Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Truth also a casualty as Gaza conflict continues

No single article can explain the complexities of the continuing Middle East conflict between Israel and Hamas, as well as other Palestinian groups in the region. Israel has been labelled as a child-killing monster and likened by some to the Nazi regime. Meanwhile Hamas and other extremist groups have been declared terrorist organisations.

Territorial claims

Both Palestinian and Israeli territorial claims stretch back many hundreds of years. Many look back only to the last 100 years to the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration which help establish and draw up the borders between Israel, Palestine, Gaza and other Middle Eastern states [BBC / Guardian].

However the history of the region is far more complex. What is now Gaza, the West Bank and Israel have been continually swallowed up by various empires for the last 3,000 years [Video - YouTube]. The Kingdom of Israel existed briefly after being a part of the Kingdom of Egypt but was later swallowed up by Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Macedonian empires. The territories were later consumed by the Roman, Byzantine and Sassanid Empires before becoming part of the Caliphate and later the Seljuk Empire.

Around 1,000 years ago parts of the region were invaded and occupied during the Christian Crusades. Then came the Saladin's Empire and the Ottoman Empire before European Colonialism begun to shape the nation states that currently exist.

Thus depending upon which part of history one points to Israel and Palestinian territories have different claims to legitimacy.

Growing militancy

With regards to border agreements and UN declarations applied in the last century Israel may well be on occupied land. Their blockades of Gaza have certainly kept the people of Gaza in an almost stateless limbo. The inhabitants of the Gaza strip are unable to trade like a normal country nor can they easily travel.

But as Palestinians claims have intensified, so have their methods become more extreme. Hamas and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have continued to launch terror attacks against Israel. While the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade seeks to drive the Israeli military and settlers from the West Bank and other Palestinian territories, Hamas's goal is the complete destruction of Israel.

Israel maintains the blockade which it says is necessary to limit Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on its cities and to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons. But the consequence is that the population has problems obtaining food, medical supplies and other commodities.

Kidnappings and retaliation

Israel has found it galling to negotiate with a named terror group whose stated aim is the destruction of Israel. The continued stand-off has precipitated attacks on Israel and the kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians [Wikipedia].

Hamas denied involvement in the kidnappings, but Israel angered at renewed attacks begun an assault in order to degrade the terror organisation's military capabilities.

The operations by the Israeli Defense Force has resulted in many deaths. But as in any war, truth has also become a casualty.

Propaganda War

Israel's propaganda machine has certainly been in overdrive, pointing to the fact that thousand of rockets that Hamas has fired towards Israel. Israel asserts that without its defensive infrastructure known as the Iron Dome these rockets could have killed many hundreds of civilians.

On the other side it is claimed that hundreds of women and children have been killed by indiscriminate missile attacks by Israeli forces on schools and hospitals. However the truth on the ground is very different from what is shown on television screens.

Writing in Monday's Times Melanie Phillips says that the outside world is not getting the full picture. While she concedes that civilian population in Gaza is suffering, the pictures shown on television give a distorted image of what is really happening

Viewers' "emotions are being manipulated," Phillips writes. "They are not being shown how Hamas is using its own people as human shields and sacrifices."

According to the British journalist Hamas has failed to build shelters and forces civilians to use UN schools, whilst at the same time ordering Gazans to ignore Israeli warnings to flee their houses and stay put under bombardment.

Meanwhile declassified Israeli aerial pictures clearly show Hamas rocket launchers situated and being fired near mosques, schools and playgrounds [YouTube]. Furthermore Hamas rockets have been found stashed in three UN-run schools.

Shifa hospital has reportedly been used as a Hamas command centre, but such details are often excluded from news reports. Indeed journalists reporting from Gaza work under an implicit threat.

One Spanish journalist described the difficulties of reporting and why there are no pictures of Hamas firing from hospitals. "It's very simple, we did see Hamas people there launching rockets, they were close to our hotel, but if ever we dared pointing our camera on them they would simply shoot at us and kill us." [elderofziyon / Facebook / CBN / The Blaze]

Death toll

More than 1,300 Gazans have died in the conflict. However, Al Jazeera reports that most of those killed in Gaza are young men of fighting age, not women, children or old people. However Hamas dictates anyone talking to the media must describe all Gaza casualties as "innocent civilians" and ensure "there is no evidence of rockets being fired from Gaza population centres" [Algemeiner / Al Jazeera - list of deadAl Jazeera].

There is also virtually no reporting of Gazan casualties caused by Hamas's own rockets falling short, Phillips observes.

It may well be that Israel is guilty of war crimes of which it is accused. But Hamas too could could be just as complicit of creating the conditions which result in civilian deaths.

Never ending cycle

The latest war between Israel and Hamas will likely come to an end. Gazans will pick up the pieces and rebuild their homes. Israel will relax a little following the degrading of the Hamas war machine. But in time Hamas will regroup, weapons will be smuggled in and new tunnels will be dug.

For another conflict to be averted there all sides need to sit down. Hamas need to moderate in their stance against Israel. Israel too needs to offer concessions to the people of Gaza in return for a halt of hostilities. When neither side is willing to negotiate there is little chance for a lasting peace [Guardian].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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