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The Gaza War Hill Of Shame and Reporting in Cast Lead

A recent letter to the editors of the Jerusalem Post was sent in by the Dutch RTL media journalist Connie Mus, regarding the baring of international correspondents from Gaza during the recent war there.

Gaza War Hill of Shame (AP)

Gaza War Hill of Shame (AP)

The journalist, who like others from international news services, as well as Israeli journalists, was not allowed into the Gaza Strip to directly report on the recently suspended IDF Operation Cast Lead which, until halted by a very flimsy cease fire agreement, resulted in the deaths of 14 Israelis and more than 1,400 Palestinians. Mus, who is a foreign correspondent for the Netherlands based RTL News Service, complained that she and her fellow journalists were prevented from directly reporting on and filming the fighting in Gaza during the 22 day operation, and were forced to do so from a hill located outside the Gaza border which they named the “Hill of Shame”.

While Ms. Mus may have thought she had some valid points in regards to her comments about the Israeli government barring foreign correspondents from entering Gaza during the fighting there, judging from what occurred during the 2006 war in Lebanon, having a slew of international journalists stationed in Beirut and elsewhere not only increased the negative propaganda war against Israel but also put the lives of these people in mortal danger.

Mind you, field correspondents have often been exposed to harm’s way during warfare, and many have paid the ultimate price for doing so. But due to the intensity of the bombing and fighting which did occur in many parts of Gaza, several of these journalists, and the camera and other logistical personnel which usually accompany them, might have been killed or injured during the three week operation.

It might be noted that during the 2006 war in Lebanon, in which over 1,190 Lebanese (mostly civilians) and 165 Israelis (44 civilians) were killed, a news photographer and TV technician were killed and at least 12 journalists suffered various injuries and wounds. According to statistics noted by the international organization Journalists Without Borders, 81 journalists and auxiliary personnel lost their lives in the line of duty in 2006 alone.

That none of the journalists covering Operation Cast Lead suffered even minor injuries can be attributed to the ban which was imposed on them by both the government and the IDF. After the cease fire was declared, these journalists have not wasted any time going in to Gaza to get the “full story” as was indicated in the “BBC Ad” incident when the BBC refused to broadcast a controversial fund raising advertisement that has been judged to be show partiality towards Hamas. In light of this, maybe there’s logic to these restrictions after all.

Phosphoric Situation

White phosphorus bombs are prohibited for use in civilian areas. They set buildings on fire and cause very severe burns that can burn a person alive.

There have been rumors lately that the IDF uses such bombs in the Gaza offensive. The IDF denies. The UN already wants to investigate the matter.

The “phosphorous front” got (literally) heated up this evening when a Hamas rocket containing phosphorous exploded in the Israeli desert. If this shell had fallen inside an urban landscape, it could have caused severe consequences.

Look at this photo taken by Reuters. Whether or not these are phosphoric explosions in the background, the whole scene looks Sci-Fi.

Gaza Bombing by Reuters

Are we there yet ?

This morning there is another humanitarian break. It starts at 9:00 AM and the southern cities are bracing for the missile attacks that will follow. As soon as these Humanitarian breaks take place the Hamas uses the opportunity to fire rockets.

The show “Eretz Nehedert” was on live last night after the news on channel 2. These shows are usually prerecorded but this one was live. It was highly critical of the management and future of the war. The message was that Barak was looking for political gain in the polls, the government has no clear objectives and the South is still being attacked.

The skit below is called “No Goals – No Disappointments”. There is no translation but you can see Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Ehud Barak who walks into the interview to answer questions from the soldiers.

During the skit Ehud Barak answers some questions from the soldiers with candid answers. He starts with the question – “So Now What?”.
He answers: We are now waiting for a cease fire. You (the army) will need to hang around in the field making you an easy target to Hamas. A couple of soldiers here will be killed (he points to 2 of them). Then we will sign a cease fire agreement, which when you read it, you will not understand why we couldn’t sign it 2 weeks ago.

“And that’s it – that’s how it ends?” he is asked. No, Barak answers, it doesn’t end, you will be called back to reserve duty, 2 years from now to serve here or some other place, all of you will report for duty minus the 2 fallen soldiers obviously. This time it might be the north, south or center of Israel. You will be called to help change the reality of some place – a place with a strange reality to start with.

Ismail Haniyeh was speaking yesterday and was calling basically for a cease fire. He looked bad. He said Hamas was ready for any initiative that will end the violence and for the first time he didn’t sound combative, made no threats and sounded like he wanted out of this war. In the Middle East that’s probably as close to surrender as we will ever get, although I am sure that by the time a cease fire is signed Hamas/Iran/Hezbollah will all be celebrating there victory over our coward army and hailing the legendary ass whipping we received.

As a response today we hear that the Security Ministers Council (Kitchenette) Olmert, Barak and Livni has decided to hold off stepping us to the next level of the war. The army was instructed to continue pressure on selective Hamas positions and that the Egyptian cease fire option was to be explored. (sounds familiar…)

Hamas has indicated they would be willing to have a Turkish force to enforce the cease fire. Different sources say they are only interested in a short term cease fire and that they will reject the Egyptian cease fire offer today. It looks like they are going through some shift in thinking though.

I am not sure how far we are supposed to go but the Eretz Nehedert episode was foretelling the future. When I saw it my first impression was that it was in poor taste. Even the live studio audience was holding back when Barak made reference to the “future” dead soldiers we will be incurring. But the truth is that its probably right on the money. Now it seems like it’s the right thing to ask Are we there yet?

What’s Up With Olmert?

According to leading commentators, both Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni are in favor of pulling the IDF out of Gaza. They understand that there’s nothing more to gain from staying in enemy territory, and that it only puts our soldiers’ lives at risk.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to go in deeper.

Three political opponents, who admittedly can’t stand each other, are running a war together, just one month before the general elections. Each has his or her own personal and political interests.

However, there is one person who stand outs in this odd trio. Mr. Olmert is a man with no political future whatsoever. This is as clear as the morning sky in July. He is the only Prime Minister in Israel’s history whose government has had to tackle two separate war campaigns. When he leaves office, there are several corruption allegations that await him impatiently. It is already known for a fact that he will be prosecuted — Perhaps more than once.

The longer the war continues, more and more voices — both in the media and in the Knesset — are calling to postpone the elections. The one person who might gain the most if such a scenario takes place is obviously Ehud Olmert. The prospect of a few more months in power — and a few more months out of the courtroom — could definitely alter any person’s sound judgment.

These are mere speculations of course. It’s inappropriate to lay down such serious accusations without any evidence. There is only a restless gut feeling… and some very bizarre comments made by PM Olmert himself.

During a press conference yesterday, Mr. Olmert boasted in front of the cameras how he had managed to subdue America’s Secretary of State, and how President Bush promptly agreed to abandon the podium in the middle of a speech in order to pick up Olmert’s call.

“I said: ‘Get me President Bush on the phone,'” Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. “They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care: ‘I need to talk to him now.’ He got off the podium and spoke to me.”

Olmert said he argued that the United States should not vote in favor, and the president then called Rice and told her not to do so.

“She was left pretty embarrassed,” Olmert said.

   – Associated Press

Another childish remark soon followed this self-accounted tale of international diplomacy. “In this struggle between the Hamas and us, we shall see who has the bigger motivation!”, he said firmly.

Yes, our Prime Minister is busy comparing who has the bigger… hmm… missiles.

The View from Rimal – Gaza Web Stream

As you’ve probably noticed, I added a web stream from Gaza to the sidebar.

The stream is shot by Ramattan News Agency, which is located at the 9th Floor of the Shawa & Husari Building, Al Wahda Street, Rimal, Gaza City.

I assume the feed wouldn’t last very long in case the conflict broadens into the center of Gaza City, since it is the IDF’s interest to shut down these live feeds.

The web feed is set up via Nana10, an Israeli media company.

This is what it looked like a few days ago.

Nasrallah’s Tip Off & The Bitter Taste of Betrayal

So this morning we got a little love from our cousins in the North.. A Palestinian Group was able to get up close and personal and shoot a few older model rockets over the border.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klKhYYK3Gf0[/youtube]

Although no one is actually taking responsibility for the shooting of these 4 rockets into Nahariya and the Western Galilee there are the usual suspects. There was no real surprise here and there was an expectation both in the army and civilian authorities that an attack will be coming especially after the speech by Nasrallah.

The Army Command-Directorate of Orientation issued a statement on Thursday saying that “an unknown party launched a number of rockets toward the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Israel retaliated and launched artillery shells on the southern region of Naqoura.”

The Army statement added that no casualties resulted from the Israeli bombing, stressing Army units were cooperating with the UNIFIL and took adequate measures to protect the residents and control the situation. (Al Manar TV)

But we all know who runs the show in Lebanon and if you were listening carefully last night to the nightly rant of the bearded, semi hysterical Hezbollah leader I swear you could hear a hidden tip off…

On Wednesday, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, warned that “all possibilities” were open against Israel as he gave a speech condemning Israel’s offensive in Gaza and voicing support for Hamas….

The comments marked the first time he has spoken so openly on the possibility of a renewed conflict with Israel since the war in Gaza began on December 27.

Nasrallah warned that the 2006 conflict would be “but a walk in the park” compared to what awaits Israel if it launches a new offensive on Lebanon.

“We have to act as though all possibilities are real and open [against Israel] and we must always be ready for any eventuality.

“We are ready to sacrifice our souls, our brothers and sisters, our children, our loved ones for what we believe in.” (Al Jazeera)

So, if one was to listen to the message and put that together with the attack this morning, one could make the claim that we were duly warned. But why would he do that? Hezbollah is not looking for another fight (at least not right now) and yet they had to let the “rogue faction” blow off some steam. Now I know they’re not Jewish but that sounds like … guilt. They feel a little guilty.

I guess sending an entire nation to a state of chaos and death can cause a little guilt even in Nasrallah.

Let’s face it, the Iranians and Nasrallah pushed and egged on Hamas, they made them believe that when the time came they would be there and instead hung them out to dry. The way its being described here is that Nasrallah would fight Israel until the last drop of Gazan blood.

That’s what I call the bitter taste of betrayal. I hope that when this war is over the Palestinian people keep in mind what their “friends” were doing to help them… With friends like that who needs enemies..

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The hugely popular sketch comedy show “Eretz Nehederet” (translated as “A Wonderful Land”) was exceptionally satiric and keen last week, several days after the current war began. Since then they’ve been pulled off the air, because Channel 2 believes it’s inappropriate to broadcast live entertainment during wartime.

This is a very talked-about sketch from last week’s show. In it, an Ehud Barak (Minister of Defense) impersonator explains the projected phases of war.

Thanks Lisa for translating!

Children in Gaza and Hamas – Updated

This is a video that was sent to us – again part of the media war I am sure – but still really disturbing. Grabbing a kid as you’re running with a weapon is just not right. Regardless of what you believe in its just wrong and well — that guy is definitely going to hell!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLwIotgcr8M[/youtube]

I just heard that the army hit a school in Gaza and there are reportedly 40 dead. It’s still not clear if these are children or civilians but regardless it sounds bad. We hear about the Hamas grabbing human shields, ambulances and taking over buildings.

Currently the Hamas has relinquished all control of responsibility of the Gaza population. They are not responsible for any of the basic services, they provide no care and answer to no one. The have basically reverted back to a terror organization without any social responsibility.

The Gaza population is the real victim here and I hope that this last attack we are starting to hear about is not going to turn out to be a civilian nightmare…

Gaza – The Information War

The war in Gaza and its surrounding Israeli cities is waging still, with no clear end in sight. Yet in this age of abundant technology and streaming information, there is also a propaganda war simultaneously going on via television networks, personal blogs, and YouTube videos. One enthusiastic even programmed a simple video game to demonstrate the war tactics, as he sees it.

This is a brief collection of home-made videos, news briefings, and the aforementioned notorious game.

Danny Gillerman, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN speaks about the war, 12/28/08:

“Raid Gaza” Flash Game – Gain Extra Points for Bombing a Hospital:

Annie Lennox on the Humanitarian perspective:

Qassams on Europe, a fictional cartoon:

2 Qassams are launched while CNN’s Paula Hancocks reports from the border:

When the alarm goes off, people in Sderot have 15 seconds to find cover:

Live Gaza Feed

The expected attack on the ground is on its way since yesterday evening. I think that many are thinking of the last time we were at war and the uncertainty and mistrust we had in the people leading us. There is a different feeling in Israel today. It’s been a long time coming.. We have had enough of the attacks and the constant pain of watching Israelis living in the south of Israel under a constant barrage of missiles.

I am writing and watching the attacks in real time and its insane. We advanced in technology, medicine and supposedly awareness and we are again dragged into this. The global financial stress is not enough, we need something extra to make things interesting.

I watched “Fair and Balanced Fox News” this morning. It’s amazing to me that a News channel like this can even exist in today’s world. Geraldo Rivera was talking to Hanan Ashrawi and I switched it off. Just hearing the introduction was enough. The world is coming to an end, Iran is threatening to join the war, Hezbollah is preparing to attack from the north and terror is at the door. Balanced my ass. The only thing that station sells is fear and bad energy!!

The people in the middle of all this are the people in the south of Israel and by far worse, the Palestinian families trying to move from the North of the Gaza Strip to the South – just trying to get away from all this and literally running for their life. There are no words to describe the pain they must be going through.

On the other hand, choosing a Terror Organization like Hamas to be your leader is like going on an organized bus ride in the Rockies with a blind bus driver – at some point you are going to hit something.

There is nothing fair about all this. We as a global society are measured by the weakest link and it seems like the more advanced and the further we reach, that weak link keeps getting weaker.

The Media war is on as well and the Arab world is getting behind Gaza in all its might. Understandable. What has been unique is the Israeli side in the media war, Arab speaking Israeli officers and foreign ministry personnel were interviewed, debated and heard on Arab media channels. We are adding here the live Gaza feed from Mako the Channel 2 News channel.

It’s been less then 24 hours and hopefully this will all be over soon. For the sake of everyone involved.

Just don’t listen to Fox..

1000 Dead or Wounded in 2 Days

It’s been 48 hours since the Air Force began pounding Gaza with “Operation Cast Lead”, and already more than 1,000 people have been killed or wounded.

While the heavily populated Gaza Strip is now under attack from both the air and the sea (Israeli Navy joined the offense), civilians who tried to flee the tiny Strip into Egyptian territory have been fired on by Egyptian forces. Surviving in Gaza is a very claustrophobic ordeal.

News reports claim 300 casualties on the Palestinian side, along with 700 injured. Hospitals lack supplies and blood units. And these early numbers are probably going to rise dramatically in the coming days.

On the Israeli side, 2 men have been killed by separate rocket attacks, while a dozen others were wounded. Hundreds of thousands of residents in southern Israeli towns are compelled to stay in or near available shelters all throughout the day. Indeed, there’s enough claustrophobia to go around on both sides of the fence.

I refrain from commentary at the moment. These are simply the dry facts.

Qassam Rockets — Until When?

These numbers don’t include statistics from December 2008 (this month).

Can you imagine the US, France, or India being hit by several hundred rockets a year? Can you imagine them being hit by even a single one?!

I’m not saying I have a solution for this situation. I’m just saying it’s unthinkable.

Ticking Tunnel

We’re all familiar with the term a “ticking bomb“. This morning I learned a new term: a “ticking tunnel“.

Apparently a ticking tunnel was the reason behind the operation in Gaza last night. The Israeli intelligence community warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet that the Palestinians are keen on abducting more soldiers and that they already have a tunnel (or several) in place underneath the border.

Personally, I think that’s a very legitimate reason to go out on a mission to demolish the tunnel. However, I find the mentality of a “ticking tunnel” disturbing. It’s a discourse that primes preemptive strikes, and one that broadens our militaristic viewpoint of the world. In other words, are we going to be talking about “ticking towns” and a “ticking instigator” anytime soon?

The action was probably necessary. The language is totalitarian.

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Playing Chess with Human Lives

When the negotiations are at halt, all we’re left with is cynicism and mind games.

Christine Toomey wrote this today on The Sunday Times:

While Zahar and Yousef are reluctant to discuss Shalit, members of the Doghmush clan are happy to brag about how well he is being treated. I meet them in a garage of one of the many buildings the clan owns in the Sabra district. Abu Khatab Doghmush, a 51-year-old clan elder, is sitting with family on a sofa pushed against a wall. As I take a seat with my interpreter, I notice a bullet on the floor in front of me.

Abu Khatab insists that the Army of Islam is not holding Shalit. “The only faction that controls his life now is the Qassam Brigades,” he says, his heavy gold watch flapping against his wrist. “But I can tell you that Shalit is living in a paradise. Our religion of Islam demands that we look after prisoners even more than we do our own people.” He rejects speculation that Shalit is locked deep in an underground cell booby-trapped with explosives: “He’s not being kept in a closed room all the time – this would not be healthy. He can go out and take fresh air.”

Abu Khatab then makes an extraordinary claim: “Every year a party is held to celebrate his birthday. Yes, there is a cake and candles, music, everything.” Shalit, born on August 28, 1986, has now spent three birthdays in captivity.

Sometimes I wonder if being slightly autistic is a prerequisite for becoming a political leader or a military chief… Yes, I put both in the same sentence, since here in the Middle East they’re one and the same. Whenever you start to speak of human lives in terms of “expandable”, “negotiable”, “replaceable”, and so on, you demonstrate the lack of your own humanity.

Gaza Wake Up Call

The Israeli government finally seems to have gotten a “wake up call” regarding it’s dealings with the Hamas entity in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, September 19, it was announced that Israel now considers the Hamas led government in Gaza to be “enemies of the State of Israel” due to it’s continued hostilities, largely as a result of the firing of Qassam rockets. Declaring Gaza to be a “hostile entity”, it was decided that only the most necessary humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicine, will be allowed into the strip from Israel.

These statements just coincidentally occurred during U.S. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Jerusalem; resulting in Ms. Rice being a bit ‘lost for words’. During a carefully worded comment on the Israeli government’s actions, she said: “We will endeavor to assist the Palestinian population in Gaza with all possible humanitarian aid, since they and the West Bank are part of a future Palestinian State”.

Hamas reaction was indeed swift and frank. When interviewed Wednesday afternoon by Channel 2 TV, Hamas spokesman Fauzi Bahumi said: “This Israeli action is nothing short of a declaration of war. Nothing has changed since Israel left Gaza two years ago, and we are still being treated like prisoners in our own land.”

When asked if it might be possible to find a way to enter into negotiations with Israel, Bahumi replied: “How can we recognize our enemy?”

Reaction by commentators to this new stance on the part of Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak was like saying “duhh ..hello!, so what else is new?”

Indeed, what else is new, except that this new declaration now formally lumps the entire citizenry of Gaza into the status of being sworn enemies of the Jewish State. In light of almost daily firing of home-made Kassam rockets, one of which recently hit an army base and injured 69 young recruits just completing their basic training, at least the Israeli government has finally decided to tune into reality. This change in tactics will now allow Israel to cut off electricity, water and supplies of fuel to Gaza when it feels necessary to do so.

Palestinians in the (so far) Fatah controlled P.A. entity in the West Bank condemned the action, and a spokesman for “newly promoted” P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas said that the action is “collective punishment against the entire Palestinian people and discourages concrete discussion towards peaceful negotiations”.

Abbas’s comments are now a bit confusing. After all, aren’t the Fatah-led Palestinians supposed to be Israel’s good buddies? And didn’t Olmert just “promote” Mr. Abbas to Palestinian Authority President instead of Chairman?

It appears that finally, Israel is calling ‘a spade a spade’ as the old saying goes. Likud party leader Binyaman Natanyahu has been advocating this action be done for some time now, and Olmert and Co. must have decided to play the same game of “hard ball”. With captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit still languishing in captivity “somewhere in Gaza” the reality of this 1.5 million population “entity” on Israel’s doorstep, and which has actually become an Islamic quasi-republic, presents a new reality to the possible future declaration of a Palestinian state.

As a result of Israel’s new hard line stance, and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaching, the next few weeks will undoubtedly be nothing short of “interesting”. And to quote a well known Chinese saying: “we are living in interesting times”.

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