Shelling UN schools and media soundbites in #Gaza

Last night yet another UN school was hit by Israeli shells, reportedly adding a further 16 dead to the ever growing number of fatalities in Gaza. That death toll has now more or less doubled since the Irish and UK governments abstained from the UN vote on Gaza last week. In the absurd media war that is taking place, varying weights of credibility are being attached to IDF spokespersons on individual incidents like this, as well as the wider context of the Israeli assault on Gaza. In some cases, the IDF have gone as far as to deny any fatalities have occurred as a result of Israeli shelling, such as at the UN school at Beit Hanoun, despite the fact that the testimony of everyone present flatly contradicts the IDF claims. Needless to say, most mainstream media report the IDF claims despite them being clearly contradicted by the evidence available. It goes with saying that the same media, then, don’t indulge in any significant criticism or discussion of why the IDF is putting out disinformation. Jon Snow is one obvious exception here, although he had to use YouTube rather than his employer, Channel 4.

And there is, sadly, a substantial history of IDF disinformation on attacking UN facilities like schools in Gaza (and elsewhere, such as at Qana in Lebanon). In the case of the 2008-2009 Gaza massacre, Israeli claims of rockets being fired from UN schools, like al-Fakhoura where over 40 people were killed by Israeli tank shells, were only admitted as lies in 2012. The al-Fakhoura incident occurred at the mid-point of the 2008-09 Gaza massacre, amid the usual bipolarity of UN and western posturing with no effective action to address the existing UN resolutions against the Israelis, or, remove the immediate threat to life on the ground.

Now Gaza sits in another vacuum of inertia following a UN vote. Fatalities are already on a par with the 2008-09 conflict (which the Arab world calls the ‘Gaza massacre’). Live streams from Gaza give some sense of what residents are having to cope with (eg see this one from photojournalist Jehad Saftawi). At night the sound of IDF aircraft appears ever present, with the sky often lit up by flares and explosions. Despite the (not very credible) Israeli claims of attacking specific targets, the flares, aircraft and explosions must be causing widespread sleep-deprivation and psychological trauma to those hemmed into the Gaza Strip. Particularly so, given that this is on top of the long term impacts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Whether this type of live feed from Gaza can survive the Israeli destruction of the only power station isn’t clear (although that is undoubtedly low down the immediate concerns of most Gazans).

For Gazans, on top of immediacy of the physical and very real threat to their lives, a loss or diminution of their capacity to broadcast directly to the outside will mean even more exposure to the reputational damage of relying on the mainstream media to accurately report on events. For instance, look at how that same media have continued to shift the pretext for the Israeli invasion of Gaza. The BBC are now dutifully reporting that the reason for the Israeli assault is tunnels which threaten the security of Israel. As with all sound-bite reporting, this ‘terror tunnels’ pretext doesn’t really stand up to serious scrutiny (see Greg Mitchell here, h/t to @KrustyAllslopp). In many respects this merely demarcates a third stage in a pro-Israeli media campaign, following the previous justifications used, firstly the three Israeli teens abducted and murdered in the West Bank and, then, the firing of rockets from Gaza. Knowing how the media reports on Gaza should make us even more hesitant about forming opinions from its reports on other conflicts, like Syria and Ukraine (and more generally).

The Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah, was a coalition media spokesperson during the 2008-09 Gaza massacre, and faced the reality of the western medias role. In ‘We Teach Life, Sir!’ she writes:

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits and move those that are desensitized to terrorist blood.
But they felt sorry.
They felt sorry for the cattle over Gaza.

You can watch her read the whole poem here (you’ll feel richly rewarded for the 4-5 minutes it takes to do so).

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  • Nordie Northsider

    The Israelis have awarded the contract for oil exploration in the illegally-held Golan Heights to a company linked to Dick Cheney and Rupert Murdoch. The mainstream media won’t ask too many awkward questions when their Chiefs are getting the spoils.

  • JR

    Another day, another Israeli atrocity, and the world looks on in indifference. I am not sure who said it but the quote, “Countries don’t have morals, they have interests” comes to mind. It is sickening to see the Western democracies keep quiet while a supposedly advanced nation targets civilians and civilian infrastructure, e.g. Schools, hospitals, power and sanitation infrastructure, Mosques in a collective punishment exercise for voting for Hamas.

    The country in which there is legal framework for a sickening two tire society based on Religion and Ethnicnicity is painted as the goodies while those who have been herded out of their homes at gun point into an open air refugee camp, have had economic sanctions and a blockade imposed on them to keep them weak and are routinely targeted for collective punishment in the form of massacres and ethnic cleansing are painted as the baddies.

    Israel has been sowing the wind for decades then cries foul when there is a hint of a backlash.

  • Tugger

    When you store and launch rockets at Israeli civilians from inside UN schools you turn them into legitimate military targets.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I want the shell attacks from Israel to stop, however I also want the rocket attacks that Hamas are launching on Israel to stop and it was these attacks that have led to this situation.

    There are two sides to every story.

  • JR

    When you dehumanise people to such an extent that you make stuff up to justify the killing of innocent women and children sheltering in a UN run school you are in a dark place. There has been no report from even Israel or the IDf that this was beeing used as a rocket launch site, you just made that up out of thin air.

    I will excuse you because I can tell by your insensitivity thay you have never lost a child. I havn’t either but I came close. I spent half an hour giving mouth to mouth to my son once to keep him alive. I still have nightmares about it. To think that someone can reduce the entirity of the pain caused in this attack to two throw away lines of lies containing the words “legitimate target” turns my stomach.

  • Tugger
  • JR

    You nead to read that article more carefully, It doesn’t say the school
    was used to “store and launch rockets at Israel”. It merely claims that
    there was a mortar launched at Israeili troops from near the school. So you are innacurate on Four counts.

  • Tugger

    At least three other UN schools have been warehousing Hamas rockets. This one was used as a base to attack Israeli peacekeepers. Rockets may still be located in this building at some point too. A legitimate military target if ever there was one.

  • Nordie Northsider

    ‘Israeli peacekeepers’ Oh, you’re good.

  • streetlegal

    The shelling of the school by Netanyahu was of course entirely intentional and premeditated. For a fanatical zionist, like Netanyahu, it is acceptable in the pursuit of zionist ambitions for the expansion of the state of Israel to kill Palestinian children, be they Muslim or Christian is immaterial. In his eyes they are merely ‘gentiles’.

  • barnshee

    The root cause is the occupation and the ensuing land and resource theft

    Send money

    Support the Boycott of Israel

    Hound the media especially the BBC for pro Israel bias

  • gendjinn

    You are a contemptible excuse for a human being. Your loud & proud support for the murder of children is absolutely disgusting.

  • submariner

    Why are people continuing to reply to this troll. Tugger is the banned poster UTC/Dont drink bleach.Best to ignore him until Mick gets round to banning him.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Conor Cruise-O’Brien described anti-Semitism as “a light sleeper.” Bang the woodwork, and out they crawl.

  • barnshee

    Who is behaving like NAZIS who drove people off their property -who has herded people into open air prisons– who controls access to GAZA by land sea and air –
    HINT it ain’t the Palestinians

  • Comrade Stalin

    This is basicallly the same excuse that the IRA made when it tried to justify bombing Frizell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road.

    Funny how standards slip when the shoe is on the other foot.

  • Comrade Stalin

    At least your definition of “legitimate target” has been expanded from Catholic taxi drivers and postmen.

  • carl marks

    The wood being banged is being banged by artillery shells and has children underneath it and many are dead, , I and others on this site are not anti-Semitic, we are anti-stealing land, killing children and treating people like vermin! I must say I never realised to what lengths you would go to be an apologist for child killing, you and tugger should form a little club, swop jokes, sort the world out ,you know the type of thing!

  • kensei

    Israelis gather on hillsides to cheer Palestinians being bombed:

    48% of Israels think the current level of bombing is appropriate. 49% think it is not enough:…ly_2014-Eng.pdf

    Basically racist Twitter campaign by Israeli Irish embassy:

    Time lapse of destruction of a Gaza neighbourhood:

    Extreme right protest in Tel Aviv chanting “No school in Gaza, there are no children left”:Israelis in Tel Aviv 26.7.2014: “There’s no schoo…:

    This stuff goes on and on. There is a moral sickness consuming Israel. I can only hope it is dealt with before it is irreversibly corrupts that state. I suspect not.

    Note for the stupid: this does not imply I support Hamas, I have no doubt would be as nasty as ISIS given a free reign. Nor does it imply that Israel does not have a right to exist or the right to defend itself. Nor is it applicable to “Jews” rather than the actions of some Israelis and their government.

  • Tugger

    Doesn’t Egypt control access to some of it??

  • Tugger

    What’s your point?

  • kensei

    I believe it was:

    There is a moral sickness consuming Israel. I can only hope it is dealt with before it is irreversibly corrupts that state. I suspect not.

  • gendjinn

    The former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg must a self-hating anti-semite End of Zionism.

    Next time someone showers with the racist propaganda that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East here’s an example of that “democracy” in action – Israel suspends MK for speaking

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Naive notion time:

    Given all the ‘defence’ hardware that Israel has in its possession, its ‘right to defend itself’ and the (relative) impotency of the Hamas rockets would it not be a practical (rather than political) idea to just sit tight for a year and blow the rockets out of the sky (as they have been doing, with few or any casualties)?

    1/ It neither increases nor decreases the Israeli death toll
    2/ Hamas would get a red face from being unable to score any hits, they would in effect appear impotent; could there be anything worse for Hamas than having their rockets not even disturb Israelis supping cocktails? How demoralising.
    3/ (Obviously) saves the trauma of the civilians in Gaza
    4/ The surge of anger and bereavement in Gaza can only lead to more, not less, support for Hamas, once someone is cornered then what choice do they really have?

    5/ The world wide backlash against jews in other countries would be reduced.
    6/ IF after a year or two Hamas are still at it (despite having been emasculated) THEN Israel would perhaps be a bit more justified with regards to going in plus they’ll have got to have played the victim for a year.

    To use a pub analogy, if I were in a pub and attacked by a small hysterical woman I possibly ‘could’ get away with chinning her, but I imagine it would be better to put my guard up, weather the storm for a while and then point out to the world what a crazy bitch she is and portray myself as the victim rather than just landing one on her chin, knocking her out and risking the wrath of friends, police, bouncers and being vilified as the bad guy for evermore even though I was only ‘defending’ myself.

    The bigger and stronger you are then more defence choices you have (hence ‘the small woman’ in the analogy, a medium sized woman might do some real damage to frail little me)

  • Mister_Joe

    Israel has the right to defend itself, just like any other country in the world. But what Israel has been doing over the past few weeks to civilians in Gaza goes well beyond, enormously well beyond, self defence. As others have suggested, I too believe that what we are seeing is an attempt at genocide. That is totally within Netanyahu’s mindset which has always been his agreement with/pandering to what was a small subset of the population initially. Most of the world agrees that the only long term solution is a two state one with sufficient guarantees of security for Israel alongside the right of the Palestinians to govern themselves. Despite his pretence at agreement with that, pushed by the USA, Netanyahu has continuously shown himself to be implacably opposed to that solution.

  • npbinni

    I know most people have lost interest in Gaza, but here are a couple of links to two short videos, one from France 24, showing the grotesque abuse by Hamas of Palestinian civilians and children, the UN and the western media. &