Barack Obama: If somebody was rocketing my two daughters as they slept at night…

December 29, 2008

* “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing”
-- Barack Obama, in July, while visiting Israel as a U.S. presidential candidate

* British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on December 27: “I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by President Abbas. I understand the Israeli government’s sense of obligation to its population”

* The Palestinian Authority and Egypt blame Hamas

* Leading Saudi paper blames Hamas

* The more damage to Hamas, the better the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace



1. Hamas admits: Most of the dead are ours
2. Hamas chief of staff may be dead
3. Not exactly Ivy League
4. Destruction, not construction
5. Palestinian rocket almost hits Tel Aviv
6. The Palestinian Authority and Egypt blame Hamas
7. Leading Saudi paper blames Hamas
8. Hizbullah’s Nasrallah rages against Egypt
9. Suicide bomber attacks anti-Israel demonstration in Mosul, Iraq
10. Where was the int’l community when Israel was being targeted for the last eight years?
11. “A time to fight” (Jerusalem Post, Editorial, Dec. 28, 2008)
12. Leading liberal commentator Marty Peretz: “Do not f--k with the Jews”
13. “Whbee slams int’l media for playing down Israel’s version” (Dec. 29, 2008)
14. “Hamas’s Strategy: The rockets or the media” (By Barry Rubin, Dec. 29, 2008)
15. U.S. State Department press release (Dec. 27, 2008)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

I attach five articles about ongoing events in Israel and Gaza. Before that, here are some observations of my own:

As reported by Sky News and other more balanced networks, Hamas admits that the vast majority of those killed in Gaza were armed Hamas operatives; yet some media, like the BBC, are deliberately giving the false impression that many if not most of the casualties in Gaza are civilians. The state-owned France 3 TV channel yesterday even went so far as to claim that half the Palestinian casualties were civilians, contradicting the claims of the Palestinians themselves.

Hamas TV acknowledged yesterday morning in its 10 am broadcast that 180 of the 220 killed by that time were members of Hamas armed forces. Among those killed was the brutal Hamas Internal security commander, Tawfik Jaber. Among the other dead were members of Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, as well as civilians.

Military experts in Britain and America acknowledge that this is a remarkably low number of civilian casualties given the density of the population in Gaza and the fact that Hamas have deliberately placed many of their rocket labs and weapons facilities in civilian compounds such as school playgrounds and mosques.

Western experts admit that Israel’s military precision at avoiding civilian casualties is much greater than that in many of the airstrikes against Islamist militia in Afghanistan and Iraq or inflicted by other countries fighting insurgencies with airstrikes such as Turkey, which bombed Kurdish positions yesterday, or Sri Lanka which bombed Tamil positions over the weekend.

Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel wrote for the Associated Press yesterday that most of the 230 Palestinians who were reportedly killed were “security forces,” and Palestinian officials said “at least 15 civilians were among the dead.”

Reuters quotes Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh acknowledging 15 civilians killed in the past two days, from a death count the same wire report puts at 290.

The Washington Post is among those papers which have falsely suggested to readers that many or most of the Palestinian dead are civilians.


AFP (Agence France Presse) writes:

“Medics said civilians had been hit, but the majority of the victims appeared to be members of Hamas, branded a terror group by Israel and the West.”

(As I have written several times in the past, unnamed Palestinian “medics” cited by some local Palestinian stringers working for international news agencies in Gaza, have often been caught telling lies about who was a civilian and who was a gunman during past incidents. AFP editors, to their credit, yesterday finally inserted a line doubting the veracity of the claims of these “medics”.)



Palestinian and Israeli sources say that Hamas’s top military commander Ahmed Ja’abri, the overall commander of Hamas’s so-called armed wing, the Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades, may have been killed in an Israeli airstrike yesterday.


A Hamas source in Gaza also said that the initial Israeli attack on Saturday caught the organization completely off guard. Hamas, said the source, did not believe the IDF would launch a strike on the Jewish Sabbath.


Several Palestinians have been killed by other Palestinian gunmen in Gaza in the last two days, report Reuters, as Palestinian militants have used the present unrest as cover to settle scores with one another.



It is highly misleading for the BBC to suggest to viewers that the Israeli airstrike in the middle of last night was merely aimed at a university. The target, which was hit accurately, was one of Hamas’s main weapon research and development centers that housed explosives laboratories and suicide bomb belt storage facilities in the chemistry labs of the Islamic University of Gaza.

The development of these weapons took place under the auspices of senior lecturers who are activists in Hamas. There were no casualties as the university was hit during the night. The Islamic University was established by the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and has emerged as a training ground for the political and spiritual leadership of Hamas.

In February 2007, before Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, the Fatah Presidential Guard raided the same facility and uncovered hundreds of weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and material for production of chemicals for use in bomb attacks, according to Fatah. At the time, Palestinian TV aired footage of dozens of rockets and assault rifles, as well as thousands of bullets, that Abbas’s officials said were found inside the university.



The construction worker that was murdered in Ashkelon by Hamas this morning (Hani al-Mahdi, 27) and most of those seriously injured in that attack were Israeli Arabs.

The Israeli killed by Hamas in the town of Netivot on Saturday had also previously worked in construction. Beber Vaknin, 58, was killed when a rocket struck the third floor of the building across the street from his apartment. His heart was pierced by shrapnel from the Hamas rocket that flew across the street. Vaknin, who was unmarried, had moved to Netivot from Sderot 48 years ago. Neighbors described him as good-natured and quiet man.

The two young Palestinian girls that died Saturday were killed by a Palestinian rocket (which was aimed at Jews in Israel but fell short of its target). This was made clear in reporting by The Times of London but not by other media, some of which suggested Israel had killed them.

The two girls were identified as 12-year-old Sabah Hasuna and five-year-old Haneen Abu Khusa. A third girl, U’la Hasuna Abu Khusa, was seriously injured in the blast. Palestinian civilians have often been killed by Palestinian terrorists aiming to kill Israelis, but The New York Times and other papers have then added them on to a statistical chart suggesting that Israel killed them.



110 Kassam rockets and mortar shells hit Israel on Saturday alone, but (as usual) most international media didn’t bother to report this. They only started to report on them when Israel finally began to take decisive measures to stop the assault on its population.

This morning Israeli military censors have allowed it to be revealed that one of the rockets fired by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip yesterday morning reached the outskirts of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area – the greatest distance by a Palestinian rocket to date.

Israeli civilians have been targeted by thousands of rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza since 2001. Rocket attacks increased by 500 percent after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. Since then, more than 6,300 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian neighborhoods. In the first four months of 2008, the rate of rocket attacks was one every three hours. During the so-called ceasefire that ended last week, 215 rockets were launched at Israel. 50% of the population of Sderot alone have sought medical help as a result of Kassam rocket attacks. (For background, see for example, the dispatch “Code Red in Sderot: Living in the most heavily bombed place in the world” (March 2, 2008)

Schools in southern Israel remain shut as many people stay close to bomb shelters at home.

Here is a short clip from Israeli TV. This is the kind of rocket attacks that have put half a million Israeli civilians within range of Hamas fire and which the BBC and others have barely bothered reporting on all these years.



During the press conference broadcast on Egyptian television yesterday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit harshly criticized Hamas, and placed responsibility for the current situation on it. Gheit also blamed Hamas for not allowing wounded persons from Gaza to seek treatment in Egypt, saying Hamas were more interested in having the injured serve as pawns in their propaganda war on Western TV networks rather than allowing them to be treated. “The wounded are barred from crossing” he said, blaming “those who control Gaza. We are waiting for the wounded to cross.”

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that Hamas could have avoided the Israeli attacks on Gaza. “We talked to Hamas and we told them ‘please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop’ so that we could have avoided what happened,” he said. Reuters reported these statements widely and yet certain international media such as the BBC have not reported them.

Egypt and other Arab leaders understand that Hamas, like Hizbullah, is increasingly allied with Iran and aims to foment regional instability and Islamic revolution. The harder Hamas is hit the greater the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace. If the rockets don't stop from Gaza, almost no one in Israel will be prepared to relinquish territory from the West Bank that would merely then become a rocket launching site to fire at Israel from.

Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah said yesterday that they were prepared to assume control over the Gaza Strip if Israel succeeds in overthrowing the Hamas government. A top PA official said: “We believe the people there are fed up with Hamas and want to see a new government.”



Fearing the opening of an additional front by the Lebanese-based Hizbullah militia, Israel sent waves of fighter jets in low formation over southern Lebanon this morning in a warning to Hizbullah to stay out of the fray. Last week, the Lebanese army reported that it located eight Katyusha rockets set with timers to be launched toward Israel that were discovered by a farmer.

Yesterday Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah raged at Egypt on Lebanese TV. He said that the current Israeli operation in Gaza had been revealed to Egypt in advance, and Egypt had approved it. (For once, Nasrallah is probably telling the truth.)

The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported yesterday that Hamas officials are accusing Egypt of intentionally misleading them in collaboration with Israel. The paper quoted Hamas officials as saying this was the reason compounds were not evacuated before the Israeli air force struck.



An editorial (by Tariq Hamid) in the leading Saudi paper Asharq Al Awsat also blamed Hamas.

It said:

“... leniency with Hamas made the Arab world a partner in the suffering of the Palestinians.

“... Arab states should call a spade a spade... let Hamas bear the responsibility if only once.”

Full article here.

Egyptian political commentator Hassan Nafaa, writing in the independent Al Masry Al Yom, said: “Hamas looks like the common enemy of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”



A demonstration against the Israeli offensive in Gaza became the target of a suicide bomber in Mosul, Iraq, yesterday. One person died and 16 were wounded when an explosive-laden man riding a bicycle rode into the midst of the demonstrators and blew himself up.



Paris-based commentator Nidra Poller (who is also a subscriber to this email list) notes that within a couple of hours of the Israeli counter-offensive beginning on Saturday, the leading French daily Le Figaro had lined up an impressive list of condemnations on its website: the European Union, Javier Solana, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, French PM François Fillon, UN Sec-Gen. Ban Ki-Moon, Leila Chahid, Turkey, the Arab League, Iran, Colonel Gaddafi, Syria…

Apparently they had missed the fact that the Palestinian president himself, Mahmoud Abbas, was blaming Hamas.

I attach five items below.

-- Tom Gross



A time to fight
The Jerusalem Post (Editorial)
Dec. 28, 2008

On Friday, a Hamas spokesman made Israel the following proposal: You keep the stream of humanitarian aid and supplies flowing into Gaza and we will keep launching rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.

It was an offer Israel had little choice but to refuse.

For weeks Israel has been imploring Hamas to stop shooting across the border, to stop tunneling in preparation for the next round of violence, and to allow our farmers to tend their fields. The Islamists responded that they were not afraid of the IDF and that they reserved the right to resist “the occupation” – meaning the existence of a Jewish state. They brazenly told Israel to get used to the idea that no amount of humanitarian gestures would stem their behavior.

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Israel finally told Hamas that it would not be bled, slowly, to death. Thanks to excellent intelligence and superb training, a haughty enemy was caught off-guard. Targets up and down the Strip were hit and large numbers of Hamas personnel including senior military figures were killed. Key facilities were turned into rubble; well-camouflaged equipment was destroyed.

In launching “Operation Cast Lead,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak, declared, “There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for fighting.” And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, flanked by Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said that Israel had done everything possible to avoid this escalation, but that its entreaties for quiet had been met with disdain.

The IDF’s mission is not to bring down the Hamas regime, but to bring quiet to the South. In a sense we are asking Hamas to stop being Hamas. The Islamists need to decide whether they want to go down in flames or are prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with control over the Strip. They may give Israel no choice but to topple their administration.

To their credit, Israeli decision makers are avoiding the kind of bombastic rhetoric all of us came to regret in the course of the Second Lebanon War and its aftermath. Now, what ordinary Israelis demand is that their government deliver, as promised, quiet to the South. We do not expect this operation to be fast or easy. We do expect it to succeed.

Israelis must unite and be vigilant. Regrettably, we’ve already seen rioting among some east Jerusalem Palestinians. The possibility of disturbances among our Arab citizens cannot be discounted. Hamas rockets may reach targets heretofore thought to be beyond enemy range; their threats to launch suicide attacks must be taken with utmost seriousness. And Diaspora Jews also need be on alert.

On a quiet post-Christmas weekend, the events in Gaza have captured world attention. From an unsympathetic foreign media, we are already hearing complaints that Israel’s retaliation is “disproportionate” and a form of “collective punishment.” That over 200 Palestinians have been killed compared to only one Israeli leads some journalists to conclude that Israel is inherently in the wrong. One British news anchor wondered why her government had not already demanded that Israel halt its operation. There was a grudging understanding that Hamas uses Palestinian non-combatants as human shields, along with an unreasonable demand that Israel magically find a way not to harm any of them.

The formula for purchasing the affection of those who suffer from moral relativism is sickeningly clear: if one Jew is killed, we get very little piety. If, heaven forbid, an Israeli kindergarten was to take a direct hit - Israel might, temporarily, gain the sympathy of news anchors from Paris to London to Madrid.

At that price we would rather forgo their sympathy.

Nevertheless, we expect our diplomats to work 24/7 to make Israel’s case to the international community. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has begun that process. In an English-language address she said, “Enough is enough” – Israel would not continue to absorb rockets, mortars and bullets without retaliating.

At this newspaper, we wonder how an international community that can’t bring itself to explicitly support Israel’s operation against the most intransigent of Muslim fanatics expects to play a positive role in facilitating peace in this region.

Hamas must be stopped. And the civilized world must help stop it.



Marty Peretz uses some stern language while writing on The New Republic’s website.

… The government in Jerusalem had made it unmistakably clear that it would no longer tolerate this fire power aimed at innocent civilian life. It had been saying this for months to an increasingly skeptical and apprehensive, not to say, restive public. And to Hamas which didn’t seem to care. Instead, it threatened Israel by word and follow-up deeds that confirmed the recklessness – as if confirmation was needed – of also this Palestinian “liberation” movement, the last in the long line of terrorist revolutionaries acting in the name of pathetic and blood-thirsty Palestine.

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning... 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.

… Frankly, I am up to my gullet with this reflex criticism of Israel as going beyond proportionality in its responses to war waged against its population with the undisguised intention of putting an end to the political expression of the Jewish nation. Within hours, Nicolas Sarkozy was already taking up the cudgel of French righteousness and pronouncing the actually quite sober Israeli response to the continuous war on its borders “disproportionate.” Enough. What would be proportionate, oh, so so proportionate apparently, are those tried-and-true half measures to contain Hamas that have never worked. Remember that in 2005 Israel ceded Gaza to the Palestinians waiting and hoping that they would make something of a civil society of their territory, civil for their own and civil to their neighbors. It was not to be…

(Full item here.)



[Tom Gross adds: Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee is an Israeli Druse, and currently a member of the Knesset on behalf of Kadima, which all the “Apartheid Israel” liars like Jimmy Carter don’t like to acknowledge.]

Whbee slams int’l media for playing down Israel’s version
By Haviv Rettig Gur
The Jerusalem Post
December 29, 2008

Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee on Sunday criticized international media outlets who were not giving sufficient voice to Israel’s take on the fighting in Gaza.

“Some of the foreign media are not getting the Israeli side into their reporting,” Whbee told The Jerusalem Post. This means the international media have often failed to report on the pervasive Kassam attacks that preceded the [current] violence, he said.
“Instead of showing who these terrorists [Hamas] are and how Israeli children are hiding in bomb shelters afraid to leave,” the media outlets are showing Hamas’s side of the conflict, he said. He did not name the media organizations.

Nevertheless, Whbee insisted, “the media battle isn’t lost, because as long as we avoid extreme events, such as a dramatic civilian hit, we can continue the Gaza activities in a regular fashion.”

Despite repeated requests, the Post could not obtain a response from international media bureaus in Israel, including the BBC and Al-Jazeera.

The assault on Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, under way since Saturday, was accompanied by an “unprecedented” media operation in which official spokespeople from the government and army have made Israel’s case in dozens of major foreign media outlets, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

“Every Arab channel that respects itself has invited an Israeli speaker to comment on the situation,” said Dr. Ophir Gandelman, acting director of the ministry’s Arab Press and Public Affairs Division, who himself has given 25 Arabic-language interviews in 48-hours since Saturday.

“We have a massive presence in the Arabic media, in television and radio outlets that reach tens of millions of people each. It’s a larger presence than any other Foreign Ministry dealing with a similar situation, such as the Americans in Iraq or British in Afghanistan,” Gandelman said.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter was interviewed several times in Arabic, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave explanations in English. Even Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog gave interviews to the British media.

As the military operation got under way Saturday, Livni’s office appointed former ambassador to the UN Danny Gillerman as the “coordinator” for the media effort.

The move did not escape criticism. Though he is considered a good spokesman for American audiences, Gillerman’s appointment caught Foreign Ministry officials by surprise, the Post has learned.

One official said it was not clear what his responsibilities were, or why it was necessary to appoint another “chief” in addition to the likes of the director of the National Information Directorate, Yarden Vatikay, or the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for media and public affairs, Aviv Sharon.

Gillerman’s name appeared on a list of spokespeople sent to the international media, but he was not listed as a “coordinator.”

President Shimon Peres also got into the media effort on Sunday, launching a series of meetings, phone calls and media appearances.

“The president is trying to use his strong international standing for an explanatory effort with the news media and important world leaders,” a spokeswoman for Peres told the Post. Peres was scheduled to speak to almost 50 media outlets and dozens of world leaders in the coming days, she said.

“In all Israel’s history, I don’t remember a war so pointless and irrational as the one begun by Hamas,” Peres said in a statement, adding that “the people of Israel are united behind the IDF’s operation.”

“Hamas is bringing about a grave disaster to its own people. The firing of rockets against innocent civilians within our borders is a situation no other country would have tolerated,” the president said.

He called on the Arab world to blame Hamas’s actions for the current situation.



Hamas’s Strategy: The Rockets or the Media
By Barry Rubin
December 29, 2008

Nothing is clearer than Hamas’s strategy. It gives Israel the choice between rockets and media, and Hamas thinks it is a situation of, “We win or you lose.”

Option A: The Ceasefire

Hamas ends a ceasefire giving it the peace and quiet needed to build up its army and consolidate its rule over the Gaza Strip. Israel would deliver supplies as long as there weren’t attacks. From a Western-style pragmatic standpoint this is a great situation.

But Hamas isn’t a Western-style pragmatic organization. Peace and quiet is its enemy not only because of its ideology – the deity commands it to destroy Israel – or its self-image – as heroic martyrs – but also because battle is needed to recruit the masses for permanent war and unite the population around it.

Hamas has no program of improving the well-being of the people or educating children to be doctors, teachers, and engineers. Its platform has but one plank: war, war, endless war, sacrifice, heroism, and martyrdom until total victory is achieved.

Thus, it ends the ceasefire.

Option B: The Rockets

And so Hamas ends the ceasefire and rains rockets down on Israel, accompanied by mortars and the occasional attempt at a cross-border ground attack. Israel does nothing.

Hamas crows: you are weak, you are confused, you are helpless. Come, people, arise and destroy the paper tiger! And so more people are recruited, West Bank Palestinians look on with admiration at those fighting the enemy, and the Arabic-speaking world is impressed.

Remember 2006, they say. It is just like Hizbullah. Israel is helpless against the rockets. Why don’t our governments fight Israel? Let’s overthrow them and bring brave, fighting Islamist governments to power.

Option C: The Media

But then Israel does fight back. Its planes bomb military targets which have been deliberately put amidst civilians. If there is a high danger of hitting civilians, Israel doesn’t attack. But there is a line below which risk that will be taken, and rightly so.

The smug smiles are wiped off the faces of Hamas leaders. Yet they have one more weapon, their reserves, they call up the media.

Those arrogant, heroic, macho victors of yesterday – literally yesterday as the process takes only a few hours – are transformed into pitiful victims. Casualty figures are announced by Hamas, and accepted by reporters who are not on the spot. Everyone hit is, of course, a civilian. No soldiers here.

And the casualties are disproportionate: Hamas has arranged it that way. If necessary, sympathetic photographers take pictures of children who pretend to be injured, and once they are published in Western newspapers these claims become fact.

Yet there is a problem here. Rockets and mortars may win wars; newspaper articles really don’t. Of course, too, material damage is inflicted that sets back Gaza’s material development.

Hamas doesn’t care about that, but by acting in a way to ensure the destruction of their material base, Hamas does weaken itself. Precisely because Israeli attacks are focused on military targets, Hamas is weakened.

Conclusion: The problem with no solution

Of course, Israel does not win a complete victory. Hamas does not fall. The problem is not gone. For Hamas will define survival as victory. Hamas, like the PLO before it, wins one “victory” after another and always ends up worse off.

The conflict will be back, however it ends this round, on whatever day it ends. Quiet will return, the supplies will flow back into Gaza. And so many months in the future the process will be repeated.

There is, however, an important difference. Israel uses its time not only for military preparations but to educate its children, build its infrastructure, raise its living standards. Hamas doesn’t.

“We believe in death,” Hamas says, “You believe in life.”

Be careful what you wish for, you will get it.



U.S. State Department press release
Statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the Situation in Gaza
Washington, DC
December 27, 2008

The United States is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Gaza. We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there. The ceasefire must be restored immediately and fully respected. The United States calls on all concerned to protect innocent lives and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.