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Countering US-Israel Propaganda Regarding Gaza

Posted by Maryrose Asher on January 10, 2009

by Maryrose Asher, GT Columnist

Before I begin, I would like to give you some personal background.

I first went to Israel in the fall of 1986 just before the first Intifada. My husband worked at the time as the Associate Endowment Director for the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco and we were invited to go on a mission with one of the groups. Newly married, and having converted to Judaism so we could be married by my husband’s father who was the rabbi of the largest reform congregation in San Francisco, I went with the usual expectations of any average American.

My ignorance regarding Israel was lost during that trip. I saw the racism, the apartheid, and the mistreatment of the Palestinians. As part of the trip we went to Hebron where I heard racist comments from the mouth of a Jewish settler that matched any I heard in the south while vacationing with my grandmother in the late 1950s. We also visited an Arab school in East Jerusalem where the libraries were empty and the classrooms dismal. I secretly exchanged addresses with two of the Palestinian teachers and had to lie at the airport when Israeli security asked me if I had taken any contact names home with me. If you have ever gone through Israeli security, you know how intimidating the experience was.

We came back and started working with New Jewish Agenda. I was elected Northwest Regional Representative, representing chapters in California, Oregon, and Washington (although the active chapters were primarily in California). Living closest to Stanford University and University of California – Berkeley, our members voted for cutting aid to Israel. Quarterly, I had to travel to New York to meet with the national folks and did my best to argue for the national organization to take this position. As expected, our chapters were viewed as too radical. The decision eventually split the organization and New Jewish Agenda folded soon after we moved to Seattle in 1990. Jewish Voice for Peace headquartered in San Francisco now has many of the same members but is continuing to have the same internal debates.

Now that you know a little about me, I hope you will understand if what I write shows a little less patience, and balance, when writing about US-Israel propaganda. The mainstream media and mainstream Jewish organizations provide you with enough information regarding Israel’s position so I will try to really provide “balance.”

I feel this is important for me to try to do. Joe Mowrey, a Palestinian rights and human rights activist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, wrote, “I am finding that even many very antiwar progressives are being lured into a belief that what Israel is doing is a surgical strike against militants in Gaza.”

As for the Democrats, President-elect Obama, as we all know, has been silent on the subject except to repeat the now too common refrain, “we can only have one president at a time,” although he freely addresses the economy or the terrorist actions in Mumbai with no such qualms.

Now, congress has passed legislation that puts the blame on Hamas. The bill, introduced by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offers unconditional support to Israel, tacitly endorsing the war crimes being committed by Israel. It does not call for an immediate ceasefire, nor an end to the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza. This bill has passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and also the House, with only five “no” votes: Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Gwen Moore (D-WI), and Ron Paul (R-TX).

1. Hamas broke the peace treaty and started attacking southern Israel

CNN’s Rick Sanchez first broke the story that it was not Hamas but, in fact, Israel that first broke the ceasefire. Below is from a transcript of the show:

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: The world press community or media community is overwhelmed with the Israeli narrative, which is incorrect. The Israeli spokesperson have been spreading lies all over. The reality and the truth is that the side that broke this truce and this ceasefire was Israel. Two months before it ended, Israel started attacking Rafah, started attacking Hanunis (ph), and never lifted the blockade on Gaza. Gaza remains without fuel, without electricity, with bread, without medications, without any medical equipment for people who are dying in Gaza — 262 people died, 6 people because of no access to medical care. So Israel broke the ceasefire.

Sanchez then cites U.S. News and World Report, “The six-month ceasefire started coming apart at the beginning of November after Israeli commandos killed a team of Hamas fighters during a raid on a tunnel they suspected was being dug for kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. That raid set off more Palestinian rocketing.” He goes on to read from The Guardian, “A four-month ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was in jeopardy today after Israeli troops killed six gunmen in a raid in the territory.” And, finally, he quotes from the Economist.com, “The last straw came in November, when Israelis killed six gunmen it said were digging tunnels to launch a raid onto Israel, spurring Hamas to respond with a barrage of rockets.”

Sanchez concludes, “So the question as to who started this — and we’ve been hearing that the Israelis say they had to do this because, suddenly, the ceasefire had been broken in Gaza by the Hamas and the Palestinians. Is this now a little more in question? And you know what we did? I’ve checked with some of the folks here at our international desk, and I went to them and asked, What was he talking about, and do we have any information on that? Which they confirmed, two months ago — this is back in November — there was an attack. It was an Israeli raid that took out six people.”

2. Hamas has continued to attack Israel so Israel had to respond

In August 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza but, as Avi Shlaim, states in The Guardian:

Israel’s settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.

Despite these harsh conditions imposed by Israel, during the 6-month ceasefire, the number of rockets fired from Gaza went down from the hundreds in May and June to less than 20 for the subsequent four months, according to Israeli government figures.

However, since Israel has broken the ceasefire and has now attacked Gaza, there is no disputing the fact that Hamas has increased its rocket attacks against Israel. However, let’s compare the weaponry being used on both sides.

Below is a description Qassam rockets used by Hamas against Israel.

They [Qassam rockets] are typically referred to as artillery rockets and are designed for barrage attacks over a distance of a few miles or tens of miles. Most of these rockets are not that much different from large model rockets sold in stores in the west except they are packed with explosives. The weapons are fired randomly into Israeli areas and typically do little damage. Their value lies more in spreading fear and chaos among civilians rather than attacking specific buildings or military targets.

The Katyusha is used by Hezbollah and launched from Lebanon into northern Israel. Qassam rockets are instead used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and fired upon Israeli communities. Though media reports often refer to these weapons as missiles, they are actually rockets. A missile has a guidance system while a rocket does not.

Hamas militants preparing to launch deceptively festive looking Qassam rockets

Hamas militants preparing to launch deceptively festive looking Qassam rockets

As to the “deadly force” of these weapons, let’s also compare Israeli deaths to Palestinian deaths from June 2006 to the recent conflict.

From June 2006 until this most recent attack by Israel, 1,300 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza by the Israeli army. In comparison, during this same period 12 Israelis died as a result of rockets fired from Gaza.

During the past 13-day conflict, the Israeli army has killed 810 Palestinians, with 3,400 wounded, bringing the total killed since June 2006 to 2,110.  In comparison, Qassam rockets have killed 11 Israelis for a total of 23 Israeli deaths during this same period of time.

Bottom line: 2,110 Palestinians vs. 23 Israelis deaths since June 2006. Although I personally value all life, as one blogger wrote, we have more Israelis dying from slipping on banana peels than at the hands of Hamas.

This carnage of this latest Gaza Massacre by Israel corresponds to a Them/Us reprisal “death ratio” of 810/23 = 35, this being 3.5 times that of 10 ordered by Adolph Hitler in March 1944 in response to deaths of 33 German soldiers and subsequently effected in the Ardeatine Caves Massacre (335 Italian men and boys executed by the Nazis) (see “Ardeatine Massacre” ).

In addition, Israel is the fourth largest military power in the world, using state-of-the-art military equipment such as American-made F16s and drone aircraft, along with illegal weapons such as cluster bombs and white phosphorus.

In contrast, Palestinians are a rag-tag militia responding to Israel’s 60-years of ethnic cleansing.

Just as the Native Americans were labeled “savages,” the Israelis have labeled people fighting for their homeland as “terrorists.” It seems Israelis have forgotten that the British labeled the Jewish Irgun and Stern Gang as terrorist organizations for their bombings and murders in British-controlled Palestine.

3. Addressing media bias

The graphs below reveal that The Oregonian under-reported Palestinian deaths compared to Israeli deaths and, even more disproportionately, under-reported the deaths of Palestinian children compared to deaths of Israeli children. The figures used were provided by the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Although not the statistics for the recent conflict but for the period of conflict between May 1, 2004, to October 30, 2004, for purposes of showing media bias, it is still valid.

The graphs show that that 502 Palestinians and 54 Israelis were killed during the study period. Of these, 120% of all Israeli deaths and 66% of all Palestinian deaths were headlined in The Oregonian.

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The graphs show that that 116 Palestinian children and 7 Israeli children were killed during the study period, according to B’Tselem. Of these, 88% of all Israeli deaths and only 2% of all Palestinian deaths were headlined in The Oregonian.

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Use this link to view  the full report.

4. This is a problem between Israelis and Palestinians. We don’t live there.

A November 2008 Washington Report article “A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: $118 Billion,” by Shirl McArthur, puts the cumulative total even higher. In addition, Israel uses U.S. supplied military equipment. Like it or not, our tax dollars are being used by Israel, making U.S. citizens complicit in war crimes.

Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and International Humanitarian Conventions, prohibit the deliberate targeting of civilians by aerial bombing. Please recall that this is one of the most densely populated areas of the world. Also, the Geneva Convention also prohibits passive killing through the non-supply of life-sustaining food and medical requisites.

We must also raise the question of the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act.  Using U.S. supplied weapon systems to commit civilian atrocities on homes and fleeing vehicles with children, and to inflict collective punishment on mass civilian populations, are not using these weapons for legitimate defense and internal policing as our federal law requires!

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian areas issued a statement that “The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.”

It is not taking sides to support international law and human rights. If nothing else was learned from the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, we know we cannot remain silent. To do so would be complicit in the genocide and ethnic cleansing now taking place in Gaza. Please help to speak out on these matters of global justice. In the upcoming edition of Greener Times, you will find 26 specific things you can do.

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5 Responses to “Countering US-Israel Propaganda Regarding Gaza”

  1. […] Countering US-Israel Propaganda Regarding Gaza […]

  2. joni said

    Very well said, and informative.

  3. […] Countering US-Israel Propaganda Regarding Gaza « Greener Times […]

  4. sam said

    it amazes me how some people are still claiming the victim is the terrorist. and even more confusing, those who know the real fact, but still do such thing..
    dear lord.. (sigh!)

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    abstract imaging for the masses – can the planet ever heal from the financial crises…

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