Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When reality gets in the way of a good rant ...

"The Israelis withdrew after beating the living hell out of a terrorized civilian population and killing over a thousand innocent people, including hundreds of children. How noble."

Mark P. Shea, Catholic "Apologist"

There is a good reason to be skeptical of Hamas' claims of civilian casualties, given historical precedent of Palestinian sources for inflating the numbers.

A survey of recent stories indicates that we're a long way from sorting this out.

  • Gazan doctor says death toll inflated YNetNews.com January 22, 2009:
    What really is behind the numbers reported on the number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip? Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported Thursday that a doctor working in Gaza's Shifa Hospital claimed that Hamas has intentionally inflated the number of casualties resulting from Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

    "The number of deceased stands at no more than 500 to 600. Most of them are youths between the ages of 17 to 23 who were recruited to the ranks of Hamas, who sent them to the slaughter," according to the newspaper article.

    The doctor wished to remain unidentified, out of fear for his life.

    A senior Palestinian Health Ministry official later denied the claims, and the Israel Defense Forces' estimate on the number of casualties in Gaza has also remained unchanged.

    Despite the claims, the IDF stood behind its estimate that between 1,100 to 1,200 people were killed in the Strip during the fighting, more than two-thirds of them Hamas members.

  • The number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead did not exceed five or six hundred, Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Italy's Corriere della sera reported on Thursday Jerusalem Post:
    Cremonesi based his report on tours of hospitals in the Gaza Strip and on interviews with families of casualties. He also assessed the number of wounded to be far lower than 5,000, the number quoted by Hamas and repeated by the UN and the Red Cross in Gaza.

    "It is sufficient to visit several hospitals [in the Gaza Strip] to understand that the numbers don't add up," he wrote. [...]

    Cremonesi interviewed Gazans who echoed Israel's insistence of how Hamas gunmen used civilians as human shields. One Gazan recalled civilians in Gaza shouting at Hamas and Islamic Jihad men, "Go away, go away from here! Do you want the Israelis to kill us all? Do you want our children to die under their bombs? Take your guns and missiles with you."

    "Traitors, collaborators with Israel, spies of Fatah, cowards! The soldiers of the holy war will punish you. And in any case you will all die, like us. Fighting the Zionist Jews we are all destined for paradise. Do you not wish to die with us?" the religious fanatics of Hamas reportedly responded.

  • Elder of Zion calls attention to Hamas "creative accounting of dead terrorists":
    The shop prints customized, full-color posters and banners commemorating the dead _ a Palestinian tradition for people killed by Israel. In the wake of Israel's 22-day Gaza offensive _ which killed nearly 1,300 Palestinians _ the shop is one of Gaza's few businesses experiencing a postwar boom. ...

    While not comprehensive, the posters enter a new element into the debate over how many militants were killed by Israel. The Israel military says it killed 700, while Hamas and other militant groups say they lost 158. In its final report on the death toll, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 223 of the 1,285 killed in the war were fighters.

    Although the shop hasn't kept records, al-Hor guesses he has done posters for 350 people since the war's end, about 250 of them militants, suggesting the militant groups lost more fighters than they acknowledge. Other say the groups often claim the dead as members of their movements even when they were not.

  • Hamas tried to hijack ambulances during Gaza war Sydney Morning Herald:
    Palestinian civilians living in Gaza during the three-week war with Israel have spoken of the challenge of being caught between Hamas and Israeli soldiers as the radical Islamic movement that controls the Gaza strip attempted to hijack ambulances.

    Mohammed Shriteh, 30, is an ambulance driver registered with and trained by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

    His first day of work in the al-Quds neighbourhood was January 1, the sixth day of the war. "Mostly the war was not as fast or as chaotic as I expected," Mr Shriteh told the Herald. "We would co-ordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients, because they have all our names, and our IDs, so they would not shoot at us."

    Mr Shriteh said the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety. ...

    Mr Shriteh says Hamas made several attempts to hijack the al-Quds Hospital's fleet of ambulances during the war.

  • IDF: Only 250 of Gaza fatalities were civilians YNetNews. January 26, 2009:
    Gaza Division Chief Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg alluded to the fact that the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were Hamas operatives, but refused to specify numbers.

    The IDF has yet to verify the identity of some 200 fatalities, mostly men in their 20s, whose identification is delayed because they are still buried under the rubble. The defense establishment believed many of them would prove to be Hamas men.

    Many of the fatalities were considered to be civilians at first, because there were no weapons found with them, said a military source, "But that method of operation is consistent with the way Hamas was hiding in the midst of civilians, moving between their strongholds with no weapons. In many cases someone thought to be a civilian casualty turned out to be a Hamas operative after we ran our checks."

    The civilian-gunman casualty ratio, he added, was one to three, proving that the IDF was targeting Hamas and not civilians. The IDF stressed that the forces took significant precautions in order to avoid harming any civilians; but considering the way that Hamas chose to involve civilians in the fighting, mounting a surgical strike resulting in absolutely no civilian casualties was impossible.

  • EU envoy lays Gaza blame on Hamas BBC News. January 26, 2009:
    A senior European Union official touring war-torn Gaza has blamed the ruling militant movement Hamas for the humanitarian crisis there.

    Humanitarian aid chief Louis Michel called the destruction left by Israel's offensive "abominable", but said Hamas bore "overwhelming responsibility".

    He said there would be no dialogue with the "terrorist" movement until it gave up violence and recognised Israel.

    He also announced emergency aid for Gaza worth more than US $70m (£50m).


    Touring some of Gaza's worst-hit areas of Israel's 22-day assault which killed about 1,300 Palestinians, including 400 children, Mr Michel described the situation as "abominable, indescribable".

    "At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," he said.

    "I intentionally say this here - Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such."

    Thirteen Israelis were killed in the conflict, and Mr Michel later visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot, the target of Palestinian militant rocket fire.

    There, he called on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza and accused both sides of violating humanitarian law.

    "Please open the crossings, you have to broaden the range of products that you let in," he urged Israel's authorities. "We, the EU, condemn Qassam attacks and military options which target the civilian population."

To be sure, civilian deaths are lamentable, and speaking from a Catholic POV, Israel may bear some culpability. Nonetheless, there is a problem when a Catholic apologist not only parrots with a straight face blatant propaganda already crumbling under scrutiny -- but places the blame squarely on the Israeli Defense Forces, with nary a mention of Hamas.

But, you know, let's not let reality get in the way of a good rant.