals that “The harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated by an attack on a military objective.”
In a lengthy, detailed article in the Spring, 2010 edition of The New Atlantis, Keith Pavlischek, a retired US Marine colonel, explains this concept specifically as it applies to Israel’s wars with Hamas and Hezbollah.
The author notes that, “The criterion of discrimination prohibits direct and intentional attacks on noncombatants, although neither international law nor the just war tradition that has morally informed it requires that a legitimate military target must be spared from attack simply because its destruction may unintentionally injure or kill noncombatants or damage civilian property and infrastructure.
“International law and just war theory only insist that the anticipated collateral damage – the “merely foreseen” secondary effects – must be “proportionate” to the military advantage sought in attacking the legitimate military target. This sense of proportionality is the second jus in bello criterion; it has to do almost entirely with the foreseen but unintended harm done to noncombatants and to noncombatant infrastructure…
“The notion that a lopsided casualty ratio between the IDF and Hezbollah or Hamas militants is sufficient evidence of some moral failing on the part of the IDF so radically departs from any recognizable understanding of the requirements of proportionality and so evidences a lack of moral seriousness that one cannot help but wonder whether something even more pernicious was involved. Even some liberal political pundits were led to question the critics’ motivations.”
The author goes on to emphasize, “When non-state fighters and militants hide among civilians, they may well bear a greater responsibility for civilian deaths.”
It took me only minutes to find this article in a Google search. Yet the correspondents attacking their Israeli guests failed to even make this minimal effort to explain the concept of proportionality to their viewers. Instead the direction of their interrogation implied a different concept of proportionality that suggested that Israel’s conduct in the war is improper and immoral. The correspondents noted that
- There are many more deaths of civilians than terrorists in Gaza
- There are many more Arab casualties than Israeli casualties.
- Hamas is fighting with primitive, inaccurate rockets, while Israel is using advanced fighter bombers, drones, tanks, and battleships, suggesting an application of “excessive force.”
The conclusion that the correspondents derived from these observations is that Israel is indiscriminately using its superior military might to destroy civilian property and inflict a large number of unwarranted civilian casualties. Yet a closer examination, reveals alternative explanations for these observations.
First, there needs to be a distinction between “civilian” and “terrorist.” A responsible journalist needs to ask the following questions: Is a civilian defined as anyone in civilian clothing who is not carrying a rifle or rocket launcher? Is it possible that among the casualties there may be terrorists who are wearing civilian clothing and not carrying a weapon?
What is Israel doing to protect its civilian population and what is Hamas doing to protect its civilian population?
How come Israel’s military superiority has still been unable to stop the barrage of rockets against its civilian population after more than three weeks of heavy bombardment?
How does a fighter pilot approaching a target area at high speed and high altitude distinguish between civilians and terrorists? Is he expected to strike only those who are carrying rifles and rocket launchers, or just take reasonable precautions against striking civilians?
A more careful, accurate, and balanced examination of the data will reveal the following: Israel places a high priority on protecting its civilian population. It has devoted enormous effort and expense to build missile defense systems, bomb shelters, and rapid evacuation systems.
In contrast, Hamas has placed its civilian population in harm’s way while protecting its terrorists. There are no bomb shelters for the Gaza population, civilians are dependent on using the facilities of UNRWA. In contrast, Hamas terrorists are operating out of hidden, concrete reinforced tunnels. So Hamas is more concerned with protecting its fighters than its civilians.
The fact the Hamas rocket barrages against Israeli civilians is still continuing suggests that Israel is using insufficient force to destroy the rocket launchers, rather than excessive force. Israel has a responsibility of protecting its citizens against enemy attack and should use every available means to do so.
Most reasonable people are justifiably repulsed at images of civilian deaths. It is difficult to define what is a “just and moral” war. Negotiations, compromise, acceptance, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence are much more desirable alternatives.
War results from the absence of reason and morality. When there is a conflict with opposing viewpoints, journalists have a professional and moral responsibility to present facts and observations in an unbiased manner so that the viewer can draw his own conclusions. To distort the facts and misguide the viewer, is itself morally unjustified.
When the media equates the actions of Hamas and Israel to elicit sympathy for the people of Gaza while accusing Israel of conducting an unjust and immoral war, then the possibility of “pernicious motivations” in the broadcast media needs to be considered.
Are you unhappy about the civilian casualties? So am I! This video shows just how unhappy Hamas isn’t.
The next time you see this Doctor interviewed by the news media regarding Gaza, remember where his loyalties lay.
This is what money donated by your country to the Palestinians is used for. Now tell me the Gazan blockade isn’t necessary…
MORAL CLARITY IN GAZA
By Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post Article)
Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.
“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”
Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.” This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d’etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.
Apologists for Hamas attribute the blood lust to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Occupation? Does no one remember anything? It was less than 10 years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling die-hard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza.
And there was no blockade. On the contrary, Israel wanted this new Palestinian state to succeed. To help the Gaza economy, Israel gave the Palestinians its 3,000 greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. It opened border crossings and encouraged commerce.
The whole idea was to establish the model for two states living peacefully and productively side by side. No one seems to remember that, simultaneous with the Gaza withdrawal, Israel dismantled four smaller settlements in the northern West Bank as a clear signal of Israel’s desire to leave the West Bank as well and thus achieve an amicable two-state solution.
This is not ancient history. This was nine years ago.
And how did the Gaza Palestinians react to being granted by the Israelis what no previous ruler, neither Egyptian, nor British, nor Turkish, had ever given them – an independent territory? First, they demolished the greenhouses. Then they elected Hamas. Then, instead of building a state with its attendant political and economic institutions, they spent the better part of a decade turning Gaza into a massive military base, brimming with terror weapons, to make ceaseless war on Israel.
Where are the roads and rail, the industry and infrastructure of the new Palestinian state? Nowhere. Instead, they built mile upon mile of underground tunnels to hide their weapons and, when the going gets tough, their military commanders. They spent millions importing and producing rockets, launchers, mortars, small arms, even drones. They deliberately placed them in schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes to better expose their own civilians.
Why? The rockets can’t even inflict serious damage, being almost uniformly intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Even West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas has asked: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”
This produces dead Palestinians for international television. Which is why Hamas perversely urges its own people not to seek safety when Israel drops leaflets warning of an imminent attack.
To deliberately wage war so that your own people can be telegenically killed is indeed moral and tactical insanity. But it rests on a very rational premise: Given the Orwellian state of the world’s treatment of Israel (see: the U.N.’s grotesque Human Rights Council), fueled by a mix of classic anti-Semitism, near-total historical ignorance and reflexive sympathy for the ostensible Third World underdog, these eruptions featuring Palestinian casualties ultimately undermine support for Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense.
In a world of such Kafkaesque ethical inversions, the depravity of Hamas begins to make sense. This is a world in which the Munich massacre is a movie and the murder of Klinghoffer is an opera – both deeply sympathetic to the killers. This is a world in which the U.N. ignores humanity’s worst war criminals while incessantly condemning Israel, a state warred upon for 66 years that nonetheless goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid harming the very innocents its enemies use as shields.
It’s to the Israelis’ credit that amid all this madness they haven’t lost their moral scruples. Or their nerve. Those outside the region have the minimum obligation, therefore, to expose the madness and speak the truth. Rarely has it been so blindingly clear.
For Second Time, Rockets Found At UN school In Gaza
by RAPHAEL AHREN
For the second time in less than a week, rockets have been found in a school in Gaza operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the body said.
“Today, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip,” the organization said in a statement issued Tuesday. “As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets. The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons.”
As it did the last time around when missiles were found in a school it operates, UNRWA said it “strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.”
UNRWA, the UN agency charged with overseeing humanitarian efforts in Gaza, said it immediately “informed the relevant parties and is pursuing all possible measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.” The organization again pledged to launch a “comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.”
Israeli officials reacted furiously to the discovery. “How many more schools will have to be abused by Hamas missile squads before the international community will intervene,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel. “How many times can it turn its head the other way and pretend that it just doesn’t see?”
Last Wednesday, UNRWA found some 20 rockets in a school under its auspices, also during a standard inspection. A spokesperson for UNRWA said the organization gave the rockets to “local authorities,” which answer to the Hamas-backed unity government led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “According to longstanding UN practice in UN humanitarian operations worldwide, incidents involving unexploded ordnance that could endanger beneficiaries and staff are referred to the local authorities,” UNRWA’s director of advocacy and strategic communications, Christopher Gunness, told The Times of Israel Sunday.
In Jerusalem, such assertions are rejected, even ridiculed, with officials charging that the weaponry was returned to Hamas. “The rockets were passed on to the government authorities in Gaza, which is Hamas. In other words, UNRWA handed to Hamas rockets that could well be shot at Israel,” a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel.
Another senior official pointed out that UNRWA has a history of letting Hamas use its facilities for its terrorist activities. “Time and again, over the years, UNRWA has been abused by gunmen from different terrorist factions who are using UN facilities to stockpile weapons, to fire rockets from, to steal UNRWA humanitarian equipment and to cause damage and fire in UNRWA’s hangars,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel.
“Against all evidence, UNRWA refuses to acknowledge reality and pathetically attempts to ingratiate itself with Hamas, pretending that nothing serious has happened,” the senior official said. “This is a classic case of beaten-wife syndrome, which we have been witnessing for years from UNRWA. The people of Gaza, and indeed taxpayers from countries who contribute to UNRWA’s budget — including Israel — deserve better.”
Why Nobody But The US Voted Against The UN’s Anti-Israel Resolution
by RAPHAEL AHREN
Once again, it seems, Israel has been forsaken in its time of need, abandoned by what it thought were its friends. Once again, it feels unfairly singled out, condemned for alleged crimes it committed while defending its citizens against a terrorist enemy that is getting away with murder.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted on a heavily one-sided resolution condemning “in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations” in Gaza. The Geneva-based council, which has a long history of anti-Israel bias, also declared a new “international commission of inquiry” into the events currently unfolding in Israel and Gaza, in what observers are calling a new Goldstone report.
Only the United States voted against the resolution. Twenty-nine nations voted in favor, among them not only the usual suspects such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria and South Africa, but also some ostensible friends of Israel, including Russia, Kenya, India and Mexico.
Equally hurtful for Israel, if not more so, were the abstentions of the eight European Union member states who had the right to vote: Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom. (Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are not EU members but also abstained; non-member states Iceland, Serbia, Albania and Liechtenstein aligned themselves with the EU position.)
Yes, even the Czech Republic, which in November 2012 was the only EU country to oppose granting the Palestinians nonmember state status at the UN, did not vote against a resolution that denounces Israel for “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks, including aerial bombardment of civilian areas, the targeting of civilians and civilian properties in collective punishment contrary to international law, and other actions, including the targeting of medical and humanitarian personnel, that may amount to international crimes.” The resolution does not mention Hamas once.
For Israel, the vote was another heavy slap in the face. Because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hesitated before launching the Gaza campaign and accepted several ceasefire offers, officials were sure of the international community’s (relative) support for Operation Protective Edge. But statements reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself are apparently no guarantee of supportive votes at the UN.
“It’s a travesty of justice; it’s a travesty of fairness; it’s a travesty of common sense; it’s a travesty of truth,” Netanyahu said Thursday during a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Jerusalem. (Netanyahu also thanked him for “standing up for Israel’s right to defend itself.”)
‘If the final text had been agreeable to us, we would have voted yes. So we abstained’
Hammond, speaking late Wednesday evening, had actually said that the Human Rights Council’s resolution was “fundamentally unbalanced” and further complicated issues rather than helping to end the conflict. But then why did Britain abstain instead of opposing? “The UK could not support this resolution,” Hammond said, “but recognizing the strength of feeling about the loss of life and the desire by a large number of members of the Council to express that feeling in a resolution, the UK joined other EU nations in abstaining in the vote.” His statement almost sounds as if London made an independent decision, based on international pressure, to abstain.
“If the UK feels so strongly that the resolution is not fair, why did they not vote against it?” a senior Israeli official fumed. More than one government promised to oppose the draft and later instructed its ambassador to vote in favor, the official added. The foreign minister of the Philippines, for instance, personally promised a no-vote, but eventually the country voted yes, he said.
Israel expects more from the EU, observers in Jerusalem suggested. “I’m disillusioned and disappointed that they and others abstained, when they know full well what the real situation is,” said Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “It’s a two-faced political viewpoint, wholly based on economic and other interests, fully ignoring the truth and the facts.”
The EU states decided to vote as a bloc, as they often do. The union tried until the very last minute to soften the language of the resolution and to avoid the establishment of a fact-finding mission investigating Israel’s alleged crimes. “We tried to get a better text and to prevent the inquiry, and we failed with the latter. We did improve the text slightly. If the final text had been agreeable to us, we would have voted yes, so we abstained,” a European diplomat told The Times of Israel.
“The idea was to prevent a text that was much worse — you know how it is in the UN Human Rights Council,” a second European diplomat said, referring to the automatic majority with which Arab groups can push through pretty much anything they want.
The EU states tried to reason with the Palestinian delegation to the Geneva-based council to allow for a more balanced text – one that would not single Israel out for wrongdoing while ignoring Hamas — to no avail. “We have a situation with two warring parties, and one of them is not mentioned in the resolution. That’s shit,” admitted a European diplomat familiar with the negotiations over the draft resolution.
Ireland was actually inclined to vote in favor of the resolution but in the end the EU decided to vote as a bloc, after two changes were made to the initial draft. While the EU failed to prevent the creation of the commission of inquiry, it succeeded in “improving its mandate,” one source said.
Instead of examining only Israel’s misdeeds, as had been the case during the notorious Goldstone report, the new fact-finding mission has been tasked to “investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” That would include the alleged war crimes of Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups.
Secondly, European diplomats prided themselves in having succeeded in including a paragraph that “condemns all violence against civilians wherever it occurs, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of rocket fire, and urges all parties concerned to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” This cannot be taken for granted, EU diplomats said.
In an official explanation of the unanimous decision to abstain, the EU later explained that it “was not possible to reach” a different outcome. The “final draft text continues to be unbalanced, inaccurate, and prejudges the outcome of the investigation by making legal statements,” the EU’s statement read. “The draft resolution also fails to condemn explicitly the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas as well as to recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.”
The union emphasized that the fact-finding mission would also look into violations committed by Hamas “and other militant groups,” and pledged to “continue to work toward a balanced outcome of the investigations.”
Despite the good intentions, Israelis felt let down again by Brussels. After the EU foreign ministers on Tuesday came out with a dramatic statement that affirmed Israel’s “legitimate right to defend itself,” called on Hamas to cease attacking Israel and demanded all Gaza terrorist groups be disarmed, they hoped for a stronger stance on Israel’s behalf. Instead, Israel will take comfort in the staunch pro-Israel stance demonstrated, once again, by Canada and Australia. Neither country had a vote Wednesday in the Human Rights Council, but they made plain where they stand.
“Canada is frustrated and deeply disappointed that the UNHRC decided to completely ignore the abhorrent terrorist acts of Hamas,” Foreign Minister John Baird said. “This resolution turns a blind eye to the facts on the ground and that one party is responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people, and that is the international terrorist group Hamas.”
There can be no moral equivalence between a terrorist organization and a liberal democratic state, and the council’s vote “undermines this body’s credibility,” he said.
Canberra said that the draft resolution was “unbalanced” and that Australia could not support it in its current form. “It makes no reference to Hamas’ causal role in this tragic situation,” the government said in a statement.
In this context it must be stressed that only the United States — one country out of 47 — voted against the resolution. Much has been said and written recently about the US administration’s lack of support for Israel, but once again the administration (not Congress) defied the entire international community to take a stand for its ally Israel.
“This resolution is not constructive, it is destructive,” Ambassador Keith Harper said before casting his vote on Wednesday. “The United States is deeply troubled by the resolution presented for adoption today… The resolution will cause real and lasting damage to this council and its ability to comprehensively address human rights in this region,” he continued. “We call on other states to underscore their opposition to any initiative of this council that takes a one-sided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is essential that the community of nations takes a balanced approach to these issues.”
His call was not heeded.
Israel’s Operation To Stop Rockets Expands To War To Crush Hamas
Another seven IDF officers and men died in combat with Hamas Monday, July 21 on the fourth day of Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip, raising the total of Israeli fallen in this operation to 25. Four men were killed guarding the Israeli side of the Gaza border by terrorists who jumped out of a tunnel 200 meters from Kibbutz Nir Am, disguised in IDF uniforms and flak vests. Ten were killed in a counter-attack and helicopter strike averting a mega terrorist attack of kidnap attempt. This was the fourth tunnel terrorist attack in three days.
Two more soldiers died in combat in the Shejaiya district of Gaza, and one by friendly fire.
There was no let-up in Hamas rocket barrages, two of which were carried out during Monday against a wide range of Israeli targets including the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. Iron Dome knocked out a large number.
The IDF’s Shejaiya operation in the Gaza Strip continues apace, carried forward by five task forces now heading for the center of Gaza City amid casualties on both sides. Sunday, July 20, Israel’s crack Golani Brigades lost 18 fighters, without slowing down, compared with 170 Palestinian fatalities.
debkafile’s military sources report that each task force, the size of half a division, is an integrated amalgam of air, armored, artillery and engineering forces, capable of operating almost autonomously in field combat. The buildup of the last 24 hours has expanded Israel’s fighting strength in the Gaza Strip to a total of 75,000 men, the largest ever fielded in this territory. Because of its scale, Israeli leaders are referring to Defensive Edge as a war rather than an operation.
The battle for Shejaiya waged Sunday burst into public prominence because of the heavy losses suffered by the Golani Brigades, but it is not the largest engagement underway at present. The other ongoing IDF battles, their progress, the units involved and their locations, are kept secret. We can only point to their general locations as being around Beit Hanoun in the north; Zeitun, south of Gaza City and the Shati refugee camp to the north.
More arenas are scheduled to be added to the list of battle zones Monday.
Rather than causing despondency, the high IDF casualty toll Sunday – the highest in a single engagement since the 2006 Lebanon War – has invigorated the fighting forces in the field, making them more determined than ever to get the better of Hamas with all possible speed.
Whereas their orders on Sunday were to advance warily and slowly, meanwhile testing the strength of Hamas resistance and observing their tactics, the tempo went into high gear at dawn Monday, when the troops were told to speed their advance from the outer fringes of Gaza City into its center.
Their performance in Shejaiya and other engagements Sunday deeply impressed Israel’s war leaders and made them confident enough to step up the rate of advance.
This upbeat mood was evident in the comments made Sunday night by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and, from the field, by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. While condoling deeply with the bereaved families of the 18 soldiers who died in combat, they were full of praise for the troops’ performance “in defense of our home” which outdid all expectations.
The following decisions were reached in consequence:
1. Gen. Gantz would stay in the field and lead the forces from there, rather than from staff headquarters in Tel Aviv.
2. The prime minister and defense minister would manage the war, without constant recourse to security cabinet sessions to obtain its approval of every stage of the plan of operation, the final goal of which debkafile has learned, is Israel’s military takeover of the Gaza Strip.
3. As the military operation unfolded, the three war leaders were convinced more than ever that demolishing Hamas’ terror tunnel complex was not optional, any more than wiping out the rocket menace hanging latterly over five million Israelis and, for nearly a decade over the million people living directly in the shadow of the Gaza border. Publicity guidelines were to be built around this conclusion.
International statesmen are flitting busily around regional capitals, including Jerusalem, in search of an opening to broker a ceasefire in Gaza hostilities. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been holding meetings and US Secretary John Kerry will try and reach the Middle East in the coming days, according to a White House directive – unless he again cancels at the last minute.
According to debkafile’s sources, the requisite political and military conditions for a ceasefire are not yet in place because of a number of circumstances, not least of which is Hamas’ refusal to contemplate a halt.
Israel, for its part, is fighting for the first time in its history with solid Arab backing from the Egyptian-Saudi-United Arab Emirates bloc. So determined are its members to obliterate the Muslim Brotherhood that they have virtually blacklisted Qatar for supporting the Brothers and for patronizing the Palestinian Hamas, regarded as the MB’s paramilitary arm.
This rift has put a spoke in the diplomatic effort to set in motion effective mediation for a Gaza ceasefire predicated on co-opting Qatar.
A bid to make Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas the bridge between the Egyptian-Saudi-UAE grouping and Qatar has likewise foundered. And there isn’t much Secretary Kerry can do if and when he comes over to try his hand.
US President Barack Obama’s suggestion, when he called Netanyahu Sunday, to build a new Gaza ceasefire around the 2012 formula concocted by the US, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey – and accepted by Israel and Hamas – for ending Operation Pillar of Defense, shows him to be cut off from the fundamentally altered diplomatic and military realities of the current Gaza conflict.
He declines to recognize the emergence of a powerful new Arab bloc. It will be necessary to twist the arms of each of its members, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE, to gain their consent for a bid to cut the Israeli offensive short to rescue Hamas from defeat. And even then, they will stall.
And although anti-Israel demonstrations are being staged in some parts of the world, the most violent in Paris, hardly any world governments have openly condemned the Israeli operation – as yet.
Pray for a complete victory for Israel.