Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gaza beach deaths

After the footage of the screaming girl (Huda) went around the world, Israel was immediately condemned

Those who follow the Israelis' behaviour a little more closely than most, were quick to point to a number of inconsistencies, not least that Israel does not target civilians, and that a direct hit such as this would be unthinkable as an operational mistake by a highly trained soldier.

Led by the BBC, and picked up by most other outlets, a 'Human Rights Watch' specialist was seen examining the scene and condemning Israel as guilty.

The Guardian had the grace to publish the following letter on 15 June, but not before leading the charge against Israel on the issue, as ever:

Mark Garlasco of Human Rights Watch casts doubt on Israel's contention that it was not responsible for the seven tragic Palestinian beach deaths. His expertise has never been verified independently. HRW is a highly politicised body in the forefront of a one-sided campaign to demonise Israel, while remaining strangely silent on Palestinian attacks. Garlasco is the author of HRW's publication, Razing Rafah, which included many unverifiable claims.

Garlasco does not explain the discrepancies between his claims and the IDF data, or the impact of the Palestinian efforts to alter the evidence at the scene of this incident. Why should HRW's version be more credible than the IDF's?
Lyn Julius

The original is here.

HRW then retracted their claims, by which time (as with the oft repeated infamous Guardian headline about a - nonexistent - 'Massacre' in Jenin) the original story was passe and had passed into the mythology of bias. Here is an excerpt of the retraction in the Jerusalem Post:

On Monday, the Human Rights Watch, while sticking to its demand for the establishment of an independent inquiry into a blast on a Gaza beach 10 days ago that killed seven Palestinian civilians, conceded for the first time since the incident that it could not contradict the IDF's exonerating findings.

On Monday, Maj.-Gen. Meir Klifi - head of the IDF inquiry commission that cleared the IDF of responsibility for the blast - met with Marc Garlasco, a military expert from the HRW who had last week claimed that the blast was caused by an IDF artillery shell. Following the three-hour meeting, described by both sides as cordial and pleasant, Garlasco praised the IDF's professional investigation into the blast, which he said was most likely caused by unexploded Israeli ordnance left laying on the beach, a possibility also raised by Klifi and his team.

"We came to an agreement with General Klifi that the most likely cause [of the blast] was unexploded Israeli ordinance," Garlasco told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting.

The full article is here.

In Britain, all major news organisations carried the story in a similar way to how it was first reported by the BBC - citing HRW and generally reflecting the (false) BBC line of 'israelis shelling Gazan civilians'. Unlike most of the papers though, I commend the BBC for using language that did not place the definitive blame for the deaths on Israeli shelling. However, in the BBC reports the subtext was clear, particularly in James Reynolds' pieces, which let the pictures 'speak for themselves' at length. I have not seen any retractions / clarifications.

Of course I sincerely regret the loss of life on both sides of the conflict. However, we are concerned with disinformation on this blog, and this story, despite its tragic subject is a good example of exactly that.

On a related note of considerable importance, strong accusations have been made in the German press against the
widely used Ramattan News Agency whose cameraman, Zakarija Abu Harbed, filmed Huda in the aftermath of the death of her family. A long piece in the respected German daily 'Sueddeutsche Zeitung' examined Palestinian efforts to manipulate the media, and questioned the aforementioned Cameraman and Ramattan staff, revealing inconsistencies in their answers regarding their work on the day of the beach deaths.

The 'Sueddeutsche Zeitung' article, in its original German, is here. A documentary (mentioned in the article) about media manipulation during the second intifada is below:

Genuine enquiries about Israel's own actions are unlikely to uncover anything equally incriminating in this field, which is why there is no mention of her many (real and imagined) faults in the conflict in this post.

I am desperate for renewed hope and success in the MEPP. More so than some of the many interlocutors I have. Then again, many - most - members of NCF, no matter what view they hold, are inspiring in their persistent effort to find solutions.

However, in order to be able to achieve progress, I firmly believe it is a mistake that we sometimes refuse to call a spade a spade. May I then say that this is all I seek to do here. It should be understood as neither pro nor anti, but rather exposing dissinformation, which NCF believes is an obstacle to progress in the MEPP, and which is the reason we started these blogs.

Please leave your comments or alternatively email me at ncfmepp@aol.com.

Davis Lewin
Coordinator NCF MEPP Working Group


An extract of an article in Haaretz today (21/6 - Full Story):

IDF rules out artillery fire in Gaza beach deaths

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters

An exhaustive examination of two pieces of shrapnel, which were extracted from Palestinians wounded in an explosion on the Beit Lahia coast in Gaza, conclusively prove that the shards did not originate from a 155-mm shell used by the Israel Defense Forces' artillery corps on the day of the incident, an internal IDF commission of inquiry said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters at a Tel Aviv news conference, the head of the commission, IDF Major General Meir Kalifi, said he is convinced that the seven members of the Ghalia family who were killed did not die as a result of IDF artillery fire from that day.

Nonetheless, Kalifi said the investigation into the real reasons behind the explosion continues. As such, Kalifi cited two main possibilities which the IDF is considering caused the explosion: an explosive device planted by Palestinians for the purpose of tripping up IDF troops operating in the area, or a dud from Israel
i ammunition fired in the past.


William said...

In my view, there is little or no question that IDF shelling was responsible for these deaths. The IDF keeps up a regular barrage of shelling into areas close to the border in the north. A shell went astray with tragic consequences. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

William said...

Also - if you are posting something that expresses an opinion, register yourself to this blog so you can post it yourself direct. I also have strong opinions but I try and post them myself rather than logged on as the NCF.