Tag Archives: War Crimes

Prezza on Gaza

I quite like former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

Here’s a man, by no means perfect, like all of us, but a man who, from humble origins rose to be Deputy Prime Minister.

I respect his lifelong battle for social justice and to better the lives of working people.

Yes, I know about 2-Jags, his affair, his hatred of eggs, especially when aimed at his head.

But there is something to admire in his pugnacity. He’s an old-style socialist and it shows.

His piece in The Daily Mirror today, ‘Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is a war crime – and it must end’, where he weighs in on the conflict on Gaza, is ignorant and provocative because of its ignorance.

And I am not alone in this view because, at the end of the article is a chance to vote if you agree or not, and all day the ‘No’ vote has been over 80%.

So let’s see what he has to say:

Imagine a country claiming the lives of nearly three times as many as were lost in the MH17 plane tragedy in less than three weeks.

Hey, John, heard about Syria? heard about the 170,000 deaths there and millions as refugees? Heard that in one day Assad kills more than in those three weeks?

Of course, comparing a greater evil does not excuse a lesser, but one wonders whether he wrote anything about Syria yet. So let’s check.

Well, I found this: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/06/tony-blair-wrong-on-syria_n_3879904.html where he agrees with his party leader Ed Miliband that military intervention in Syria is wrong. So, you might say, his distaste for toppling dictators has allowed Assad free rein to murder thousands of Palestinians, for example, in Yarmouk.

Difficult one, isn’t it John? Tony Blair was wrong on Iraq, he says, so Ed must be right on Syria.

Yet, I have not found that he has ever written about war crimes in Syria or anywhere else. Why is that?

A nation which blasted a hospital, shelled and killed children from a gunboat as they played football on the beach and was responsible for 1,000 deaths, at least 165 of them children, in just two weeks.

The death of those boys is horrifying.

There are no excuses.

Accidents happen in war – I know that’s easy to say when innocent life is lost. Yet, those boys were playing near an area where Hamas had been firing at the Israelis. What parent would allow his kids to be playing in a war zone in an area where Hamas were known to have been located. In those circumstances tragedy can happen.

Is Prescott suggesting it was deliberate?  Did the British never kill children in Afghanistan or Iraq? Does John know that 160 children died building Hamas’s terror tunnels by Hamas’s own admission. Does he care about that deliberate abuse of the children? Does he worry about the hundreds of kids, even babies, dressed in Hamas combat uniforms, toting weapons? Did he see the video of a father showing a kid how to fire a rocket launcher on a beach just like the one the four boys were killed on? What does John have to say about that?

Shelling a hospital? Which hospital is he talking about? Hamas fire from hospitals, store weapons in hospitals, conduct their operations from hospitals. All war crimes. Did John hear the recording of a phone call to someone associated with the Wafa hospital asking time and again if there were any patients in that hospital because Israel wanted to return fire coming from that building but, under international law, could not do so unless the hospital were evacuated completely? When that confirmation was given, the building was attacked. Not before. Does John even wonder why they would do that? Does he know it was being used as a command centre?

Gaza lost a hospital because it lost its protected status when Hamas chose to use it to fire at its enemy.

The Shifa hospital was also struck. Israeli images showed that 4 rockets had been fired from behind the hospital; one was intercepted over Ashkelon, one landed on or near the hospital, one fell out to sea and one also fell short in northern Gaza. In fact, 10% of all rockets fired from Gaza fall short. We do not know what damage they do or who they kill because Hamas are quick to clear up their own mess and we now know that thanks to Italian reporter Gabriele Barbati:

Twitter___gabrielebarbati__Out_of__Gaza_far_from__Hamas____

Let’s just read that again. ‘Out of Gaza far from Hamas retaliation. In other words, Hamas are intimidating journos in Gaza and hiding their crimes and the deaths they themselves cause. Yet, people like John Prescott are all too willing to attribute every death, every explosion to Israel, as if the other side wasn’t firing at all.

Surely it would be branded a pariah state, condemned by the United Nations, the US and the UK. The calls for regime change would be ­deafening.

An outrageous and calumnious statement full of moral equivalence and moral bankruptcy.

‘Regime change’? Is he suggesting Israel is a dictatorship like Iraq? The only democratic country in the Middle East, with a world-renowned independent judiciary, freedom of the press, full rights for all its citizens, freedom of religion? Is he serious?

Israel, a pariah state for defending itself against an Islamo-fascist murderous regime that deliberately uses its own people as political cannon fodder? How dare he suggest Israel can be a pariah state and not Iran or Syria or any number of oppressive regimes funding murder, intolerance, oppression of women and gays?

Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trots out the same excuses. Hamas “militants” in Gaza fired their rockets first. Israel has a right to defend itself. It needs to protect its citizens.

Excuses? Here’s a man who is not keen on a swift retaliation against an aggressor? Think again.

Err.. that was just a little egg, John, not 2000 rockets with high-explosives. And these are ‘excuses’?

And he’s right on all three counts – but as always with Israel this is not the full story. The military action supposedly targeting Hamas is so brutally disproportionate and so grossly indiscriminate that it makes it impossible not to view Israel’s actions as war crimes.

Does it? Who says? That’s opinion. Accusing anyone or any state of war crimes is a serious accusation. You need evidence, legal opinions, full investigations and, in Israel’s case, a ready kangaroo court to jump to conclusions. John needs to look up the laws of proportionality. He also needs to understand that this is asymmetric warfare with an enemy that fires indiscriminately at civilians (war crime) from urban areas (war crime) and then hides underground.

Indiscriminate. 1100 deaths, at least 40% combatants, in over 2000 separate attacks. That doesn’t sound indiscriminate. Warning people and evacuating them (where can they go!? You’d rather they die?) is not indiscriminate. Making phone calls, dropping leaflets is not indiscriminate. What is indiscriminate are the Hamas rockets, especially those dozens that fall short and kill their own people. But even that is a victory because journalists are not allowed to film it so they can blame Israel, and everyone complies nicely – or else!

When you are fighting an enemy that simply wants to murder you and your children, says so repeatedly, and proves its intentions with bombs, mortars, suicide attacks, missiles – what would you do to protect yourself and your family and how would you fight? Just think about it. Are you a military expert? Do you understand how Hamas operates? Really? Do you know that it actually wants people to die so that YOU are shocked because YOU have moral scruples and human empathy, but THEY do not.

THEY intimidate journalists, murder collaborators and drag them through the street; they kill people who simply protest against them. They are evil monsters. YOU try dealing with them without harming a lot of innocents.

 Those who live in Gaza are kept like prisoners behind walls and fences, unable to escape the bombings, and an Israeli economic blockade has forced Palestinians into poverty.

Well, Egypt frequently closes its Rafah crossing and has a border with Gaza where not a lot gets through. Why don’t you mention that. On the other hand Israel does the following:

  • Cogat report just for today when there’s a bloody war going on: http://www.cogat.idf.il/901-11564-en/Cogat.aspx
  • Israel provides, directly or indirectly, all Gaza’s electricity – and Gaza does not pay for it.
  • Thousands of Gazans are treating free in Israeli hospitals.

In fact, there is no siege. But there is a maritime blockade because Iran and others send the rockets and weaponry Hamas uses, and would send much more if ships were allowed to dock unchallenged. Can you imagine what they would send? There is a relatively small list of restricted goods which can be used for building Hamas terror infrastructure. This does not include any food items.

Meanwhile, Israel has allowed in, under international pressure, the very concrete used to produce terror tunnels.

Israel’s Iron Dome defence system easily intercepts missiles launched from Gaza. Three Israeli citizens have died from these ­primitive rockets, with 32 soldiers killed fighting Hamas.

This is the usual argument of a Hamas apologist. They are primitive. Really? Grad and Fajr rockets are primitive? So primitive they can close an airport? And the ‘home-made’ ones may be unsophisticated, but they still can kill. Is John saying that Israel’s actions would be justified if more Israelis were killed? Is Israel to blame that it defends its citizens whilst there are no bomb shelters in Gaza, but an extensive network of tunnels used to murder Israelis, not to protect Gazans.

Britain just allowed the Luftwaffe to bomb it, to send V1′s and V2′s without response, did it John? Does Dresden ring any bells?

Compare that to the toll in Gaza. Of the 1,000-plus to die, more than 80 per cent were ­civilians, mostly women and children.

See above for the ‘fair-play’ idea of warfare. In war you want your people to live, unless you are Hamas. As for the lie about ‘mostly women and children’ no-one has managed to find a dead terrorist yet. But Al Jazeera has. Look at this from Elder of Ziyon. It demonstrates that the demographic of deaths clearly indicates that the claim most are civilians is not just false but an utter distortion. And bear in mind that Hamas uses suicide bombers as young as 14.

Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and ­executioner in the ­concentration camp that is Gaza

Wow, John. No terrorists in Gaza then. But using the term ‘Concentration Camp’, a clear reference to the Holocaust is beneath him. Yet it is a common image used by ‘critics” of Israel who want a genocidal, pathological, fascist regime to have free access to Israel – and Egypt – import what it chooses and to bring death and destruction to Israel.

Well, Jews actually are well aware of what a concentration camp or a death-camp is and we don’t need lessons from Prezza. Because if he has his way and allows the harmless Hamas regime with its fireworks free rein, there really would be concentration camps, and it would be Israeli Jews that would be in them. Prescott’s apologia for a terror organisation is disgusting.

And Israel flouts international law by continuing to build illegal Jewish settlements. Why? Because it knows it can get away with it.

What has that got to do with Gaza? it’s a whole different question. Hamas is not about settlements or blockades, it’s about genocide of the Jewish people – read their charter John.

What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto.

I’m puking my guts that John would use this well-worn and outrageous comparison between Israel’s actions and the those of the Nazis. This is actually antisemitic by the definition approved by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) :

‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

I don’t believe he is antisemitic, but this is shameful and ignorant.

Hamas is wrong to continue its rocket attacks and must ­recognise ­Israel’s right to exist.

That’s the problem, John. They never will and it’s that little factlet on which every argument against Israel’s actions ultimately fail.

But as Channel 4’s Jon Snow said this week: “If you strangle a people, deny them supply for years, extreme reaction is inevitable.

Firstly, they are ‘strangled’ due to their own actions and those of their government. They have adequate supplies. Did you ever see a starving person on all the videos in Gaza? And they seem to have plenty of supplies of guns and mortars and anti-tank rounds and thousands of missiles. And when they do get building materials, they build tunnels. Hardly Israel’s fault.

‘Extreme reaction is inevitable’. NO IT IS NOT. The extreme reaction was Hamas turning Gaza into an armed camp after Israel abandoned the territory in 2005. There were no blockades or sieges then. It was Hamas’s firing of rockets and using Gaza as a proxy base for Iran to attack Israel that led to subsequent events and wars. FACT.

Is it not truly ‘disproportionate’ to want to exterminate every Jew with missiles and guns? The usual causal inversion and moral blindness is alive and well. Someone threw an egg at Prezza and he tried to flatten him. He didn’t try to flatten him first, and then the guy threw the egg. But in the world of Israel-bashing, the right hook came first, and then the egg.

This is the fundamental conflation of two sets of circumstances: sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, especially in Gaza, and the fact that Hamas is governing them.

No one with an ounce of humanity could feel anything but horror at what is happening and what has happened before. It’s heart-breaking. But it is the responsibility for that plight that is the issue, and the responsibility for the necessity for Israel to protect itself and bring quiet and security to its citizens that is always ignored. Oh yes, politicians and Hamas terror apologists always add that qualifier to show they are being ‘fair’ to Israel, but they expect them to do so with hands tied behind their back.

Nevertheless, there is always justification in questioning the military tactics of Israel. Israelis do it. Frequently. They demonstrate against it. Gazans do not have that privilege.

It’s very easy to empathise with the people of Gaza. It’s very easy to see Israel as the bad guy and not the terrorists because, not only do they physically hide behind their population, they give YOU an excuse to ignore and hide their crimes because YOU are too busy being morally outraged by what you see and hear and are fed, by proxy, by Hamas itself.

The question remains: what would you do and how would you do it? And don’t say ‘negotiate’ because Hamas will not. Don’t say ‘lift the blockade’ because that is just an excuse and a ploy.

It’s very simple. Get rid of Hamas and the problem goes away. Stop hating Jews and the problem goes away. Stop firing rockets and trying to kill and kidnap, the problem goes away.

Shame is, a lot of people believe exactly what Prezza believes. But not the readers of this opinion piece though, according to the vote.

** Latest – vote has now swung in favour. I guess it was too good to be true.

Hamas in context

I haven’t posted during the current conflict between Israel and Hamas because, to be honest, I have been seriously concerned about the safety all friends and family there which has somewhat paralysed my interest in writing.

The other problem has been that I just have not had the time to make any considered assessment when so many others are doing such a good job.

The situation changes so fast that the best medium to follow has been Twitter and that has been an invaluable and fascinating resource which, at times, made me feel that I was almost there. Except I do not have to run to a shelter every few minutes and have my life made a misery for years.

As I travel toward London where I hope to take part in the annual AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen) parade for the first time, it brought home to me the experiences of my mother during the London Blitz. She knows well what it is like to be under constant threat of being bombed or at the receiving end of a V1 or V2. Although what has been happening to Israelis in the south for years is not the Blitz, there are certain similarities.

Can you remember the last country to be subject to a constant rain of rockets? I don’t think it has happened since the V2 attacks on England in the 1940′s.

So I thought I’d try to put some context into this conflict, a context which is sadly missing from almost all news reports.

If you are a regular reader I probably don’t have to convince you of what I am about to write, but please disseminate widely if you agree. There are still many out there who simply, and understandably, accept everything the media, and especially the TV and Internet news media tell them.

What has been particularly striking over the past week is the reporting behaviour of the television and Internet media of the major news outlets and newspapers.

The BBC, in particular, has developed a culture of what it would consider to be good news reporting. This is an attempt NOT to be biased but to simply report what it sees and to deal with both sides ln the conflict evenhandedly.

This is an admirable approach, except when it comes to dealing with a terrorist group it amounts to naivety, ignorance and moral equivalence on a scale that undermines the entire reporting enterprise. By falling over itself to be ‘fair’ it often involves accepting the lies of Hamas and its supporters, treating a genocidal, fanatical, Islamist fascist regime as being trustworthy and distorting history and chronology as well as misinterpreting the root causes of this particular conflict.

The extent of the moral blindness this attitude can imbue is starkly revealed by a report
on the BBC news website which actually challenges both the main Twitter account of Hamas and the IDF spokesperson and postulating that both are guilty of a breach of Twitter’s rules by encouraging violence.

On Thursday, [the Al Qassam Brigade] posted a YouTube video purportedly showing the launch of a Fajr 5 missile towards Tel Aviv for the first time.

In its turn, the IDF tweeted a link to a video purportedly showing an Israeli air force attack on a “rocket warehouse in #Gaza”, on day two of its “Pillar of Defense” operation.

Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has also been using Twitter to get its message across.

The use of social media to announce and comment on military operations, almost in real time, is a significant departure for the social networking platform.

And it potentially brings the warring parties into conflict with Twitter’s own rules, which state: “Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.”

This is frankly ridiculous on two counts: firstly, once again, there is the moral equivalence between a terror organisation committing a war crime every time it launches a rocket, and the target of those rockets. Secondly, the IDF spokesperson is providing what could be life-saving information to Israelis as well as propaganda. The Hamas account belongs to a terror group and should be banned for that reason alone. It’s also telling lies.

So now for the context which makes this moral equivalence so reprehensible.

All too many commentators and, indeed, those who are disposed to be against Israel, consider and describe the conflict as if it were between two nations in a dispute over territory. I am talking specifically about Gaza, not the Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank.

These same observers are also too easily duped by the lie that Israel ‘occupies’ Gaza and assume it does so for some malign reason to suppress and punish the people of Gaza for the perceived crimes of Hamas.

Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005 even before which rockets or mortars were being fired into Israel.
Prime Minister Sharon took the painful step of forcibly evicting Israelis and abandoning towns and synagogues and even exhuming the dead and repatriating to Israel.

The Israelis left behind billions of dollars worth of agricultural equipment which could have kick-started the Gazan economy. This resource was vandalised by locals more interested in using it for spare parts and other resources than creating a viable economy.

The Israeli largesse was soon repaid.

When Israel left there were no blockades, no embargoes on goods allowed through, no drones, no army, no closures. Gaza was free as its supporters now wish it to be, as they shout it at rallies across the world.

Then in 2006 after a vicious internecine war with Fatah where Hamas executed dozens of its political opponents by summary firing squads or throwing off tall buildings, Hamas won a ‘democratic’ election.

Hamas apologists are keen to point out that Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the people of Gaza. During the London riots I was tweeting about Hamas, can’t remember why, when none other than Yvonne Ridley, doyenne of the pro-Palestine movement in the UK, tweeted to me claiming just this, that Hamas were the democratically elected government of Gaza. When I challenged her as to when their next elections would be, she got rather evasive and said it would be as soon as they had dealt with the Israelis, or something similar.

So Hamas are not democrats. Their election would not meet the standards of the civilised world or even the uncivilised. They allow no opposition, no free press. free speech, freedom of association. They kill gays, repress women, murder opponents without trial. They are, in fact, the incarnation of evil.

So don’t confuse a democratic election with democracy. Hitler was democratically elected, as I told Yvonne. She said she did not deny this without conceding the point.

Soon after their ‘election’ Hamas began a campaign of firing rockets into Israel. Since 2000, well before they came to power, they have fired about 12,000. This rocket fire has been intermittent. Sometimes several in a day, sometimes none for several days. It was rocket fire which precipitated Cast Lead in 2008.

Hamas have also sent suicide bombers into Israel, fired artillery shells at school buses, fired at IDF soldiers across the border, packed tunnels under the border with explosives and IEDs and, notoriously, took Gilad Shalt hostage for 5 years.

Israel’s forbearance did not last. Hamas were importing and manufacturing a huge cache of arms after 2006. Why? There was no occupation. They were free. Israel allowed in all that was necessary. Israel provided gas and electricity, as it still does.

So why the rockets?

Hamas’s charter clearly states their goals. They are an extreme jihadi, Islamist organisation whose raison d’être is to ‘end the occupation’. This is not the occupation of Gaza or even the occupation of the West Bank, but all Israel. They consider Israel to be illegitimate and that all the land, from the river to the sea, is Arab Muslim. Their role is to liberate it using any means possible.

But their aims don’t stop there. They are a virulently anti-Semitic group. They do not want a one state solution with Jews living harmoniously with Arabs and Muslims, they want to kill every last Jew in Israel – AND THE WORLD.

Don’t believe me? Read their charter Do read it. This is an absolutist, rejectionist movement which is a death cult.
Hamas have no regard for international law, although it puts up a vague pretence in front of Western cameras. It has no regard for human rights. It has no regard for human life. It abuses its children dressing them in jihadi ninja outfits replete with suicide belts and assault rifles and rocket launchers.
It indoctrinates its children into hatred and the need to shed Jewish blood.

This is the organisation in support of which demonstrators will often say, ‘We are all Hamas now’.

Hamas have been pounding southern Israel for years. Leading up to the targetted killing of a senior Hamas figure last year,  I had been tweeting for days and written an article about the online #stoptherockets hashtag. The rockets did not come as a result of the killing, the killing and subsequent offensive was after many years of intolerable rocket fire from Gaza. Rocket fire which had escalated to an extent before the killing which forced Israel to act.

When those commenting on Israel’s actions caution restraint, where were they when the rockets were falling like rain on Ashkelon, Beersheva, Ashdod, Sderot and other towns and cities in southern Israel? How would you like to live under that barrage delivered by an implacable enemy not defending itself but carrying out the objectives of its own charter. A charter which seeks the destruction of Israel.

Hamas, affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, supplied by Iran, financed by – well, partly by you and me if you are in the EU.

So how can anyone fail to see that it is Israel,who are the victims of aggression, not the other way round. the blockade, the embargo, the fence around Gaza, the controlled crossings are all of Hamas’s making.

Yet, despite this, Israel continues to provide power, humanitarian aid, treatment in Israeli hospitals for the people of Gaza who are also victims of the obscene and vicious death cult named Hamas.

I say nothing of the lies and falsely reported images coming from Hamas during the conflict. I say nothing of their evasive interviews which never answer direct questions.

Remember. Hamas fire from schools, hospitals, residential area. They stockpile munitions in mosques and bedrooms. Every time they fire a rocket from a residential area towards Israel they commit two patent war crimes. Yet no-one calls them out for this. The opposite; they receive support from national governments and organisations across the world.

NGO’s which say nothing about rockets fired at Israel are always apoplectic as soon as Israel responds.

Yet I detect things are changing. The UK, many European countries, the USA and even Ban Ki Moon himself seem to realise that Hamas are the aggressors. Whilst asking Israel to show restraint, something they never asked Hamas to do, they nevertheless clearly recognise the sequence of cause and effect here and they know that to ask Israel not to react would be utter hypocrisy.

Maybe you can now understand the background a little better.

My train is about to pull in to London.
See you later.

US troops kill 680 civilians – UN Human Rights Council not interested

The Sunday Times this week had a front page report about civilians killed at checkpoints in Iraq by Us soldiers. The statistics come from files published by the Wikileaks website.

Here are some highlights:

American troops shot  dead 681 innocent civilians at security checkpoints including 30 children.

This was the direct result of an order to shoot at any vehicle that failed to stop. This resulted in six times as many civilian casualties as ‘insurgents’ being killed. Often the Americans opened fire without warning.

June 14 2005 US troops raked a car containing 11 civilians with gunfire Seven passengers including two children were killed because, despite attempting to flag the car down, it did not stop.

Between 2004 and 2009 832 people were killed at or approaching checkpoints or convoys and 2,200 wounded.

The Sunday Times also reports on a level of torture by the current Iraqi regime, under the noses of the Coalition, which is reminiscent of the Saddam years. Many of the victims were handed over to the Iraqis by Coalition forces. For ‘Coalition’  read American.

The leaked documents describe more than 300 cases of detainees being abused by ‘coalition’ forces. The Sunday Times tells us that one detainee was forced to dig up a roadside bomb.

Two men attempting to surrender to an Apache helicopter crew were, nevertheless, shot dead.

Does the US government hold its head in shame? No! Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns the leaks for endangering lives without, apparently, caring too much about the death of innocents or the cavalier disregard for international law including the Geneva Convention demonstrated by these documents.

The Sunday Times report continues:

In Salahuddin province in 2008 children collecting firewood were attacked by an Apache helicopter crew. They though they were planting roadside bombs. One of the children died.

I ask you, dear reader, to replace ‘coalition’ and ‘US/American’ with ‘Israeli’ and ‘Iraqi’ with Palestinian. Replace ‘Iraq’ with ‘Gaza’ or ‘the West Bank’.

Now tell me that if it were a matter of Israel and the Palestinians the world would not be in uproar, that the UN Human Rights Council would not at this very moment be putting together an Israel-bashing committee of investigation and already call these incidents ‘war crimes’, ‘crimes against humanity’. And tell me that the Islamic world and the Hamas apologists in Europe would not be comparing Israel to the Nazis.

None of the incidents involving coalition troops has had proper public investigation, so I do not judge in advance. What I say is that in a war, and especially in asymmetric wars, where the enemy can be dressed like a civilian, be a woman in a hijab or a 14 year old boy with a suicide belt, mistakes are made.

But if it were Israel making the mistakes, the result would be very different.

Where is the Islamic world’s fury about Iraqi civilians? Why do they not ask for UN enquiries? Where are the resolutions in the Security Council?  Why is the reaction to 680 innocent deaths in Iraq different to a reported similar number in Gaza?

On the israelagainstterror.blogspot website (Hat Tip Matt Pryor) their article refers to a NY Times piece which highlights a statistic about the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in conflicts of the 20th Century.

Apparently the figure is 10 civilians to every soldier/combatant.

In Gaza 2009/9 :

If one accepts the Israel Defense Forces’ statistics, then noncombatants accounted for only 39 percent of Palestinian fatalities — less than half the standard 90 percent rate noted by the ICRC. Nongovernmental organizations obviously cite a much higher civilian casualty rate. But even they put it below 90 percent.

According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli forces killed 1,390 Palestinians in the war, including 759 noncombatants, 349 combatants, 248 Palestinian policemen, two in targeted assassinations (bizarrely, these aren’t classified as either combatants or noncombatants), and 32 whose status it couldn’t determine. The policemen are listed separately because their status is disputed: Israel says the Hamas-run police force served as an auxiliary army unit; Palestinians say the policemen were noncombatants.

Omitting the 34 whom B’Tselem didn’t classify, these figures show civilians comprising 74 percent of total fatalities if the policemen are considered noncombatants, and 56 percent if they’re considered combatants. Either way, the ratio is well below the 90 percent norm.

The most anti-Israel accounting, from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, lists 1,417 Palestinian fatalities, including 236 combatants, 926 civilians, and 255 policemen. But even these figures, if we assume the policemen were noncombatants, put civilians at only 83 percent of total deaths — less than the proportion the Red Cross deemed the norm back in 2001. Treating the policemen as combatants lowers the rate to 65 percent.

The article concludes that although the civilian casualty rate was high, and this can be partially accounted for by the very point I was making above, namely, the combatants fighting the Israelis did not wear uniform and hid amongst civilians and used the civilian infrastructure for weapons stores, shelter, firing positions and, cynically, as part of a human shield strategy, nevertheless the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths, by whoever’s statistics you choose to agree, was lower than the average in other conflicts.

In other words, the statistics give a lie to the claim of the Goldstone Report that Israel deliberately targeted civilians.

Now tell me the Israelis were more guilty than the Americans.

I suspect that the Americans and Israelis had a few bad soldiers whose actions were illegal, or even plain stupid. But I am also damn sure that both armies were fighting in the most difficult of all scenarios where telling civilian from combatant does not conform to the simplistic norms that observers sitting comfortably at home and in judgement in front of their TV or reading their newspaper would like to assume.

Gaza and Helmand expose the appalling double standards of the international community

During and after Operation Cast Lead the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was vilified for ‘war crimes’ and the notorious Goldstone Report which concluded that Israel had a deliberate policy to kill civilians and destroy property has become a major vehicle for attacks on Israel.

Israel always maintained that in war mistakes are made but it was never its policy to target civilians. The IDF has conducted and continues to conduct its own investigations and has rebutted many of the specific accusations in the report.

As is the nature of attacks on Israel, the mud always sticks and anything ranging from truth to downright lies will pass as truth as long as it carries a negative image of the State of Israel with which its enemies can beat it.

Now there is an ironic echo of how Israel characterised its campaign in December 2008 to January 2009 and how NATO is conducting its ‘surge’, Operation Moshtarak, against the Taliban. There is an uncanny similarity in the language and also the situations that NATO has confronted.

Let’s draw one important distinction between Cast Lead and Moshtarak; Gaza is a heavily populated, built-up, narrow strip of land which is very difficult terrain in which to carry out a military campaign; Helmand is open country with relatively sparsely populated villages and towns.

Both Israel and NATO have stated that they have no argument with civilians. Israel went to extraordinary lengths to warn civilians of impending strikes by leafleting, mobile phone calls and even dropping special munitions on houses which sounded as if they were explosive devices but were only designed to warn those inside to get out.

NATO are fighting an extremist Islamist group who have repeatedly targeted NATO forces with IED’s; Hamas was rocketing Israeli civilians for several years sending over thousands of rockets into southern Israel.

No NATO country is directly threatened by the Taliban; Israel is not only directly threatened but Hamas have stated in their own charter that their goal is to destroy Israel and kill Jews.

Yet look at the different way the world’s press and especially the UN responds and reacts to operation Moshtarak:

the BBC reports :

Taliban militants are increasingly using civilians as “human shields” as they battle against a joint Afghan-Nato offensive, an Afghan general has said.

Gen Mohiudin Ghori said his soldiers had seen Taliban fighters placing women and children on the roofs of buildings and firing from behind them….

It is difficult for the Afghan army and Nato to storm Taliban-held areas because to do so may inflict heavy civilian casualties and there are still a lot of civilians in Marjah.

“Whenever they launch an attack, the Taliban take refuge in civilians’ homes.

Now isn’t that exactly what the IDF claimed Hamas were doing in Gaza and Goldstone found no evidence of this, or more specifically Fact-finding mission member Colonel Travers could find no evidence?

And then this in the same report:

US Marines fighting to take the Taliban haven of Marjah have had to call in air support as they come under heavy fire.

They have faced sustained machine-gun fire from fighters hiding in bunkers and in buildings including homes and mosques.

Now hang on, this is what the Israelis said Hamas were doing but not only did Hamas deny it but Goldstone again found little evidence and our friend Travers could find no evidence of mosques being used despite Israeli videos which conclusively proved the opposite and also an important independent witness Col. Tim Collins.

And then there was the incident where NATO said twelve civilians had been killed by a  missile that had malfunctioned only later to correct this by saying that the intended target was hit but thy didn’t realise civilians were in the building.

Gen Carter confirmed on Tuesday a missile that struck a house outside Marjah on Sunday killing 12 people, including six children, had hit its intended target.

Gen Carter said the rocket had not malfunctioned and the US system responsible for firing it was back in use. Officials say three Taliban, as well as civilians, were in the house but the Nato soldiers did not know the civilians were there.

Initial Nato reports said the missile had landed about 300m (984ft) off its intended target. Gen Carter blamed these “conflicting” reports on “the fog of war”.

Now I urge you to cast your mind back to Operation Cast Lead where Israel was saying  very similar things and the result was a UNHRC investigation, war crimes accusations and a threat that figures in the IDF and government would become international criminals – indeed some have already decided this is the case.

So where are the calls from the UNHCR now? How soon will Judge Goldstone regather is little band of men and women and go straight to the Taliban and ask then if they committed any war crimes (answer will be ‘No’) and give evidence of the many crimes of NATO. Will he then come up with a 500 page report recommending senior NATO commanders and politicians in NATO countries be taken to The Hague on charges of war crimes? Will Brown and Miliband, Obama and Clinton, Sarkozy and the rest be hauled before a tribunal? Will the US, UK and other NATO countries become international pariahs? And look at the difference: they were fighting far from home an enemy they claim is a threat to their national security. Did any UN body ever dispute this? Israel was fighting an enemy on its doorstep that was killing its civilians and targeting them on a daily basis for years and years before it took any action.

Now I know what you are thinking: in Gaza hundreds of civilians were killed; what about white phosphorus, white flags etc. Now just compare the terrains in Gaza and Afghanistan as I have already pointed out.

Israel has admitted mistakes; it may be that its interpretation of international law in respect of some of its actions differs from others; it may be that some of its soldiers acted disgracefully writing graffiti and trashing property. They should be disciplined. Are these war crimes? If so NATO is certainly guilty. And what about the Iraqi who was beaten up by British soldiers and died of his injuries? Is that not a war crime? Where is the UN on that? Where is the UN on Abu Ghraib? Where is the UN on Guantanamo Bay? Will the UN regard the Taliban as a legitimate military in the same way Goldstone and the UN regard Hamas?

What’s the difference?

I’ll tell you in case you didn’t already guess: Israel. Always Israel. They are not considered to be capable of regulating or examining their own conduct like the US or the UK or any European country or any great power such as China or Russia. Where are the resolutions on Chechnya? South Ossetia? Where Tibet?

The UN acts like a bully; pushing around small countries, especially Israel is fine but the big boys are exempt.

The UN is no longer fit for purpose because it is run supposedly along democratic lines but is numerically dominated by countries which are not. This same bunch of tyrants and dictators have a natural antipathy to Israel, not least that most of them are Muslim states. This means that whenever Israel tries to defend itself it will always be vilified and demonized. America can kill hundreds of thousands of Muslims. Sunnis can kill tens of thousands of Shia and vice versa. They can attack the others’ holy shrines and you just hear the odd ‘tut tut’. All Hamas have to do is show a dead baby and the entire world is calling for Israel’s destruction.

Isn’t that called anti-Semitism? Used to be. Doesn’t get Israel off the hook for real crimes or human rights violations but if there is never any differentiation or fairness with regard Israel’s actions then any genuine criticism which every country should be subject to, will be dismissed as vilification. If genuine criminals like Mugabe or Bashir are not pursued with the same vigour as legitimate Israeli politicians, if George W Bush and Tony Blair aren’t guilty but Tzipi Livni is then where is the justice? Think  extraordinary rendition. Think torture. So why is Israel always the bogeyman?

Israeli politicians denied freedom of speech

Two recent incidents, one at Oxford University and one at the University of California, Irvine demonstrate a trend amongst pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel activists to silence the voice of Israel on University campuses.

In the UK a recent case sought to issue an arrest warrant for war crimes against Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister of Israel during Operation Cast Lead, in expectation of her visiting the UK. The visit never materialised and the Israeli government issued a strong condemnation of the law which allows such warrants to be issued. The UK government then gave Israel assurances that the law would be changed (which it hasn’t) and that it would ensure Israeli politicians could come to the UK without fear of arrest.

Whilst a lot of Human Rights people  and Muslim organisations became agitated that the UK government was interfering in the judiciary to provide cover for ‘war criminals’, it was revealed that Hamas was behind the warrants

Hamas admitted to masterminding the campaign to pursue war crimes cases against Israeli politicians and military officials in Britain and other European countries.

The group, considered to be a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom and the European Union, says it has been working with lawyers to get the Israelis charged with war crimes in connection with Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

This fact doesn’t seem to bother the anti-Israel, pro-Human Rights interests. It’s rather like Hitler trying to get Churchill prosecuted at Nuremburg for bombing Dresden.

But this is just one way of trying to silence Israeli politicians.

Meanwhile back at the Uni’s.

At the University of California, Irvine, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was prevented from completing his address about progress in the Middle East. Having been invited by the Jewish Federation of Orange County the event was open to all students. A number of students, many clearly Muslim, stood up one after another to interrupt in a co-ordinated and very effective, and it should be said, peaceable demonstration. Each was escorted out of the building but Oren eventually gave up the losing battle.  Oren was accused, inter alia, of being a killer. The students were not available to comment on Hamas’s or Fatah’s track record.

Now this does bring up an interesting problem for democracies and Free Speech; lets say this was David Irving or Robert Mugabe. Would I object to attempts to stop him speaking? Ahmadinejad was heckled in New York, for example. Just because we don’t agree with a heckler or an orchestrated demonstration doesn’t mean that the demonstrators have no right to do so.  What are the limits for such demonstrations? When Ahmadinejad has been heckled in the West he has never been stopped; the protesters made their point and were arrested or made to leave.

In Irvine, according to Press TV, an Iranian-funded TV network, ‘at least eleven students have been arrested’ as a result of this protest for disturbing a public event. The students could also be disciplined and suspended or worse. Is it right that students should lose their University places and opportunity for education because of their political beliefs? Surely it’s for the law to decide if there was a misdemeanour. However objectionable I or other supporters of Israel feel their actions were, they were not violent, there were no anti-Semitic slogans.

The issue is: does everyone have a right to free speech and what are the limits of protest? Each country will have an answer to these questions. Iran has an answer and we know what that is. The irony is that these protestors prevented free speech from someone of a country where free speech is alive and kicking, but the countries these same protestors would, presumably, support, have no such freedoms. If you do not even want to hear what your opponent has to say and you want to stifle debate then it surely means that you have little confidence in your own arguments.

Debate is at the very heart of the Oxford Union.  This week Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, Danny Ayalon, was invited to speak. What then took place went beyond protest.  As Ayalon began to speak various members of the audience began to shout at him. The whole sad story is related by his press office:

On Monday night, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was invited by the Oxford Union to speak at an event at the university. During the speech one student shouted extreme abuse at the Deputy Foreign Minister including Itbach Al-Yahud (Slaughter the Jews). The event was caught on camera and subsequently shown on Israeli television Channel Ten. The Deputy Foreign Minister is looking into the possibility of pressing charges against the student for what is tantamount to a call for genocide.

“This demonstrates our new policy on hatred and racism and we will have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, something that should have happened a long time ago,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon.

Another protestor carrying a Palestinian flag started walking towards Ayalon before security intervened and he was ejected from the hall. Another student shouted at the Deputy Foreign Minister that “we will do to you what we did to Milosevic”. Other students shouted, both inside and outside the hall, “Palestine will be free, from the River to the Sea”, which by its meaning, calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. After the event several students attempted to physically assault the Deputy Foreign Minister but were prevented from doing so by security.

Speaking to the students, Ayalon was able to relate Israel’s point of view on many issues that many felt had rarely been heard in such a setting. Ayalon received applause at the end after taking extremely hostile and abusive questions and patiently dissecting and answering them one by one. After the event, several students approached the Deputy Foreign Minister and thanked him for giving a narrative that they felt they had never heard before.

Ayalon corrected many students’ assertions on history, international law and United Nations resolutions and told them that: “If I manage to convince you to go and learn the truth from the history books then this will have been a successful event.” During his speech, Ayalon called for historic reconciliation between all of the peoples in the Middle East.

It is interesting that some students would thank Ayalon for explaining a point of view they had not heard before. That says a lot about the way the Israeli point of view is being stifled and misrepresented in the UK media and the disgraceful demonstrators are part of that attempt to suppress Israel’s point of view and spit hatred.

How different from Irvine. In the UK any Israeli politician has to be subject to blatant anti-Semitism and calls for genocide of the Israelis (Jews only, of course) from those accusing them of the very crimes they wish to perpetrate themselves.

And now these accusations of war crimes are fuelled by the egregious Goldstone Report which is a badly flawed and thoroughly scurrilous document which over time will be dissected, rebutted and discredited. But as it is out there and carries what passes for the authority of the UN itself, it can now be used by the Israel delegitimisers to throw rocks at Israeli politicians and provide cover for the suppression of free speech and calls for genocide.

War Crimes and Double Standards

The Independent today showed a picture taken in 2004 of an alleged breach of the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.

The incident is to be investigated at a public inquiry to be announced tomorrow by Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, which will also examine evidence of one of the worst atrocities ever carried out by the British Army.

It is claimed that hours after the picture … was taken, the four men were transferred to a UK-run detention camp where they were badly beaten and where 20 other civilians were murdered by British soldiers.

It is clearly correct for the British Government to address these allegations and take appropriate action against the perpetrators if found guilty.

But wait a minute. Soldiers abusing Muslims? International Law broken? Soldiers murdering civilians? Now where have we heard this recently? Oh yes, of course. Gaza! The Goldstone Report.

So where are (or indeed were) the demonstrations on the British streets about these specific alleged atrocities? Where are the special meetings of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council)? Where are the demonizations of the UK in the world’s press? Where the outrage in the Muslim world? Where the Channel 4 report?

Where?

Have you seen any of these in the past 5 years? General outrage about the invasion, yes, but no international pillorying of the UK per se, no condemnation of the entire British Army. Only ‘concerns’ about specific incidents.

So why when it comes to Israel are things so different? Why are Israeli internal investigations whitewashes, but British ones acceptable?

There couldn’t be bias going on by any chance? Nah! Surely not.

The Goldstone Report – an important resource

A new website has been created which systematically dismantles the findings of the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead.

The report accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

Hamas got off lightly.

Now the Israeli Defense Force and individual officers and members of the government of the day may be accused of war crimes and subject to arrest and trial in the International Court of Justice if the UN finds cause to recommend further action.

This new website – www.goldstonereport.org is an intelligent and well-argued and meticulously documented analysis which exposes the lies, bias and bankrupt forensics of the report.

I urge you to read it.

BBC appears surprised at IDF morality

On Friday the BBC published a news item on its website: Israel army punishes Gaza soldier

Straight away the headline tells a subtle lie. It uses the present tense. We might be fooled into thinking this was some reaction to recent (disproved) stories of misconduct. Maybe a fig leaf for greater crimes, a token gesture? But no, it happened during Operation Cast Lead. Yes, during, before the current round of unchecked and unproved allegations.

The BBC is quoting a Ha’aretz story; the same paper that released the story about alleged atrocities emanating from a pre-military academy.

An Israeli soldier was removed from the combat area after he shot a Gazan woman in the leg “by mistake” during the recent offensive, military sources say.

The soldiers were firing in the air and urging a group of Palestinians who looked “suspicious” at the time, the military said….

…A statement from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said there had been a warning of a suicide attacker in the area where the incident occurred.

The soldier was an infantryman from the Givati Brigades, and has been demoted and put on probation

The BBC report then goes on to rehash recent unproven accusations and drops its own little bomblet: “The Israeli forces’ conduct has been heavily criticised. ” Thus conflating criticism of general tactics with specific allegations of war crimes committed by individuals.

It goes on:

Several international rights experts and organisations have raised concerns that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during the 22-day conflict.

This despite the fact that Hamas were, had and continue to fire rockets and mortars deliberately intended to kill civilians, a war crime as patent as it is cynical, and the BBC say “may have”. Hamas use schools, mosques, ambulances, innocent civilians’ homes, hospitals and media centers to stockpile weapons and use as firing positions, and the BBC say “may have”. The BBC tries to be even-handed in its treatment of the IDF and Hamas as if the latter were not a terrorist organisation that has no interest in observing ANY international laws and cynically exploits Israel’s attempts at observing those same laws.

Listen to what an IDF Colonel had to say:

He said the soldiers entered “thousands” of homes in Gaza. “Almost in every house we found rifles, grenades, RPGs (rocket propelled grenades),” he said.

They also saw Hamas militants moving from house to house carrying white flags to pose as civilians, he added.

He blamed Hamas for exposing civilians to danger by using civilian institutions for cover:

“When you find in a backpack, a blue backpack with logo of the UN on the backpack, an IED, (improvised explosive device) you understand how cynical, how far they go,” he said.

So Hamas use the white flag as a cover and the world wonders why, perhaps, some really innocent people carrying a white flag may have been shot. They use UN equipment to hide bombs, they place weapons in thousands of homes and the world wonders why innocents were killed, UN facilities damaged and Gazan residents’ homes damaged or demolished. When the enemy cynically exploits its opponents morality – yes, I said morality – a morality they clearly do not have, then it is not surprising mistakes happen – in fact it is amazing so few civilians were killed even if you accept the Palestinian figure and not the Israeli one.

As long as the West believes that asymmetric warfare can still be waged without some ‘loose rules of engagement’ then they will never win the War on Terror.

Nevertheless, and I have said this repeatedly in recent posts, Israel must not sink to the level of Hamas and its fellow travellers. Where there are inexcusable lapses which amount to patent crimes, the perpetrators must be brought to justice. So far no investigations into individual allegations have yielded any clear evidence. Hearsay and rumour are powerful weapons to diminish reputations when so many are willing to accept them prima facie without taking the care to wait for full investigations.

Some believe that Israel has given up caring what the world thinks. Understandable. But dangerous. If you don’t care what others think, that removes a powerful moral deterrent. It must not happen.

UN: Israel may not be allowed to defend itself

It’s official: long-time Israel basher, academic and UN  “special rapporteur” on Human Rights in Palestine Richard Falk is not just accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza but, according to the BBC website, questioning “whether Israel acted lawfully in entering Gaza at all”.

So according to Falk, Israel is unique among the countries of the world in possibly not being allowed to defend itself against a barrage of rocket attacks from a neighbouring territory over a period of many years.

Just to balance things up, “He is calling for an independent inquiry to examine possible war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas.” With one sentence he equates the actions of a terrorist organisation, whose charter reveals that it is dedicated to the physical destruction of Israel, with the country it is trying to destroy and which, perhaps, may not be allowed to defend itself against that terrorist organisation.

There is no question of “possible war crimes” when it comes to Hamas. Falk only needs to stand on the streets of Sderot for a day (but he can’t as Israel won’t give him a visa) and see what are considered harmless rockets raining down indiscriminately on a civilian population. He only needs to ask Hamas when last Gilad Shalit had a visit from the Red cross.

Here are some of Falk’s bons mots from the past:

it is not an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with the criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity

After writing an article in June 2007 called “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust” he defended his use of the word “Holocaust” by comparing Israel’s policies to the collective punishments used by the Nazi regime in Germany.

He has also accused Israel of “genocidal tendencies”.

In 2006, Yitchal Levanon, the Israeli ambassador to the UN in Geneva said:

He has taken part in a UN fact-finding mission which determined that suicide bombings were a valid method of ‘struggle’

The BBC alludes to Falk’s previous record as a critic of Israel, who is considered biased by the Israelis, without giving the substance of that criticism.

For Falk, Israel, the arch-criminal, should sit on its hands and allow itself to be destroyed. Then, perhaps, he would be wringing his hands and describing a second Holocaust of the Jewish people and investigating Palestinian war crimes in the ruins of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

We must not fear the truth

Yesterday Ha’aretz published a story about testimony of IDF soldiers on the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at the Oranim Academic College in Kiryat Tivon.

The course head, Dani Zamir, published conversations in a course newsletter. The testimony purports to be that of a group therapy session where three IDF soldiers related incidents in which civilians were killed by snipers and of wanton destruction of property.

In fact, the actual stories are extremely disturbing. An old woman killed, apparently because she strayed into a fire zone; others killed because they took a wrong turn after being evacuated by the IDF and snipers had been instructed to kill anything  that moved. 

The world’s press has obviously homed in on these stories and the BBC was not slow to comment. However, it must be said, the story was not headlined by the BBC and their reaction was somewhat muted. They did manage to try to suggest that this was a religious war by quoting some rabbis who were involved. Somewhat ironic when it is the other side who are actually conducting a religious war when it’s supposed to be a territorial one.

The anti-Zionists and the Jew-haters will of course say ‘I told you so’ about these reports, and this will confirm them in their beliefs and be used to justify their hatred.

There have, however, been doubts cast on the stories because Zamir has a long history of left-wing agitation and views. Furthermore, those giving testimony may not have witnessed these events but were only reporting heresay. One of the soldiers wasn’t even in Gaza, apparently.

We await the IDF internal investigations. Ha’aretz says it has more to expose.

But let me be quite clear on this: we who support Israel must not try to find excuses or escape into denial. If crimes have been committed the perpetrators must be punished. Any nation claiming to be civilised, especially one that claims to have the most moral army in the world, must investigate, publish and take any necessary action, however painful. It was interesting to read some of the comments posted on the yNet website. So many said that Israel should not was its dirty linen in public and give succour to the enemy.  There is an understandable view in some sections of the Israeli public, and certainly in the Diaspora, that Jews should never criticise Israel because it has plenty of detractors. As Herb Keinon wryly writes in the Jerusalem Post  “The whole world is against us, goes an old Jewish joke, and now we’ve joined in.” It’s this ability for Jews to search their conscience that separates then from many of their enemies.

There have been various stories and reports about abuses, atrocities and petty vandalism since the IDF operation began. The Jewish Chronicle on the 6th March had a piece headlined ‘I don’t feel bad about what we did’. It interviewed six soldiers. The last two soldiers, Arik Dubonov and Amir Marmor expressed reservations:

From the first briefings before going in, it was clear that the army had changed its entire mindset. Instead of getting the usual precautions on not harming civilians, we were told about the need to make a very aggressive entry. We were told ‘any sign of danger, open up with massive fire.’…

Some of us were very uncomfortable with these orders… (Dubonov)

… to me it was like a punishment exercise.. from the enormous extent of the destruction. We were there for a week and despite the fact that no-one fired on us, the firing and the demolitions continued incessantly. (Marmor)

The other soldiers interviewed had a different story but still did not make comfortable reading. Different experiences at different stages and areas of the conflict.

I have never fought as a soldier. I doubt many soldiers have fought under the conditions the IDF fought under. Clearly, the tactic was to go in hard in order to save Israeli soldiers lives against an enemy that had promised much but delivered little. The IDF could not allow Hamas any scope to operate. To achieve this aim against an enemy that hid in hospitals, mosques and schools, that popped out of tunnels in houses and booby-trapped residential buildings, was not going to be anything but a dirty war with civilians in the middle. Despite this, the IDF policy was to do as much as it could to avoid civilian casualties. That may seem ironic in light of the allegations, but it is, nonetheless, the truth. If their was a failure or the rules of engagement were too loose, as some have suggested, that does not mean that every action was reckless or worse.

Israel should carefully examine its tactics: did its forces need to destroy houses just to create sight lines? Is the policy of disproportionate response (Olmert’s words, not mine) justified?  Are all its forces and their commanders properly trained to respect civilian property, let alone their lives? 

So far nothing is proved; no investigations completed, no recommendations made, no prosecutions begun. I can wait. But I also want to see Israel facing up to its responsibilities: no cover-ups, no automatic denials.

I believe Israel is a highly moral country. The debate raging in Israel over these latest reports, the debate which has always raged about its treatment of the Palestinians, its war ethics, its defence policies and tactics, all these are signs of a healthy democracy. No such debate, no such self-examination, no such remorse or self-doubt would enter the minds of Israel’s enemies. 

The anti-Semites and Jew-haters may have their chance to gloat, but that should not weaken the resolve of those who know that Israel faces an increasing existential threat and needs our support more than ever. But that support will be weakened if Israel is not seen by those very supporters to do the right thing: thoroughly investigate ALL allegations from whatever quarter and take any necessary action.