(Hamas Rocket Heading for Israel, AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
I've been reading a fair amount about the Israeli military assault on Gaza this week. Amid Christmas celebrations and family time here in my comfortable Canadian home I watched as the crisis escalated. Among the articles I read, was a piece in today's Sun newspaper chain, by Eric Margolis, called A Mess in the Making.
I wouldn't worry too much about Obama. There is nothing he can't do. But "the world's largest outdoor prison" .... ? Does Margolis think Gazians live in fields? It must have something to so with closed borders and restricted access to a larger adjacent country. If so, he may he may be on to something. I think someone ought to complain to the United Nations about that big wall the Egyptians erected along their shared border with their fellow Arab brothers and sisters in Gaza.
While Israeli F-16 jets dropped tons of bombs on tiny, 360-sq.-km Gaza -- the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel -- Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, asserted, "We have totally changed the rules of the game."
He was right. By blitzing Hamas-run Gaza, the world's largest outdoor prison, packed with 1.5 million Palestinian refugees, Barak presented the incoming U.S. administration with a fait accompli and neatly checkmated the newest player in the Mideast Great Game -- that other "Barack," Barack Obama -- before he could even take a seat at the table.
Thanks to that wall, Gazians, such as Abu Ali, (h/t to Breitbart.com via the Drudge Report) are reduced to digging tunnels to Egypt to carry out their smuggling operations.
The Israeli Defence Force, of course, is aware that these tunnels are conduits for weapons along with foodstuffs and other smuggled contraband materiel. Accordingly, their air force is attacking the tunnels as I write. But fear not:
Abu Ali vows that once the war in Gaza ends he will quickly repair his tunnel under the frontier with Egypt, one of the many underground links used by Palestinian smugglers that have been blasted by Israeli warplanes.I'm told those triple P, public-private sector partnerships are the wave of the future in public policy circles and here it is in action in Gaza. Go Abu go. But I digress. let us return to Margolis.
"Life cannot go on in Gaza if the tunnels are destroyed -- they're our only opening to the outside world," he said, speaking inside the Palestinian enclave that has been blockaded by the Jewish state for more than two years.
Hundreds of tunnels have been carved out beneath the Gaza-Egypt frontier, providing a vital conduit to bring basic needs into the territory which has suffered an increasing stranglehold in the past 18 months.
Foodstuffs, building materials, medicines and electric equipment are all brought from Egypt through the passages -- as well as weapons, notably rockets, and ammunition.
Such contraband provides smugglers with a profitable business. It is also a source of income for Hamas, the Islamist movement which has been the sole ruler in the Gaza Strip since June 2007.
The movement levies taxes on the smugglers' income from the tunnels which are linked to the territory's electricity grid with the blessing of Hamas.
Israel believes its mighty information machine will allow it to weather the storm of worldwide outrage over its Biblical punishment of Gaza. Who remembers Israel's flattening of parts of the rebellious Palestinian city of Jenin, or the U.S. destruction in Falluja, Iraq? As Stalin liked to say, "the dogs bark, and the caravan moves on."Actually, I remember a wee bit about Jenin. I remember terrible tales told of a Israeli massacre there in April 2002 back in the good old days of the heroic Intifada. It was claimed that over 500 Palestinians were slaughtered in the refugee camp, many crushed by Israeli tanks. Marie Colvin's April 2002 reportage in the Free Republic was common.
Images of this man-made earthquake zone have flashed around the world as evidence that the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is responsible for another war crime in Jenin on a par with the massacre of Palestinians in the Chatila and Sabra refugee camps in Beirut 20 years ago.
Israel has responded that the devastation was the consequence of a pitched battle against entrenched terrorists.
What really happened? Tragedy doesn't necessarily breed truth. The propaganda war had begun before the white dust settled over Jenin.
Rafi Laderman, a personable Israeli reserve major, emerged from the battlefield and made the rounds of the media in his rumpled green uniform. His clear plastic spectacles signalled his real job as a marketing consultant.
Laderman insisted that all the buildings in the refugee camp had been destroyed by explosive booby traps set by the terrorists, or levelled by Israeli bulldozers because they "presented additional engineering difficulties" that could endanger civilians. He himself had stopped the fighting to lead Palestinian civilians to safety.
All that seemed disingenuous. Equally unlikely were Palestinian claims that the Israelis had killed 500 Palestinians in cold blood, most civilians, and buried them in mass graves under the rubble after running them over with tanks. Israel said about 70 had been killed.
Terje Roed-Larsen, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, cut through the propaganda by stating the obvious: "No military operation can justify this scale of destruction. Whatever the purpose was, the effect is collective punishment of a whole society."
He and his family received telephone death threats from Israeli callers for his pains.
In May 2002, Richard Starr, managing editor of the Weekly Standard wrote this.
What sparked the battle in Jenin where the Israeli army fought a vicious house to house battle against a few hundred Palestinian guerrillas? A suicide bomber blew up 28 innocent Israeli civilians. The bomber was trained in the Jenin camp.
The Big Jenin Lie
PRECISELY A MONTH AGO, on April 8, the Palestinian news agency Wafa was reporting that Israel had committed the "massacre of the 21st century" in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. "Medical sources" informed Wafa of "hundreds of martyrs." This was a lie, concocted not only for local consumption--to keep the Palestinian people whipped up in a patriotic, Israel-hating frenzy--but mostly for export to the West.
That same day, you could hear breathless reports of the supposed Israeli atrocities in Jenin being spread by Palestinian sources on NPR, CNN, and elsewhere. Typical was the hysteria of Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations, on CNN: "There's almost a massacre now taking place in Jenin. Helicopter gun ships are throwing missiles at one square kilometer packed with almost 15,000 people in a refugee camp. . . . Just look at the TV and watch, watch what the--what the Israel forces are doing. . . . This is a war crime, clear war crime, witnessed by the whole world, preventing ambulances, preventing people from being buried. I mean this is an all-out assault against the whole population."
No, this was an all-out assault on the truth. There was a pitched battle in Jenin. But the "hundreds" of martyrs were a cynical invention. The death toll was 56 Palestinians, the majority of them combatants, and 23 Israeli soldiers.
No suicide bombings, no Jenin. No rocket attacks into Israel, no Israeli military incursion into Gaza. Simple really.
So why does Hamas continue to provoke war that it knows will result in large Palestinian casualties? That's the essential question for you to contemplate.
The disinformation campaign to discredit Israel is in full swing for the current military operation. Go to Little Green Footballs to learn about a propaganda piece purporting to show a gruesome Israeli attack on civilians. Not so, it seems. It was a 2005 Hamas rally at the Jabalya refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip, in which their own damn Qassam rockets exploded, killing 15 people, injuring dozens - including children.
I simply do not trust media reports showing civilian casualties. There are civilian casualties, to be sure, but the media is simply not very trustworthy on this matter.