Monday, January 12, 2009
WAR CRIMES AND THE FAILURE OF TRUTH
Israel will never kill as many innocent people as Europe has. So who are they to preach to us?
Ben Dror Yemini. Jan 10th 2009.
"Very soon. Allah willing. Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was. Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam -- this capital of theirs will be an advanced post for the Islamic conquests which will spread through Europe in its entirety and then will be turned to the two Americas, and even Eastern Europe."
The speaker proclaiming the need for such large swaths of territories then went on to say that all Jews must be exterminated.
Talks like Hitler, sounds like Hitler, he is Hitler compatible. These words were uttered by Dr. Yunis al-Astal, cleric, and member of the Palestinian parliament. The clear and direct rhetoric regarding Jewish extermination and world domination of radical Islam world, enunciated by Dr. al-Astal and other senior Hamas leaders are not done surreptitiously. They are recorded as they appear on Hamas TV broadcasts, and are available through MEMRI or PMW websites in Hebrew, English and other languages to anyone who is interested in learning about the true nature of Hamas.
Only in official Israel and its elaborate public relations apparatus, no one found it necessary to lay bare this message, along with many other well-documented pronouncements pertaining to Hamas' ideology. This is hardly an isolated failure. There are many more like this.
NATO also makes mistakes
The refugees believed they found safe haven. They were wrong. The air strike didn't spare their lives. Over 100 were killed. This is not an account of the tragic bombing of the UN school in Gaza. This is the story of the bombing of Korisa in the former Yugoslavia, the strikes carried out by NATO planes, which took place nearly 10 years ago on May 13th 1999. There are other accounts of this type of catastrophe. On April 12th NATO planes killed, accidentally of course, 12 civilians. April 14th saw the death of 70 refugees. On April 27, 16 civilians were killed. On May 1st, 23 civilians were killed when a bus was bombed. On May 6th, 16 were killed by a cluster bomb. On May 19th, a Belgrade hospital was bombed, 3 dead. May 30th saw 11 die when a bridge was bombed. On the very same day an old age home was hit and 20 residents were killed. The next day 11 more died. About the same time, the Chinese embassy was bombed, and a misdirected missile flew 30 miles off course and hit the Bulgarian Capital of Sofia. "It was a mistake, sorry" was the NATO spokesperson's standard response.
This is what happens during war. It is sad and lamentable. Europeans are not called upon to cast their memory all the way back to the bombing of Dresden; all they need is to look back to events that happened less than a decade ago, ere they start wagging their admonitory finger at Israel. Because Israel has not killed, nor will it kill, even a tenth of the number of innocent deaths incurred by European democracies in just wars.
Israel does not need to justify itself to Europe
Has Europe changed since a decade ago? A report by the UN secretary general cites: "of the 8000 deaths in Afghanistan in 2007, 1500 are civilian deaths." Half to two thirds of those 1500 deaths were murdered by their Taliban brethren. The rest, roughly 500, were killed by various bombings carried out by several armies, including European ones, operating in the region under NATO.
Experts claim these estimated numbers are significantly lower than the true numbers. In 2008 the situation escalated and many more thousands were killed. In fact, even as we speak, European armies are causing the killing of innocent civilians and justifying it as inevitable in the struggle against the Taliban.
We, Israelis, owe no explanations to the Europeans. They owe us explanations. The Taliban has not fired any rocket into any European city. Hamas shoots into Israeli towns. The Taliban does not proclaim a sacred desire to kill all Europeans. Hamas promotes the killing of Jews in its charter and Hamas leaders repeat this instruction religiously in their sermons. Yet Europeans continue fighting in Afghanistan, justifying their war on the grounds that they are at war against a central faction of Islamic fanaticism, just like Israel fights against the Hamas. Moreover, the Hamas' threat to Israel's security and future is far greater and more immediate than any threat the Taliban poses to Europe.
So why are Europeans allowed to conduct a war on territory that is thousands of miles removed from their homes, kill hundreds or thousands of innocent civilians and claim that their cause is necessary, while Israel cannot do the same? By what right do they absolve themselves while condemning Israel?
Thousands of Taliban fighters die each year as compared with "just" a few tens of European soldiers. Hundreds or thousands of civilians die in Afghanistan, as compared to zero civilian casualties in Europe. So you, in Europe, purport to lecture to us, Israelis, about war ethics and "proportional responses?" Are you for real?
Lebanon, Syria and Jordan can and Israel can't?
More about the proportionality argument: In the early 80's, Hafez el-Assad, the president of Syria at the time, had to face an Islamist uprising against his regime, conducted by the Muslim Brotherhood. Assad knew of only one way to deal with the problem: the massacre of Hama. No riots ensued in the Arab world, or in Western Capitals. Between 20,000 to 40,000 people, children, women and innocent civilians were butchered, in the name of defeating radical Islam.
In 1970 it was King Hussein of Jordan, who had to suppress a Palestinian uprising. His campaign came to be known as "The Black September" massacres. Vast populated areas were bombarded. Between 7,000 to 25,000 people were killed. This was the only way for Hussein to fight the radical Palestinians of the time.
Let's move on to more recent times. In May 2007 a conflict broke out between the Lebanese army and a small group, Fatah-al-Islam, in the Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon. The group itself is yet another cancerous cell of the global Jihad movement. The Lebanese army did not opt for urban warfare. They just bombarded the city in a way Israel could never conceive of doing.
The official number of Lebanese army casualties was 168, more than 300 were left dead in the camp. Some were militants, others - civilians. 6 UNIFIL soldiers and two Red Cross workers were killed as well. The refugee camp was in ruins. 33,000 of the 40,000 inhabitants of the camp had nothing to return to. The Lebanese soldiers didn't want to take unnecessary risks. The number of combatants they were facing was tiny, certainly less than the 16,000 Hamas terrorists hiding in Gaza's underground tunnels. If the Lebanese army had to deal with them there wouldn't be one house left standing in Gaza. All of Gaza, not only Jebalya, would be wiped off the face of the earth.
As Lebanon was battling with this one of the many wild outshoots of the radical Islamic menace, it became the darling of most countries in both the free and Arab worlds. Lebanon had employed means Israel couldn't consider using. Most casualties were innocent. The terrible pictures of death and destruction, all available to those interested, didn't lead to mass protests on the streets of London or Paris. Quite the contrary, Lebanon was applauded. Arabs can "take care" of Arabs.
Why can Lebanon use brutal measures to uproot this radical Islam growth? Why can Europe go half way around the world to kill thousands of militants and civilians in the name of the same anti Jihad cause? Why is Israel not allowed to do the same even though she faces a much greater, clearer, and more present threat?
Even the shameless Turkish leader Erdogan, joined the critics of Israel. Shameless, because it behooves him to keep his mouth shut. His country legislated laws that forbid mentioning the crimes perpetrated against the Armenians. If Israel had adopted the Turkish model, a third of all lecturers in the faculties of social sciences and humanities in Israeli universities would be imprisoned, because in Israel inflating the "Nakba" and other anti-Israel rhetoric actually lead to academic promotions...
Let's remind Erdogan of the tens of thousands of Kurds killed or slaughtered in the campaign to keep them quiet and subdued. Let us remind him of Leyla Zana and the short speech she made when elected to the Turkish Parliament. She didn't support terrorism. She didn't praise the lobbing of rockets from Kurdish to Turkish villages. She didn't call the Kurds "Shahids." Nothing like that. All she did was conclude her short speech with the words: "I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people." Her crime? She had made that "terrible" statement, only that final statement, in Kurdish. According to Turkish law, speaking that language is a crime. She lost her parliamentary immunity and was sentenced to 10 years of incarceration. When she wrote something from inside her jail, a further two years were added to her sentence.
Tell this to the Arab members of the Israeli Knesset. If judged according to your own laws, Mr Erdogan, they would all be rotting in jail. Now you are the object of their admiration. Hypocrisy has always been a quality some of them admire most. Now it's your turn, as well.
The importance of the onscreen fight
In the struggle between Israel and Hamas there can be no victory without legitimacy. Israel is not Russia in Chechnya, NATO fighting the Taliban or the Lebanese erasing a whole refugee camp with impunity. Israel needs legitimacy to win support. Israel can win support only if we tell the truth -- and only the truth.
Official Israel is making efforts, but not even one message made it into the world's awareness. Not the fact that Hamas is an anti-Semitic organization calling for the extermination of Jews. Nor the fact the Hamas aspires to take over the world. Nor the fact that "proportional response" is utter baloney that Europeans have never adhered to in past or present conflicts. Nor the fact the Hamas is worse than the Taliban. Nor the fact that Israel's collateral damage, tragic as it is, is much lower than that in Europe's record.
This failure of information and public enlightenment has decimated the support Israel had enjoyed during the first days of the war. But truth be told, it's not Israel's failure. If Hamas wins the propaganda war, it will be due to the free world's moral failure. We, persons of conscience, cannot afford to lose. The truth must out.