During the years that this blog has been following the South African media’s reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we have become inured to some pretty dreadful stuff. But every now and then, there is the type of rancorous opinion piece, so wretchedly bilious that it leaves one completely perplexed.
I am referring to the editorial by Mondli Makhanya in this week’s Sunday Times: Hold Israel to the same standard of civilised conduct as other lands.
The irony of course, is that we also wish that Israel would be held to the same standard as other nations are. In fact, that is all we ask.
It’s no surprise that the benighted Sunday Times editor, Mondli Makhanya, has come out with such a polemical editorial. Makhanya was a delegate on last year’s haughtily entitled “SA Human Rights Delegation” to Israel. After the trip, Makhanya described Israel as evil. Actually, the record will show that even before his trip to Israel he had already referred to Israel as “evil” in the context of an editorial on Robert Mugabe! He had also previously described Israel as one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.
This time Makhanya goes one step further and calls Israel “the world’s most oppressive state”. I think the Jewish leadership needs to challenge Makhanya on this. We should appeal to the Press Ombudsman to ask Makhanya to substantiate his claims.
The independent Freedom House has collected a detailed taxonomy of facets that can be used to represent the degree of freedom in the countries of the world. Perhaps they should contact the Sunday Times’ smug editor because according to him, their rankings are way off the mark.
In 2008, Freedom House compiled a report on the world’s most repressive societies entitled “the worst of the worst 2008”. The report analyses two groups of oppressors – the worst of the worst and then another group that is very close to being in the worst of the worst. Israel is not in either group. In fact, Israel is rated as one of the most free countries in the world. Not even the Israeli run occupied territories (rates as “not free” I do concede) appears in the report.
For interests sake, the first group includes: Russia (Chechnya); China (Tibet); Uzbekistan; Turkmenistan; Sudan; Somalia; North Korea; Libya; Cuba; and Burma (Myanmar). The next group includes: Morroco (Western Sahara); Zimbabwe; Syria; Saudi Arabia; Laos; Eritrea; Equatorial Guinea; China and Chad. Iran narrowly misses out.
The editorial is outstandingly bad and is filled to the brim with faulty reasoning and malignant hate. It reads like the bible of bewilderingly stupid accusation against Israel. Below are some of its diatribes that belong in the above-mentioned bible.
- The failure to differentiate between civilian and terrorist casualties
|"About 400 of the Palestinian territory’s people had been killed, and more than 2000 had been severely injured during what must rank as one of the most heartless military operations in recent years."|
- Indiscriminate Bombings
|“Israel’s response to these attacks was, as always, wanton destruction of everything that lay before it. Civilians, including children, were not spared, as the indiscriminate airborne attacks intensified.”|
Indiscriminate? How on earth can one conclude that the bombings have been indiscriminate when almost 85% of the casualties have been terrorists? The IDF has even setup its own channel on YouTube where it uploads videos of its strikes to show people like Makhanya that they are striking terrorist compounds and are not indiscriminately bombing Gaza. Many videos show continued explosions after the Israeli strikes, proof of the large number of ordinances stored at the targets. Unfortunately and regrettably, many civilians have been killed or injured. We must not callously set aside the suffering of the Palestinians, but this would not be necessary if the Palestinians would stop firing rockets into Israel.
What amazes me with this accusation is the way the accusers ignore the degree to which it is betrayed by the numbers. Indiscriminate bombing would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The Gaza strip is a tiny densely populated area. Israel has in its arsenal, state of the art weapons systems which could raze the entire strip in a matter of hours.
Yaacov Lozowick, chief archivist at Yad Vashem, puts it well "In the week of air-attacks, the IDF proved it had excellent intelligence, and in many cases targets hit from the air kept on exploding for a number of minutes after they were hit, as the ordinance stored there exploded. More significant, the IDF has figured out how to separate the civilians from the weapons: call the neighbors and give them ten minutes warning. The numbers prove how efficient this has been: prior to the ground invasion, more than 600 targets had been destroyed, fewer than 500 Palestinians killed, and fewer than 100 of those were civilians even by Palestinian and UN reckoning. Of course, there remain the pictures of civilians surrounded by devastation, but they're alive, and it wasn't Israel that stacked bombs in their cellars." Is that indiscriminate? (via MJ Totten)
More amazing, it is the Palestinians that repeatedly and indiscriminately target civilians. They hide their intent from no-one and openly celebrate when they are succesful. They also intentionally target and kill other Palestinian civilians believed to be "collaborators" or, just believed to be "Fatah members". Latest reports showed that Hamas had killed 35 Fatah members in cold blood since operation Cast Lead began. Add to that the number of suspected "collaborators" killed and you realise that the number of Palestinian civilians killed by Hamas is close to the number killed by Israel. But Israel expresses regret at, and tries to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas kills them intentionally and with impunity. And, I have to conclude, with the support of people like Makhanya who fail to speak out against it.
- Ignoring years of Israeli restraint
Makhanya calls the military operation “one of the most heartless military operations in recent years”. This schoolboy analysis ignores the relative restraint that Israel has shown in recent years. Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza strip in 2005, leaving nothing behind. Hamas, instead of building chose to destroy and has fired over 6000 rockets and mortars into Israel since the withdrawal. Israeli responses to the rocket attacks have been limited and instead of trying to cripple Hamas they have negotiated truce after truce.
- Ignoring Palestinian (including intra-Palestinian) violence
Would it be so difficult to condemn the firing by Hamas of rockets and mortars into Israel? What about condemning the internal Palestinians violence? Last week Hamas killed 35 Fatah members in cold blood. In fact, since the Israeli offensive began, 75 Fatah activists have been shot in the legs whilst others have had their hands broken. All this without any trials or investigations. Where is the outcry?
- Pretending that Israel is blocking humanitarian aid into Gaza
|A further 1.5 million were in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the attacks and an ongoing blockade by Israel.|
Again, Makhanya is deceiving his readers. Each and every day Israel is allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza. The MFA website lists the exact number of truckloads of aid that have been allowed to enter the Gaza strip each day and these figures are not contested by the aid agencies. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead some 400 truckloads of humanitarian aid have been transferred at the request of the international organizations, the Palestinian Authority and various governments.
The “blockade” at the Nahal Oz crossing requires some elaboration. Nahal Oz has repeatedly been hit by terrorist attacks (some examples). On the one hand, Makhanya complains about the fuel blockade at Nahal Oz, but on the other hand he belittles the effects of the Hamas aggression even though it prevents the safe entry of fuel into Gaza through Nahal Oz. Every day, Israel has scheduled to open the Nahal Oz crossing for transferring fuel, but every day Hamas terrorists have shot mortars at the crossing, forcing Israel to close it. (Sourced from Elder of Zion)
- Imputing hidden and sinister motives to Israel's operation
|"Since last Saturday, the people of Gaza have been subjected to non-stop bombardment by the Israeli military, ostensibly in retaliation for rocket attacks by Hamas militants." (My emphasis)|
Such is the narcotic effect of Makhanya’s belief in his “Israel is evil” mantra that he even denies the motive for Israel’s offensive in the Gaza strip, imputing more sinister hidden motives.
- Downplaying the Hamas aggression, or David versus Goliath
|“Israel’s response to the “provocation” amounted to a steroid-pumped heavyweight boxer arriving to fight an anaemic midget armed with steel-lined boxing gloves.”|
- Casting Israel as the real terrorist
|“It’s just the brutishness and the brazen arrogance with which Israel carries out its terror that has become worse.”|
- Israel's conniving Western support, or Israel's control of the West?
|“And Israel has every right to be brazen and arrogant about the inhumane manner in which it treats Palestinians.
It knows it has the world powers on its side and, no matter how low it sinks in its immorality, it will always be protected by the major powers.
The Western world’s unquestioning loyalty to the state of Israel will ensure that the world’s most oppressive state will continue to behave in an inhumane manner for decades to come.
For only when the powers that really matter tell Israel in unequivocal terms that the evil that it perpetrates is unacceptable will Tel Aviv wake up and realise that it has to behave in a manner expected of those who live in this century.”
No matter how low Israel sinks in its immorality, it will always have the support of the Western powers? Is Makhanya suggesting that Israel exerts control over the Western world? Makhanya here steps awfully close to the age-old canard of Jewish control of the world. In fact, he seems to agree with Hamas!
|“With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.” (Hamas covenant, article 22)|
- The inevitable disclaimer
|“In our country, we have many apologists for the Israeli state who treat any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic diatribe.”|
His mephitic editorial of course carries the usual protection against anti-Semitism by charging that his opponents label everything as anti-Semitic (which we don’t, although of course there are the crazy exceptions). He fallaciously suggests that by predicting the charges of anti-Semitism, he cannot be guilty of it, even if he thinks the Zionists control the entire Western world.
- Incorrect reading of international law
|“The state of Israel has every right to defend itself against aggression and to secure its citizens. But no state has the right to do that at the expense of the human rights and right to life of innocent civilians.”|
Not so. According to international law, the presence of civilians in or around a military objective does not change its nature as a military objective. A military target remains a legitimate military target, even if it is located in a civilian area. "Civilians do not enjoy absolute immunity. Their presence will not render military objects immune from attack for the mere reason that it is impossible to bombard them without causing injury to the non-combatants." (Oppenheim's 'International Law'). According to international law, terrorist organizations that hide behind civilians bear the primary responsibility for civilian casualties.
The level of bias, lies and sensationalism in this editorial is unacceptable. When the editor calls Israel the most oppressive state in the world - a claim that cannot be supported by any evidence and that flies in the face of respected independent freedom monitoring institutions – we should stand up and protest.
Mike Berger has sent a letter to the Sunday Times in response to this editorial. View it at his blog, Solar Plexus, where you can also view his excellent letter that was published in the Cape Times last week.