Thursday, July 31, 2014

Journalists threatened by Hamas

Sometimes the news is uncomfortable, and we'd prefer not to hear about it - or not to have the world hear about it. Unfortunately, in a democracy (=Israel), there isn't much you can do about it. In Gaza, on the other hand, you have options...

So it is that Gabriele Barbati had to wait until he was out of Gaza to tweet:
Out of far from retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris
@IDFSpokesperson said truth in communique released yesterday about Shati camp massacre. It was not behind it

And Wall Street Journal reporters Tamer El-Ghobashy and Nick Casey tweeted photos indicating that damage to a hospital was caused by Hamas rockets, and that Hamas was using said hospital as a base of operations - and then they deleted the tweets.

Want to know more? Look at the Jerusalem Post's article here.

An Unlikely Defender of Israel: Sam Harris?

Sam Harris is part of the modern wave of militant atheists, and an avowed opponent of the whole concept of a "Jewish state". Having said that, and perhaps even because of that, I think this Salon piece on his position regarding the war in Gaza is a worthwhile read.

Here's an excerpt:
[T]his gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. And this is something I discussed in The End of Faith. To see this moral difference, you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it.
What would the Jews do to the Palestinians if they could do anything they wanted? Well, we know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow. So what does that mean? Well, it means that, when they drop a bomb on a beach and kill four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident. They’re not targeting children.
Go here to read more.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Journalists in Gaza

Here's an interesting piece; I hope they will add more to it during the day:

ABC Goes Inside Gaza with an Israeli Armored Unit

“The Cruel Lady” rolled along.
That’s the nickname the Israeli soldiers use to describe their armored personnel carrier, or APC – it’s basically an oven on wheels. ABC News traveled into Gaza on an APC with troops from the Israeli Defense Forces’ 188 Armored Brigade today, witnessing a rarely-seen side of Israel’s conflict with Hamas, now in its third week.
The soldiers in “The Cruel Lady” were accompanied by two tanks, all under the command of Col. Tomer Ifrah...

Who is abusing the Palestinians?

Is Israel the nation that is abusing the Palestinians? Let's look at the neighbours:

Beginning in 1950, Egypt refused to allow Gaza-registered Palestinians to enter Egypt, let alone work and live there. They feared dilution of their economy, as well as political strife. In contrast, Israel regularly licensed thousands of Palestinians to come work in Israel, until those workers began carrying bombs into the country.

Jordan allowed the Palestinians entry, and even citizenship, from the time Jordan was first formed. On the other hand, the Jordanian army declared war on the Palestinians in 1970, killing 3,000 in a ten-day rampage which became known as Black September. The Jordanians feared a Palestinian take-over of their country, and reacted with force. Israel has consistently negotiated with the Palestinians, despite their violence.

The Lebanese government killed thousands of Palestinians in 1975-1976, during the Lebanese Civil War, when the Palestinians backed the PLO-sympathetic Lebanese National Movement against Pierre Gemayel’s Lebanese Front. Between June 12th and August 12th in 1976, Phalangist forces killed 2500 Palestinians in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Israel, in contrast, provides food, water, and medical help to refugee camps - even though refugee camps exist only because their residents insist on staying there and claiming "refugee" status, rather than building homes and communities, so as to keep their claim to Israel alive.

The Syrians refused to grant the Palestinians citizenship, but allowed them to live and work there. This ended when the Palestinians attempted to overthrow the Syrian government in the late 1970’s, as part of the Islamic Front. In 1982 the government responded by smashing the largely-civilian city of Hama, killing at least 10,000 residents.

The Israelis are the only government in that area to negotiate with the Palestinians and try to find compromise, rather than simply slaughter them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A third rocket cache in a UN School - no kidding!

Imagine that! A third cache was found today!

Reuters quotes UN spokesman Christopher Gunness, saying, "This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises. We call on all the warring parties to respect the inviolability of U.N. property." 

CBS has Mr. Gunness saying, "We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school. This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises." CTV has the same quote.

Of course, Reuters buries this after nearly 800 words of a 1,000-word piece. And CBS puts it after more than 1,200 words of a 1,500-word piece. And CTV puts it as the last lines in a 1,200-word piece... Because Hamas storing rockets in schools is just not newsworthy?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why is there an Israeli blockade of Gaza?

I don't know, Jon. Might have something to do with the arms ships that have been seized in coastal waters over the years. (Information below is courtesy of Wikipedia, CNN and Jewish Virtual Library, but you can find all sorts of articles around the web about each of these. You have a good research team, Jon; use them.):

The Santorini - March 2001

The Karine-A - January 2002
  • 122 mm Katyusha rockets.
  • 107 mm Katyusha rockets.
  • 80 mm mortar shells.
  • 120 mm mortar shells.
  • Anti-tank missiles.
  • Anti-tank mines.
  • Sniper rifles.
  • AK-47 ("Kalashnikov") assault rifles.
  • Ammunition.
  • Two and a half tons of pure explosives.

The Francop - November 2009
The seized weaponry consisted of 9,000 mortar shells, 2,125 107-mm Katyusha rockets, 685 rocket fuses, 690 122-mm rockets, 21,100 F-1 fragmentation hand grenades, and 566,220 AK-47 rounds.

The Victoria - March 2011
  • C-704 anti-ship missiles
  • 230 mortar shells, caliber 120mm
  • 2,270 mortar shells, caliber 60 mm
  • 2 radar systems manufactured in England
  • 2 rocket launchers
  • 2 hydraulic mounting cranes for the radar system
  • 66,960 7.62x39 rounds (Commonly used in the AK-47).

The Klos C - March 2014
A large quantity of long-range missiles, identified by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as M-302s, were found concealed under bags of Portland cement on the ship, which was then directed to berth in Israel.[4] With the Klos C secured by the IDF, and with the cooperation of its captain, the Panamanian flag it had been sailing under was lowered, and the flag of Israel as well as the Israeli Navy ensign were raised. The freighter was then escorted to Israel in a convoy.[5] After docking in the port city of Eilat, the Israelis unloaded the Klos C's cargo and discovered an additional 181 mortars, and 400,000 rounds of ammunition meant to be used in assault rifles. 

Not all of these were headed for Gaza, of course; some were for other peace-loving farmers...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hamas Executing Palestinians

If the world is worried about collateral damage and Palestinian civilians in Gaza, why are they not reporting on this? Jon?

Take a look at this from this page at the Al Quds website:

If you don't read Arabic, then I'll explain it: That's a gallows, meant for those who "collaborate" with Israel. (Here's the Google Translate version of the page; clumsy, but it will serve.)

Is anyone in the media covering this story?

(h/t Bassam Tawil and The Gatestone Institute)

A collection of very good posts

Jon, if you're looking for more information about the Middle East, you might take a look at this; there's a lot to choose from at the Haveil Havalim Blog Carnival!

Juan Cole's commentary: A Cease-Fire is Not Enough?

Juan Cole, a Professor of History at University of Michigan, thinks that Israel's goal in Gaza is to take it back. In a July 27 article entitled "Gaza: Why a Cease-Fire is Not Enough",  he writes, "It is frankly stupid to think the Israelis can, in Mitt Romney’s words, kick the can down the road forever on making peace with the Palestinians. It hasn’t tried because Israel wants Palestinian land and resources and won’t give them up."

Mind you, Cole doesn't seem to feel any need to support his assertion; it is true simply because the professor says it is. He has not a single quote from any Israeli leader to support it. He has not a single action in the part of Israel that demonstrates it. All he has is, "I say so."

Professor Cole also seems to be in need of some help with his data. He writes, "Gaza is not a country, that Israel can be at war with it. It is a tiny strip of land surrounded by Israel from land, sea and air, which is kept from exporting its made goods for the most part, faces severe restrictions on imports, and therefore has had imposed on it a 40% or so unemployment rate."

How many mistakes can we find in this passage?
1. Gaza is a country - it has its own government, with authority of taxation, laws and courts, and defense. How do you define "country"?

2. Gaza is not surrounded by Israel - it also has a border with Egypt. Presumably Professor Cole is aware of this? Perhaps he omits it because it's inconvenient to admit that Egypt has also closed its border crossings with Gaza?

3. Gaza is "kept from exporting its made goods for the most part" - Israel permits Gaza to run its exports through Israel, so long as they are not destined for the West Bank.

Why not the West Bank? It may have something to do with articles like this:

December 30, 2005
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was closed for several hours Friday after a Palestinian police protest forced European Union monitors to leave in fear for their safety, authorities said.
In other signs of the chaos in Gaza, a 14-year-old Palestinian was killed Friday when gunmen attacked a police station where their relatives were being held, Palestinian security officials said.
And, no progress was reported in winning the release of three British hostages, kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen in Rafah earlier in the week. (Posted 11:55 a.m.)

Or this, from January 3, 2006
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Random kidnappings. Daily exchanges of gunfire between police and armed militants. Different neighborhoods patrolled and controlled by competing militias.
It appears as if Gaza has degenerated into anarchy.
In just the past 10 days in the 146-square-mile territory (about twice the size of Washington, D.C.):
• Three Palestinian government offices were occupied by gunmen.
• Armed militants detonated explosives in a United Nations club.
• Three British nationals were kidnapped at gunpoint.
• An Italian man was abducted.
• Two rival families unloaded weapons at each other in a personal dispute.
• A Palestinian police officer was killed in a shootout between police and militants.
• The Palestinian-controlled border crossing was shut down by police angry at the death of their colleague, prompting European Union monitors to leave.
• Palestinian police took over government offices in their continuing protest.
• Israel launched air strikes on suspected militant targets.
Gaza was not supposed to turn out this way.
Last summer, Israel ended its 38-year military occupation of the area. For the first time in history, Gaza came under Palestinian rule.
No Ottoman Turks, no British mandate, no Egyptian control, no Israeli occupation. And in November, the Palestinian Authority took control over an international border crossing for the first time in history.
But since then, it's the absence of law and order in the territory that's been its most notable feature.

And so on. And yet, it wasn't until 2008 that Israel closed its border with Gaza. If anything has been "imposed", it's been self-imposed.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Look Jon, Concrete Tunnels!

Here's an issue that caught my attention today: The use of humanitarian concrete to build tunnels for Hamas in Gaza. 

It seems to me that there ought to be lots of comic potential here - maybe Hamas could go into subway tunnel construction for my home city, Toronto? 

Our Mayor, Rob Ford (you may have heard of him) has been pushing for subways for a long time, but people say that it takes too long to build them, and the construction would disrupt the city. Maybe he ought to hire Hamas for the job - these guys dig huge, new tunnels all the time, they do it so quietly that no one notices, and they do it fast!

Here are two articles on the tunnels; kinda makes you wonder why anyone thinks the Israelis shouldn't blockade Gaza...

Some Concrete Facts about Hamas (Tablet, Liel Leibovitz)

Israeli troops entering Gaza last week have so far uncovered 18 tunnels used by Hamas to send armed terrorists into Israel and built using an estimated 800,000 tons of concrete.

What else might that much concrete build? Erecting Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas, then, could’ve treated itself to seven such monstrosities and still had a few tens of thousands of tons to spare. If it wanted to build kindergartens equipped with bomb shelters, like Israel has built for the besieged citizens of Sderot, for example—after all, noted military strategists like Jon Stewart have spent last week proclaiming that Gaza’s citizens had nowhere to hide from Israel’s artillery—Hamas could have used its leftovers to whip up about two that were each as big as Giants Stadium. And that’s just 18 tunnels. Egypt, on its end, recently claimed to have destroyed an additional 1,370. That’s a lot of concrete.

You may find such calculations callous. They certainly pale in comparison to heart-wrenching photos of dead children on the beach. But they matter a whole lot: If you’ve ever read Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, or played Sim City, or just looked out your window and paid attention to your city’s changing skyline, you know that  urban leaders are measured not by what they say but what they build. And Hamas, almost exclusively, chose to build tunnels, bunkers, and launching pads for missiles.

Or how about this one:
The Moral Chasm Between Israel and Hamas (Wall Street Journal, General (ret.) James T. Conway)
Americans are understandably concerned when they hear that the majority of Palestinian casualties in the fighting between Israel and Hamas have been civilians and when they see images of houses in Gaza reduced to rubble and women wailing. Given the lack of corresponding Israeli civilian casualties to date, this creates the impression of an unequal - and hence immoral - fight between Israel and Hamas.

Although American empathy for noncombatants is a critical component of who we are as a people, it should not blind us to reality: Israel's military exists to protect its civilian population and seeks to avoid harming noncombatants, while its adversary cynically uses Palestinian civilians as human shields while deliberately targeting Israeli civilians.

I recently had the opportunity to see for myself the moral chasm between how the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas treat civilians during military operations. In May I joined a dozen other retired U.S. generals and admirals on a trip to Israel with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Just outside Hamas-ruled Gaza, we toured a tunnel discovered less than one kilometer from an Israeli kindergarten. Unlike tunnels that I had seen during the Iraq war that were designed for smuggling, this Hamas tunnel was designed for launching murder and kidnapping raids. The 3-mile-long tunnel was reinforced with concrete, lined with telephone wires, and included cabins unnecessary for infiltration operations but useful for holding hostages.

Israel, fearing just such tunnel-building, has long tried to limit imports of concrete to Gaza for anything but humanitarian projects, yet somehow thousands of tons of the material have been diverted for terror use rather than building hospitals or housing for Palestinians. Since the beginning of ground operations into Gaza, the IDF has uncovered approximately 30 similar tunnels leading into Israel, in addition to the more than two dozen discovered prior to Operation Protective Edge. Hamas operatives have been intercepted emerging from such tunnels in Israel carrying tranquilizers and handcuffs, apparently hoping to replicate the successful 2006 kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, for whom Israel exchanged 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.

Want to know more about the tunnels? How about these articles:
Business Week
USA Today (nice picture!)
Washington Post
New York Times (hope you have a paid subscription, Jon)

What do you say, Jon? Newsworthy?

Why create this blog?

From time to time, I see events that I think could really use the "Jon Stewart" treatment. You know, like this:

So I decided to create this blog in order to call attention to events that could use his acerbic wit.

I expect that part of the material on this site will be excerpts and links for articles; part will be my own writing and research. We'll see how it develops...

If you would like a quick guide to starting a blog of your own, click here for instructions (pdf).