A view of Gaza

February 9, 2009

From Michael J Totten.

As always, indispensable.

“It’s not just a question of targeting the schools,” Colonel Eisen said. “It’s also about the hour. When kids are out and about all over the city, when parents are taking them to school. If we educate the population on how to live within this kind of environment, we can radically reduce the number of casualties. For the people of Sderot it’s the most obvious. They’re not the ones who stand outside and look at the rockets. They hear the alert, and they run into the shelter. They have ten to fifteen seconds, and they know that. They’ve kept themselves alive here. Sderot doesn’t really have casualties now.”

“The explosion on impact is lethal,” she continued, “and the explosion goes up, so all the instructions in Israel are for you to lay down flat and put your hands over your head. But if it lands right next to you, it doesn’t leave you a lot of room. A woman protected her son in Beersheva a few days ago. They got out of the car, they lay down, she was laying over him, and he got a fragment in his head. He’s been in critical condition ever since.”

She showed us a house across the street from a school. A rocket exploded in the front yard the day before. The family was watching TV in the living room and ran for shelter as soon as they heard the “incoming” alarm. They would have been killed if they hadn’t because shrapnel from the explosion tore apart their living space. Their outdoor furniture at ground level caught on fire and the exterior walls were pocked with shrapnel holes that looked almost like bullet holes. The windows were, of course, broken. The house looked as though somebody had parked in front and assaulted their home with automatic weapons fire and a grenade launcher.

Life can and does go on under the circumstances, but would it be possible for an entire country to endure these kinds of attacks? Perhaps that’s the wrong question. What country in the world would tolerate these kinds of attacks? Almost certainly none. They are only tolerable if a small percentage of a country’s population is exposed, and they’re only barely just tolerable for a while.



  1. I worry about people like Michael J Totten. Well, not him per se, who the hell is he, after all?

    No, I mean I worry and am terribly saddened, even depressed about humanity’s future when I take on board, as we all must, that people are capable of this sort of journalism and that significant numbers of others presumably think it is ok.

    Most doctors and other health care workers would wonder as well at the terrible spectacle of Israeli doctors who seem to have forgotten or at least now do not accept the Hippocratic Oath. And if this piece is to be taken at face value, presumably neither do these doctors see any contradiction in first killing and injuring masses of civilians, and then – bizarrely – offering to treat them. And finally, how come these doctors do not understand, let me hear from them please, one colleague to another, why they think the people their government has been terrorising for so long, fail to present at their makeshift clinic?

  2. That seems a bit morally confused, LZ.

    Totten is an independent journalist of – imho – exceptional integrity and objectivity. He is not an instrument of Israeli propaganda – he was one of Israel’s most trenchant critics during the war in Lebanon 2 years ago. He calls it as he sees it, and I for one believe him. That makes me one of your moral monsters, I guess.

    As for Israeli doctors, they make no distinction between whom they treat. Many have attested publicly to the difficulty of treating terrorists who have maimed or killed Israeli citizens, or who have intended to. Their attitude is, well, Hippocratic. They reckon to leave the terrorist stuff to the security forces and just get on with treating them as patients.

    5500 Gazan patients were treated by Israeli doctors in the period since the withdrawal from Gaza. Every Israeli hospital has Arab doctors to ensure that Palestinians who seek treatment can communicate with them. That seems pretty Hippocratic to me.

    And yes, the failure of the Gaza clinic was predictable. According to the reports I’ve seen, Hamas wouldn’t let the Palestinians attend, and even if they had done, they would have been tainted with the accusation of ‘collaboration’. Every Gazan knows what that means.

  3. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “an independent journalist”.

    Any evidence for the 5500 inhabitants of the place known as Gaza who have been treated by Israeli doctors?

  4. It’s from the Peres speech a couple of posts back.

  5. Human solidarity is an indescribably powerful and wondrous thing. We would be nothing without it. We are seeing it in action right now with the bushfires and their aftermath in Victoria.

    You seem to understand this when it comes to Israel, but not accept it as a legitimate response of Palestinians, or of people the world over who empathise with them, and who are not, despite what you claim, anti-Semitic.

    Solidarity – or its synonym – can be used for good or ill, yes. In my experience, with a few notable exceptions, doctors are not political, or at least their politics are secondary to their medical ethos and desired, ideal practice.

    Are you positive the doctor/s in this piece by Totten agreed to the inclusion of their photographs clearly identifying them and thus making them a party to such partisan propaganda?

  6. Legitimate response to what?

    As for the doctors, I have no idea, but you can always ask him. His post is open for comments.

  7. ok. I’ll leave you to it.

  8. Funny how the only independent journalists you cite are neo-cons and pro-Zionist sadists.

  9. Yeah, I’d say leave it. You’ve got nothing sensible to say on this.

  10. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072040.html

    During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive….

    The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader’s soldiers complained that “we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist.”

    The squad leader said: “You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won’t say anything. To write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It’s what I’ll remember the most.”

    More soldiers’ testimonies will be published in Haaretz over the coming days.

    What say you about this Rob?

  11. Not good if it’s true, Peter. But as a lawyer you would know an allegation is just an allegation until it’s tested.

    There’s already been some testing:

    Channel 2 TV Army correspondent Roni Daniel stated at 6:30 PM this evening, that he personally tracked down one of the soldiers interviewed for the Haaretz article. Apparently the soldier’s testimony to Haaretz wasn’t based on anything he personally saw or witnessed, rather based on rumors and hearsay he heard (and the soldier wasn’t even in Gaza!)

    We’ll have to wait and see. The widely reported attack on the UNWRA school at Jabilya turned out to be false, and acknowledged as such by UNWRA, if you recall.

  12. On reflection, I’m going to take back that comment. The story in Ha’aretz mentions two specific incidents:

    (1) a woman and her children were reportedly shot after they turned in the wrong direction after being released by the IDF. They were shot by a sniper in accordance with his standing orders. At worst, that was an accident as the family had been told to take a different exit path, presumably to keep them out of harm’s (and the sniper’s) way.

    (2) Members of an IDF argued with an officer who gave orders that a Palestinian woman be shot after she approached within 100 meters of their position. That’s a decision the officer properly had to make on the basis of the perceived threat. The implication is that his squad disagreed with him, although this is unclear. There is no indication that the woman was actually shot.

    As far as I can see, these incidents, if true, do very little to substantiate the scare headlines from Ha’aretz. Nor do that newspaper’s subsequent offering on the subject, where the headline totally overstates the content of the story:

    Testimonies on misconduct in Gaza keep rolling in


    On Saturday, Channel 10 showed a documentary that included a security briefing by a company commander on the eve of the Gaza invasion.

    “We’re going to war,” he told his soldiers. “We’re not doing routine security work or anything like that. I want aggressiveness – if there’s someone suspicious on the upper floor of a house, we’ll shell it. If we have suspicions about a house, we’ll take it down.”

    “There will be no hesitation,” the commander continued. “If it’s us or them, it’ll be them. If someone approaches us unarmed, shoot in the air. If he keeps going, that man is dead. Nobody will deliberate – let the mistakes be over their lives, not ours.”

    Looks like effective tactics to me. The commander’s first obligation is to protect the lives of his own troops.

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