It began, as it so often does in the Western media, with opinions, unverified and sometimes deliberately misleading information presented “authoritatively” as fact, about atrocities and human rights infringements allegedly perpetrated by the IDF against Palestinians in Gaza.
This tendency on the part of the western and world media is nothing new. It is often enough for their stringers simply to feed the anti-Israel beast what it needs without thinking too much about the context or the truth of what they are reporting, and that beast has a distinctly unhealthy and ravenous appetite for distortions and untruths about Israel which it digests and then excretes as “fact.”
Therefore when, in March, 2009 several major Israeli and international media outlets published testimony from IDF soldiers claiming that the army had committed war crimes in Gaza, the world media had a feeding frenzy and of course the Guardian was in the vanguard in the shape of Rory McCarthy.
The soldiers from a group calling itself Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence) had given anonymous verbal testimony in which they said they remembered witnessing soldiers causing damage to Arab property, or had heard rumours that Arab civilians were used as human shields. A subsequent IDF investigation found that the two soldiers who had first reported the alleged incidents had not seen the incidents themselves, and had no personal knowledge or first-hand witness experience to support the allegations.
In spite of a formal statement from the IDF, which set out how its investigations had been subsequently conducted and pointed up the shortcomings of the soldiers’ testimonies, the Guardian, for one, persisted in promulgating its distortions here and here. It was evident that the Guardian had made up its mind and did not want to be confused by facts. Of course there was no attempt to correct McCarthy’s initial “misperceptions.” After all, they fitted squarely within the Guardian World View of “Israel = bad.”
Belatedly (and therefore arguably less effectively, for Israel has never been renowned for putting forward its own case proactively) counter evidence was gathered in the shape of statements of IDF soldiers about their own first-hand experiences of Cast Lead and the last Lebanese war. All were filmed or photographed and their first names given. It is probably safe to say that you will not find reference to or mention of these in the western media. The organisation which collects their testimonies is called Soldiers Speak Out. Its detractors may argue that it too shows bias, and presents only those accounts which display the IDF in a positive light.
That may or may not be the case, but the reader is invited to examine the testimonies and compare their emphasis and method of delivery with those of Shovrim Shtika. I believe they score more highly because they are without the hyperbole one finds in the accounts of pro-Palestinian NGOs. These soldiers simply present the facts as they themselves witnessed and experienced them rather than as second- or third-hand embellished rumour. Those testimonies being true, they had no need to resort to anonymity for they had the courage of their convictions unlike the members of Shovrim Shtika. The latter might argue, as did the “official” resident ex-IDF soldier on CiF, that they were afraid of reprisals but there are no accounts that there have been or will be any.
The following are some of the testimonies from Soldiers Speak Out and I have selected recurring themes which present in many of them – that of Hamas’ and Hizballah’s deliberate use of non-combatants as human shields, their deliberate use of civilian homes to store munitions (which is against international law) and their use of civilian cars and even ambulances to transport arms and ammunition. Again, I doubt that references to these can be found in the mainstream western media and particularly not in the Guardian which lionises Hamas and Hizballah as freedom fighters:
Then comes Ovadia’s testimony. The first situation he describes, of arms and ammunition hidden among children in the hope that the vehicles will not be searched, is common enough but, again, is rarely if ever reported in the western media and particularly not in the Guardian or on Comment is Free. He also recounts how Palestinian children are routinely encouraged by Hamas and Fatah to throw stones at Israeli soldiers and the results of one episode when he was shot by a gunman embedded among those children.
Following on from that, Yoni’s testimony points up a routine infringement of Palestinian human rights and of international law by Hamas, when it stores ordnance in civilian houses and fires on Israeli positions from them.
It seems from the few examples referred to here that Palestinian civilian lives and safety are more important to the IDF than they are to Hamas. Given the infamous and chilling declaration by Fathi Hamad above, this is scarcely surprising – Hamas will bend any situation to be grist to their mill to cause misery to their own people, in order to twist the truth and blame that misery upon Israel. Palestinian lives are cheap to Hamas and wasted without hesitation to score propaganda points. It should be very surprising that the world media swallows this without question and thereby heaps coals on the fires of hatred.
Unfortunately, it no longer is.