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Covering up Gaza
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 13th, 2006 7:29 PM
The state of Israel, fearful of the truth, continues to control media coverage of its brutal occupation, writes Jonathan Cook*
One early and easy victory for Israel in Gaza has been in its battle to manage the news. Israel's invasion is a very private war against Gaza's population, to which only invited guests -- the representatives of our major media outlets -- are being given access.

In the last Iraq war, America set a precedent by requiring Western reporters to "embed" with its forces before they were let near the battlefield. Israel is following suit, adopting similar measures to control the flow of bad news from Gaza.

The restrictions on who can report and what they can tell us explain in part why more than a fortnight after an Israeli soldier was captured, almost every Western reporter is still referring to him as "kidnapped"; why the destruction of vital civilian infrastructure such as Gaza's only power plant is described as "pressure" rather than what it is -- collective punishment, a violation of international law and a war crime; and why the deaths of large numbers of Palestinians, civilians and militants, in the current attacks are receiving far less coverage than the deaths of the two soldiers enforcing the occupation that gave Israel the pretext to launch its invasion.

Gaza -- a giant open-air prison -- could not offer a more perfect environment for an occupier wanting to manage the news. Israel controls the borders and can decide who is allowed in and who is refused access. Freedom of the press is meaningless on these terms.

Israel developed its own "embedding" strategy during the disengagement from Gaza last year. Only journalists from the big news organisations were allowed into the Strip, on special army buses that drove straight to the settlements. Those without accreditation from the main media organisations, and those who had upset Israel with their previous reports, had little hope of gaining entry. Disfavoured journalists were doubtless supposed to take note for next time, and change the tone of their coverage.

by Electronic Intifada (reposted)
Thursday Jul 13th, 2006 7:29 PM
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have named their relentless military operation in Gaza “Summer Rain” (gishmei ha-qeitz in Hebrew), which is cruel and sarcastic given the political, historical, and environmental context of the Eastern Mediterranean. It does not rain in the summer in this region. From early May to mid-September, one can expect clear skies and no precipitation. What is raining, though, is fire and metal, along with leaflets bearing chillingly familiar threats.

Any Palestinian in Gaza, or indeed anyone who knows what happened in Lebanon one scorching summer 24 years ago, will be appropriately terrified by those leaflets warning people of the firestorms to come. The metal rains of the summer of 1982 in Beirut were heavy and deadly. No one stopped the IDF then from committing massive crimes, directed against an Arab capital crowded with civilians. And sadly, no one will stop them now. Thursday morning, President G.W. Bush and the newly elected German leader Angela Merkel reiterated that Israel has the "right to defend herself."

Institutionalized Israeli impunity is an amazing phenomenon: The capture of one Israeli soldier, taken as a bargaining chip to ransom hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children held in administrative detention in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, now provides the unquestioned and self-righteous pretext for massive violations of international humanitarian law. Given the mainstream media’s depiction of Palestinians as cruel, heartless terrorists, and Hamas as the most evil organization ever to exist, the IDF can safely assume they'll get away with crimes this summer that will rival those committed in 1982, when 17,000 civilians lost their lives in Lebanon and Beirut was put to a brutal siege during the hottest months of the year.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 13th, 2006 7:30 PM
If moral debasement were a sought after currency, the state of Israel would be the richest country on earth, writes Khaled Amayreh in Palestine

On Wednesday, shortly before dawn, Israeli warplanes fired several missiles at a three-storey building in the densely populated Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in central Gaza, killing nine members of a single family. Israel said the bombing targeted Mohamed Dheif, one of Hamas's prominent resistance leaders. Dheif was reportedly injured moderately in the bombing. Fatalities include a professor at the Islamic University of Gaza, his wife and their seven children.

The new carnage is reminiscent of the 8 June obliteration of the Ghalia family, seven of whose members were killed by Israeli shelling while picnicking on a Gaza beach. The bombing also recalls Israel's murder of Salah Shehadeh, a Hamas military commander, in 2002 by dropping a one-tonne bomb on the apartment building in which he was living, killing 14 other people, including 11 children.

Medical rescuers Wednesday spoke of a woman cut into two parts, decapitated children and bodies mutilated beyond recognition.

"I don't know if there is any longer any difference between the Nazis and the Jews. The Nazis used gas chambers, the Zio-Nazis are using F-16s to carry out the same job; to slaughter children in order to appease their people's thirst for Palestinian blood," said Mohamed Salmieh, a relative of Nabil Salmieh whose home was bombed and destroyed.

"I think the Jews and the Americans are the Nazis of our time. These despicable child killers are no better than the Gestapo and the SS," said the obviously enraged and devastated young man.

The Israeli occupation army, now completely nonchalant about killing Palestinian civilians, admitted that the home was hit deliberately, claiming that a group of Hamas leaders were holding a meeting there. Hamas denied the Israeli account, calling it "cheap lies concocted by murderers and child killers". Hamas officials accused Israel of the deliberate extermination of entire families in order to make Palestinians suffer.

The fresh bloody violence came as dozens of Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles rumbled into central Gaza, effectively cutting Gaza in two. Israeli leaders have indicated on several occasions that they would go to any extent in order to deter Palestinians from capturing other Israeli soldiers for the purpose of using them as political bargaining chips. The captors of Corporal Gilad Shalit have said they would release him only if Israel agrees to free hundreds of Palestinian children and women interned in Israeli prisons.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 13th, 2006 7:31 PM
Israel's Gaza offensive is prohibited by international law as both collective punishment and a reversal of the duties of an occupying power

Speaking from the presidential headquarters in Gaza City Friday night, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Israel's wave of incursions into Gaza had unleashed "new crimes against humanity", as he pleaded with the international community and the UN Security Council to pressure Israel to end "this destructive policy immediately".

Abbas accused Israel "of trying to collapse the Hamas government, while trying to bring down the Palestinian Authority wholesale", in destroying schools, a power plant, bridges, roads and government buildings.

Israeli forces began a major military offensive on the Gaza Strip 25 June, extracting a high price from the civilian population, including over 50 fatalities, purportedly to free an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian resistance fighters and to halt the firing of home-made Qassam rockets into Israel.

Israel decided to collectively punish the Gaza population by cutting off the supply of electricity, fuel, water, food staples and sewage treatment services. Hundreds of patients who received medical treatment in Egypt were stranded at the Rafah terminal along the Gaza-Egypt border for days, and ambulances inside the Strip cannot move freely due to the presence of Israeli forces and the destruction of all three major access bridges.

Gaza's southern population has been isolated from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City that provides treatment unavailable elsewhere. The World Health Organisation estimates that although hospitals and 50 per cent of primary healthcare centres have generators, fuel stocks will be depleted within two weeks.

"The Israeli air strikes on Gaza's only power plant have had a far-reaching impact on Gaza's hospitals, flour mills, water and sanitation systems. The strict controls imposed during past weeks on the passage of basic products into Gaza, including fuel, have aggravated the difficulties of the population," admonished UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan Saturday.

Israeli forces bombed the only power station in Gaza 28 June, destroying six transformers that supplied 43 per cent of Gaza's electricity. The rest of the electricity is supplied by Israel, increasing Palestinian dependence on Israel for basic services. The Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported, "civilians are disproportionately paying the price of this conflict," calling on Israel to keep the Nahal Oz fuel pipelines and Karni Crossing -- the only commercial entry point into Gaza -- open to meet humanitarian needs.