July 29, 2014
David Frum Accuses New York Times of Staging Photos of Palestinian Victims

So this is pretty awful.  David Frum, alongside a blogger named Thomas Wictor, are accusing the press of publishing fake photos that purport to showcase injured or traumatized Palestinians.  In particular, Frum points to a photo of two young men in which one of them has blood on his arms.  In a second photo appearing elsewhere, however, the same man no longer has blood on his arms.  Q.E.D. conspiracy, amirite?

Except there’s a very easy explanation for why the young man has blood on his arms in one photo, and no blood in another:

Photographers had gathered at the building, according to The New York Times’ Sergey Ponomarev. Photos appear to have been captured and used by some of the world’s top news gatherers, including The Associated Press, Reuters and The New York Times.

So the two photos look different because—wait for it—they were taken at different points in time.  The second photo was taken after one of the brothers had an opportunity to wash his father’s blood off his hands and face, which I’m sure he was anxious to get off his body.

One of the most useful skills for a public intellectual to develop is to exercise a greater degree of care when investigating stories that confirm your biases vs. those that don’t.  We are already naturally predisposed to exercise additional scrutiny to stories that don’t support our political beliefs.  But when we see stories that seem to confirm our beliefs, we’re more likely to accept them at face value because they feel correct.

That’s why Frum’s claim is shockingly unreflective for someone who pretends to be a public intellectual.  Is it really fair to jump to the conclusion that a photo was staged because the two individuals pictured look different in each photo?  Particularly when a legitimate explanation is easily arrived at?  Of course not.  

On another note, Frum is not the only person looking for an excuse to minimize Palestinian suffering or pretend it doesn’t exist.  I wrote this morning about an article written by Avi Issacharoff, who wrote that the Israeli government’s siege in Gaza was ”nonexistent,” which is pure fantasy.  I personally have a law school friend who used to jokingly refer to Gaza as “beachfront property,” suggesting that life there was not nearly as bad as Palestinian activists claim it was.

It would be one thing if this was propaganda being handed down by a tyrannical government.  But it’s not.  These are journalists and opinion leaders whose words have a lot of purchase in the public sphere.  This is why, as I mentioned this morning, many people choose to focus on the Israeli government over more oppressive regimes in the Middle East.  Nobody is pretending that the those regimes don’t oppress people, but a lot of people pretend that Israel doesn’t.  And there’s no better way to erase the suffering of a people than to convince the international community that it doesn’t exist.

July 29, 2014
kohenari:


Yarmouk was home to the largest Palestinian refugee community before the conflict began. 180,000 Palestinian civilians called it home. Now only 20,000 remain. Food and medical supplies are routinely denied entry, and starvation is one of the three main causes of death. Recently, in the Jarabulus area, 22 people were killed and thrown into the streets to instill fear in the population. Some of them were children.
Amnesty International has called for the immediate lifting of the siege, the cessation of shelling and other indiscriminate attacks, and for humanitarian agencies to have unfettered access to the area. The disproportional attacks on civilians must end.
Down with Israel? Not quite. Yarmouk and Jarabulus are in Syria.

This seems worth discussing.
At the very least, it’s interesting to see how little discussion the mass murder of Palestinians in Syria generates when compared to the discussion of Israel’s on-going operation in Gaza.
It’s easy to understand why it looks to many people like the real problem is with Israel rather than with the deaths of innocent Palestinians.

LTMC: The difference between these two cases is that everybody is in general agreement that the Assad government in Syria is an oppressive regime, and they properly view oppressed people within its borders as victims.  Syria is also still in the throws of an ongoing Civil War, which appears to be an isolated cause of the suffering of Palestinian refugees there.  It was not until Hamas began actively fighting on behalf of rebels in Syria that Assad moved against the refugees.  From the Times of Israel article linked above:

Nevertheless, it was hard not to be moved this week by a report published by Amnesty International on the situation in Yarmouk near Damascus. Until the start of the civil war, Yarmouk was the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. Close to 150,000 people lived there in crowded conditions. But since the summer, the regime has carried out a cruel siege on the camp’s residents after Hamas members there took an active part in fighting the Syrian army. Now there are only 20,000 residents left in the camp.

Furthermore, the link states that the 22 people mentioned above were not killed by Assad, but by ISIS—a non-state actor who once again, virtually everybody in the international community agrees is an oppressive organization.
On the other hand, everybody is not in general agreement that the Israeli government oppresses Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.  Educated people of diverse political dispositions regularly support the Israeli Government’s conduct in the Occupied Territories, minimizing its mistakes and denying the existence of atrocities.  Even the author of the article above refers to the “nonexistent siege around the Gaza Strip,” which is one of the biggest jokes I’ve read in a long time.
Flipping back to the other side of the coin for a moment, the Syrian government does not have boosters in virtually every country in the Western world attempting to minimize the violence it is inflicting on Palestinians within its borders.  In fact, Israeli officials often ask the international community to support the Israeli Government while it engages in the same activity it condemns in other countries.  There is a perfect example in the Times of Israel article above where it discusses the siege of the Syrian refugee camp:

The [Assad] regime, Amnesty [International] said, prevented food and military supplies from reaching the camp, arrested and tortured medical staff there, bombed schools and hospitals, caused severe malnutrition (60% of the camp is malnourished), and more.

Amnesty International cites these same deprivations (lack of food, access to education, medical care) in its criticism of the Israeli government’s ”nonexistent siege” of Gaza.  The author writes as if these deprivations don’t exist—and he genuinely appears to believe that.  And many, many people both in Israel and abroad will believe him.
So the difference between these two cases is that very few people are trying to justify the Syrian government’s conduct towards Palestinian refugees in Damascus.  But a lot of people are trying to justify the Israeli government’s conduct towards Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories.  I think this explains the reason why so many people choose to highlight the Israeli government’s conduct rather than the Assad regime.  Nearly everybody in the Western world agrees that Assad’s conduct towards the resident of Syria is bad and very few people are trying to defend him.  Not everybody thinks the Israeli government’s conduct in the Occupied Territories is bad, and many people in the Western world are actively trying to convince others that what happens to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is either justified or non-existent, as the Times of Israel article above demonstrates.

kohenari:

Yarmouk was home to the largest Palestinian refugee community before the conflict began. 180,000 Palestinian civilians called it home. Now only 20,000 remain. Food and medical supplies are routinely denied entry, and starvation is one of the three main causes of death. Recently, in the Jarabulus area, 22 people were killed and thrown into the streets to instill fear in the population. Some of them were children.

Amnesty International has called for the immediate lifting of the siege, the cessation of shelling and other indiscriminate attacks, and for humanitarian agencies to have unfettered access to the area. The disproportional attacks on civilians must end.

Down with Israel? Not quite. Yarmouk and Jarabulus are in Syria.

This seems worth discussing.

At the very least, it’s interesting to see how little discussion the mass murder of Palestinians in Syria generates when compared to the discussion of Israel’s on-going operation in Gaza.

It’s easy to understand why it looks to many people like the real problem is with Israel rather than with the deaths of innocent Palestinians.

LTMC: The difference between these two cases is that everybody is in general agreement that the Assad government in Syria is an oppressive regime, and they properly view oppressed people within its borders as victims.  Syria is also still in the throws of an ongoing Civil War, which appears to be an isolated cause of the suffering of Palestinian refugees there.  It was not until Hamas began actively fighting on behalf of rebels in Syria that Assad moved against the refugees.  From the Times of Israel article linked above:

Nevertheless, it was hard not to be moved this week by a report published by Amnesty International on the situation in Yarmouk near Damascus. Until the start of the civil war, Yarmouk was the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. Close to 150,000 people lived there in crowded conditions. But since the summer, the regime has carried out a cruel siege on the camp’s residents after Hamas members there took an active part in fighting the Syrian army. Now there are only 20,000 residents left in the camp.

Furthermore, the link states that the 22 people mentioned above were not killed by Assad, but by ISIS—a non-state actor who once again, virtually everybody in the international community agrees is an oppressive organization.

On the other hand, everybody is not in general agreement that the Israeli government oppresses Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.  Educated people of diverse political dispositions regularly support the Israeli Government’s conduct in the Occupied Territories, minimizing its mistakes and denying the existence of atrocities.  Even the author of the article above refers to the “nonexistent siege around the Gaza Strip,” which is one of the biggest jokes I’ve read in a long time.

Flipping back to the other side of the coin for a moment, the Syrian government does not have boosters in virtually every country in the Western world attempting to minimize the violence it is inflicting on Palestinians within its borders.  In fact, Israeli officials often ask the international community to support the Israeli Government while it engages in the same activity it condemns in other countries.  There is a perfect example in the Times of Israel article above where it discusses the siege of the Syrian refugee camp:

The [Assad] regime, Amnesty [International] said, prevented food and military supplies from reaching the camp, arrested and tortured medical staff there, bombed schools and hospitals, caused severe malnutrition (60% of the camp is malnourished), and more.

Amnesty International cites these same deprivations (lack of food, access to education, medical care) in its criticism of the Israeli government’s ”nonexistent siege” of Gaza.  The author writes as if these deprivations don’t exist—and he genuinely appears to believe that.  And many, many people both in Israel and abroad will believe him.

So the difference between these two cases is that very few people are trying to justify the Syrian government’s conduct towards Palestinian refugees in Damascus.  But a lot of people are trying to justify the Israeli government’s conduct towards Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories.  I think this explains the reason why so many people choose to highlight the Israeli government’s conduct rather than the Assad regime.  Nearly everybody in the Western world agrees that Assad’s conduct towards the resident of Syria is bad and very few people are trying to defend him.  Not everybody thinks the Israeli government’s conduct in the Occupied Territories is bad, and many people in the Western world are actively trying to convince others that what happens to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is either justified or non-existent, as the Times of Israel article above demonstrates.

(Source: algemeiner.com)

July 29, 2014
Palestinian children tortured, used as shields by Israel: U.N.

This report is a year old, but given the constant refrain from defenders of the Israeli government’s policies in the Occupied Territories that civilian casualties in Gaza are due to Hamas forcing people to act as human shields, it seems relevant to the discussion:

(Reuters) - A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.

[…]

Most Palestinian children arrested are accused of having thrown stones, an offence which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the committee said. Israeli soldiers had testified to the often arbitrary nature of the arrests, it said.

[…]

It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.

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, it said.

"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,” it said.

Just so we’re clear, IDF soldiers have, in the past, conscripted Palestinian kids and forced them at gunpoint to enter potentially dangerous buildings, search containers suspected of containing explosives, and stand in front of IDF vehicles to prevent other Palestinians from throwing stones at the vehicles.  I wonder if this is what the Israeli ambassador to the United States had in mind when he said that the IDF deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for its behavior in the Occupied Territories.

July 29, 2014
Via youngma@news.com.au

Via youngma@news.com.au

July 28, 2014
Does The IDF Target Civilians In Gaza?

Some insight via Eran Efrati, who claims to have sources in the IDF that have given him some info regarding recent operation in Shuja’iyya:

In recent weeks I was on the border of Gaza and getting reports from soldiers in the Gaza Strip who leak information out to me. I am in the process of publication of two big stories in major U.S. newspapers, but there are some things I can share with you right now: Soldiers in two different units inside Gaza leaked information about the murdering of Palestinians by sniper fire in Shuja’iyya neighborhood as punishment for the death of soldiers in their units. After the shooting on the Israeli armored personnel carriers, which killed seven soldiers of the Golani Brigade, the Israeli army carried out a massacre in Shuja’iyya neighborhood. A day after the massacre, many Palestinians came to search for their relatives and their families in the rubble. In one of the videos uploaded to YouTube, a young Palestinian man Salem Shammaly calls the names of his family and looking for them between the ruins when he is suddenly shot at in his chest and falls down. A few seconds after that, there are two additional shootings from snipers into his body, killing him instantly. Since the video was released, there was no official response from the IDF spokesperson. Today I can report that the official command that was handed down to the soldiers in Shujaiyya was to capture Palestinian homes as outposts. From these posts, the soldiers drew an imaginary red line, and amongst themselves decided to shoot to death anyone who crosses it. Anyone crossing the line was defined as a threat to their outposts, and was thus deemed a legitimate target. This was the official reasoning inside the units. I was told that the unofficial reason was to enable the soldiers to take out their frustrations and pain at losing their fellow soldiers (something that for years the IDF has not faced during its operations in Gaza and the West Bank), out on the Palestinian refugees in the neighborhood. Under the pretext of the so-called “security threat” soldiers were directed to carry out a pre-planned attack of revenge on Palestinian civilians. These stories join many other similar ones that Amira Hass and I investigated in Operation Cast Lead. The death toll that continues to rise is steadily reaching the numbers of the massacre of 2009.
More than 1,100 have been killed in Gaza, at least 80 percent of them civilians. Today it is cleared for publication that at least 4 soldiers were killed by a rocket in a gathering area outside of Gaza, and another soldier was killed in Gaza. They join 43 soldiers that have already been killed. We know that more acts of revenge will come soon and it is important that we not stay silent. This is the time to take to the streets and to social media. Demand from your representative wherever you are to stop supporting this massacre and to immediately boycott the state of Israel until the occupation ends, the blockade is lifted and Palestinians will be free. We all want to be in the right place at the right time when history knocks on our door, and history is knocking in Gaza right now. You need to decide on which side you want to go down in history.

July 28, 2014
From Gaza: I Would Rather Die in Dignity Than Agree to Living in an Open-Air Prison

From the article:

We’re tired of war. I, for one, have had enough of bloodshed, death and destruction. But I also can no longer tolerate the return to a deeply unjust status quo. I can no longer agree to live in this open-air prison. We can no longer tolerate to be treated as sub-humans, deprived of our most basic human rights. We are trapped here, trapped between two deaths: death by Israeli bombs and missiles, and death by Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

We want to be able to get in and out of Gaza freely, whenever we choose. Why should our students not be granted their right to study at universities of their own choice? Why should our patients be left for their own death as Israel deprives them of receiving medical treatment in hospitals outside of Gaza? Our fishermen want to fish in our sea waters without the prospect of being shot at and killed. We deserve the right to access clean water, electricity and our most basic needs. And yet we can’t because Israel occupies. It occupies not only our land but our bodies and our destinies. No people can tolerate this injustice. We, too, are humans.

Read More

July 27, 2014
Destroy Hamas? Something worse would follow: Pentagon intel chief

From the article:

(Reuters) - A top Pentagon intelligence official warned on Saturday that the destruction of Hamas would only lead to something more dangerous taking its place, as he offered a grim portrait of a period of enduring regional conflict.

The remarks by Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, came as Israeli ministers signaled that a comprehensive deal to end the 20-day-old conflict in the Gaza Strip appeared remote.

At least 1,050 Gazans - mostly civilians - have been killed, and 42 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died.

Flynn disparaged Hamas for exhausting finite resources and know-how to build tunnels that have helped them inflict record casualties on Israelis. Still, he suggested that destroying Hamas was not the answer.

"If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse," Flynn said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

"A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS," he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an "Islamic caliphate" in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Confined in the crowded, sandy coast enclave of 1.8 million, where poverty and unemployment hover around 40 percent, weary Gazans say they hope the battle will break the blockade that Israel and Egypt impose on them.

Israeli officials said any ceasefire must allow the military to carry on hunting down the Hamas tunnel network that criss-crosses the Gaza border.

Flynn’s comments about the conflict came during a gloomy, broader assessment of unrest across the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq. Flynn said bluntly: “Is there going to be a peace in the Middle East? Not in my lifetime.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Ron Popeski)

July 26, 2014
‘No more deaths’: Thousands of Israelis protest the Gaza war | +972 Magazine

From the article:

Some 5,000 Israelis on Saturday evening protested the war in Gaza under the banner, ”No more deaths – Israeli-Palestinian peace, now.” The protest took place at Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv.

Speakers included Hadash MK Dov Khenin, an Israeli and Palestinian veteran from the organization Combatants for Peace, and Yifat Solel, the head of the Meretz party’s anti-occupation forum. Meretz, however, did not back the demonstration as a party. The speakers criticized the government for its attitude toward peace negotiations, and for resorting to war as a default policy. Demonstrators chanted “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” called for an end to the occupation and the siege on Gaza, and lit candles to commemorate the victims.

Roughly 300 right-wing counter-protesters were on the scene trying to reach the main demonstration. A large police presence circled the square in order to keep the sides separate. Four were arrested.

Some two hours before the protest was set to begin, police canceled it, citing fear of a rocket attack. The permit for the demonstration was reinstated only an hour before it began – by which time busses of protesters en route for Tel Aviv had turned back. Police ended the protest at around 10 p.m. – according some reports, because rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, two hours before the a “humanitarian ceasefire” was to expire, and according to others, in order to prevent violence on the part of the counter-protesters.

July 25, 2014
Did Israel Just Start The Third Intifada?

image

(Image via Katie Zavadski / Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

Israeli government officials now admit that Hamas was not responsible for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens which sparked the recent escalation of hostilities, despite clearly stating early on that Hamas was responsible.  Katie Zavadski, who wrote the article linked above, points us to Musa al-Gharbi, who argues that Israeli officials were deliberately provoking Hamas:

All the illegal and immoral actions related to Operation Brother’s Keeper were justified under the premise of finding and saving the missing teens whom the Israeli government knew to be dead — cynically exploiting the tragedy to whip up public outcry in order to provoke and then confront Hamas. This pattern of deception continues under the ongoing military offensive in Gaza. For example, last week in collaboration with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Abbas, in its efforts to alienate Hamas, Israel announced a bad-faith cease-fire proposal, which Hamas was not consulted on and never agreed to but whose violation supposedly justified Israel’s expansion and intensification of the military campaign into Gaza.

If it’s true that the Israeli government lied about the time and cause of death for three Israeli teens in order to whip up support for a new war with Hamas, then it’s pretty clear that this was a war of choice. And while attempts to organize a ceasefire continue, it may too late to keep the number of casualties minimal, since some Palestinians in the West Bank are now claiming to have started the Third Intifada:

The epicenter of the protests was the Qalandiya checkpoint, which separates Jerusalem and Ramallah, while smaller protests reportedly took place in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Nablus. At least two Palestinians were killed and 200 others were injured after IDF troops returned fire to the protestors during Laylat al-Qadr, a holiday marking the night the first verses of the Quran are believed to have been revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

"In the West Bank, we need to take our resistance efforts to a higher level," a student named Na’el Halabi told Al Jazeera. "Gaza is not alone: we are part of the same struggle.”

This “day of rage” was evidently called for by Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Often considered the preferred, more moderate alternative to Hamas by Western leaders, Fatah has recently felt pressure to build up support among its constituency by standing up to the West. Thursday’s protests are believed to be the largest since the end of the 2000–2005 uprising. Organized as the “48K March,” they were quickly branded with the “Third Intifada” hashtag on Twitter[.]

Maybe calling this the “Third Intifada” is just exaggeration from over-zealous protesters.  But either way, it is bad news for both sides.   Dropping bombs in Gaza is a sure way to provoke violence in the West Bank.  If these mass protests and clashes with security forces in the West Bank continue, the Israeli government may be looking at a lot more bloodshed than it originally anticipated.  

July 25, 2014
"My parents escaped from [Nazi] Germany. ‘Never again’ was always understood by me to mean never again for anyone. Speaking as a Jew, [what’s happening in Palestine] is a shonde. We’re driven by our tradition that says, ‘you shall not stand idly by,’ and we won’t stand idly by. I was shot at and arrested for principles of equal rights. I want a state where Israelis and Palestinians are safe [with] equal rights for all."

Dorothy Zellner

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