Investigation by Canada’s leading paper finds: No Palestinians killed in the UN school in Gaza

February 02, 2009

* Investigation by Canada’s leading paper finds that no Palestinians were killed in the UN school in Gaza despite world jumping to believe UNRWA’s pro-Hamas staff

* NY Times, Toronto Sun, Canadian TV all acknowledge anti-Israel errors in their reporting
* Prominent German, Australian media start to tell truth about Gaza
* But British, French press won’t admit their mistakes, and continue to slander Israel
* The Guardian’s cartoonist suggests Israelis wants to exterminate all Arabs

[The first five items below relate to media coverage of Israel and Hamas. The remaining items are on other Middle East-related matters.]

 

CONTENTS

1. Globe and Mail: No Palestinians killed inside UN school
2. New York Times admits quote was invented
3. Toronto Sun and Canadian TV apologize for anti-Israel reporting
4. The Guardian’s cartoonist: Israel wants to exterminate all Arabs
5. Der Spiegel (Germany) and The Age (Australia) report the truth about what went on in Gaza
6. Saudi Arabia re-arrests ex-Guantanamo inmates
7. FBI cuts ties with Council on American-Islamic Relations
8. Israeli patriotism grows
9. Confidence about Israeli economy
10. Huge gas reserves discovered off Haifa
11. Kuwaiti FM: Economic crisis has so far cost Arab nations $2.5 trillion
12. “Account of Israeli attack doesn’t hold up to scrutiny” (Globe and Mail, Jan. 29, 2009)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: NO PALESTINIANS KILLED INSIDE UN SCHOOL

After conducting a thorough investigation in Gaza, The Globe and Mail reports that contrary to the sensational headlines on the BBC, CNN and elsewhere, no Palestinians were killed in the UNRWA school or school compound in January. (The Globe and Mail is one of Canada’s most important dailies and traditionally a left-leaning liberal newspaper.) Palestinians did die nearby as a result of an exchange of fire between Hamas and Israel, concludes the newspaper, but the rest of the world’s media have – once again – been taken in by “UN sources” (i.e. Palestinians working for UNRWA, Hamas-approved Palestinians working for Reuters and AP in Gaza, and so on).

The piece, by The Globe and Mail’s Middle East correspondent, Patrick Martin, is headlined “Account of Israeli attack doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.” It begins:

JABALYA, GAZA STRIP — Most people remember the headlines: Massacre Of Innocents As UN School Is Shelled; Israeli Strike Kills Dozens At UN School.

They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The news shocked the world and was compared to the 1996 Israeli attack on a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, in which more than 100 people seeking refuge were killed. It was certain to hasten the end of Israel’s attack on Gaza, and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.

There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people’s minds, was not quite accurate. Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.

 

I attach Patrick Martin’s full article at the end of this dispatch.

Naturally bigoted papers in Britain, France and elsewhere have not reported this but continue (even over a week after a ceasefire took effect) to run sensational headlines about “Israeli war crimes.” With such anti-Israeli hysteria generated by the BBC and other sections of the British media, it is no accident that Britain more than almost any other country saw a record increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the month of January.

 

John Ging, UNRWA’s operations director in Gaza, who went on BBC and other channels to accuse Israel of shelling an UNRWA school on January 6, has now acknowledged that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that “no one was killed in the school.”

Yet at last month’s emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, ambassadors from all over the world lined up to attack Israel for “targeting a U.N. school.” Canada alone voted in opposition to the utterly one-sided motion.

 

Reminder: The dispatch of January 22, 2009, outlined the results of an investigation in Gaza by Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, which concluded that the overall Gaza death toll was 500 to 600, mostly fighters, not 1,300 as other media have claimed. In spite of the investigation by Corriere della Sera, many anti-Israel publications, TV networks and organizations calling themselves “charities” continue to unquestioningly report Hamas’s higher claim as to the Gaza death toll, as if this were irrefutable fact.

 

NEW YORK TIMES ADMITS QUOTE WAS INVENTED

The New York Times has admitted that a quote attributed to the former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon was fabricated.

The quote appeared in an editorial on January 8 (one of three anti-Israel pieces that dominated The New York Times’s editorial page that day) by former PLO spokesman and now senior Columbia University professor, Rashid Khalidi. It took over three weeks for The New York Times to admit the error.

Khalidi’s diatribe against Israel was also published in The New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune, which to my knowledge has yet to print a correction as the Times did over the weekend.

 

TORONTO SUN AND CANADIAN TV APOLOGIZE FOR ANTI-ISRAEL REPORTING

The Toronto Sun has apologized after it incorrectly described Hamas rocket attacks as being directed at Israeli “settlements,” when in fact all its attacks have been on Israeli cities, towns and villages. The Toronto Sun has now acknowledged to its readers that Israel had withdrawn from all its settlements in Gaza in 2005.

At the same time, Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis is refusing to apologize for writing on his website that Israel was carrying out a “final solution” in Gaza. Margolis, who is Jewish, has long been criticized as an anti-Semite.

***

Canada’s publicly-funded TV network, CBC, has issued an on-air correction after it wrongly implied that then president-elect Barack Obama had only expressed concern about the loss of civilian lives in Gaza, whereas in fact he had expressed concern for the loss of civilian life in Israel as well.

If only the BBC and CNN would offer on-air corrections.

 

THE GUARDIAN’S CARTOONIST: ISRAEL WANTS TO EXTERMINATE ALL ARABS

Meanwhile the most outrageous lies and coverage about Israel continue to appear in several newspapers, including The Guardian and (surprisingly) in the news pages of The Times of London.

For example, this cartoon from The Guardian last week implies that the Israelis take joy in killing Arabs. It even has a tombstone saying “Arabs 1948-2009” (with Hebrew writing) as if the entire population has been exterminated.

 

DER SPIEGEL (GERMANY) AND THE AGE (AUSTRALIA) REPORT THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT WENT ON IN GAZA

Some publications are printing more honest accounts of what went on in Gaza.

For example, here are reports from Der Spiegel (Germany) and The Age (Australia) about how Hamas gunmen operating among civilians were responsible for their deaths.

Here is an extract from Jason Koutsoukis’s report from Gaza in The Age:

Mohammed Shriteh, 30, is an ambulance driver registered with and trained by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

His first day of work at the al-Quds neighbourhood was January 1, the sixth day of the war.

“Mostly the war was not as fast or as chaotic as I expected,” Mr Shriteh told The Age. “We would co-ordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients, because they have all our names and our IDs, so they would not shoot at us.”

Mr Shriteh said the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety. He claims Hamas made several attempts to hijack the al-Quds Hospital’s fleet of ambulances during the war.

***

Tom Gross adds:

Why are British and French papers incapable of reporting this?

Why are British NGO activists continuing to spread false information about Israel?

 

SAUDI ARABIA RE-ARRESTS EX-GUANTANAMO INMATES

The Saudi-based daily Arab News reports that the Saudi authorities have arrested nine Saudis formerly detained at the American-run Guantanamo detention center in Cuba.

Lt. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Interior, confirmed the arrests, saying the kingdom had reason to believe the men were soon to take part in terrorist activities.

Last week, another former Saudi Guantanamo detainee, Abu Sufyan Al-Azdi Al-Shihri, released a video on the Internet taunting the Americans, saying he had rejoined Al-Qaeda, and had been promoted to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch.

The U.S. Defense Department said that as many as 61 former Guantanamo detainees – about 11 percent of 520 detainees released from the detention center – are believed to have taken up arms against the U.S. after being released.

At its peak, there were 759 inmates at Guantanamo; the Pentagon has freed more than 500 of them over the past seven years.

 

FBI CUTS TIES WITH COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS

The FBI has announced it will sever ties with all local branches of the controversial but influential Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America’s largest Islamic advocacy group.

The FBI previously enjoyed close ties with CAIR, but is fed up with CAIR’s links to a support network for Hamas. In December several Hamas fundraisers were convicted at a trial where CAIR itself was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. The U.S. government has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

This is being viewed as a major policy shift at the FBI, which has appeased the notoriously litigious CAIR since the 9/11 attacks.

 

ISRAELI PATRIOTISM GROWS

It is quite common for international media to grant publicity to some vociferous anti-Zionist Israeli academics, playwrights and film directors, leaving western (and Arab) audiences with the false impression that many Israelis oppose the continued existence of a Jewish state.

In fact, polls indicate that patriotism among Israelis is on the increase.

In a comprehensive new survey, the number of Israelis who said they consider themselves “patriotic” has grown from 61 percent to 71 percent from a year earlier.

88 percent said they were “proud” or “very proud” to be Israeli, compared to 81 percent last year.

81 percent said they would encourage their children to live in Israel.

There was a significant rise in Israeli Jews’ willingness to fight for their country – from 84 percent last year to 95 percent in 2009.

 

CONFIDENCE ABOUT ISRAELI ECONOMY

The much respected Governor of the Bank of Israel, Prof. Stanley Fischer, said last week: “Israel can deal with the current global economic crisis. We have a flow of dollars and euros because we sell more than we buy, which gives us stability on the financial side, which others lack.”

International orders continue to come in steadily for Israeli companies, which remain world leaders in hi-tech innovation. For example, Chinese phone makers ZTE, Tianyu, CEC Telecom and MP3/4 giant AIGO have all announced that they will use the Israeli-made MS1180 receiver chip to power mobile TV. The Chinese Broadcasting Authority reported that Israeli company Siano will be the CMMB chip provider for up to 30 million handsets and 10 million MP3 and MP4 players annually. The deal is estimated to be worth between $50-100 million in sales.

And despite the increased tension between Jerusalem and Ankara, Israeli company Aztek Technologies Ltd. has just been awarded the multimillion dollar contract to market Microsoft products to the Turkish market.

 

HUGE GAS RESERVES DISCOVERED OFF HAIFA

Last month, largely unreported internationally because of the fighting in Gaza and southern Israel, three massive gas reservoirs were discovered 80 kilometers off the coast of Haifa in northern Israel.

Yitzhak Tshuva, owner of the Delek Group, one of the owners of the well, claimed the discovery was “one of the biggest in the world,” and that the find represented a historic landmark in the economic independence of Israel.

An ecstatic Israeli Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also said that the discovery was “historic” and could “change the face of Israeli industry.”

Following the announcement of the discovery, shares of Delek Drilling rose by 80 percent, while shares of Isramco Negev 2 skyrocketed 120 percent. The rest of the Tel Aviv stock market also saw large gains, with the TA-Index 100 climbing nearly 4 percent.

The approximate worth of the field is said to be $15 billion, and if the extent of the reserve is verified, it could supply all Israel’s energy needs for years.

 

KUWAITI FM: ECONOMIC CRISIS HAS SO FAR COST ARAB NATIONS $2.5 TRILLION

The Kuwaiti foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Saba, has said that so far the global economic crisis has cost Arab nations an estimated $2.5 trillion.

Speaking to reporters in Kuwait City, Al-Sabah said 60 percent of development projects underway or planned for the Gulf states have been cancelled. The losses were caused by a combination of plunging stock markets and falling oil prices.

According to Al-Sabah, the $2.5-trillion loss was incurred within a period of four months.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLE

ACCOUNT OF ISRAELI ATTACK DOESN’T HOLD UP TO SCRUTINY

Account of Israeli attack doesn’t hold up to scrutiny
By Patrick Martin
Globe and Mail (Canada)
January 29, 2009

www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090129.wgazaschool29/EmailBNStory/International/home

JABALYA, GAZA STRIP — Most people remember the headlines: Massacre Of Innocents As UN School Is Shelled; Israeli Strike Kills Dozens At UN School.

They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The news shocked the world and was compared to the 1996 Israeli attack on a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, in which more than 100 people seeking refuge were killed. It was certain to hasten the end of Israel’s attack on Gaza, and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.

There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people’s minds, was not quite accurate.
graphic

Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.

Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.

While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.

The teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. “I ran in the direction of the screaming [inside the compound],” he said. “I could see some of the people had been injured, cut. I picked up one girl who was bleeding by her eye, and ran out on the street to get help.”But when I got outside, it was crazy hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh everywhere.”

The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: “Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead.”

“Three of my students were killed,” he said. “But they were all outside.”

Hazem Balousha, who runs an auto-body shop across the road from the UNRWA school, was down the street, just out of range of the shrapnel, when the three shells hit. He showed a reporter where they landed: one to the right of his shop, one to the left, and one right in front.

“There were only three,” he said. “They were all out here on the road.”

News of the tragedy travelled fast, with aid workers and medical staff quoted as saying the incident happened at the school, the UNRWA facility where people had sought refuge.

Soon it was presented that people in the school compound had been killed. Before long, there was worldwide outrage.

Sensing a public-relations nightmare, Israeli spokespeople quickly asserted that their forces had only returned fire from gunmen inside the school. (They even named two militants.) It was a statement from which they would later retreat, saying there were gunmen in the vicinity of the school.

No witnesses said they saw any gunmen. (If people had seen anyone firing a mortar from the middle of the street outside the school, they likely would not have continued to mill around.)

John Ging, UNRWA’s operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that “no one was killed in the school.”

“I told the Israelis that none of the shells landed in the school,” he said.

Why would he do that?

“Because they had told everyone they had returned fire from gunmen in the school. That wasn’t true.”

Mr. Ging blames the Israelis for the confusion over where the victims were killed. “They even came out with a video that purported to show gunmen in the schoolyard. But we had seen it before,” he said, “in 2007.”

The Israelis are the ones, he said, who got everyone thinking the deaths occurred inside the school.

“Look at my statements,” he said. “I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation.”

Speaking from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the bodies were being brought in that night, an emotional Mr. Ging did say: “Those in the school were all families seeking refuge. ... There’s nowhere safe in Gaza.”

And in its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: “On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school ...”

The UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited “early reports” that “three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School ...” However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that “Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools ...” including the one at issue.

Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.

“I know no one was killed in the school,” Mr. Ging said. “But 41 innocent people were killed in the street outside the school. Many of those people had taken refuge in the school and wandered out onto the street.

“The state of Israel still has to answer for that. What did they know and what care did they take?”


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