The Guardian’s permanent (Israeli) “war crimes” page that just won’t die

Readers who know the raison d’être of CiF Watch also know that it came about as a result of the obsessively negative focus on Israel by CiF.  This continues as we see, but nowhere is it more evident and arguably more sinister than at this page, hidden away within the World News section in the online edition of the Guardian.

The uninformed reader without an axe to grind who happened on this might be forgiven for assuming that only one side (Palestinian) was wronged in Cast Lead, that only one side were victims (again Palestinian), and that Cast Lead (for which this section seems to be a macabre memorial) happened out of the blue one day simply because Israel decided on a whim to launch a war.

Because, conspicuously absent from any of the articles and videos is any account whatsoever of the Hamas’s human rights abuses against its own citizens, their unprovoked missile attacks on Israeli towns, or of the context and the events which led to Cast Lead.  I hope that readers will bear with me while I summarise those events:

Israeli civilians have been targets of rocket fire from Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal from there in 2005.  Instead of using the withdrawal to make it clear to their neighbour that they were prepared for coexistence, Palestinian terrorists began launching rockets into southern Israeli communities.

Despite a period of relative calm, when comparatively few rockets were launched, Hamas began firing again at Israeli civilians on 19th December 2008.

A statement by a spokesman from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs included:

“…Israel has no interest in conducting military operations in the Gaza Strip, but it is clear that the current situation, in which Israeli civilians are being targeted around the clock, cannot continue indefinitely. The residents of the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon, as well as the towns and villages in ballistic range of the Gaza Strip, cannot be held hostage forever to the radical fundamentalist agenda of Hamas….”

But the rocket fire continued and escalated and all the while Israel was urged by the major powers to stay her hand while her people were targets of Hamas hatred.

In the face of that escalation, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN submitted a letter of complaint to Ban Ki Moon on 17th December 2008, followed by a formal letter of protest to the Secretary General on 22nd December 2008, when that was not effective.   We do not know what he replied.  We do know, however, that the rocket fire on Israeli civilians in southern Israel escalated to such an extent that the Israeli government launched Cast Lead on 27th December 2008.

Nowhere on the Guardian’s account of alleged war crimes by Israel is there any mention of the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas – itself a breach of the Geneva Conventions – although the Guardian was indecently quick to condemn Israel for the civilian deaths in Gaza which ensued mostly because of Hamas tactics of embedding its terrorists within the civilian population and launching its rockets from among them, and using civilians as human shields (see also here).  Nowhere on the page is any mention of the measures taken by the IDF to avoid civilian casualties wherever possible.

One would not know either from the coverage, because it has not been updated to take note of ensuing events, that the IDF conducted formal hearings (see also here, here, here and here) and disciplined where necessary any soldier who broke IDF regulations.  In the absence of this we are left by Chassay and Borger to assume that the IDF went on the rampage far too often, without being curbed at all.

One example of the Guardian’s readiness to distort the picture and omit vital information was the Physicians for Human Rights’ case against the Prime Minister of Israel and others in which they accused the IDF in their petition of deliberately firing on medical personnel “in many cases” while they were carrying out their duties and deliberately prevented them from evacuating the wounded in a timely fashion.  The case was heard in the Supreme Court sitting in the High Court of Justice in Israel.  It goes without saying that the fact that it was heard so speedily at a time of war is an indication of how seriously the Israeli justice system takes such accusations.

According to the IDF, from intelligence information that they had in their possession it transpired that terrorists were making use of ambulances to carry out terrorist activity and to transport rockets and ammunition from one place to another, and in these circumstances even international humanitarian law provided that these protected institutions lose the protection that they usually enjoy.  Having made that argument, however, they accepted that in firefights it is not always possible to ensure that innocent people are never harmed, that where this happened it was never done intentionally but was as a result of hostilities which had been taking place in the vicinity.

The judges rejected the petition, but the allegation remains at the Guardian without mention of that very important fact.

In short, the Guardian does what it does best in this section.  It vilifies and lies about Israel and it reduces the Palestinians to passive objects lacking moral agency, who it believes cannot speak out for themselves, and on whose behalf it also promulgates lies.  In its indecent emphasis, (which should not be surprising when one considers its obsessive focus) on Israel’s misdeeds, it ignores the part it plays in the perpetuation of the abuse of the Palestinian people by Hamas and the latter’s own war crimes against Israeli civilians for which the Guardian would have it absolved.

In the case I have referred to above and in other matters the IDF conducted its own enquiries into the complaints made about its soldiers’ misconduct.  Five investigatory teams were involved in the enquiries, and among the conclusions were:

“..The investigations showed that throughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians whilst taking cover amidst uninvolved civilians in the Gaza strip and using them as human shields. Notwithstanding this, the investigations revealed a very small number of incidents in which intelligence or operational errors took place during the fighting. These unfortunate incidents were unavoidable and occur in all combat situations, in particular of the type which Hamas forced on the IDF, by choosing to fight from within the civilian population….

” In accordance with usual practice, a summary of each investigation will also be presented to the Military Advocate General, who is entitled to decide whether additional checks need to be done or if there is the basis for opening another type of investigation. His decision is entirely independent and he is subject only to the law.

“Due to their significance, the conclusions of the investigations and the opinion of the Military advocate will be presented for review to the Attorney General.”

I shall not be holding my breath for demands for a similar enquiry by Hamas, which actively perpetrates human rights abuses against its own people and pursues its stated objective of eradicating the Jewish state. 

Rather, Hamas’ agenda before, during and after Cast Lead was perfectly summed up by Colonel Richard Kemp, from his own extensive experience of fighting insurgency in Afghanistan.   In an address to the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs on 18 June, 2009, he said:

“… I have spoken of the considerable British and American efforts to operate within the laws of war and to reduce unnecessary civilian casualties.  But what of the Israeli Defence Forces?   The IDF face all the challenges that I have spoken about, and more.  Not only was Hamas’s military capability deliberately positioned behind the of the civilian population and not only did Hamas employ the range of insurgent tactics I talked through earlier.  They also ordered, forced when necessary, men, women and children , from their own population to stay put in places they knew were about to be attacked by the IDF.  Fighting an enemy that is deliberately trying to sacrifice their own people.  Deliberately trying to lure you in to killing their own innocent civilians.

“And Hamas, like Hizballah, are also highly expert at driving the media agenda.  They will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes.  They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

“Their people often have no option than to go along with the charades in front of the world’s media that Hamas so frequently demand, often on pain of death…”

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