Response to Israeli Propaganda

I recently wrote a response to a law student who attended my talk at Loyola Law School on my recent trip to Gaza. The talk focused on examining relevant international humanitarian law and discussing how Israel breached these laws when targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, when using highly indiscriminate and incendiary weapons against civilians, and when blocking medical access and attacking medics.  Such acts are war crimes. He was unhappy about some assertions made during my talk. He posted his complaint at the end of my post “Justifying Israeli War Crimes.” Members of the blog asked that I post my response as not only a comment but also as a feature post as it may provide helpful information that we often don’t read or hear about in mainstream media.

I was originally not planning on responding to your claims below as they are lack legal veracity. And while I doubt anything I say will actually make you question the propaganda that you have so well consumed, digested and currently espouse, I respond merely so that you know that I am neither silencing nor censoring you. It is ironic that when even the Israeli soldiers who were present in Gaza can question the legality and morality of their actions, you thousands of miles away remain so adamantly and disappointingly misinformed.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/world/middleeast/21gaza.html?_r=3&ref=world&pagewanted=all
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072475.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7952603.stm

And on a personal level, after hearing first-hand testimonies of the Palestinians in Gaza and subsequently reading the testimonies of Israeli soldiers in nearly all the major media sources who merely corroborated what we heard, I find your comment very reactionary. But for what its worth, below is my response to your comment.

One of the first things you learn (or should have learned) in law school is to look at the forest and not the trees. In your comment, you merely stab at the trees but forget the forest. When I spoke at your school, my message (the forest) was that Israel committed war crimes during its 22 day military offensive. It breached innumerable articles of the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols under the guise of self defense. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed, 900 of which were civilians and over a third of which were children. Even in war, there are rules of engagement and when the most fundamental of those rules are breached, those who breached them can and should be prosecuted for committing “war crimes.” If Israel wanted to respond to Gaza militarily, then it should have abided by the legal principles of distinction and proportionality which it did not. Israel indiscriminately attacked towns and villages and soldiers shot at civilians, elderly women and children holding white flags (if you don’t believe me, read the soldiers’ testimonies). These, Robin, are war crimes.

Yet in your comment you do not seem to discredit the basis of my talk that Israel committed war crimes. Rather you jab at the trees, the facts that I quote in my blog or a response I made to questions. Honestly even if you were correct in your assertions below (which you are not), Israel would still be guilty of committing war crimes.

So let me respond point by point to your comments below. I have italicized what you wrote so that readers can differentiate my response to your allegations:

Hi, I was one of the people in your audience who were not anti-Israel at Loyola Law School when you spoke. When I tried to speak when you ended the meeting I was cut off.
I would like to start off by saying I respect your viewpoint. However, there are numerous flaws with your presentation and article above.

Being critical of Israel and the Israeli military does not make one anti-Israel. I am very critical of US policies but proudly consider myself American. Just wanted to point that out in case you didn’t know.

First, in this article you mention that Israel bombed a UN school on the 6th of January. Although the UN and the UNRWA director of operations originally stated that Israel attacked the school killing 40. Now they admit this was a complete and utter lie.
http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2008/s2484349.htm
Whats even more fascinating is that news that the shell never actually hit the school was published on January 29, and yet your article above states it was added here on February 18. I can only assume that you either have no idea what you are talking about and do not do proper research before writing these one-sided articles or you choose to disregard the truth.

Well what is more fascinating is that even AFTER you did your research, you still got it wrong. No on has admitted it was a complete and utter lie. In fact if you had actually read the story that you yourself cite to, John Ging, states “There is no change in the reporting that we have done here about that tragic incident. The facts that we presented at the time are still the facts that we are presenting today, and there were many changes in the Israeli reactions and information put out by various spokespeople.” That does not sound like an admission of “a complete and utter lie.” I hope that you do a more careful job when reading and briefing cases for your classes.

Forty-three Palestinians were killed in fact, the majority of which were women and children who had taken refuge in the Fakhura School in Jabaliya. The mortars landed right outside the school where approximately 400 Palestinians were taking refuge. Even though Israel had the coordinates of the school, they still bombed right next to the school, and those who were killed were the Palestinians who were immediately outside the school. Even if there were militants in the area, the doctrine of proportionality would prevent Israel from engaging in such an attack considering the high likelihood of civilian death and injury. Yet Israel has not provided any evidence for its attacks—only an outdated video. So I do not see the inconsistencies that you point to.

Yet lets pretend that the Fakhura School was an accident. What about Israel’s bombing of the courtyard of the Asma School, another UNRWA school, and killing at least three members of one Palestinian family only 15 hours before shelling the Fakhura School? http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1053455.html

Another troubling thing was what you said during the presentation. You stated that 15 Palestinian medics were killed during cast lead. In fact, 9 of the 15 you speak of were Hamas operatives. See for yourself below.
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1233304792018
And in case you believe the IDF is not telling the truth, here’s some pictures of one of the “medics”.
http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=Anas%20Naim&cts=1237478086045&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

Hmmm…I don’t know Robin. J Post and google pics are definitely not sources that I personally turn to when trying to get “unbiased” news. And what exactly am I supposed to derive from the google images. This actually made me laugh. Don’t know if you noticed, but those pics were of different people.

If you have ever been to Israel, which I have, and gone into a mall in Tel Aviv, which I did, you will see dozens upon dozens of Israeli teens dressed in military fatigues carrying M-16s. Does that make them Hamas operatives? Or maybe Al Qaeda? Or Mossad? How about you try a little harder with your sources next time.

I met many many of the medics in Gaza while there and almost every one was shot at and the majority were injured. Thus 15 medics killed does not surprise me one bit. But in case you are interested, I wanted to share a video made by a Spanish national who was in Gaza during Israel’s military incursion. It shows medics trying to pick up a dead or injured body and being shot at. The one in the video, who I personally met, sustained a bullet wound in his leg. I also personally know almost every person in that video including the blond woman and a number of the medics. It is not something I pulled off of youtube.
http://www.wipeoffthemap.com/erased_english.html

Also during your presentation you likened Hamas as just another political party, just like the Republicans or the Democrats. This is also misleading as Hamas is recognized as a terror organization in practically all of the West and its charter calls for the destruction of Israel, no peace talks, and advocates the murder of Jews wherever they may be. Please see below if you do not believe me.
http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm

Thank you for providing evidence that Hamas is considered a terrorist organization…as if I had no idea and as if its not the number one mantra when justifying what Israel did in Gaza. Honestly Hamas is as much of a terrorist organization as are parties like Yisrael Beytenu in Israel. Yet despite the extremism of such parties, Avigdor Lieberman was instated in power in the recent elections. Don’t know how much you know about him but he is notoriously racist and has often called for the forced transfer of Arabs living in Israel and even called for the execution of Arab members of the Knesset. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=712521

So since Lieberman is in power, does that justify Iran nuking Israel?!?

And as far as Hamas being a terrorist organization because it refuses to engage in peace talks, last time I checked Hamas and Israel did agree to a ceasefire http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/18/world/middleeast/18mideast.html?hp which I will discuss below. And what Israeli state is Hamas expected to recognize. Even Israel hasn’t defined its borders. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-makdisi11mar11,0,2601983.story?coll=la-opinion-center

You also explained that Israel broke the ceasefire by killing 6 Hamas operative. However, you failed to mention that they were digging a tunnel into Israel, which Israel claims was to be used to kidnap more Israeli soldiers. Although there is no way to prove what the intent of the tunnel was, you at least have a responsibility to reveal Israels stated motive.

That is correct. Israel broke the ceasefire on November 4. Yet even during the ceasefire, Israel restricted the level of humanitarian aid rather than increasing the aid. That was one of the essential requirements of the ceasefire. Thus the number of the Palestinians who relied on aid increased from 60% to 80% during the ceasefire. I think you have a responsibility to talk about that! You want me to mention that Hamas was digging a tunnel into Israel, whose intent was unknown (as you aptly mention), rather than explaining that Israel actually bombed and killed six Hamas members during the ceasefire and starved 300,000 additional Palestinians during a time that it was supposed to be increasing aid rather than further restricting it?!? Umm…yeah ok.

Furthermore, you stated that the Palestinians stopped shooting rockets into Israel, this is also totally false. According to the NY Times, eight rockets or mortars were fired into Israel in the first month of the truce. Again you failed to mention this.

I actually never stated that Palestinian rocket fire stopped but that it diminished significantly. Check out this website from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Hamas+war+against+Israel/One+month+of+calm+in+Gaza+28-Jul-2008.htm stating that “During its first month, the lull arrangement resulted in a significant drop in rocket and mortar fire at Israel. A relative calm has settled over Sderot and Israeli population centers near the Gaza Strip, occasionally broken by rockets and mortar bombs fired by terrorist organizations which oppose the lull (mostly local Fatah networks, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad violating the lull only on one occasion).”

And the number continued to decrease reaching a low of one rocket and one mortar in October. http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=3587015&content_id={990CAC69-4588-4C10-AFF9-B47938568CEB}&notoc=1.

Yet the reality is that neither the rocket fire during the ceasefire nor the tunnel were the reasons why Israel attacked. The Israeli military had been planning the attack for many months and even prior to the ceasefire.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1050426

Lastly, your lack of discussion of rockets into Israeli population centers are appalling. Your article makes it seem as if the Israelis attacked Gaza for fun. Israel warned Hamas numerous times to stop shooting or they will be forced to attack, only to have Hamas ramp up the rockets.
There have been 8,000 rockets fired into Israel since 2001. This is a war crime, yet you do not call for Hamas to be prosecuted. You as a resident of America, which was stolen from the Native Americans, and California which was taken from Mexico have no right to claim it is justifiable for Hamas to fire rockets into Israeli population centers because they are occupied. Israel has more of a right to exist than America and yet you would expect your government to protect you if a Mexican drug cartel was voted into the Mexican government and started shooting rockets at your family for 8 years.

Here it is very clear that you have memorized the diatribe very well, so well in fact that you forget what has and has not been said. I don’t recall making any claim that the Hamas rockets are justifiable. You should be careful how you regurgitate your propaganda so as to make it appropriate for different audiences based on the arguments that they may or may not make.

And from the soldiers testimonials referenced above, it seems like a lot of what the soldiers did was for fun and was unnecessary aggression on their part.

As for the 8000 rockets being war crimes, once you study international humanitarian law and learn what a war crime is lets talk about this assertion again, unless you would like to reference me to another jpost article…there are a lot of things that the rockets are, but one thing they are not is a war crime. One thing you forgot to mention is that from 2005 till the start of Operation Cast Lead, December 27, 2008, Israel killed 1, 250 Palestinians living in Gaza. Just a small oversight on your part I’m sure. http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/Gaza-Not-a-war-of-self-defense,4031

I don’t understand why you are talking about Mexico now…last time I checked we were talking about Gaza. When the US occupies Mexico for over forty years and the Mexican drug cartels respond by shooting rockets at Los Angeles, CA, we can revisit this conversation…

Moreover, one of the most disturbing part of your presentation was its conclusion. One of the last slides was titled, “Myth: Israel’s war on Gaza was defensive”. Instead of giving an argument or discussion of any kind, you merely ran a picture slide show of Gazans suffering with no context at all. Your presentation is hardly suited for a law school audience and merely tried to appeal to emotion.

And your propaganda-based analysis is hardly suitable for a law student. But I really do apologize if your emotions were sparked and you felt a little bit of sympathy or sadness for the people of Gaza. I should be more careful next time.

Lastly, you failed to mention the fact that Hamas hides behind women and children and operates out of mosques, hospitals and schools, if you do not believe me see below.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTu-AUE9ycs

Ah youtube…the beacon of truth! Yes when I went to Gaza, Hamas was hiding everywhere and they had three heads and five arms. By the way did you know that the “pentagon” of Israel is located in the middle of Tel Aviv…probably not the safest place for the women and children of Israel considering that Israel is surrounded by “enemies” and Tel Aviv is one of the most populated cities in Israel.

You did not give me a chance to speak at the
presentation and I needed to bring my concerns to your attention. I would love to have a civilized discussion without being cut off. Also, please in the future try not to use defunct and falsified events in your presentations and reports.
-Robin Saghian

Again, Robin, I did not cut you off and I let you and your friend ask two or more questions. Members of the audience actually cut you off. In this comment, you keep saying things that are quite false. But I did stay around after the presentation for nearly two hours talking to others in the audience so I would have welcomed you to come speak with me. You would have saved me a lot of time in writing this response if you had had just spoken to me in person rather than post your heavily misinformed statement on my blog. Maybe then you would have realized that your assertions are not only false, but also highly irrelevant to the main question at hand: Had Israel committed war crimes?

Anyways hope that was helpful.

-r

p.s. I will not respond to anymore of your posts. Spring break is coming soon…maybe you should consider going to Gaza yourself and seeing the situation on the ground. If and when you do, let me know and we can talk. Maybe then you’ll realize that the pre-packaged arguments you and many others like you espouse are nothing more than simplified propaganda to try to justify the unjustifiable.

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2 Comments

Filed under A Witness to Gaza, The Palestinian Crisis

2 responses to “Response to Israeli Propaganda

  1. Reem, you write with breathtaking eloquence.

    I have posted your article “Tears in Gaza” on my site, and also the excellent LA Times piece you linked to (“In the war of words, The Times is Israel’s ally”).

    Here is an article you may like which does explore the Mexico analogy:

    When Israel Expelled Palestinians (or: Lobbing missiles into Texas)

    Salam,

  2. Hello,

    Is there a reason why you don’t post my comments, or are you just scared people can read the truth and make up their own minds instead of you making it up for them. It is one thing not to reply to my comment but to censor me just shows how one sided and misleading your articles are.

    But lets disregard everything else and please just answer one question for me:

    WHY DO YOU WRITE THAT ISRAEL ATTACKED THE SCHOOL WEEKS AFTER THE UN ADMITTED THE SCHOOL WAS NEVER HIT?

    Is it because you did not do your research before writing, or you just don’t care and your willing to use any bit of information you can find to push your agenda on people, even if the information is false?

    It has to be one or the other.

    For obvious reasons, I assume you wouldn’t want to answer on your blog where everyone could read it. So you can email me at robinsaghian@aol.com if you wish to reply. Also, if you change your mind about not posting my reply, let me know and I will re-post it. Censorship is not good for anybody.

    Thanks

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