Thursday, August 03, 2006

3-Aug-06: Pre-requisites for Asking Questions About Qana

Now that the Israeli military has delivered the results of its enquiry into what happened at Qana to the IDF Chief of Staff, the rules of discussion need to change.

The inquiry's results, delivered on Wednesday, confirm what the IDF told the press on the day of the tragedy. The IDF said then and now confirms that it deliberately targeted the residential building in an air attack on July 30th just before 1 in the morning. The attack consisted of two missiles. The first exploded; the second did not.

No journalist, no analyst, no cartoonist is now free to rage about the loss of innocent lives, or to claim there has been an act of "Zionist genocide" of the Lebanese without explicitly first dealing with the following short list of issues:
  • The residential building was deliberately targeted because it fit the test set out by the Israeli military's guidelines regarding the use of fire against suspicious structures inside villages. The residents had been warned well in advance to evacuate by the mass drop of Arabic-language leaflets; in addition, by various other means, the residents of Qana and the villages surrounding it were warned to leave since they were in a target zone because of Hezbollah's activities. The building in question was immediately adjacent to an area from where missiles had been fired in the previous hours and days at Israel.
  • Israeli surveillance of Hezbollah provided explicit confirmation of their exploitation of civilian structures inside villages to store weaponry and hide after launching rockets attacks.
  • Intelligence gathered from Qana confirmed that this building was one of those structures.
  • From July 12th onwards, more than 150 Hezbollah missiles were launched from Qana at civilian targets in Israel.
  • From the official text: "The IDF operated according to information that the building was not inhabited by civilians and was being used as a hiding place for terrorists. Had the information indicated that civilians were present in the building the attack would not have been carried out. Prior to the attack on the aforementioned building, several other buildings which were part of the infrastructure for terror activity in the area were targeted. Our comment: It hurts our enemies to hear this, but Israelis rarely claim to be all-knowing and incapable of making mistakes. Mistakes happen; systems are developed to minimize their frequency and harm. But war is absolutely awful, and the mistakes you make in war are not like mistakes you make in other areas of activity. The consequences are far more serious. This is not what the IDF's report says, but this is exactly what it means.
Lt. General Dan Halutz, the Chief of Staff , expressed one more time his sorrow at the deaths of civilians, among them children, in Qana. In doing this, he expressed the sense of the whole of Israel. But expressing sorrow is quite different from saying "We did this". We did not do this.

Fighting terror is different from fighting a conventional war, as the citizens of Bali, Madrid, New York, Washington, London, Paris, Munich, Mumbai and dozens of other cities already know, and as most of the rest of the world is going to learn in the future.

Terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas, use civilians as human shields like armies use armour.

Terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas, wear no uniforms and conduct none of their operations, ever, within the rules of war

Terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas, intentionally operate from within civilian areas and buildings.

They do these things because traditional military forces hesitate before responding in kind, and in particular will think twice and three times before firing on what may be non-military targets. Not, however, all militaries: the British and the Americans felt themselves sufficiently provoked by Nazi Germany to turn Dresden into ash in 1945, at a time when the tide of war was well and truly running in their direction. It seemed the right thing to do at the time. There is not the remotest comparison to what Israel did this week, hitting a carefully-identified, confirmed military target.

It would be a great mistake to think that Israeli society and its institutions are at peace with what happened in Qana. Halutz instructed that guidelines for opening fire against suspicious targets be re-evaluated and updated immediately. They doubtless will. And Israeli soul searching goes on, affecting all parts of our society. Moral issues get taken quite seriously in this country.

But beyond the military and strategic issues at stake here, there is a long list of additional questions that no objective analyst is free to ignore:
  • Israel confirms, and no one denies, that the bombing happened in the small hours of the morning and the building collapsed seven hours later. What happened in between? Officers of the IDF have said publicly (certainly on Israel television, to which we're glued at the moment) that they believe Hezbollah explosives brought the building down. Maybe yes, maybe no. But the fact no mainstream journalist or report has raised this possibility suggests they are just so very happy with their pin-it-on-Israel theory that anything less would be a let-down.
  • Refrigerated trucks arrived from Tyre before reporters and photographers. There is prima facie evidence that bodies from Tyre's morgue were added to the Qana body count.
  • The Lebanese Red Cross says 28 people were killed in Qana. Why do all the newsagency reports from AP, AFP, Reuters and others say 56, 60 and more?
  • Confederate Yankee raises non-trivial questions about the absence of concrete dust on the bodies. No, not the bodies where there plainly is concrete dust, but the many others.
Of course, we know very well that the media and politicians can and will expound on how tragic the Qana events are, and how criminal or immoral or unacceptable the actions of the Israelis. But if those statements are made without reference to the issues above, then - even when they're expressed in the well-rounded vowels of the BBC or The Indepedent - you know you are in the presence of bombastic, self-important hypocrites.

1 comment:

The-View-From-Ramot said...

It's not normally my favorite reading, but here's a piece from A7 that adds to what you wrote.

Evidence Mounts that Kana "Massacre" Was a Fake
by Hillel Fendel
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=109072

The world awoke this Sunday to the news that an Israeli airstrike had killed 57 Lebanese civilians, leading Israel to stop airstrikes for 2 days - but evidence shows the "massacre" was just a fraud.

The supposed massacre caused a major turnabout in world diplomacy. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suddenly canceled her plans to fly to Beirut, saying "my work towards a ceasefire is really here [in Jerusalem] today." The implication was clearly that the onus was now upon Israel. French President Jacques Chirac condemned Israel's "unjustified action which demonstrates more than ever the need for an immediate ceasefire," Jordan's King Abdullah called it an "ugly crime," and other world leaders echoed these sentiments.

Though Israel emphasized that Hizbullah was to blame for waging its rocket war against Israel from within a civilian population, Foreign Ministry officials repeated their "deep regret at the loss of innocent life in the campaign against Hizbullah," and were forced to promise a "thorough and comprehensive examination."

Apparently, however, the incident was all one big fraud, staged by Arab elements for the world media in order to lead precisely to the situation described above.

The central piece of evidence leading to this conclusion is the fact, mentioned by IDF officials from the very beginning, that the building collapsed a full seven hours after the Israel Air Force bombing. Why, then, would the residents inside not have been evacuated in the meantime? As Brig.-Gen. Amir Eshel of the Israeli Air Force told reporters Sunday night, “It is difficult for me to believe that they waited eight hours to evacuate it.” Without additional evidence, Eshel merely left open the possibility that Hizbullah terrorists, or explosives they left behind, caused the explosion.

"Indeed," writes Robert Spencer for FrontPageMagazine, "it strains credulity that not only did these Lebanese civilians remain in a house that had been bombed for eight hours, but peacefully went to sleep in it after the bombing – since the victims were all apparently sleeping, despite continuing Israeli air bombardment in the area, when the building collapsed."

Gen. Eshel also said that the building was used by Hizbullah to store explosives. This was supported by a letter by Dr. Mounir Herzallah, a southern Lebanese Shiite, who wrote that Hizbullah terrorists came to his town, dug a munitions depot and then built a school and a residence directly over it.

In addition, as Reuven Koret writes for IsraelInsider, the bombing of the area occurred in three waves. The first bombs, according to CNN correspondent Brent Sadler, did not hit the building in question, but rather landed "20 or 30 meters" away. The second strike hit targets further away, and the third strike, around 7:30 in the morning, landed over 400 meters away. The first reports of a collapsed building arrived a half-hour later.

Another CNN correspondent, Ben Wedeman, noted that there was a larger crater next to the building. He observed that the roof of the building was intact and that the building appeared not to have collapsed as a result of the Israeli strike.

Thus, the building was used to store explosives, was apparently not destroyed by the bombing, and sheltered dozens of women and children throughout a night of bombing. The identity of the victims was also not clear, except that they were not the original occupants of the building; a National Public Radio correspondent reported that they had left. "The victims were non-residents who chose to shelter in the building that night," Koret writes, and who were "'too poor' to leave the town, one resident told CNN's Wedeman. Who were these people?"

Hear Koret speak about the Hizbullah manipulation on IsraelNationalRadio.com.

Other facts brought by Koret and Spencer:

* Sometime after dawn a call went out to journalists and rescue workers to come to the scene. Though Hizbullah has been claiming that civilians could not freely flee the scene due to Israeli destruction of bridges and roads, the journalists and rescue teams from nearby Tyre had no problem getting there.

* Lebanese rescue teams did not start evacuating the building until after the camera crews came. The absence of a real rescue effort was explained by saying that equipment was lacking. There were no scenes of live or injured people being extracted.

* There was little blood, CNN's Wedeman noted, concluding that the victims appeared to have died while they were sleeping - despite the thunderous Israeli air attacks. Rescue workers equipped with cameras were removing the bodies from one opening in the collapsed structure, and journalists were not allowed near it.

* Rescue workers carrying the victims on stretchers occasionally flipped up the blankets so that cameras could show the faces and bodies of the dead. But, Koret noted, the ashen-gray faces of the victims gave cause to think that the bodies looked like they had been dead for days.

* Photos of the rescue operation transmitted all over the world are "extremely suspicious," Spencer writes, citing work by EU Referendum showing numerous anomalies in the photos. "Most notably," he writes, "the dating of the various photos suggests that the same bodies were paraded before reporters on different occasions, each time as if they had just been pulled from the rubble. [In addition], some workers are wearing different gear in different photos, yet clearly carrying the same corpse."

* The Christian Lebanese (French-language) website LIBANOSCOPIE has charged that Hizbullah staged the entire incident in order to stimulate calls for a ceasefire, thereby staving off its destruction by Israel and Lebanese plans to rid themselves of this terrorist plague.

Spencer concludes, "Americans and Westerners are not used to dealing with carefully orchestrated and large-scale deception of this kind. It is time that it be recognized as a weapon of warfare, and an extremely potent one at that."