Schenker and Rosenberg on the current bloody impasse

Schenker and Rosenberg on the current bloody impasse

Writing originally under the title of “Huda Ghalia or David Bekham?”, Hillel Schenker continues to blog on the UK Guardian “Comment is Free” Web site:

All most Israelis wanted to do this past weekend was to forget their daily troubles and escape into the month-long World Cup bubble of fan ecstacy. My 18 year old son even quit his job to help found a World Cup viewing club with his friends. But when we woke up on Sunday morning, instead of seeing Ronaldinho or Henry on the front pages, we were greeted by the tearful face of 12 year old Huda Ghalia, who lost seven members of her intimate family on the Gaza beach.

No matter how hard the average Israeli keeps on trying to evade reality, it has a persistant way of intruding into our consciousness. Last night Israeli TV viewers were treated to a surrealistic exhibition. While France and Switzerland were battling to a 0-0 draw and everyone was getting ready for Brazil’s premier performance, the odd couple of dovish Defense Minister Amir Peretz and IDF Chief-of-Staff Dan Halutz faced the TV cameras while Major Meir Klifi explained, with diagrams and unclear long-distance video footage, why the IDF investigation team had concluded “beyond all doubt” that the seven Palestinians killed on the Gaza beach were not hit by an Israeli shell.

Watching the show, I couldn’t help recalling Secretary of State Colin Powell’s attempt to explain to the UN Security Council, with all of the sophisticated audio-visual aids at his disposal, why the Americans believed they had “proof” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Even government-run Channel l got tired of the show. Switching to the studio, former IDF Spokesperson Nachman Shai admitted that the attempt to prove Israel’s lack of responsibility was rather tedious, and anyway, it was clear that the IDF was shelling the area, even if it was not responsible for this particularly tragic incident. And if the government and the army had hopes that at least the front pages of the Israeli media would lead with a story about how the internal IDF investigation team had exonerated Israel of responsibility for the beach incident, once again reality proved too strong for the best laid plans.

The lead story in all of today’s daily papers was “seven Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza City” in the course of an Israeli Air Force strike against a GRAD Katyusha missile launching cell, while last night’s show was relegated to the inside pages. And today’s Internet bulletins featured the fact that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and an American military expert doubt the veracity of the IDF committee explanation.

The truth is the average Israeli would rather not know what is going on in the Gaza Strip that was supposedly left behind after last summer’s disengagement, and in the West Bank as well. Let us get on with our lives. But continued Israeli targeted killings of Hamas activists, the constant rounds of missiles being fired from Gaza at the southern town of Sderot (home of the Israeli defense minister) and the IDF reprisals against the rocket launchers, make that impossible. And according to today’s Maariv daily, a senior Israeli security official believes that the Israeli policy of trying to prevent the Palestinian government from realising any civilian achievements is one of the factors driving the Hamas government back to the use of terrorism.

If there were an international community worthy of the name “international” and “community,” if the UN had teeth, if the EU had clout, if the American pretension to be the world’s policeman had any substance, then international forces would step in to stop the mutual bloodletting. I don’t know who is directly responsible for the tragedy that befell Huda Ghalia on the Gaza beach last Friday. I do know that all of us, Israelis, Palestinians and particularly the international community, share responsibility for finding a way out of this bloody impasse.

Click below for Robert Rosenberg’s perspective from his “Today” posting (“No Justice”), sharp and well-informed as ever, June 14.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was apparently sending an envoy to the region for a first hand look at the results of the IDF inquiry that absolved the Israeli army of direct responsibility for last Friday’s explosion on a Gaza beach that massacred a Palestinian family, and the Palestinian version of events. Annan reportedly said it was ‘odd’ that the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority would allow civilians to picnic on a beach that was mined by Palestinians trying to block Israeli naval commando raids. He might have added that it is odd that Palestinians would choose to picnic on a beach used by Islamic Jihad and other militants to launch Qassam rockets into the Western Negev and routinely targeted by Israeli artillery to prevent those Qassam launchings from taking place.

Whether it was a mine or a dud Israeli shell that blew up last Friday, the events of the last 24 hours make it clear that the accident of the Friday incident being filmed was the only reason for the inquiry. After all, even more innocent civilians were killed yesterday by an airborne Israeli missile attack on a car carrying two Islamic Jihad operatives and a Katyusha rocket, capable of reaching Ahskelon, twenty kilometers north of Gaza. But there was no iconic image, like the one of young Huda Ghalia crying for her father and hurling herself to the ground, to flash around the world. Instead, there were the ‘usual’ pictures of a destroyed car, Palestinian men trying to carry bodies to ambulances, and the ambulances careening through the streets of Gaza.

The IDF probe, while ruling out one of the artillery shells lobbed onto the beach that day, however was unable to say unequivocally that it was not an earlier Israeli shell. In other words, the probe succeeded only in assuaging Israelis who had made up their minds already by the second day that it was not the Israeli shelling that killed six children and their father. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand why a dud shell exploding on the beach would not be at least partially Israeli responsibility….

By | 2006-06-15T04:30:00-04:00 June 15th, 2006|Blog|0 Comments

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