Asa Winstanley / Electronic Intifada & Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson / Mondoweiss – 2015-08-24 01:09:53
Israeli Defense Minister Promises to Kill More Civilians and Threatens to Nuke Iran
Asa Winstanley / Lobby Watch
(May 6, 2015) — Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon on Tuesday said Israel would attack entire civilian neighborhoods during any future assault on Gaza or Lebanon.
Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem, Yaalon threatened that “we are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion . . . we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.”
The Israeli official also appeared to threaten to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran, although he said “we are not there yet.”
In response to a question about Iran, Yaalon said that “in certain cases” when “we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations” Israel might take “certain steps” such as the Americans did in “Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000.”
Relating a July 2013 meeting with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Yaalon recalled promising Israel would bomb the entire Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya.
He showed Ban photos of villages in Lebanon and of “certain neighborhoods in Gaza, to include well-known Shujaiya, with many red spots” which he claimed were “terror assets in the densely populated urban area. And I said — July 2013 — we are going to hit it.”
Yaalon was true to his word. The Shujaiya massacre was among the most brutal examples of Israeli war crimes during last summer’s attack on the Gaza Strip.
Israel killed 2,257 Palestinians during the 51-day assault, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA. Of that number, OCHA says 70 percent were civilians, including 563 children (Defence for Children International — Palestine has documented 547 child deaths).
The 20 July 2014 attack on Shujaiya was the most bloody day of the war, when Israel bombed the entire neighborhood indiscriminately. Initial reports on the day said 60 bodies had been brought out of the rubble. Later reports suggested death tolls of 90 or 120.
Threat of BDS
The conference was titled “Towards a new law of war” and was intended to help Israel use “lawfare” to defend its crimes in courts around the world.
Update, 13 May:
Shurat HaDin yesterday uploaded video of the full Yaalon speech to their YouTube channel.
The other main theme of Yaalon’s speech, which closed the conference, was the “challenge” of BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions. The Palestinian-led global movement aims to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.
Yaalon sought to cast the grassroots activist movement as a kind of military front. He said that “delegitimization, BDS and lawfare” were just “another tool” in the war of Israel’s enemies.
He complained that he had been unable to visit European countries because of the possibility he could have been arrested for suspected war crimes under universal jurisdiction law: “I prefer not to go to [the] UK, to London for about 10 years, or to Spain for a while.”
In 2011, under Israeli pressure, the UK government changed its laws to make it easier for Israeli war crimes suspects to visit the country. Although the changes have meant that several high-level Israeli politicians and military officers have been able to visit since, in 2013 retired Major-General Doron Almog canceled a visit to London because of an outstanding warrant for his arrest related to war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.
Yaalon lamented that Israeli soldiers now have to be taught that “we should be ready to give up a visit to London . . . but it’s not fair, it is not just.”
But, apparently referring to the law changes, he said they “found the common language to discuss these issues with our friends, with our allies.”
He also described criticism of Israel in international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council as a “war after the war” and advocated that “we should fight them back.”
He said there should be no investigations of Israeli soldiers just because of “collateral damage” — a euphemism for the killing of civilians.
The conference was organized by Shurat HaDin, a group of Israeli lawyers which is at the forefront of using courts around the world to defend Israeli war crimes, and attack Palestine solidarity groups.
In 2013, as I reported for The Electronic Intifada at the time, it was revealed that the group has extremely close ties to the Israeli security establishment, to the extent of acting as a proxy group for the Mossad, Israel’s deadly overseas spy agency.
During his speech Yaalon heaped effusive praise on Shurat HaDin and its leader Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. He thanked the group “for the activities of Shurat HaDin fighting one of Israel’s challenges of today, the lawfare, BDS, delegitimzation of the state of Israel . . . Nitsana thank you very much for what you are doing for the state of Israel.”
He said Israel and its supporters should use courts around the world “to fight them back,” meaning critics of Israel, and that this is exactly what Shurat HaDin does.
“Hasbara is not the right term,” he continued in the question and answer session, “it’s a war . . . Each of us can become to be a warrior in this war. By talkbacking, by blogging, by disseminating articles, by raising our case.”
Hasbara (literally “explanation” in Hebrew) is the Israeli term for propaganda.
Justifying Israeli attacks on civilians was the main theme of the conference. Speaker after speaker lined up to reinterpret international law so that it would, supposedly, allow the killing of Palestinian and other Arab civilians.
This was justified with familiar canards about the supposed use by Palestinian resistance factions of “human shields,” which then inevitably results in Palestinian civilian dead. In other words, Israel was being forced to kill civilians.
Yaalon did similar by saying that the civilian neighborhoods Israel had bombed had contained “rocket rooms.”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Yaalon is likely to continue as defense minister in the newly-agreed government headed by his Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in coalition with the Jewish Home and other ultra-right-wing parties.
The Electronic Intifada watched the entire conference by livestream and will be reporting more detail soon.
An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He has been visiting Palestine regularly since 2004.
NYT Plays Shameless Propagandist for
Israel’s Threats to Kill Lebanese Civilians
Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson / Mondoweiss
(May 13, 2015) — Israel is preparing for another war that kills masses of civilians — and it’s preparing its propaganda campaign early with the New York Times happy to help.
Today’s Times has a long piece titled, “Israel Says Hezbollah Positions Put Lebanese at Risk,” by Isabel Kershner, containing numerous warnings from Israel that it will strike Lebanese villages and kill civilians in order to get at Hezbollah forces. Some excerpts:
As Israel prepares for what it sees as an almost inevitable next battle with Hezbollah, the Shiite Lebanese organization that fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006, Israeli military officials and experts are warning that the group has done more than significantly build up its firepower since then. . . .
[T]he Israelis are blunt about the implications: They will not hesitate to strike at those targets, so southern Lebanon will most likely be the scene of widespread destruction.
Effectively, the Israelis are warning that in the event of another conflict with Hezbollah, many Lebanese civilians will probably be killed, and that it should not be considered Israel’s fault.
“The civilians are living in a military compound,” a senior Israeli military official said at military headquarters in Tel Aviv. . . .
Israel says the situation is similar in the Gaza Strip, where, it says, Hamas is using the same tactic of hiding its forces among civilians.
“Historically, armed forces have separated themselves from the population, in uniform,” the senior Israeli military official said. “This is not the case here or in Gaza.” He accused Hezbollah of cynically using civilians. . .
“At the end of the day, it means that many, many Lebanese will be killed,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser now at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
First, how can you justify running such an article without mentioning and describing the Dahiya doctrine, a war policy Israel adopted during that 2006 war in which it pulverized an entire neighborhood of Beirut with huge civilian losses because Hezbollah was based there?
The Dahiya doctrine is considered a war crime, as it targets civilian infrastructure in an effort to deter militant attacks by making militants think twice about where they set up operations.
Dahiya was implemented in Gaza in 2009, according to the Goldstone Report, and last summer in Gaza, when neighborhoods of Beit Lahiya, Khuza’a, and Shuja’iyeh were obliterated because they were seen as havens for militants, resulting in the loss of hundreds of civilians’ lives.
The Times reporter (whose son entered the Israeli army last year) quotes Amos Yadlin, an Israeli military figure, approving that doctrine without any suggestion that it’s a war crime:
“We already made it clear in 2006 that people in the villages do not have immunity if we have intelligence that they intend to fire at Israel. . .”
Second, how can the New York Times justify its continuing blackout of the new Israeli soldiers’ report from Breaking the Silence? That report gives the blueprint on the wholesale assault on neighborhoods that Israeli military leaders approve in the Times. From the Times today:
An Israeli expert familiar with military planning said that if Israel attacked Lebanon again, it would probably do so in three phases. First, it would strike without warning at targets that pose the greatest threat, he said; then it would call for civilians to evacuate southern Lebanon. Once a critical mass of people had left, ground troops would move in.
The Breaking the Silence report documents that same procedure in Gaza last summer: Israel declares a neighborhood to be a military stronghold, it leaflets the neighborhood and tells everyone to leave, it waits a little while and then the neighborhood becomes a free-fire zone.
Breaking the Silence documented war crimes by showing that this policy was effected with orders to kill anybody that moved, for instance two women talking on cellphones in an orchard — a “mad” policy, according to Breaking the Silence leaders.
The Guardian said, “Israeli soldiers cast doubt on legality of Gaza military tactics. Testimonies of Israeli combatants about last year’s war show apparent disregard for safety of civilians.”
The Times refers to “the inevitable international censure that comes with civilian casualties,” but never says such actions are criminal.
Third, why would the NYT use a Hezbollah-linked person as the main source on Israel’s bombing of civilians in the 2006 war?
A Hezbollah sympathizer in Lebanon who is familiar with the organization’s military activities said. . . that Israel had killed civilians in Lebanon during past conflicts. He noted cases of Israeli strikes hitting United Nations positions during hostilities, including in Qana in 1996, when more than 100 people were killed in a United Nations shelter.
These civilian attacks are a well-known fact, documented and condemned by groups such as Human Rights Watch, which also wrote about the massive use of cluster munitions by Israel.
Using Hezbollah as the source and contrasting their claims with those of Israeli officials is an example of “he said, she said” journalism — at best it is lazy and at worst it implies that nothing on this subject can be nailed down and so it becomes a question of which side you choose to believe.
Although the NYT does not dispute what the Hezbollah spokesperson said, it also doesn’t dispute the Israeli claims. Human rights violations that have been clearly established should not be relegated to the level of competing propaganda claims by the two sides.
The NYT is in the business of blowing smoke on this subject: there is never a time in the paper when Israel is unambiguously guilty of war crimes.
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