WikiLeaks inadvertently reveals Israel took great care to avoid civilian casualties

October 28, 2010

* “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?” Hamas leader in Gaza Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahar tells Reuters.

* Whereas in other modern wars we now know that civilians account for an average of 90 percent of casualties, by contrast in last year’s Israel-Hamas Gaza war, less than half of Palestinian fatalities were noncombatants.

* In a just world, the UN would open up an investigation into all 42 countries with combat troops in Afghanistan (and all the other dozens of conflicts around the world), and WikiLeaks would concentrate on revealing human rights violations and government cover-ups in countries like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

* In spite of the fact that Gaza is much wealthier than Haiti, Gaza has been pledged 7.5 times more U.S. aid per capita than Haiti. The toll of dead and injured in Haiti in the last two years is vastly greater than that of Gaza.

Above: Palestinian victims of Hamas in Gaza last week. Did your local paper carry these AP photos?



1. WikiLeaks story reveals Israel took great care to avoid civilian casualties
2. Can’t write about deaths in Iraq without mentioning Rachel Corrie?
3. Poor George Orwell
4. Israel urges UN not to build Palestinian school next to Hamas arms base
5. Did your local paper run these AP photos of Palestinian children badly injured by Hamas?
6. Nigeria intercepts arms shipment bound for Hamas
7. Statistics of the day
8. Palestinian opinion poll: 49% still support killing civilians inside Israel
9. Poll of east Jerusalem Palestinians: plurality prefer Israeli citizenship over Palestinian one
10. “Don’t preach to us, Hamas tells secular West” (Reuters, Oct. 28, 2010)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed that at the very end of its news story on WikiLeaks’s release last weekend of documents detailing tens of thousands of casualties during the Iraq war, The New York Times revealed that for most of the last century, the average civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1.

The Times reported (hat tip: Evelyn Gordon): “Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

Whereas in other modern wars, civilians account for 90 percent of casualties, by contrast in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza less than half of Palestinian fatalities – 39 percent – were noncombatants – and that number would have been even lower had Hamas not stored weapons in civilian institutions and fired rockets from private Palestinian homes which it commandeered.


But although the IDF has managed to avoid killing civilians to a greater extent than almost any other army in conflict – often putting the lives of its own soldiers at great risk in doing so – Israel is obsessively singled out for enquiries into “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” by the UN and its accomplices such as Judge Richard Goldstone and Professor Richard Falk.

(Incidentally, even the most extreme anti-Israeli organizations, whose figures about the number of dead civilians in Gaza are almost always highly exaggerated, don’t claim that 90 percent of all casualties were civilians.)

Meanwhile, European governments (many of whom have combat troops in Afghanistan) and others continue hypocritically to single out Israel for using “disproportionate” force.

In a just world, the UN would open up an investigation into all 42 countries with combat troops in Afghanistan (and all the other dozens of conflicts around the world), and WikiLeaks would concentrate on revealing human rights violations and government cover-ups in countries like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

(I should point out that the civilians killed in Iraq after 2003 were, for the most part, killed by Iraqi, Iranian, and other jihadis, not by Americans; and that the number of Iraqi civilians killed each year since the American invasion/liberation, is lower than the numbers killed on average each year during Saddam’s rule.)



Even among the particularly hostile standards of the British media towards Israel, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a lead columnist for the British paper The Independent, is notorious for her level of prejudice.

In the latest such example, she even drags Israel into her article about the WikiLeaks revelations concerning the actions of Western troops in Iraq. She gives a false description of Rachel Corrie’s death in order to condemn Israel – as though this is in some way relevant to the actions of British and other troops in Iraq.

Alibhai-Brown has a long track record of attacking Israel, as I have noted many times in the past. For example, in this piece in 2002 she called Israel an “ethnic killing machine” and said the Israeli Prime Minister should be “tried for crimes against humanity”.



Last week, another columnist for The Independent, Johann Hari, writing about Afghanistan (in a piece titled “Obama’s robot wars endanger us all”) also uses his piece as an excuse to slander Israel, suggesting the Jewish state has somehow collaborated with President Obama in his drone attacks on militants in Pakistan.

Hari, who won “Newspaper Journalist of the Year” award from Amnesty International, and has also been invited to write for The New York Times and Le Monde, has, however, toned down his language about Israel from the time when he said the Jewish state “smelled of shit,” which he did on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2008. (For more details on that, please see this dispatch)

Hari has been accused by many experts of consistently misrepresenting the truth about Israel. For example, leading Israeli historian (and subscriber to this email list) Benny Morris has said Hari is guilty of “peddling numerous historical errors.”

Hari has also received the highly prestigious Orwell Prize for political writing. Poor George Orwell.

Orwell’s press card portrait, taken in 1933



Israel’s Defense Ministry is pleading with the UN agency UNRWA not to build a new school for Palestinian children next to a Hamas military installation in southern Gaza.

In recent weeks, the Israeli defense ministry, which coordinates materiel entering Gaza from Israel, has approved 70 international projects – including the renovation of a sewage treatment plant, the construction of 151 housing units and eight new schools. (Gaza needs new schools because it has one of the highest birth rates in the world, combined with a low infant mortality rate due to the excellent health facilities Israel helped build there before the Israeli withdrawal in 2005.)

Whereas the Israeli Defense Ministry says it fully supports plans by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency to build new schools, it says that to build a school adjacent to a Hamas military installation would be “shocking and highly irresponsible.”

“Israel attaches great importance to the UNRWA education system in Gaza and will continue to cooperate and assist as much as possible in helping UNRWA,” one senior Israeli official said. “But we will not help Hamas use schools and turn the people of Gaza into human shields.”



In the past, Hamas has cynically placed its bomb laboratories next to schools in the knowledge that Israel will then be extremely reluctant to target them, even during wartime. As a consequence of this, children are regularly maimed when Hamas explosives accidentally explode while the Islamist group is preparing bombs and missiles.

In the latest of several such incidents, last week in the southern Gazan town of Rafah five children and two women were injured according to AP (and 17 children according to Palestinian media) after a device in a Hamas weapons laboratory adjacent to a school accidentally exploded.

Here are some shocking pictures of the children injured in that blast taken by the Associated Press. Most media in the world subscribe to the Associated Press. Did your local paper run these photos (and related editorials), or were they too busy condemning Israel for the most minor infringements, both real and imagined?

Brave Palestinian human right groups have condemned Hamas, but where are the UN, EU and major Western human rights groups?

On August 2 this year another Hamas “work accident” severely injured 58 Palestinians, including 14 children and 9 women, completely destroyed seven houses and damaged another 30. I don’t recall much coverage of that on the BBC or other major Western media though.



Custom officials in the Nigerian capital Lagos have seized 13 containers reportedly holding weapons bound for Hamas. Nigerian officials said the containers held rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives, all of which were camouflaged as construction material to enter Gaza as part of an aid convoy. 107mm rockets and 60mm mortar rounds were among the cache.




It took Viva Palestina, the latest aid convoy spearheaded by former British parliamentarian George Galloway, whose goods were allowed to enter Gaza by land last week, four weeks to deliver 500 tons of aid to Gaza.

In those same four weeks Israel has transported 75,000 tons of aid into Gaza.



In spite of the fact that Gaza is much wealthier than Haiti, Gaza has been pledged 7.5 times more U.S. aid per capita than Haiti.

Collectively, U.S. government programs provided just over $700 million in aid, nearly $200 million less than to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The toll of dead and injured in Haiti in the last two years is vastly greater than that of Gaza.



According to the UNDP Human Index Rankings (which measures income, human well-being, literacy, life expectancy and so on), Palestine has a much higher ranking in its “Medium Human Development” group than countries like Indonesia, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and so on.

Palestinian Life Expectancy at 73.3 years is the same as European Union member Hungary.

Above: A Gaza water fun park, before it was closed last month by Hamas. There had been reports of mixed male-female bathing.



An extensive new poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) with the support of Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Stiftung has revealed that there is still considerable support among Palestinians for killing Israeli civilians inside Israel.

49% said they supported the murder of Israeli civilians inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel, whereas 49.2% opposed this and 1.8% said they had no opinion.

However, were a new intifada to break out, only 16.6% said they would actively help or participate in it.

Another interesting question was:

“From among the countries in the region and the world, which one do you view as the most supportive of the Palestinians and their just rights?”

Turkey 24.5 %
Egypt 17 %
Syria 8 %
Iran 6.9 %
Saudi Arabia 6.5 %
Lebanon 3.6 %
Jordan 2.9 %
Venezuela 2.5 %
Qatar 1.9 %
Iraq 1.3 %
France 1.1 %
Others 6.8 %
No Opinion/Don’t know 0.7 %
No one 16.5 %

The survey results were released on October 24, 2010, and can be read in full here.

The poll was conducted in the West Bank and Gaza between September 30 and October 2. 1,270 adults were interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. The margin of error is 3%.



In another poll – specifically of East Jerusalem Palestinians – also carried out this month by the PSR, when asked about the preference of the majority of residents in their neighborhoods, 44% said they are likely to prefer Israeli citizenship and only 41% said they are likely to prefer Palestinian citizenship.

This seems to be for economic reasons and for reasons of freedom of expression allowed in a democracy such as Israel.

For example, 85% of Palestinians said they were “satisfied with the electrical supply” Israel provides to their neighborhood and 9% said they were “dissatisfied”.

83% said they were “satisfied” with the health care Israel provides to them, and 7% said they were “dissatisfied”.

The PSR said “Interviews were conducted face to face with a random sample of 1,000 adult Palestinians over the age of 18 in 50 residential locations throughout all occupied East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods.”

The full results are here.

A vast majority of those surveyed were also strongly critical of “delays during travel due to the erection of the West Bank wall” and “delays and restrictions at checkpoints”. Perhaps surprisingly, “Israeli settlers” were quite far down the list of their concerns, considerably lower than “corruption in the Palestinian Authority”.


In another poll of Palestinians this month, this time by the Near East Consulting (NEC), 61% of Palestinians said they identified themselves as Muslims first, 20% Palestinians first, 15% as “human being first,” and 3% as “Arabs first.”

The NEC said: “The survey was carried out between the October 2 and 5 on a random sample of 900 Palestinians over the age of 18 from both sexes, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem.”


I attach one article below.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


Don’t preach to us, Hamas tells secular West
By Crispian Balmer
October 28, 2010

GAZA (Reuters) - The West is floundering in immorality and has no right to criticize the Islamist movement Hamas over the way it governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a veteran leader of the militant group said.

Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Reuters in an interview that Islamic traditions deserved respect and he accused Europe of promoting promiscuity and political hypocrisy.

“We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular,” said Zahar, who is one of the group’s most influential and respected voices.

“You do not live like human beings. You do not (even) live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?” he said earlier this week, speaking from his apartment building in the densely populated, Mediterranean city.

Hamas, which is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement and means “zeal” in Arabic, won a fair, 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election and then seized control of Gaza in 2007 after routing rival forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.

It said it acted to pre-empt a Western-bid to oust it and has ruled the enclave ever since, weathering an Israeli military assault at the end of 2008 and rigid economic sanctions tied to its refusal to recognize Israel or renounce violence.

Sitting in a cavernous reception room, with an old Mercedes saloon car parked in one corner, Zahar denounced European states, such as France, for recently introducing legislation preventing Muslim women from wearing full face veils in public.

“We are the ones who respect women and honor women ... not you,” he said. “You use women as an animal. She has one husband and hundreds of thousands of boyfriends. You don’t know who is the father of your sons, because of the way you respect women.”


Zahar speaks fluent English and serves as an important contact point between Hamas and Western governments, few of which recognize the group because of its hostility to Israel, but nonetheless have indirect ties.

Hamas has consolidated its control over Gaza, ridding the territory of the lawless clans that used to hold sway and imposing strict order on the 1.5 million residents.

Hamas faces criticism, including from within local society, for enforcing laws seen as “Islamizing” Gaza by measures such as banning women riding motorcycles or smoking water pipes.

The movement sees its brand of political Islam as moderate and has crushed challenges from small groups which have adopted more radical views. The bearded-Zahar defended Hamas laws, but declined to say how far it would go with Islamisation.

“Is it a crime to Islamize the people? I am a Muslim living here according to our tradition. Why should I live under your tradition?” said Zahar, who served as Hamas foreign minister between 2006-2007 and is under constant, heavy protection.

“We understand you very well, You are poor people. Morally poor. Don’t criticize us because of what we are.”

Zahar, a surgeon who taught medicine at Gaza’s Islamic University, said he was particularly incensed that Western nations could denounce Hamas while at the same time enjoying extremely close relations with neighboring Israel.

The United States and European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization and its charter calls for the destruction of Israel, although its leaders say they could live peacefully alongside the country under a prolonged cease-fire.

Hamas rejects the terrorist label, saying it is engaged in a legitimate struggle to free land illegally occupied by Israel.

It already observes a de facto cease-fire, but every month a drizzle of mortars and rockets pop out of Gaza and hit its arch foe. Israel blames Hamas for these random attacks and regularly launches air raids against suspected militant targets.

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