A story by Conal Urquhart in today’s Guardian, “Israel accused after boys burned by mystery canister“, repeated a popular, and erroneous, claim by the anti-Israel media about the use of white phosphorus.
The story, about Palestinians who were allegedly burned by an IDF munition, contains a subheading characterizing the substance as being “outlawed”.
As was widely reported during and after Israel’s war in Gaza, the International Red Cross noted that “using the agent is not banned by international laws when it’s used as a smoke screen.” The IRC also noted that white phosphorus is only prohibited when used as an incendiary device to attack civilians, and that there was “no evidence that Israel is using it illegally.”
Indeed, there have been many reports about white phosphorus over the years both in the context of Israel’s use of the substance during Cast Lead and concerning the U.S. Military’s use of it during the Iraq war – all of which noting that when used as “a smoke screen to conceal movement and to illuminate large areas” it is legal.
However, further down in the article, Urquhart states the following:
The use of white phosphorous in civilian areas is banned by the Geneva conventions yet it is often used by armies for marking and creating smoke screens. Israel used white phosphorous in civilian areas during the Gaza war in 2008-2009 but stopped after international criticism.
Actually the convention Urquhart is referring to is Protocol III of the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which merely urges that “feasible precautions [be] taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.”
Finally, his claim that Israel stopped using white phosphorus “after international criticism” is patently false – and it is telling that he didn’t provide a source or a link to buttress this claim.
Moreover, the story itself is classic Guardian – imputing the worst possible motives to the IDF, casting doubt on Israeli army claims that the device may have been left behind after a training mission, and even creating suspicion that there may have been malicious intent – and represents another example of their immediate rush to judgment, and assigning of guilt, regarding any story where Israel stands accused.
Such ideologically driven journalism is one of the defining features of the Guardian Left – and something they may wish to consider, on their 190th anniversary, as they continue to make a mockery of the high-minded ideals of C.P. Scott (the paper’s former editor and owner) by quoting him on their CiF masthead opining: “Comments are free but facts are sacred.”
(Final note: I sent an email to the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor asking for a correction based on the facts outlined in this post, and will update you when I receive a reply.)