In the following video produced by Jerusalem U, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, explains the egregious double standards in media coverage of Israel during the recent Gaza conflict.
For Israelis who work professionally to promote accurate reporting about Israel and the Middle East, one of the most vexing dynamics (beyond the false claims, distortions, and fabrications) is a media narrative about our their country which often has little if any resemblance to reality.
Indeed, we are all too accustomed to Guardian journalists imputing to Israel the absolute worst motives – a place Jonathan Spyer refers to as the “mythical Israel”, “a place of uninterrupted darkness and horror, in which every human interaction is ugly, crude, racist, brutal” – while evoking endless sympathy for the most malevolent actors in the region.
Such fantastical ideas about the Jewish State and its enemies has certainly colored coverage of the current war in Gaza, and this post represents a break from the fisking, criticism and analyses of their reporting that you’re accustomed to. Instead, we will merely provide a very brief account of the war and its outcome – intuitive takeaways from the month-long conflict that the Guardian won’t report.
Hamas’s war was defined by the widespread use of human shields, and countless other war crimes
Nearly all of the 3,360 rockets fired by terrorists in Gaza during the war were aimed at Israeli civilian communities – each launch representing an individual war crime.
- Firsthand accounts have been published attesting to the existence of underground terror headquarters, storage areas for rockets, bombs and other weapons built under densely populated civilian neighborhoods in Gaza.
- On three occasions, rockets were found in UNRWA schools.
- Aerial photos have shown Hamas rocket launchers under mosques and at hospitals and right next to UN buildings.
- Videos have been released showing weapons (and rockets) fired from civilian homes, hotels and near foreign journalists.
- Hamas fighters have illegally used ambulances to escape.
- More recently, the IDF captured a Hamas manual which actually explains the benefits of using human shields.
The IDF conducted itself in an ethical manner
Despite media claims (based on information from the Hamas run Gaza Health Ministry) that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians killed in the war were civilians, new reports and analyses now suggest that roughly half of the casualties were combatants from Hamas, Islamic Jihad or other terror groups. Col. Richard Kemp has contextualized such a low (one-to-one) ratio of civilians to combatant deaths in past Israeli wars by noting there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths (that’s three civilians for every one combatant killed) in NATO led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
IDF measures to limit the number of Palestinian casualties included text messages, phone calls and radio messages in Arabic warning occupants to leave, and air-dropped leaflets with maps showing safe areas. When warnings went unheeded, Israeli aircraft dropped non-lethal explosives (‘knock on the door‘ procedures) to warn that an attack is imminent.
In addition to the field hospital Israel set up on the northern Gaza border to treat injured Palestinians, during Operation Protective Edge 1800 trucks entered the crossings between Israel and Gaza, carrying food, medical equipment, clothing, water, and fuel.
In a post last month, we asked the following question to the media – or to anyone else who questions Israel’s conduct during the war:
Name one army in the world that goes to greater lengths than the IDF to protect civilians during war.
We’re still waiting for a response.
Israel fought a just and morally necessary war against an antisemitic extremist group.
To those in the media whose political ideology is inspired by vapid clichés about the futility of armed conflict, almost no war – especially those in which Israel is engaged – is morally justified, and neither facts nor logic can persuade them.
However, those who don’t identify with the Guardian Left, and understand the harsh lessons of the 20th century (and indeed of Jewish history), would see a very stark moral contrast: a battle between the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas (a homophobic, misogynist, antisemitic extremist group dedicated to the mass murder of Jews) and Israel, the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people.
Hamas’s mission, as Jeffrey Goldberg succinctly put it, is not ‘narrowly’ to destroy Israel, but to “end Jewish history”. Every rocket that is fired, every attempted tunnel infiltration into Israeli communities, and every effort to inculcate their citizens with the values of jihad is designed for this sole purpose.
Israel Defeats Hamas
Though we can expect Guardian analyses which obfuscate this painfully obvious fact, it’s difficult to understand how anyone who has followed events unfold in Gaza and Israel over the last month can avoid concluding that Israel emerged victorious over Hamas.
While much of the UK media has strangely framed the relatively low number of Israeli deaths (64 soldiers and 3 civilians) as an indictment on the disproportionate military response – itself inspired in part by a bizarre moral logic which “turns suffering into the only measure of justice” -
the job of any army is to minimize casualties on its own side, and the IDF quite capably carried out this task.
Though Hamas fired 3300 rockets at Israel, only 116 – due in large measure to interceptions by the Iron Dome – hit populated areas (3.45%). In contrast, 475 rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters reportedly landed within the Gaza Strip.
The IDF destroyed nearly every known terror tunnel in the Strip – tunnels, by the way, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, and thousands of tons of ‘humanitarian’ concrete and other construction materials.
The IDF also reportedly destroyed 1,678 rockets launching capabilities, 977 command and control centers, 237 ‘militant’ wing government faculties, 191 weapon storage and manufacturing facilities, 144 training and militant compounds, and 1,535 additional terror sites.
Finally, Channel 2′s diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal stressed that we should remember that Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal before the Israeli ground invasion, when it still had its tunnel infrastructure, its rocket capacity was still largely intact, and it still had a large degree of political legitimacy with the international community as part of the Palestinian unity government. Today, Segal observed, as it meekly negotiates in Cairo for a long-term truce, it has none of that.
“So are you going after innocent civilians or is it incompetence Colonel Lerner?” asks the interviewer, her face contorted with a contempt apparently reserved only for Israelis. Such shrill disrespect hurled at an American or British officer would alienate viewers, and, at an Arab commander, provoke accusations of racism.
This line of questioning – repeated across the networks on a daily basis – betrays a naïve and uncomprehending willingness to believe, and encourages viewers to believe, the absurd notion that the Israel Defence Force [IDF] is commanded and manned from top to bottom by psychopathic baby-killing thugs.
To suggest that military incompetence is the only explanation for civilian deaths other than deliberate mass murder reveals a breathtaking but unsurprising ignorance of the realities of combat.
Although rarely allowed to complete so much as a single sentence, Israeli attempts to explain IDF targeting policies are inevitably dismissed as laughable fabrication.
The truth is very different. The IDF has developed the most comprehensive and sophisticated measures to minimize civilian casualties during attacks against legitimate military targets.
Mandatory, multi-sensor intelligence and surveillance systems to confirm the presence or absence of civilians precede attacks on every target from the air. Text messages, phone calls and radio messages in Arabic warn occupants to leave. Air-dropped leaflets include maps showing safe areas. When warnings go unheeded, aircraft drop non-lethal explosives to warn that an attack is imminent.
Only when pilots and air controllers are sure that civilians are clear of the target will authorization be given to attack. When pilots use laser-guided munitions they must have pre-designated safe areas to which to divert the missiles in flight should civilians suddenly appear.
In the last few days IDF pilots have aborted many missions because civilians remained in the target area.
Ground forces have equivalent engagement procedures, although the nature of ground combat means that these are blunter and less sophisticated. Discussions with IDF infantrymen fresh from the fight on the Gaza border confirm, however, that avoiding civilian casualties is uppermost in their minds even when under fire themselves.
Meanwhile back in the safety of the studio, the interviewer’s visible fury at the IDF Spokesman has got the better of any professional objectivity: “You go on endlessly about all the warnings you give but the fact is you have killed one-and-a-half thousand people, the overwhelming majority of them civilians!”
But of course the colonel is not permitted to give a proper answer that might help viewers understand the reality of the situation.
With few exceptions, reporters, commentators and analysts unquestioningly accept the casualty statistics given by Gaza’s Hamas-controlled medical authorities, who ascribe all deaths to the IDF. Is anyone in Gaza dying of natural causes? Mass executions of “collaborators,” and civilians killed by malfunctioning Hamas rockets, are all attributed to IDF fire.
Are the “overwhelming majority” of the dead really civilians? It would seem so. We see a great deal of grotesque and heart-rending footage of dead and bleeding women and children but never so much as a glimpse of killed or wounded fighters. Nor do reporters question or comment on the complete absence of Gazan military casualties, an extraordinary phenomenon unique to this conflict. The reality of course is that Hamas make great efforts to segregate their military casualties to preserve the fiction that Israel is killing civilians only. There are also increasing indications that Hamas, through direct force or threat, are preventing journalists from filming their fighters, whether dead or alive.
We will not get to the truth until the battle is over. But we know now that Hamas have ordered their people to report all deaths as innocent civilians. We know too that Hamas has a track record of lying about casualties. After Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-09 fighting in Gaza, the IDF estimated that of 1,166 Palestinian deaths, 709 were fighters. Hamas – backed by several NGOs – claimed that only 49 of its fighters had been killed, the rest were innocent civilians. Much later they were forced to admit that the IDF had been right all along and between 600 and 700 of the casualties had in fact been fighters. But the short-memoried media are incapable of factoring this in before broadcasting their ill-founded and inflammatory assertions.
Analysis of casualty details released by Qatar-based Al Jazeera indicate that so far in the conflict most of those killed in Gaza have been young men of fighting age, not women, children or old people. According to one analyst, despite comprising around 50% of the population, the proportion of women among the dead is 21%.
Preliminary analysis by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Israel suggests that 71, or 46.7%, of the first 152 Palestinians killed were fighters and 81, or 53.3%, non-involved civilians.
None of this analysis is definitive. But it does cast doubt upon the accusations of indiscriminate attack against the population by the IDF and upon the UN estimates – widely trumpeted as fact by the media and the not-exactly unbiased United Nations – that between 70 and 80% of Palestinian casualties have been civilians.
Nevertheless, many innocent civilians have tragically been killed. How has this happened, given the IDF’s measures aimed at minimizing such deaths?
IDF commanders say they never intentionally fire at targets where uninvolved civilians are present, a policy that goes much further than the Geneva Conventions demand. This policy has been confirmed to me by foot soldiers on the ground and F16 pilots carrying out strikes into Gaza.
But mistakes happen. Surveillance and intelligence can never be foolproof. There have been reports of Hamas forcing civilians back in once buildings have been evacuated. There is sometimes unexpected fallout from attacks, for example when an adjacent building containing civilians collapses, often caused by secondary explosions resulting from Hamas’s own munitions.
Errors can be made in interpretation of imagery, passage of information and inputting of target data. We don’t yet know what happened to the four boys tragically killed on a Gaza beach; it is not credible that they were identified as children and then deliberately killed.
Weapons guidance systems sometimes malfunction and bombs, bullets or missiles can land where they are not supposed to. Even the most hi-tech communications systems can fail at the critical moment.
Nowhere are these errors more frequent and catastrophic than in ground combat, where commanders and soldiers experience chaos, noise, smoke, fear, exhaustion, danger, shock, maiming, death and destruction that are beyond the comprehension of our interviewer in her air conditioned TV studio.
These mistakes and malfunctions happen in all fighting armies and in all conflicts. And in all conflicts, mistakes include the deaths of soldiers by friendly fire. Do those who condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians as deliberate acts by the IDF suggest that the friendly fire incidents in Gaza are also intentional?
The Israeli policy of not attacking targets where civilians are present is likely however to be deliberately waived in one specific situation. If troops are under lethal fire from an enemy position, the IDF are entitled to attack the target even with the certainty that civilians will be killed, subject to the usual rules of proportionality.
By definition Israeli soldiers’ lives are placed at greater risk by restrictive rules of engagement intended to minimize civilian casualties. But commanders in the field must balance their concern for civilians with the preservation of their own men’s lives and fighting effectiveness.
These realities aside, all Palestinian civilian casualties in this conflict result ultimately from Gaza terrorists’ aggression against Israel, and Hamas’s use of human shields – the most important plank of Hamas’s war-fighting policy.
Storing and firing weapons within densely populated areas, compelling civilians to stay put when warned to leave, luring Israeli forces to attack and kill their own people, the Palestinian body count is vital to Hamas’s propaganda war that aims to bring international pressure on Israel and incite anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hatred around the world.
This sickening exploitation of their own people’s suffering, and media’s complicity in it, is nowhere more cynically demonstrated than in the operating theaters of the Gaza Strip. Without the slightest regard for life-saving hygiene, or for the care, privacy or dignity of the wounded, Palestinian officials enthusiastically hustle camera crews in to the emergency room as desperate surgeons battle for a bleeding and broken child’s life.
Colonel Richard Kemp spent most his 30-year career in the British Army commanding front-line troops in fighting terrorism and insurgency in hotspots including Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. From 2002 – 2006 he heading the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Prime Minister’s Office.
“terrorism” does not have any real meaning other than “a Muslim who commits violence against America and its allies”, so as soon as a Muslim commits violence, there is an automatic decree that it is “terrorism” even though no such assumption arises from similar acts committed by non-Muslims” – Glenn Greenwald, ‘Comment is Free’, April 22, 2013
…the term [terrorism] at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states. – Glenn Greenwald, ‘Comment is Free’, May 23, 2013
As this blog has documented continually, Glenn Greenwald is perhaps the most enthusiastic promoter of the Guardian Left narrative which suggests that there is no significant moral difference between reactionary Islamist movements and liberal Western democracies. Greenwald often attempts to impute such moral equivalence by arguing, with varying degrees of explicitness, that the US (and other democracies involved in the war against Islamist terror) intentionally murder Muslim civilians.
So, per Greenwald’s logic, the murder of Muslims qua Muslims by the West is what – quite understandably to Greenwald – inspires the wrath of Islamists in the West to commit lethal terror attacks against innocents, such as the recent savagery in London in which a British soldier named Lee Rigby was hacked to death by a British born convert to Islam named Michael Adebolajo
Greenwald’s specious moral logic, which serves to amplify the Islamist message that the West is indeed at war with Islam, has been exposed at this blog, and by quite a few other commentators.
Here are a few suggested posts which effectively take on Greenwald, or at least fisk the logic he employs to arrive at the conclusion that it is our fault when Islamist terrorists murder civilians in the West.
Terry Glavin: ‘Fibbing about Terrorism and Badgering Muslims‘:
In my Ottawa Citizen column today I notice how moral illiteracy defines the way such reliably creepy arbiters of hip opinion as the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and the American celebrity bullshit artist Michael Moore are responding to the Woolwich atrocity. Michael Moore tries to get a laugh out of his Twitter followers about it, in his usual cheap and vulgar way, but it is only the fuzzy timidities around the definition and the common use of the term “terrorism” that allow Greenwald to so easily and completely normalize what he presents as perfectly understandable Muslim revenge violence.
Zach Novetsky: ‘Glenn Greenwald Terrorizes Logic‘:
Whenever a radical Islamist commits a horrific act of violence or an act of terrorism, Glenn Greenwald is there with the same all-powerful explanation: it is our fault. More specifically, it is the fault of anyone living in the United States or any “loyal, constant ally” state, as he put it on Twitter. Terrorists, it seems, have no agency.
Norman Geras: ‘The pristine logic of Glenn Greenwald‘
Given the swamp of apologetics and obscurantism into which the Guardian newspaper has turned itself during the last decade, it may seem unfair to pick out one particular contributor to this ongoing journalistic enterprise as especially egregious. Over the years there have been so many voices to choose from in that regard: the Buntings, the Milnes, the Steeles, the Gopals; and then also all those occasionals who, just like the regulars, can’t wait to put together some soft piece of advocacy to the effect that we, the Western democracies, are just plain no good – though, having nothing better to offer for the time being themselves, these commentators make what effort they can to excuse regimes and movements for which no compelling case could be made by anyone of mature moral sensibility.
It has to be said nonetheless that the swamp has now acquired its own special low point, the name of which is Glenn Greenwald.
Marc Goldberg: ‘Terror according to Glenn Greenwald‘
There were several things that surprised me about [Greenwald's] article as they were so counter intuitive for me to read. I say counter intuitive because I thought that his views were based on concern with human rights and being anti prejudice. It is for that reason that I was surprised by his consistent use of the word Muslim. His own rhetoric in fact mirrors the rhetoric of al Qaeda
Alexander Wickham: ‘This weeks utterly disturbing Leftists’
Greenwald’s equating of British soldiers to Islamist terrorists is even more repugnant. Of course the Left – and the Right for that matter – have legitimate criticisms over foreign policy, but to become so blinded by self-loathing that he blurs the distinction between good and evil, for me, makes Greenwald an apologist for terror
Richard Kemp: ‘Michael Adebolajo’s dangerous ignorance about Afghanistan‘
Michael Adebolajo, the knife-wielding, blood-soaked brute who is suspected of killing Drummer Lee Rigby told passersby he was fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan. If that was the reason for Wednesday’s attack on Drummer Lee Rigby, Adebolajo should have travelled to Helmand and started wielding his knife against Taliban fighters. It is they who kill most Muslims in Afghanistan
Alan Johnson: ‘We need to talk about Islamism‘
In our intellectual culture religion is a mystery. That’s why the commentators mostly refuse to believe religion, any religion, can have anything to do with terrorism. So they either translate terrorists screaming “Allahu Akbar!” into something they can understand – economics, foreign policy, identity – or just change the subject altogether, writing instead (not as well) about the dangers of a racist backlash, the threat of the loss of civil liberties, and so on.
I spent the day participating in a media tour of Sderot and other Israeli towns close to the border with Gaza.
The day included a security briefing, several Code Red (Tzeva Adom) alerts, an unexpected view of the immediate aftermath of a rocket which landed in Sderot, a play by children at a local kibbutz and an analysis of the military situation with Col. Richard Kemp.
Here a brief account of my day via updates on Twitter and Facebook.
We then went to Sapir College, near Sderot. All classes were cancelled due to rocket fire.
We were listening to a presentation by an academic expert on the psychological trauma caused by terrorism when the Code Red alert sounded.
The rocket landed in a neighborhood nearby, so our guides took us to the site of the blast.
Fortunately, there were no injuries.
A boy whose home was right next to where the rocket landed displayed a bit of bravado and claimed a souvenir.
A minute later there was another Code Red and we were able to get to a bomb shelter in a home near where we were standing.
Sderot residents have 15 seconds to get to safety once they hear the alert.
This was a tiny glimpse into the intolerable situation which residents of Israeli towns within close range of Gaza must deal with constantly.
We then toured Kibbutz Alumim and saw the children perform a play dramatizing how they deal with the constant threat of rocket fire, entitled ‘Code Red’.
We then listened to a military assessment of Israel’s current operation by Col. Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, who explained the extraordinary efforts of the IDF to avoid civilian casualties – resulting in a civilian to combatant ratio in Cast Lead, and Pillar of Defense, far superior to recent NATO operations.
At presentation by col Richard Kemp at sapir college now. Kemp said IDF goes to unprecedented lengths to minimize civilian casualties.
Adam Levick (@adamlevick) November 20, 2012
At presentation by col Richard Kemp at sapir college now. Kemp said IDF goes to unprecedented lengths to minimize civilian casualties.—
Finally, we took a brief detour to get a glimpse at an Israeli tank stationed near the Gaza border.
Here is Col. Richard Kemp speaking to the “We Believe in Israel” conference which took place in London on May 15th.
This is cross posted by Yarden Frankl, who blogs at “Crossing the Yarden“.
So now, Judge Goldstone writes an op-ed in the Washington Post where he admits that the Israeli military did NOT intentionally target civilians in Gaza.
But beyond the obvious disgust, there is one part of his “magnum oops” that you might have missed.
About the original report, he now writes “Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity.”
“Potential” war crimes?
“Possibly” crimes against humanity?
Excuse me. I think that I have a real “potential” to be sick and “possibly” throw up.
I went back and looked through the 500 plus page report. There are dozens of accusations of specific “war crimes” that Israel violated. Then I did a word search for the word “potential.” Guess how many times Goldstone labeled his accusations as only “potential” war crimes? None. There was no doubt expressed in the report about Israel’s actions. “Possible crimes against humanity?” Nope.
It’s as if Goldstone is now saying “well, back then I just didn’t know if Israel committed war crimes. But you know, looking back, I don’t think they did.”
Judge Goldstone, Your Honor, excuse me, but you actually sounded certain in your report’s conclusions when you wrote:
(b) . Incidents involving the killing of civilians:
1718. The Mission found numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (individuals, whole families, houses, mosques) in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.
In these cases the Mission found that the protected status of civilians was not respected and the attacks were intentional, in clear violation of customary law reflected in article 51(2) and 75 of the First AP, article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and articles 6 and 7 of ICCPR. In some cases the Mission additionally concluded that the attack was also launched with the intention of spreading terror among the civilian population.
Did some UN intern leave out the words ”potential” and “possible” when he typed that up for you? Were you so busy looking up all the specific violations of international law that you somehow forget to add that you were not 100% certain when you accused the Israeli army of: deliberately attacking Palestinian civilians in Gaza with one of the goals to spread terror among the population.
Don’t try pitching us a softball now. Your accusations were as harsh as could be. Despite all the evidence that you chose to ignore, you barreled ahead and wrote page after page of how utterly evil Israel and our army are. In your report, our kids are not brave young men defending our country, they are baby killers acting under orders.
Now you are having a change of heart? If you are feeling remorse, I gotta tell you — you’ve got a long way to go. The first step would be to try, just try, to be brutally honest about what you originally wrote and the damage it has done to the nation of Israel.
Then, maybe instead of submitting a timid little letter to the Washington Post, why not travel to some of the many nations who have accepted your original report as holier than the Bible and tell them how you got it wrong.
And to cap off your tour of apology, go to the U.N. and stand before the Human Rights Council — that group that represents despots and thugs who appointed you in the first place. Tell them that you wish to “revise” your report and then go give them a new document that accurately reflects what happened during the Gaza war.
I suggest that you begin by giving a call to Richard Kemp, the British military expert whose testimony you ignored in favor of the Hamas press releases. If you have trouble recalling his remarks, I will give them to you here:
“I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”