The Huffington Post’s extremist speech giver and ‘Political Director’ Mehdi Hasan has gone to great lengths today to try and dispel what he claims are pro-Israeli myths about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Of course, Hasan is hardly a neutral analyst in the conflict. He has spent much of his journalistic career targeting the Jewish State with opprobrium, and of course the fact that he is contracted Al Jazeera, which plasters anti-Israel propaganda all over their website, is hardly encouraging.
Nonetheless over 11,000 people have blindly shared Hasan’s article, which is full of untruths, farcical attributions, and selective quotes. He lists what he calls a ‘myth’ as a numbered point, then proceeds to ‘debunk’ it. You can read it without my commentary by clicking here, but please do enjoy the full refutation of his faulty analysis below:
1) The Gaza Strip isn’t occupied by Israel
Boston Globe: “Israeli-imposed buffer zones.. now absorb nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land. Similarly, the sea buffer zone covers 85 percent of the maritime area promised to Palestinians in the Oslo Accords, reducing 20 nautical miles to three.” Human Rights Watch: “Israel also continues to control the population registry for residents of the Gaza Strip, years after it withdrew its ground forces and settlements there.” B’Tselem, 2013: “Israel continues to maintain exclusive control of Gaza’s airspace and the territorial waters, just as it has since it occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967.”
And yet no one mentions the phrase ‘occupation’ which is the original point Hasan is trying to make here. He’s obviously had to Google hard on this one, finding only the Boston Globe to make some claims about buffer zones. But yes, like most countries would do if they had a terrorist-run state on their border, Israel does maintain control of Gaza airspace and ports. Perhaps if Hamas were more keen on servicing the civilian population in Gaza, rather than spending tens of millions on a terrorist tunnel network, this wouldn’t be a problem.
2) Israel wants a ceasefire but Hamas doesn’t
Al Jazeera: “Meshaal said Hamas wants the ‘aggression to stop tomorrow, today, or even this minute. But [Israel must] lift the blockade with guarantees and not as a promise for future negotiations’. He added ‘we will not shut the door in the face of any humanitarian ceasefire backed by a real aid programme’.” Jerusalem Post: “One day after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas, fell through, the terrorist organization proposed a 10-year end to hostilities in return for its conditions being met by Israel, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.. Hamas’s conditions were the release of re-arrested Palestinian prisoners who were let go in the Schalit deal, the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings in order to allow citizens and goods to pass through, and international supervision of the Gazan seaport in place of the current Israeli blockade.” BBC: “Israel’s security cabinet has rejected a week-long Gaza ceasefire proposal put forward by US Secretary of State John Kerry ‘as it stands’.”
Ok sure. Let’s quote one of the most pro-Islamist news outlets, which is based out of grace and favour in Qatar, which also serves as the home to much of the Hamas leadership, also operating under the grace and favour of the Qatari government. This seems like good journalism, right? Wrong. Hasan is being wilfully deceptive here, and conveniently it serves one of his paymasters very well. But even if we accept his premise, the point doesn’t stand. Israel agreed to ceasefires only to have them trashed by a trigger happy Hamas. Of course Hamas has also engaged in clever public relations by setting its own conditions for a ceasefire. One of those conditions, as Mehdi mentions, is the freeing of arrested terrorists (or ‘Palestinian prisoners’ as he calls them). So basically Hamas will give peace in return for a bunch of people who will no doubt wage war on Israel again in the near future? No wonder Netanyahu’s told them where to stick it.
3) Israel, unlike Hamas, doesn’t deliberately target civilians
The Guardian: “It was there that the second [Israeli] shell hit the beach, those firing apparently adjusting their fire to target the fleeing survivors. As it exploded, journalists standing by the terrace wall shouted: ‘They are only children.'” UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay: “A number of incidents, along with the high number of civilian deaths, belies the [Israeli] claim that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect civilian lives.” United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, 2009: “The tactics used by the Israeli armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practices, most recently during the Lebanon war in 2006. A concept known as the Dahiya doctrine emerged then, involving the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations. The Mission concludes from a review of the facts on the ground that it.. appears to have been precisely what was put into practice.”
Hasan quotes the 16th July piece by the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont, who witnessed the killing of Palestinian children in what was deemed as a “tragic” incident by the Israeli armed forces. Nowhere has it been independently verified however, that Israeli forces were intentionally targeting children (what would be the rationale of such a thing?) and nowhere can it be verified that what Hasan is getting at – that Israel acts like Hamas does – is in any way true.
So Hasan jumps to the UN’s victimhood guru Navi Pillay, who seems to spend more time discussing Israel than China, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, or anywhere else in the world. Instead of using any strategic analysis, Pillay simply claims that high civilian casualties MUST mean that Israel is being lax about its obligations to protect human life. But speak to someone with experience in a war zone, such as British Army Colonel Richard Kemp, and he tells a completely different story. Of course it helps that Kemp has been in war zones, and indeed observed the IDF. It sort of… you know… qualifies him over a 70-something year-old desk jockey like Pillay.
Finally, Hasan attempts to lean on the discredited and retracted report by UN investigator Richard Goldstone. It beggars belief that the Huffington Post would allow this to be published given that Judge Goldstone himself said, in 2011: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” More here.
The ‘Dahiya’ concept that he refers to is effectively the attribution of a ‘shock and awe’ type tactic used during the 2006 Lebanon War, to the 2009 Gaza War. But there’s no evidence besides a retracted UN report to suggest this was ever the case. Hasan’s shameful work in ignoring this is further proof that his article is less about de-bunking and more about… bunking?
Even so, in reality, who expects a war without some civilian infrastructure being hit? Think about it.
4) Only Hamas is guilty of war crimes, not Israel
Human Rights Watch: “Israeli forces may also have knowingly or recklessly attacked people who were clearly civilians, such as young boys, and civilian structures, including a hospital – laws-of-war violations that are indicative of war crimes.”Amnesty International: “Deliberately attacking a civilian home is a war crime, and the overwhelming scale of destruction of civilian homes, in some cases with entire families inside them, points to a distressing pattern of repeated violations of the laws of war.”
This really depends on how you think Israel should deal with Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza using civilian and public infrastructure as places wherein which they store weapons. Even the UN (yep!) said it had evidence of this, and the Shiva hospital in Gaza is known as being a form of operating base for Hamas. This to me makes it a legitimate target (but no, I wouldn’t aerially bomb it, I’d storm it).
Now the really interesting part. Most organisations like Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and others get their information about civilian casualities in Gaza from… Hamas, which doesn’t discriminate between civilian and military in the same way that most of the rest of the world does. If you’re not wearing a military uniform, according to Hamas, you’re a civilian. But guess what? Most Hamas operatives don’t (funnily enough) wear uniforms. So what counts as civilian? A Hamas commander’s house when he’s out of uniform? A Hamas building that doesn’t have a logo on the front? I’m not sure if Mehdi has fallen for the spin on this one, or if he’s aware and doing Hamas PR. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
5) Hamas use the civilians of Gaza as ‘human shields’
Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor: “I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” The Guardian: “In the past week, the Guardian has seen large numbers of people fleeing different neighbourhoods.. and no evidence that Hamas had compelled them to stay.” The Independent: “Some Gazans have admitted that they were afraid of criticizing Hamas, but none have said they had been forced by the organisation to stay in places of danger and become unwilling human-shields.” Reuters, 2013: “A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.”
Desperation kicks in here, as Mehdi quotes the discredited Jeremy Bowen, the Guardian and the Independent in the same few lines. Bowen has anti-Israel form. Serious anti-Israel form. What Mehdi does next is deeply distressing and warrants his dismissal from the Huffington Post.
In using a single line from a Reuters article, he makes it seem like Israel has a policy of torture and using children as human shields. It does not. But there are occasions in which Israeli soldiers have made Palestinian children who throw stones at them stand in front of them so their other friends don’t throw more. You can call this “human shielding” if you like, but it is not really on par with Hamas’s modus operandi of storing military equipment in civilian areas in the hope that Israel won’t strike there to avoid dead babies. That’s human shielding. But what’s worse is that further along in the article, Reuters reports how Israeli soldiers who broke with protocol and made a Palestinian child explore a nearby bag for explosives were both suspended and demoted. These were rogue soldiers acting up, and they got punished. The fact that Mehdi makes it look like Israeli government policy is a grotesque abdication of journalistic standards.
6) This current Gaza conflict began with Hamas rocket fire on 30 June 2014
Times of Israel: “Hamas operatives were behind a large volley of rockets which slammed into Israel Monday morning, the first time in years the Islamist group has directly challenged the Jewish state, according to Israeli defense officials.. The security sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, assessed that Hamas had probably launched the barrage in revenge for an Israeli airstrike several hours earlier which killed one person and injured three more.. Hamas hasn’t fired rockets into Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense ended in November 2012.” The Nation: “During ten days of Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank [before the start of the Gaza conflict], Israel arrested approximately 800 Palestinians without charge or trial, killed nine civilians and raided nearly 1,300 residential, commercial and public buildings. Its military operation targeted Hamas members released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011.”
Oh he’s right about this. This latest conflict started when Hamas affiliates killed three Jewish boys in the West Bank. Now Mehdi is putting words in people’s mouths just so he can refute them.
7) Hamas has never stopped firing rockets into Israel
Jewish Daily Forward: “Hamas hadn’t fired a single rocket since [2012 Gaza conflict], and had largely suppressed fire by smaller jihadi groups. Rocket firings, averaging 240 per month in 2007, dropped to five per month in 2013.” International Crisis Group: “Fewer rockets were fired from Gaza in 2013 than in any year since 2001, and nearly all those that were fired between the November 2012 ceasefire and the current crisis were launched by groups other than Hamas; the Israeli security establishment testified to the aggressive anti-rocket efforts made by the new police force Hamas established specifically for that purpose.. As Israel (and Egypt) rolled back the 2012 understandings – some of which were implemented spottily at best – so too did Hamas roll back its anti rocket efforts.”
What he means to say is that pro-Israel folks say rockets have never stopped being fired into Israel. That’s absolutely true, and he actually admits as much by saying that the attacks, though dropping from 240 to just 5 per month, continued. The decline in the number fired is also not due to any noble efforts by Hamas. Indeed the terrorist group has used this time to restock itself with Iran and even North Korea’s help. Instead, the lull occurred because Iran itself pivoted its focus over recent years, and became increasingly hard up and unable to fund Hamas to previous years’ tunes due to the crippling Western sanctions placed upon it. So much for that one…
8) Hamas provoked Israel by kidnapping and killing three Israeli teenagers
Jewish Daily Forward: “The [Israeli] government had known almost from the beginning that the boys were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.. Nor was that the only fib. It was clear from the beginning that the kidnappers weren’t acting on orders from Hamas leadership in Gaza or Damascus. Hamas’ Hebron branch — more a crime family than a clandestine organization — had a history of acting without the leaders’ knowledge, sometimes against their interests.” BBC correspondent Jon Donnison: “Israeli police MickeyRosenfeld tells me men who killed 3 Israeli teens def lone cell, hamas affiliated but not operating under leadership.. Seems to contradict the line from Netanyahu government.”
This doesn’t actually make sense. Firstly it looks like Mehdi is going to refute that Hamas provoked Israel, then he admits that Hamas affiliates did indeed do it. Any analyst worth their salt knows that Hamas leaders across the region rarely sit down at a table together and plan attacks. Instead, they are given a task (bash Israel) and some cash to go with it and told to set to work. This is sponsored terrorism for which they are culpable. To excuse an individual cell’s actions simply because the leaders didn’t fly to Qatar and have a chit chat with Hamas’s exiled leaders (who are presumably hanging out with Mehdi’s Al Jazeera paymasters?) is nonsense. It’d be like me claiming that the Israeli government should not take flak if all they told soldiers to do was “attack Palestinians” with no further nuance (especially in the case mentioned in point 5 – but the Israelis don’t do this, and that’s why the soldiers were punished. Was Hamas really going to court martial some of their West Bank operatives for killing 3 Jewish kids?)
9) Hamas rule, not Israel’s blockade, is to blame for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip
US State Department cable: “Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.. Israeli officials have confirmed.. on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” The Guardian: “The Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza’s daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010, according to files the defence ministry released on Wednesday under a court order.. The Israeli advocacy group Gisha.. waged a long court battle to release the document. Its members say Israel calculated the calorie needs for Gaza’s population so as to restrict the quantity of food it allowed in.”
Here, Mehdi’s first point seems to imply that there is NO humanitarian crisis in Gaza, since Israel is consistently keeping the Palestinians above the bread line. I would have thought the fact a foreign army imposing a blockade calculated calorie needs of the civilian population to avoid starvation was a good thing. Probably the only time that has ever happened in a war-time siege in human history. And yet Mehdi is moaning about this? Why? Would he have rather had Palestinians starve to bump up the numbers?
10) The Israeli government, unlike Hamas, wants a two-state solution
Times of Israel: “[Netanyahu] made explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.. Amid the current conflict, he elaborated, ‘I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.'”
Misdirection again from Mehdi. A two-state solution can (and should) exist with Israel retaining a significant say-so over the security situation in the West Bank. How could it be the case in the near future that a surrounded Jewish state could trust Hamas and Fatah with its security needs? Mehdi has already admitted (point 7) that Hamas couldn’t altogether stop rocket attacks. Also – would Mehdi have objected to the demilitarisation of post-war Germany? This is effectively what Netanyahu is getting at.
Furthermore, the Palestinians don’t want a “fully sovereign Palestinian state” right now because they rely on Israel for things like water and electricity. To develop their own infrastructure in this respect would take years if not decades. If they were “fully sovereign” they would not be able to self-sustain. Why does Mehdi want this?
11) All serious analysts agree it was Hamas, and not Israel, that started this current conflict
Nathan Thrall, senior Mid East analyst at the International Crisis Group, writing in the New York Times: “The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement.” Henry Siegman, former national director, American Jewish Congress, writing for Politico: “Israel’s assault on Gaza.. was not triggered by Hamas’ rockets directed at Israel but by Israel’s determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government that was formed in early June, even though that government was committed to honoring all of the conditions imposed by the international community for recognition of its legitimacy.”
Labouring the point on who started what (I’m not sure why, but cui bono, you might ask) Mehdi quotes the Soros-funded International Crisis Group and former national director of the left-leaning AJC. Siegman, by the way, is no longer regarded simply as a critic of Israel, but stands accused of being anti-Israel in his outlook. This seems to serve Mehdi’s purposes just fine, but the fact that he can only roll out two quotes from lefty analysts when he’s supposedly combatting the point that “all serious analysts agree it was Hamas, and not Israel, that started this current conflict” seems a little weak. And that’s because it is.
There are a number of ways in which Israel could have nixed the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal. Sending its soldiers into Gaza and incurring costs of $millions is not seriously one of those. But then again – Mehdi seems to have avoided the “serious” part of this equation.