Saturday, March 01, 2008


"The Israeli town of Sderot lies less than a mile from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the intifada seven years ago, it has borne the brunt of some 2,500 Kassam rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian terrorists. Only about a dozen of these Kassams have proved lethal, though earlier this month brothers Osher and Rami Twito were seriously injured by one as they walked down a Sderot street on a Saturday evening. Eight-year-old Osher lost a leg.

It is no stretch to say that life in Sderot has become unendurable. Palestinians and their chorus of supporters including the 118 countries of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, much of Europe, and the panoply of international aid organizations from the World Bank to the United Nations typically reply that life in the Gaza Strip is also unendurable, and that Palestinian casualties greatly exceed Israeli ones. But this argument is fatuous: Conditions in Gaza, in so far as they are shaped by Israel, are a function of conditions in Sderot. No Palestinian Kassams (or other forms of terrorism), no Israeli siege." - Bret Stephens -
The Sderot Calculus.

Bret Stephens' article brilliantly sums up the moral and strategic dilemma faced by Israel in its war with Hamas. Should its response to constant attacks on Sderot be proportionate and what does that mean? Does it mean perhaps, the firing of "2,500 artillery shells at random against civilian targets in Gaza" or does proportionality mean "an exquisitely calibrated, eye-for-eye operation involving the killing of a dozen Palestinians and the deliberate maiming or traumatizing of several hundred more?" Should it pick off Hamas leaders or adopt purely economic measures or undertake limited military incursions, which would result in too many Palestinian casualties (again disproportionate to the number of Israelis casualties of the quassam rockets)? The answer from the perspective of international opinion seems always to no so that if Israel had to worry about such opinion then its pre-emptive right to self-defence becomes virtually worthless.

That right to self-defence is certainly considered less than worthless by the author of this piece, which appeared in today's Melbourne Age - Israel warns of Palestinian 'holocaust' as violence in Gaza worsens. It beggars belief that a newspaper editor could accept such a partisan rant as that which lurks through the words of this article. Interestingly, it was apparently not accepted by the editor of Sydney's Fairfax sister newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, who chose to run an alternative report written by Isabel Kershner in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The rant began with the use of the emotive word "holocaust" in a statement made by an Israeli Minister on the situation in Gaza. I will return to this at a later stage as I am waiting on details of the text of the statement.

Next came the allegation that the recent surge in violence in Gaza and southern Israel was "triggered" by an Israeli air strike on Wednesday. Well actually, the violence in the entire region was triggered off by Israel's coming into existence almost sixty years ago. The recent violence was in fact triggered off by daily barrages of rocket fire at Israeli towns at an escalating rate rather than by an Israeli retaliatory air strike.

The world knows full well that if Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians ceased and if there was no build up of further deadly armaments, there would be no Israeli incursions or air strikes into Gaza and there would be no need to provide a scoreboard of casualties on both sides which shows a disproportionate number on the Palestinian side. But it doesn't suit the aims of the Palestinian propaganda machine for a cessation of violence.

Hamas and its willing helpers in the journalistic profession want the public to think of it as a bunch of reasonable and nice officials voted into power in a democratic vote to ensure that Palestinian buses could run on time and that welfare could be delivered efficiently to the people. But this was never the true Hamas platform and suggestions in the media that you can negotiate with these fraudsters are ludicrous.

In his article, Stephens points out that when Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlements from Gaza 2005 "there was a six-fold increase in the number of Kassam strikes on Israel." Hamas has made no effort to rewrite its explicitly anti-Semitic charter and it would seem "perverse for Israel merely to bide its time for an especially unlucky day a Kassam hitting a busload of schoolchildren, for instance before striking hard at Gaza."

Hamas is bringing the current situation upon itself and upon the Palestinians in Gaza and the inevitable result will be further "surges" of violence.

However, in the absence of a change of direction in favour of impartial reporting of the news, we will no doubt continue to to be treated to Age Middle East reports alleging perversely that Israel's defence of its citizens under attack "triggered" the violence and showing gory scoreboards of deaths and injuries from this conflict. Moreover, those scoreboards will contain misleading data that will show what appears to be a disproportionate number of casualties on one side. Misleading and meaningless unless it tells you that Hamas deliberately seeks to create civilian casualties while the Israeli Defence Forces are trying to prevent those people from achieving their deadly aims.

The people of the region and those who want to be informed about what's happening there need that and not the hysteria of scoreboards that slyly mask the truth about who is to blame for all of the casualties.


Anonymous said...

Though the authorship of the article is not attributed, you can take it from me that it was none other than our friend O'Loughlin.

The Age on-line edition also carried this story from Reuters -

The story contained this line -

"The word holocaust is a term rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi genocide during World War II. Many Israelis are loathe to countenance using the word to describe other contemporary events."

Wrong. Vilnai used the word "shoah" which means "disaster" in Hebrew - not "Hashoah" which means "The Holocaust". There's a subtle difference but it's not one that's readily appreciated by anti-Semites.

This is not to say that I'm accusing Reuters, the Age or O'Loughlin of being anti-Semitic. That will depend on how they respond having been made aware of the grave error they have committed.

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