* Italy’s leading newspaper, after a thorough investigation in Gaza, reports that the Gaza death toll was 500 to 600, mostly fighters, not 1,250 as other media have claimed. Other media relying on thoroughly impartial, bigoted UN sources
* “Hamas using UNRWA school buildings and hospitals as torture centers”
* Torture by Hamas of Palestinian opponents continues at a children’s hospital, but Western media and NGOs are suddenly silent
* Pro-Gaza demonstration in Ramallah canceled for a lack of protesters. Third Intifada? Not anytime soon
* New polls show only a minority of Americans now think Palestinians should have their own state
[This is a further dispatch on this month’s Israel-Hamas mini-war. This dispatch contains various notes and comments, mainly by myself. Another dispatch with articles by others on the war’s outcome, provisionally titled “Israel refuses to win,” will follow over the weekend. (Previous dispatches can be read here.)
1. Gaza doctor: Hamas exaggerated death toll – 500 to 600 killed, mostly fighters
2. Number of Palestinians injured also “greatly exaggerated” by UN officials
3. Hamas fires from Gaza foreign press building
4. Hamas firing out of a school yard
5. European terrorists among participants at Belfast anti-Israel rally
6. BBC slips up: broadcasts British colonel defending IDF
7. Wave of executions by Hamas continues
8. Finally some Western media report on this
9. Hamas admits the crackdown (but still the BBC won’t mention it)
10. “Hamas using UNRWA school buildings and hospitals as torture centers”
11. Torture at a children’s hospital and a mental health center in Gaza City
12. Shin Bet chief: Hamas will resume arms smuggling to Gaza within a few months
13. … But AP shows film revealing the resumption of smuggling into Gaza has already begun
14. Hizbullah behind Lebanon rocket strikes in north
15. Gaza rockets hit Israel even after ceasefire
16. “Missiles to fall on Tel Aviv within one year”
17. Palestinian sources: “Iranian Unit” of Hamas destroyed
18. Former Canadian Justice Minister: Hamas’s behavior is a war crimes “case study”
19. Hamas gunmen hijack Jordanian aid shipment in the Gaza Strip
20. Where Hamas gets its money
21. McClatchy Poll: Americans less supportive of a Palestinian state than U.S. government
22. German police ban Israeli flags
23. Pro-Gaza demonstration in Ramallah canceled for lack of protesters
24. The humanitarian situation in Gaza
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
GAZA DOCTOR: HAMAS EXAGGERATED GAZA DEATH TOLL – 500 TO 600 KILLED, MOSTLY FIGHTERS, NOT 1,250
As was the case with Lebanon in 2006, and Jenin in 2002, the international media seem to have rushed to maximize the Palestinian death count in Gaza this month to make Israel look as bad as possible, blindly basing their “facts” on pro-Hamas sources, including completely discredited pro-Hamas UN officials.
Now more moderate Palestinian doctors have a different story to tell according to Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera. The paper today quotes a Palestinian doctor at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City saying that, despite Hamas and UN claims, most of those killed in Gaza were members of the terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
“The number of deaths was between 500-600... most were young men between 17 and 23 who were recruited into the ranks of Hamas, which sent them to be slaughtered,” the doctor said.
Corriere della Sera correspondent Lorenzo Cremonesi confirmed that only 600 people were killed, and not 1,300 as was widely reported, based on hospital visits and discussions with families of the victims. (I know Lorenzo Cremonesi personally. He has been very harsh on Israel in the past but is honest and objective enough to now report the truth, unlike so many other international journalists covering the Middle East.)
“It was strange that the non-governmental organizations, including Western ones, repeated the high [1,250 death toll] number without checking, but the truth will come to light in the end,” said the Palestinian doctor.
“It’s like what happened in Jenin in 2002,” he said. “At the beginning they spoke of 500 dead; afterwards it was clear there were only 54 dead, at least 45 of them fighters.”
Corriere della Sera says they have verified the story and know the name of the doctor but are not identifying him to prevent his being killed by Hamas.
A Tal al-Hawa resident also told Corriere della Sera: “Armed Hamas men sought out a good position for provoking the Israelis. There were mostly teenagers, aged 16 or 17, and armed. They couldn’t do a thing against a tank or a jet. They knew they are much weaker, but they fired from our houses so that they could blame Israel for war crimes.”
NUMBER OF PALESTINIANS INJURED ALSO “GREATLY EXAGGERATED” BY UN OFFICIALS
Many international media have stated that 1,250 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the coastal territory without telling readers and viewers that these were completely unverifiable figures provided by pro-Hamas sources. Foreign governments then rushed to condemn Israel for the supposedly large number of civilians among the Palestinian dead, reporting that as many as half of the casualties may have been civilian. (At the same time, the media all but ignore the 132 other conflicts around the world, despite the much greater numbers of civilians deaths in many. Only today, for example, The Guardian – but not other newspapers – reports that a U.S. airstrike killed 25 civilians in Afghanistan.)
Cremonesi, who made several trips to all Gaza’s hospitals and interviewed families of casualties, assessed the number of wounded to be far lower than 5,000, the number quoted by Hamas and repeated by the UN and the Red Cross in Gaza. “It is sufficient to visit the hospitals to understand that the numbers don’t add up,” he wrote.
In the European hospital in Rafah, one of the facilities which would presumably be filled with wounded from the “war of the tunnels,” many beds were empty, according to Cremonesi. A similar situation was noted in the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, and in the privately-run Amal Hospital Cremonesi reported that only five out 150 beds were occupied.
13 Israelis were also killed during the 3-week operation, which was aimed at halting rocket fire on southern Israel and destroying Hamas’ infrastructure.
The Corriere della Sera article can be read (in Italian) here.
The IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration said today that they believe Cremonesi’s figures may be an underestimate and as many as 900 Palestinians in total died. They believe as many as 750 are Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives (and Fatah men executed by Hamas) and 150 Palestinian civilians may have been killed in the conflict.
The IDF Gaza Division Commander, meanwhile, today branded Hamas’s use of women and children during the offensive in Gaza as “monstrous” and “inhumane.”
Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg said the civilians were sent by Hamas to transfer weapons to gunmen during the offensive. He also accused the Islamist militant group of booby-trapping the homes of many civilians.
“Entire families in Gaza lived on top of a barrel of explosives for months without knowing,” Eisenberg said.
The officer asserted that despite international calls for investigations into alleged war crimes, Israeli soldiers adhered to the highest moral principles while fighting in Gaza.
INCREDIBLE PRECISION AT AVOIDING COLLATERAL DAMAGE
Unlike, for example, the shamefully biased British and French press, the leading German news magazine Der Spiegel has had good on-the-ground reporting from Gaza post-cease fire, noting the precision of Israel’s hits.
The magazine wrote: “Whole rows of houses stand in darkness. In between, precisely destroyed individual buildings can be seen again and again. There is usually a green Hamas flag lying in tatters somewhere in the rubble.”
NO, IT’S NOT STALINGRAD (AS SOME OTHER MEDIA SUGGESTED)
There is also the testimony of the (London) Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher. He is generally very harsh on Israel, which makes it all the more telling that this week he writes:
“I knew Gaza well before the attacks, so when Israel ended its ban on foreign journalists reaching Gaza on the day the ceasefire was announced, I was able to see for myself.
“One thing was clear. Gaza City 2009 is not Stalingrad 1944. There had been no carpet bombing of large areas, no firebombing of complete suburbs. Targets had been selected and then hit, often several times, but almost always with precision munitions. Buildings nearby had been damaged and there had been some clear mistakes, like the firebombing of the UN aid headquarters. But, in most cases, I saw the primary target had borne the brunt… For the most part, I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be.”
Tom Gross adds: Here, for example, is a video of Israel changing a missile’s path and shooting into a field to avoid civilian casualties when a terrorist-filled car they were following drove into the driveway of a civilian house.
HAMAS FIRES FROM GAZA FOREIGN PRESS BUILDING
During the conflict Hamas didn’t only fire at Israel from hospitals and UN schools but also from the offices of Arab news media.
Here is live footage of al-Arabiya TV reporter Hannan al-Masri as she learns that a Hamas missile was being fired from her building which houses the al-Arabiya studio in Gaza.
ARABIC - www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY50cktUKbA
And with subtitles:
ENGLISH - www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt_Y_3LKCGA
SPANISH - www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw3j26pi2i4
RUSSIAN - www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAkL54eJPgk
GERMAN - www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7M07pvW4NU
FRENCH - www.youtube.com/watch?v=195u-HgC47c
HAMAS FIRING OUT OF A SCHOOL YARD
* The school is administered by UNRWA. UNRWA employs more than 24,000 staffers, 99% of whom are Palestinians. That’s more than any other UN agency, including the UNHCR, which has only a quarter the manpower of UNRWA yet has to take care of all other refugees worldwide, totaling more than 11 million. As I have pointed out in previous dispatches, the existence of UNRWA itself is one of the reasons the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not yet been solved.
* During the three-week conflict Hamas sent 852 flying bombs packed with shrapnel into Israel – all aimed at civilian targets in what is as clear a case of a war crime as you can get – killing four Israelis and injuring over 700. Many Israeli civilians remain hospitalized, including seven-year-old Orel Yelizarov, who lies gravely injured with shrapnel in the brain.
EUROPEAN TERRORISTS AMONG PARTICIPANTS AT BELFAST ANTI-ISRAEL RALLY
Convicted Irish and Spanish terrorists were among the 2,000 people who participated in a rally in Belfast two weeks ago that demanded an end to the conflict in Gaza.
One of those taking part was the IRA’s “Brighton Bomber” Patrick Magee, who planted a bomb at Brighton’s Grand Hotel in 1984 targeting then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, which killed two men and three women. Magee was released from jail in 1999.
Also present was convicted ETA bomber Juan Ignacio de Juana Chaos, who is wanted in Spain.
The rally was organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and featured speeches by church, trade union and political representatives.
The 53-year-old ETA terrorist’s presence at the protest prompted a minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly to demand an apology from ICTU. Junior Democratic Unionist Party minister Jeffrey Donaldson called on the trade union leadership to “apologize to the people of Spain” for the sight of the ETA killer.
De Juana Chaos is on bail fighting extradition back to Spain, where he is wanted to face charges in connection with aiding acts of terrorism. He lives in Belfast where he receives social security and is currently learning English at a local college.
He served 21 years of a 3,000-year prison sentence for murdering 25 people and was arrested in Belfast last year after Spain issued an arrest warrant to the UK authorities.
BBC SLIPS UP: BROADCASTS BRITISH COLONEL DEFENDING IDF
Even though the BBC (which receives lavish public funding) is under a legal obligation to maintain balance, in its Mideast coverage it is notorious for the overwhelming preference it shows for inviting guests who will promote its agenda, whether they be anti-Israel non-Jews, or (the BBC’s favorites) anti-Israeli former Israelis like Professor Avi Shlaim (of Oxford university).
But here is one person who actually criticized Hamas who managed to sneak on.
Former British Colonel Richard Kemp, CBE, a former UK government advisor, defends Israel on BBC. “Never, in the history of warfare has an army taken so much care to ensure the safety of civilians as the IDF,” he says.
The interviewer ends by saying perhaps he can come back to talk about the issue some other time but I’m pretty sure he’ll never get another chance on the BBC.
Here is a broadcast from a satirical TV program in Israel (Israel’s equivalent of “Saturday Night Live”) mimicking BBC World News. The BBC’s Middle East broadcasts are the subject of much ridicule in Israel because they are so hopelessly biased.
WAVE OF EXECUTIONS BY HAMAS CONTINUES
I noted in previous dispatches that many of the Palestinians killed and injured in Gaza this month were shot by Hamas operatives who continue to crack down on Fatah and against any other sign of dissent against Hamas’s one-party rule. According to Palestinian sources, it is estimated that about ten percent of Gazans killed in the recent three week war between Hamas and Israel were Palestinians executed by Hamas.
These executions have been widely reported over the last month in the Palestinian and Israeli press (as well as on this website) but not by duplicitous Western news outlets like CNN and the BBC (the world’s two biggest international news broadcasters) who are interested in falsely suggesting that all Palestinian suffering is caused by Israel.
Sources in Gaza relate that some of the bodies of those Fatah men executed by Hamas were then laid out for filming by Palestinian cameramen working for international news agencies and relayed to gullible Western news outlets, which then reported that they were victims of Israeli attacks.
FINALLY SOME WESTERN MEDIA REPORT ON THIS
Finally one or two mainstream media (but not, of course, organizations like the BBC) are reporting on these executions by Hamas.
For example, today The San Francisco Chronicle began its news report:
“As Israel’s last troops left the Gaza Strip Wednesday, Hamas officials conceded that they are executing Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel during the three-week invasion.
“In the West Bank, Fatah officials said at least 19 of its members have been executed and many more brutally tortured. Gaza residents say Hamas is using schools and other public buildings in Gaza City, and in the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah as detention centers to interrogate members of Fatah, their political rivals. They said three men have been blinded during questioning and more than 60 have been shot in the legs as punishment.”
The San Francisco Chronicle continues:
“…In Gaza City, Fatah activists told spine-chilling stories of retribution. Relatives of Abed al-Gharabli, a former Fatah security officer who spent 12 years in an Israeli prison, said he was kidnapped by a group of Hamas militiamen who shot him in both legs after severely torturing him.
“Ziad Abu Hayeh, an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade commander, is reported to have been blinded after being abducted from his home in Khan Younis by Hamas gunmen.
“In other cases, Fatah supporters were simply shot in the legs – a favored Hamas tactic during the 2007 coup that drove Fatah out of Gaza.”
HAMAS ADMITS THE CRACKDOWN (BUT STILL THE BBC WON’T MENTION IT)
Moussa Abu Marzook, the Damascus-based deputy leader of Hamas, told reporters yesterday that senior Fatah officials had “distributed candy celebrating the Gaza offensive, sent kisses to Israeli warplanes” and “guided these planes to their targets.”
Abu Marzook said they deserved to be punished and admitted that non-Hamas supporters were being executed in Gaza. These remarks were widely reported in the Middle East – for example, in the Qatari daily A-Sharq and the Lebanese daily Al-Hayat – but not in the West.
Ihab Ghissin, a spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of Interior in Gaza, confirmed the arrest of Fatah activists. “We have managed to capture a number of collaborators who are now being questioned for their role in aiding the Zionist aggression,” he told reporters in Gaza City.
Two other Hamas officials, Salah Bardaweel and Fawzi Barhoum, confirmed that Hamas is undertaking what he called a crackdown on “Abbas’s spies” in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has fully controlled Gaza since June 2007, when it launched a coup against the Abbas government. At that time, about 400 Fatah supporters were killed and many others badly maimed.
“HAMAS USING UNRWA SCHOOL BUILDINGS AND HOSPITALS AS TORTURE CENTERS”
The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reports that hundreds of Fatah activists have been rounded up in Gaza in recent days.
Eyewitnesses said the detainees were being held in UN-run school buildings and hospitals that Hamas had turned into makeshift interrogation centers.
A Fatah official in Ramallah said that at least 100 of his men had been killed, wounded or tortured as a result of the Hamas crackdown this month.
According to the official, at least three of the detainees had their eyes gouged out by their interrogators, who accused them of providing Israel with wartime information about the location of Hamas militiamen and officials.
TORTURE AT CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL AND MENTAL HEALTH CENTER
Palestinian eyewitnesses said that a children’s hospital and a mental health center in Gaza City, as well as a number of school buildings in Khan Younis and Rafah, were among the places that Hamas had turned into “torture centers.”
Among the victims:
Relatives of Abed al-Gharabli, a former Fatah security officer who spent 12 years in Israeli prisons, said he was kidnapped by a group of Hamas militiamen who shot him in both legs after severely torturing him. Al-Gharabli has now been released.
Ziad Abu Hayeh, one of the commanders of Fatah’s armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, is reported to have lost his sight after Hamas gunmen gouged out his eyes. According to Fatah activists, Abu Hayeh was kidnapped from his home in Khan Younis by Hamas militiamen.
On Saturday night, three brothers from the Subuh family were abducted by Hamas militiamen and taken to the Abdel Aziz Rantisi Mosque in Khan Younis, where they were shot in the legs.
Hamas gunmen shot and killed 80-year-old Hisham Tawfik Najjar after storming his home and beating his four sons, all Fatah activists.
In an editorial, Yediot Ahronot (Israel’s largest newspaper) says that, “Hamas is not a mass national liberation movement of the Palestinian people: It is tiny Islamo-Fascist organization that forcibly took control of a disheartened strip of land and turned it into a nightmare of an Islamic state.”
In an editorial, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv reminds its readers that, “The Americans battled 3,000 Hamas clones in Fallujah, Iraq. There it ended in 6,000 civilians killed and another 1,000 terrorists, as well as the destruction of a fifth of the city’s buildings.”
UPDATE: FATAH HIT BACK
Hamas activists say that hundreds of Hamas supporters, including journalists, university students and Muslim leaders, are being beaten, arrested and tortured across the West Bank as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas takes revenge on Hamas for its crackdown on Fatah supporters in Gaza.
This doesn’t exactly increase the chances for Palestinian unity that U.S. President Barack Obama, who named former Sen. George Mitchell yesterday as his special Middle East envoy, has said is necessary as a first step to forge a lasting peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
SHIN BET CHIEF: HAMAS WILL RESUME ARMS SMUGGLING TO GAZA WITHIN A FEW MONTHS
Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin on Sunday told the Israeli cabinet that Hamas would resume smuggling arms into Gaza within a few months, despite Israel’s recent destruction of many tunnels used for this purpose.
Diskin added that despite heavy criticism of Israel, Gaza residents are “fiercely criticizing Hamas for the destruction it has brought to Gaza.”
Diskin added that Hamas suffered a strategic surprise and that it “did not expect that Israel would begin an operation in the lead up to elections, not of such a scope and magnitude and not one in which Israel would send troops deep into Gaza.”
… BUT AP SHOWS FILM REVEALING THE RESUMPTION OF SMUGGLING INTO GAZA HAS ALREADY BEGUN
In fact, Diskin may well be underestimating Hamas’s abilities.
Yesterday, 4 days after the ceasefire, Associated Press (AP) Television showed Palestinian smugglers filling a fuel truck with gas that had come through a tunnel from Egypt. The footage also showed workers clearing blocked tunnels, and bulldozers carrying out other repairs.
One of the stated goals of the IDF offensive was to stop the smuggling through the hundreds of tunnels under the border.
Ha’aretz also reports that Palestinians are again channeling fuel and weapons from Sinai.
Yediot Ahronot reports that the American navy raided a ship in the Red Sea and uncovered Iranian-made ammunition hidden in crates and presumably destined for Hamas.
HIZBULLAH BEHIND LEBANON ROCKET STRIKES IN NORTH
An Israeli investigation has concluded that Hizbullah was behind the two Katyusha rocket attacks that struck northern Israel this month. In both cases, the organization used proxy Palestinian militant groups to launch the rockets from southern Lebanon. Hizbullah supplied the group with the rockets and rocket launchers and guided them as to targets.
Several ministers in the Lebanese government have expressed anger with Hizbullah for instigating the attacks on Israel, fearful that the Iran-backed Shia militia was again risking igniting a confrontation between Hizbullah and Israel.
The Times of London reports that a Hizbullah plot to attack the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan was foiled last year, after it was discovered by Azeri Intelligence.
GAZA ROCKETS HIT ISRAEL EVEN AFTER CEASEFIRE
Palestinian terrorists in Gaza launched 18 rockets at civilians in southern Israel on Sunday even after Israel’s unilateral ceasefire. One house in the Israeli city of Ashdod took a direct hit, injuring its inhabitants. “The enemy has failed to end the rocket attacks and they are still reaching deep into the Zionist entity,” Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said.
On Tuesday night, the remainder of Israeli troops left Gaza, presumably more concerned about being out before Barack Obama took the oath of office in Washington (which was evening Israel time) than about threats from the Hamas leadership.
“MISSILES TO FALL ON TEL AVIV WITHIN ONE YEAR”
Several Israeli politicians are warning that Israel should not have caved in to international pressure and declared a ceasefire before they had properly damaged Hamas.
Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party, warned of the ceasefire’s consequences by saying “missiles will fall on Tel Aviv within one year.” (In the next dispatch, there will be articles that deal in more detail with the ceasefire’s aftermath.)
PALESTINIAN SOURCES: “IRANIAN UNIT” OF HAMAS DESTROYED
The so-called “Iranian Unit” of Hamas has been destroyed, according to Gaza sources cited by Ha’aretz. The sources said most of the unit’s 100 members were killed in fighting in the Zeytun neighborhood of Gaza City.
The terrorists had been trained in infantry tactics, the use of anti-tank missiles and the detonation of explosives, among other skills, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Hizbullah camps in Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley, as well as sites in Iran.
FORMER CANADIAN JUSTICE MINISTER: HAMAS IS A WAR CRIMES “CASE STUDY”
The fighting, tactics and ideology of Hamas are a “case study par excellence” of a systematic violation of international humanitarian law, according to Irwin Cotler, a leading expert in international law.
There is “almost no comparable example” anywhere in today’s world of a group that so systematically violates international agreements related to armed conflict, Cotler, who is a former Canadian justice minister, MP and law professor at Montreal’s McGill University (as well as being a longtime subscriber to this email list) told The Jerusalem Post.
Hamas is committing at least six violations of international law, Cotler explained, namely:
* The deliberate targeting of civilians
* The launching of attacks from within civilian areas and civilian structures, whether it be an apartment building, a mosque or a hospital, in order to be immune from a response from Israel
* The misuse and abuse of humanitarian symbols for purposes of launching attacks
* The direct and public incitement to genocide against an entire people (the Jews)
* The scope of the attack on civilians, which upgrades the violation to a crime against humanity
* The recruitment of children into armed conflict
[The French NGO Avocats sans frontiers, under the leadership of Maître Gillest-William Goldnadel, is moving to take the case against Hamas to the International Court in The Hague, based on the above-mentioned elements.]
HAMAS GUNMEN HIJACK JORDANIAN AID SHIPMENT IN THE GAZA STRIP
The Jordan government-controlled Petra News Agency reports that on Tuesday a number of armed militia in Gaza seized an aid convoy sent by the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO) after it entered the Gaza Strip via Karem Abu Salem Crossing Point.
During the recent conflict, Hamas raided over 100 aid trucks that Israel had allowed into Gaza, stole their contents and sold them to the highest bidders.
The IDF said UNRWA and the Red Cross officials had effectively allowed Hamas to seize the aid, and Israel could do nothing to prevent such raids, since it didn’t want to be seen endangering UNRWA and the Red Cross personnel.
WHERE HAMAS GETS ITS MONEY
Rachel Ehrenfeld reports in Forbes magazine that despite repeated promises by Western nations to cut off funds for Hamas, international aid organizations and many countries kept on sending money to Gaza. She reports that hundreds of millions of dollars are being funneled through the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, the Arab Bank PLC in Gaza and HSBC in Amman, Jordan, among other sources.
MCCLATCHY POLL: AMERICANS LESS SUPPORTIVE OF A PALESTINIAN STATE THAN U.S. GOVERNMENT
A new poll taken by America’s McClatchy news agency shows fewer Americans favor the creation of a Palestinian state than might have been presumed.
Although for years American government officials have reflexively uttered the mantra calling for “Israel and the Palestinians to live side by side in independent states,” only 31 percent of Americans polled favor a Palestinian state at all, while 45 percent oppose it and 24 percent have no opinion.
There are hundreds of national and ethnic groups around the world that would like their own state, and Americans (unlike Europeans) don’t see any particular reason why the Palestinians should be head of the list of nations that deserve states, especially since any likely Palestinian state may become a security threat to the U.S. and the region.
Separately, a new Pew poll found that Americans sympathize with Israel rather than the Palestinians, by a 49 percent to 11 percent margin. It also found that 41 percent of Americans think Hamas is responsible for this month’s violence as opposed to 12 percent who hold Israel responsible. 50 percent believe that Israel has responded “about right,” 7 percent said it “has not gone far enough,” and 24 percent said “Israel reacted too strongly.”
(Pew Poll here.)
GERMAN POLICE BAN ISRAELI FLAGS
In addition to the many fiercely anti-Israel demonstrations this month, there have also been sizeable pro-Israel demonstrations even in places not accustomed to pro-Israel rallies, such as Warsaw and Kiev where thousands of people flew Israeli flags in public squares.
But in the German cities of Duisburg and Düsseldorf, located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, police officials prevented pro-Israeli supporters from displaying Israeli flags.
The move has been criticized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Duisburg Police Chief Rolf Cebin has now posted a statement on the police website, saying “I deeply regret that feelings, especially those of our Jewish fellow citizens, were hurt. The removal of the flags was, as we see it today, the wrong decision.”
PRO-GAZA DEMONSTRATION IN RAMALLAH CANCELED FOR LACK OF PROTESTERS
While irate pop stars, former communists and Islamic fundamentalists protested in “pro-Hamas” rallies through Europe, the liberal Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported (January 15):
“It’s quiet in Ramallah. At the northern entrance to the city, not far from the mall, a new fountain spouts water. Next to it lies a sign in English: ‘Gaza under fire.’ But it seems the Gaza Strip has never been so far away. Tel Aviv, meanwhile, feels closer than ever. Almost every day at 1 P.M., a demonstration leaves Manara Square in the city center, expressing support for the residents of the Gaza Strip. The number of participants has declined, however, on a daily basis, and on Wednesday the demonstration was called off for a lack of protesters.
“Dozens of men sit in cafes near the square playing cards. In the background, the television blasts the voices of Al-Jazeera reporters, who provide continual updates about the events taking place in the Strip. But even the dramatic reports do not stop the card players for a moment. Occasionally one of them glances up at the screen, but then gets back to business.
“The offices of the Al-Jazeera television network overlook Manara Square. Walid Omari, the bureau chief for the Palestinian Authority and Israel, explains that ‘the residents of Ramallah are filling the cafes, the restaurants, watching Al-Jazeera, cursing the situation, expressing anger and then continuing with their own affairs.’
“The residents of Ramallah and other West Bank cities have always looked down on their brethren in Gaza. Second, the Hamas coup in the Strip about a year and a half ago left behind quite a few scars. To see innocent Palestinian citizens killed in bombings is sad, but for quite a number of Fatah supporters, Hamas brought this upon itself. Mohammed, a 46-year-old businessman, offers another reason for the apathy: “We’re afraid to see the tanks outside the house again.”
Third Intifada? Not anytime soon
THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN GAZA
Hamas propagandists tell many lies. Some are obvious, such as its claim at a press conference on Monday that its men destroyed 47 Israeli tanks and armored vehicles, killed 80 IDF soldiers and wounded hundreds of others.
Indeed, Hamas’s claim that it has emerged victorious from Operation Cast Lead is reminiscent of the fiery statements of Ahmed Said, the famous Egyptian radio announcer who, during the Six Day War, continued to report the fictional downing of dozens of Israeli warplanes after Israel had destroyed the Arab air forces.
While there is obviously hardship in Gaza, as there is in depressed towns all over the world, the exaggeration of the so-called humanitarian crisis in Gaza is startling, as is the fact that so many are taken in by it.
A mass of international aid continues to be delivered to Gaza – if only parts of Africa or Asia were so lucky – and the standard of living there is higher than in many parts of neighboring Egypt.
Every day the Israeli government sends press releases to Middle East correspondents outlining the aid Israel is delivering but few media outlets report this.
Here is what they don’t report: Since December 27, Israel has transferred more than 450,000 gallons of fuel and over 42,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Gaza in 1,693 trucks.
Magen David Adom (Israel’s Red Cross) set up a medical clinic on the Israeli side of the Erez check point to serve the Palestinian population. Paramedics are working with volunteer doctors, specializing in family medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, trauma, orthopedics and surgery. The clinic is equipped with laboratories, X-ray machines and a pharmacy. After diagnosis, patients may be transferred to Israeli hospitals so MDA ambulances have been sent to the clinic.
On January 19 alone, 195 trucks laden with 4,946 tons of supplies, 537,100 liters of heavy duty diesel and 206 tons of domestic gas were delivered to Gaza and 33 Palestinians left Gaza for medical treatment in Israel, including eight cancer patients en route to Augusta Victoria hospital in Jerusalem.
THE LIES THEY TELL
Here is a reminder from a previous dispatch of the way anti-Israeli journalists lie about Gaza:
Please see the first item here to see Lauren Booth (who is a British journalist writing for several prominent British newspapers, as well as being Mideast peace mediator Tony Blair’s sister in law) happily shopping in a packed Gaza grocery store a few days before she said that Gaza resembled a “concentration camp”.