Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Intentions matter

(This is a personal post from Davis as indicated in the signature)

Despite the regrettable nature of this mornings incident, let me be very frank here.

I tire of the hysterical denounciations of 'massacres' coated in bloodstained language, which seem to have become the stock response of the Palestinians (including the moderates) to any incident involving casualties. This is a linguistic propaganda device - cruder than crude - and it seems to be working slowly on at least one senior Western politician (Italy's FM reportedly used the term today as well).

Of course, this was an abhorrent disaster, but it was no massacre. There are a number of factors to consider here.

First and most importantly, the Palestinians are drawing fire not as a result of the fact that the Israelis are evil and enjoy shooting Palestinians, but as a result of the Israelis' rational desire to stay alive in their homeland. The IDF would be happy to provide proof of the hostile (read 'preparations to kill Israelis') activities in Gaza, with a particular focus on Beit Hanoun in the preceeding week. Unequivocally, there would be no accidents such as this one today if it was not for the Palestinians - some Palestinians - ongoing efforts to kill Israelis. Israel would have left Gaza alone after the disengagement.

Second: Despite years of propaganda efforts to tarnish and slander Israel's record, as well as a number of Israeli violations of its own moral code, it is the simple and clear cut case that she does not - categorically - does not target civilians purposely. Let's be realistic here.
On a rhetorical point: If she did, would there be anyone left alive in Gaza or south Lebanon? On a sober one: Israels' Islamist enemies relish the opportunity to kill Jews.
(Hamas today also called on Muslims to attack the US, in my opinion an extremely significant and ill-judged statement: "America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre. Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons," Hamas said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.)
Her enemies use civilians in a way that shows their utter disregard for civilian life even on their own side, and yet the commentators are almost quiet. Shamefully so.

So let us keep a little perspective.

And last, most importantly: William has already indicated in his comments to a post below that this morning's incident will end any chance of a national unity government. Why? What value does this attack have as an excuse? What does it change, other than give Hamas a good decoy for rejectionism and show everybody else that a unity government - or some form of administration not as intransigent
as the current one - is long overdue, so we can get down to finding arrangements that are workable, rather than feel good in terms of breast-beating.

This was not a massacre. Israel has apologised for the accident and halted operations in order to investigate. That does not help the Athamna family, but we are not here to be engrossed in personal tragedy, but rather to effect diplomacy that can curtail personal tragedy. As I have said before, spades are spades. Let's not forget that. Hamas is firing rockets into Israel literally as I type this and has called for a renewal of terrorist attacks inside Israel. Of course all this will be in 'retaliation' to today's 'massacre'.

At least Mahmoud Abbas has already come out and called the bluff - he has stated that negotiations on a new government must continue.

None of this detracts from the fact that I am deeply disturbed by the deaths today and want answers as to what went wrong.

Excerpt from Haaretz
(Full Story)

Israel Defense Forces artillery shells struck a residential area in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun early Wednesday, killing at least 19 Palestinians and wounding dozens of others.

Ten children and seven women were among the dead, the Palestinain Health Ministry said, adding that 18 of the victims were members of the Athamna family.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed regret for the deaths, saying that Israel did not set out to harm innocent civilians.

The IDF confirmed that an artillery battery containing 12 shells had aimed at a site from where Qassam rockets were fired at the southern city Ashkelon on Tuesday. The artillery fire had been intended for a location about half a kilometer from the Beit Hanun houses.

At this stage it is unclear whether the incident was caused by a technical or human error. The initial assumption is, however, that the wrong coordinates were fed to the artillery unit.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz appointed Major General Meir Kalifi to head an investigation into the shelling.

Soon after the Wednesday attack, Peretz ordered the army to stop shelling in Gaza, and called for a speedy investigation into the incident.

The army has reduced the amount of artillery fire into Gaza in recent months, saying it was ineffective against the Qassam cells and inaccurate.

Nevertheless, the army decided to continue firing artillery shells sporadically, in specific instances.

Eight Qassams were fired at southern Israel from Gaza following the shelling. One person sustained light wounds.

Official circulation from the IDF

Jerusalem, Nov 8, 2006

IDF Spokesman: Initial reaction to Palestinian claims of civilian casualties in Beit Hanoun

In an effort to disrupt and prevent the firing of rockets at Israeli population centers, the IDF this morning (Nov 8) carried out preventative artillery fire at the launching sites of the Kassam rockets. The fire was directed at the area from which Kassam rockets were fired yesterday at Ashkelon, in order to disrupt attempts to resume fire.

Following reports of Palestinian civilian casualties, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz ordered a halt to artillery fire in the Gaza Strip pending investigation.

Preliminary findings indicates that the site in question is far removed from the area towards which the artillery fire was directed. Representatives of the IDF Southern Command and the Chief Artillery Officer are in the field investigating the incident.

The IDF activity targets terrorist organizations and infrastructure only, and not Palestinian civilian targets, while the terror organizations deliberately target Israeli civilians.

The IDF expresses regret at any harm to uninvolved civilians, but stresses that the responsibility for this rests with the terror organizations, which use the Palestinian civilian population as a "human shield", carrying out terror attacks and firing Kassam rockets at Israeli population centers, under cover of the Palestinian population.

Again, the above information is preliminary, and the incident is being investigated.

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