Tuesday, August 01, 2006
"Israel responded to a Hizbollah attack on a military target by killing huge numbers of Lebanese civilians. [...] [Y]ou don't nuke a neighbourhood to catch a shoplifter. [...] Israel's stated aim of using violence to pressure the Lebanese people to reject Hizbollah has eroded the moral edge it normally enjoys over Hamas. [...] The rockets started after the invasion."It took me several reads to understand that the "military target" she credits Hizbollah with attacking was the initial cross-border raid into Israel and the killing and capture of IDF soldiers. But is it right to say that the Israeli response to this was to kill huge numbers of civilians? There is no doubt that civilians have died, which is a true tragedy (I've heard none but the most rabid and repulsive say otherwise), but claiming that these deaths were Israel's response is akin to saying that the oncologist's response to detecting cancer was to make the patient violently ill and have her hair fall out. Likewise it serves to absolve Hizbollah of the culpability of basing its weapons and fighters in dangerous proximity to civilian populations, an act that is by multiple reports both deliberate and forced upon the very civilians placed in harm's way.
As for the "stated aim of using violence to pressure the Lebanese people," the closest I could come to finding this aim anywhere was an article on uruknet by Stephen Gowans, a statement he attributes to Yoram Peri in the Toronto Globe and Mail, July 14, 2006. In the referenced article, though (available only through subscription), the statement that "Israel is ratcheting up the pressure on the civilian population in an effort to push the Lebanese to reject Hezbollah tactics" is actually made by the article's author, Orly Halpern. The quote by Yoram Peri, who is head of the Chaim Herzog Institute for Media, Politics and Society at Tel Aviv University and not a spokesman for the Israeli government, is that "Israel wants to make Hezbollah a liability to the Lebanese people and the Lebanese government. Israel wants to tell them that the price for Hezbollah's attacks is too heavy and they need to put pressure on Hezbollah to disarm or to change its policies vis-à-vis Israel." The claim that Israel has stated an aim of using violence to pressure the Lebanese people juxtaposed with statements that Israel's response has been to kill civilians creates the impression that Megan believes the Israeli government is actively targetting civiians to punish them for supporting Hizbollah. I don't believe that is the case, nor do I imagine she does so either.
Perhaps it is nitpicking on semantics, but the order of escalation as I understand it is:
- Hizbollah invades Israel, killing and capturing IDF soldiers
- Israel launched air strikes against Hizbollah and support infrastructure
- Hizbollah launches rockets against Haifa an dother civilian targets
- Israel continues bombardment and on July 23 cross the Lebanese border.
When Megan mentions the incident at Qana I think we have finally come to the fulcrum that has moved her lever so strongly. Presented with dead children only the most hardened can turn aside with a shrug, but I have learned that news of any tragedy in the Middle East is best digested slowly. Already there are those casting doubt on the truth of the events put forward by Hizbollah and Lebanon. While I am cautious to dismiss the reports outright, there are several details that lead me to believe the event has been "embellished":
- The time of collapse is unclear. Israel struck at night and the collapse was reported in the morning, but some claim it collapsed that night. If it collapsed at night why delay rescue and recovery until the morning? If it collapsed in the morning why were people still there?
- There is even some question as to if the building did actually collapse. While the word "collapse" has often been used, I have also read reports noting that the building's roof was intact or indicating that the damage mainly consisted of a large hole near the ground level. What I have not seen are wide angle shots of the reported collapsed building conclusively showing its status.
- Some detractors have made much of the ubiquitous green-helmetted, orange-vested worker. What I note as being curious is that there are photos of him placing one body on a stretcher at the collapse site and other photos of him carrying the same body to an ambulance. If he did, in fact, place the body on the stretcher it would then seem a reasonable conclusion that the apparently later photo was less than spontaneous and authentic.
- Some have much of the time stamps on the photos or reports to try and create a chronology that seems inconsistent. While I understand the logic, I also know that a digital timestamp is a notoriously bad measurement, as different computers or cameras may be off by minutes, hours or even years from each other. The only useful chronological reference would be between photos from the same camera. Likewise, it is not clear how report file time is determined. If assigned when processed a set of photos could be sitting around for several minutes or hours before processing, leading to apparent contemporaneous inconsistencies.
- One question that does seem relevent is the relative good condition of the bodies recovered. The majority of photos I've seen show mostly clean bodies with little or no apparent external injury. Crushed or missing limbs are not seen. Nor, for the most part, is concrete dust or residue.