Cutting through the bullshit.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Human shields

Back in August, I posted on Jonathan Cook’s discussion of Israeli use of Israeli citizens as human shields in last year’s Lebanon war. In an important new article in yesterday’s Counterpunch, he provides new evidence that it was overwhelmingly Israel and not Hizb’allah that was ‘cowardly blending’ with the civilian population and the inconsistent approach that the Human Rights Watch reports adopted to war crimes.

HRW did made a brief reference to the possibility that Israeli military installations were located close to or inside civilian communities. It cited examples of a naval training base next to a hospital in Haifa and a weapons factory built in a civilian community. Its researchers even admitted to watching the Israeli army firing shells into Lebanon from a residential street of the Jewish community of Zarit.

This act of “cowardly blending” by the Israeli army -- to echo the UN envoy Jan Egeland’s unwarranted criticism of Hizbullah -- was a war crime. It made Israeli civilians a potential target for Hizbullah reprisal attacks.

So what was HRW’s position on this gross violation of the rules of war it had witnessed? After yet again denouncing Hizbullah for its rocket attacks, the report was mealy-mouthed: “Given that indiscriminate fire [by Hizbullah], there is no reason to believe that Israel’s placement of certain military assets within these cities added appreciably to the risk facing their residents.”

In other words, some are guilty unless proven innocent and others are innocent even after proven guilty.


  1. This also is related to the absurd argument that the use of weapons that can't be aimed properly by an organization that doesn't have the means to procure better arms is ipso facto a war crime, even if said organization did attempt to hit military targets. (But, of course, as you point out HRW assumes mendacious intent on Hezbollah's part anyway.)

    Oh, and happy new year!

  2. The Murder of Jewish Toddlers!

    On July 12, 2006 Lebanese Hezbollah militants crossed the border with Israel in an operation dubbed "Operation Truthful Promise," which was aimed at nabbing Israeli soldiers in exchange for Lebanese prisoners. Hezbollah succeeded in the operation and successfully took hostage two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. During the operation, eight Israeli soldiers were killed. This ignited the sequence of events which led to the Israel/Lebanon summer war.

    The story goes further back than July of 2006. It really began in April 1979! On Sabbath day, April 22, 1979, Danny and Smadar Haran met up with a monster named Samir Kuntar.
    Danny and Smadar were a loving Israeli couple. They had everything they could ever hope for... love, marriage and two precious daughters, Einat, 4 and Yael, 2. That day Smadar was home anticipating Danny's return from work and preparing for the Sabbath. She had just picked up their two toddlers from day care. Danny, on the other hand, was looking forward to nothing more than getting home and spending time with his wife and his two young daughters.

    Traditionally, the Sabbath is the most special day of the week, the day the family gets to spend time together and celebrate their bond to Judaism. It was especially important for Danny who, as a young father, had to work extra hard in order to provide for his wife and young children. Little did Smadar know that this would be the last Sabbath she would celebrate with her family because of a man named Samir Kuntar. Around midnight the nightmare began!

    (Samir Kuntar; also spelled: Sameer Kuntar, Kantar, Qantar, Kintar, Quntar, Qintar, Cantar)
    What's the deal with Samir Kuntar?

    Since April 22, 1979 Samir Kuntar has been incarcerated in an Israeli prison. Samir Kuntar, a Druze from the Lebanese mountain village of Aabey , who currently holds the dubious distinction of being the longest held Lebanese prisoner in Israeli jails. Kuntar is currently ONE of THREE Lebanese prisoners still serving time in Israeli jails. Kuntar was convicted and sentenced to a 542 years prison sentence by the state of Israel . Israel even almost tried to pass a bill to have him executed! What did he do? What was his crime? The crime Kuntar committed was one of the most sickest, heinous, barbaric crime ever committed on Israeli soil.

    The crime took place on April 22, 1979 when Kuntar led a group of 3 other terrorists, all members of Abu Abbas PLF (Palestinian Liberation Front), infiltrated the Israeli coastal city of Naharya and broke into the Haran family apartment and took Danny Haran and his 4 year old daughter Einat Haran hostage. When Kuntar and his gang broke into the apartment, the wife, Smadar Haran and her 2 year old daughter Yael, were also present in the apartment. Smadar managed to find a crawl space into which she, her younger daughter, 2 year old Yael, and a neighbor all hid. To prevent Yael from crying and giving away their hiding place, Smadar covered the child's mouth with her hand.

    Kuntar and his group took Danny and little Einat down to the beach. At the beach Kuntar shot Danny in the back. Danny survived the gun shot but moments later was drowned personally by Kuntar. All this was witnessed by the young daughter. Kuntar forced her to watch her father's murder so that [in Kuntar's words] "his death would be the last sight she would ever see." Kuntar then laid the little toddler down on a rock and smashed her head with the butt of his rifle. She didn▓t die right away, so Kuntar beat her with his rifle repeatedly, over and over again (all this done, while she was screaming and crying), to ensure that she was dead.

    Meanwhile in the apartment, Smadar's attempt to muffle her daughter's whimpering proved fatal. Yael was accidentally suffocated and died within the hiding space.
    And on July 12, 2006, the ONLY reason why Ehud Goldawasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hezbollah, was to force Israel to release/surrender Samir Kuntar.
    Now the dilemma is, should Israel release Samir Kuntar in order to gain the release of Goldwasser and Regev? Unfortunately Kuntar might be freed in the next couple of days in exchange for these two soldiers, or their caskets, since there hasn▓t been even one sign of life since their kidnapping on July 12th. For those who didn▓t know, Samir Kuntar was the only reason that▓s been holding back the release of Goldwasser and Regev, for almost a year and a half.

    According to Smadar Haran, her last memories of Danny and Einat, that day, were when they were being led away at gun point by Kuntar. She could hear from her closet space Danny telling Einat, "Don't be scared, my baby, it will be alright" and Einat replied to him in her little voice, "Dad, where is Mommy? I want Mommy." Smadar's last memory of her 2-year-old daughter, Yael, was when her little daughter was taken to the apartment hiding space. Right before Yael had her mouth covered by her mother, she asked her mother "Where is my little pacifier." There was no time to search for the pacifier. Minutes later Smadar covered Yael's mouth to keep her from revealing the hiding space. Smadar soon felt her daughter's tiny tongue licks and lip sucking on the palm of her hand. She didn't know what to make of it at first but hours later was told by doctors and paramedics that the reason Yael was licking her palm while she covered her mouth was because she was gasping for air.

    A Sad Gruesome Reality

    After drowning Danny in the sea in front of little Einat, Kuntar, the brave Lebanese freedom fighter, then turned his attention towards the frightened little 4-year old. He took his rifle and then swung it across the little toddler's head, knocking her to the ground. As little Einat was knocked to the ground, she was screaming and crying hysterically "mommy daddy help me," while thrashing her little legs around in the sand. But unfortunately Einat was alone, and no one was there to save her. Kuntar then dragged the little toddler a couple of feet to the closest rock he could find, this was while she was begging him not to hurt her. Kuntar, then laid her head down on a rock, with the intention of crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Einat, instinctively covered her head with her little arms, Kuntar struggled with the little toddler until he finally managed to clear her arms out of the way so that he could aim for her head. Once her arms were out of the way, Kuntar proceeded on beating her on the head over and over with the butt of his rifle, and stomping on her little body repeatedly as well, until blood rushed out of her ears and mouth, and her little cries faded away as she was knocked into unconsciousness. Then, to ensure she was dead, Kuntar continued on beating her over the head, as hard as he could, several more times until her skull was crushed and she was dead.

    The nerve of Hezbollah to honor a child killer like Kuntar. The nerve of Hezbollah to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in order to force Israel to release a child murderer from jail! This is what Hezbollah is all about.

    The July 12, 2006 abduction was originally named "Operation Freedom Samir Kuntar," by Hezbollah. But days before the kidnapping Hezbollah changed the name of the operation to "Operation Truthful Promise," due to the fact that Nasrallah made a true promise to the family of Samir Kuntar to have him freed from jail.

    In September 2000, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah, along with an Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tennenbaum. Nasrallah immediately demanded Israel release all its Lebanese prisoners INCLUDING Samir Kuntar. In 2004 Israel was holding a TOTAL of 26 Lebanese prisoners. That same year, 23 out of those 26 prisoners were released, in order to secure the release of those 3 IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers as well and Elhanan Tennenbaum. This prisoner exchange also had a second phase, which involved Hezbollah providing solid evidence on the fate of Ron Arad (the Israeli pilot who went missing in Lebanon in 1986) and in exchange, Israel would release the 24th Lebanese prisoner, Samir Kuntar! Hezbollah failed to deliver the information on Arad, and the deal was off.

    In 2006, when Goldwasser and Regev were kidnapped Israel was out of bargain chips, its only choice in order to gain information on the fate of these two soldiers is the release Samir Kuntar. Who even knows if Goldwasser and Regev are alive! Let▓s not forget, the four years prior to the "infamous Israel-Hezbollah prisoner exchange of 2004," Israel had no idea on the fate of their soldiers until the day of the exchange. Only on the day of the exchange Israel found out, they would receive 3 caskets instead of 3 soldiers.

    It is beyond sickening, a man who beat to death a little toddler is celebrated for his glorious deed. Kuntar has been dubbed by some parts of the Arab world as the "Dean of World Prisoners." Who would imagine? Hezbollah crossing the border into Israel, killing four Israeli soldiers and kidnapping 2 more, going through all this trouble, JUST to free a child killer!
    There is another point worth mentioning. Hezbollah has never claimed that Kuntar was innocent or that he may have been framed. They only demand his release as if he were being held unlawfully and that Israel had no right to imprison him.

    Kuntar is probably the most hated person by the Israeli public. He is known as the "killer of Nahrya" instead of "terrorist of Nahrya." And to think that this person is being released under the context of threat, extortion, and blackmail! If it wasn▓t for kidnapping of soldiers, Kuntar would have continued to serve out his sentence.

    Israel has an extensive history of releasing prisoner with blood on their hands, it has been done in the past and most expect that, it would happen again. This time with Kuntar. It is important to keep in mind that prisoners who are in Israeli jails are serving time for something. Israel is not a "gangster" or "lawless" state that imprisons people based solely on a whim. Every prisoner was charged, stood trail, convicted and properly sentenced. They were not kidnapped simply because they were Arabs. Hence, there is no justification in comparing the kidnapped Israeli soldiers to Samir Kuntar.

    There is a fine line between a humanitarian release of prisoners or releasing prisoners for the sake of peace AND knuckling under to unadulterated extortion. There is also a huge difference between someone with hatred in his head and he who has blood on his hands! Nobody expects that someone like Kuntar who is released will become Lovers of Israel! But someone and others like Kuntar who have committed murder or collaborated in the planning of that murder should be considered an unacceptable risk. It goes beyond forgiving terrorism. It becomes an abetting in any future terrorism carried out by those released. Israel will viewed as a weak state that can be brought to its knees by extortion.

    If Israel was to release Kuntar it would be the biggest thing they ever surrendered! The Sinai Peninsula, Israel gave back under negotiations, the West Bank and Gaza Israel also gave back under negotiations of the Oslo Accords. In 1985 during the famous "Ahmed Jibril Exchange" Israel released 1200 prisoners for the release of 3 IDF soldiers, some of those prisoners who were released had blood on their hands including Kozo Okamoto who killed 22 Israelis. BUT even all those 1200 prisoners put together, cannot compare to the savage murderous act committed by Samir Kuntar. Israel also currently holds 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of which have been incarcerated for conspiring, carrying out, and masterminding murderous terrorist attacks (suicide bombings, shootings, etc┘), which targeted Jewish civilians in Israel. BUT even all those 10,000 prisoners put together cannot compare to Kuntar.

    Kuntar could have shot little Einat or blown her up, but instead he took his loaded gun and just bludgeoned her on the head repeatedly for several minutes until she was dead! Lets not also forget, the fact, that several minutes prior to murdering Einat, Kuntar drowned her father in front of her, and forced her to watch.

    Anyone, who reads this article and does not shed a tear, is not a human being.

    What kind of country is this to release a child murderer from jail under the context of threat and extortion? If we release Kuntar, we know what message it sends to Hezbollah and other terror groups like Hamas, etc┘ But what obscene messages does it send to the families of those Israeli murdered, especially Smadar Haran whose daughter was beaten to death by a man who hates Jews. What Kuntar did was not only a terrorist act but should also be considered a criminal act. And what demoralizing message does it send to the Israeli troops and security services who risked their lives in order to capture and arrest the terrorists?
    There is no doubt that Goldwasser and Regev need to be unconditionally released from Lebanon, Syria, Iran or from wherever they are now being held. Olmert's "good will gesture" has disaster written all over it. Appeasement didn't work with Hitler and it will not work with Hezbollah. "Negotiations" will not work either for over what exactly is there to negotiate? How far will Israel go to assure its own disappearance?

    There will be nothing positive coming out of the release of Kuntar. There is no worst context of releasing prisoners than under the context of threat. But today October 15, 2007 there is chatter within Israel to drop the demand for Ron Arad for the exchange of Kuntar.

    The Official Website of Samir Kuntar

    Israel moots Kuntar prisoner swap
    (AL-JAZEERA 9/17/2006)

    Free the monster Samir Kuntar
    (Haaretz article 09/04/2006)

    Plot to free terrorist (Kuntar) may have led to fight
    (Washington Times 8/8/2006)

    Nasrallah says no deal without Samir
    (9/12/2006 BBC article "Nasrallah Demands Militant Free")

    "Hizballah Wants Israel to Free Child-Killer"
    (Cybercast News Service, 7/18/2006)

    More than 25 years later, militant still atop Hezbollah's list for swap
    (Seattle Times 8/16/2006)

    Why Hezbollah Attacked Israel
    (Mens News Daily 8/09/2006)

    Samir Kuntar to be released very soon
    The Jerusalem Post 1/6/2007

  3. A critical reading of Jonathan Cook on Hezbollah and Israel

    Sol Salbe

    Disclosure: Jonathan Cook is a journalist whom I have previously described as being more critical of Israel than he needs to be. I am not a fan. With that out of the way I think that the following is an example of how not to do a good job reporting. Cook takes a report which I regard as both valid and valuable on the behaviour of both the Israeli military and Hezbollah during the war. He then proceeds to add his own comments. Some of this are valid but far too many are simply wrong, (and, as I understand it, Cook can read Hebrew and he therefore ought to know they are wrong.) The result is an article with credibility gaps that uncritical supporters of Israel can drive a D9 bulldozer through, without touching the sides. Perhaps some audiences will ignore the details and choose to trust Cook. It may not be important for some if the central thrust remains valid. But unless you are only preaching to converted, and do not wish to convince anyone of your case, it is important to tell the truth. Why score an own goal for your opponents?

    Let’s get down to specifics.

    Israel had held on to a handful of Lebanese prisoners after its pullback.1 Most of these prisoners, including some who were specifically kidnapped for the purpose of exchanging them for an Israeli navigator, were actually exchanged on 29 January 2004 for a high-ranking Israeli drug dealer and the remains of three Israeli soldiers. At the last moment Israel declined to hand over the longest serving Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar (regarded by many Israelis as particularly unsavoury) who was actually part of a Palestinian rather Lebanese outfit. It was the Kuntar’s release rather than anyone held over from the occupation of Lebanon that formed Hezbollah central demand.

    UN catrographers disagree, backing Hizbullah’s claim that the area is Lebanese.2 No they didn’t. In fact Israel sought and received a certificate from the UN that it has withdrawn out of every square millimetre of Lebanese territory. After that an Israeli researcher found the documentary evidence in Paris showing that in the Shebaa farms actually belonged to Lebanon. But it was only after the war that UN cartographers expressed the view that the area may indeed belong to Lebanon after all. The present writer happens to think that on the balance of the evidence the UN made a mistake in its original determination but re-writing history, particularly when it is so well known, is just not on.

    Hizbullah attacked a border post3. It was actually a mobile patrol. There’s no political significance here but it does show sloppy journalism.

    Israel dropped more than a million cluster bombs4 A fair proportion of these were actually MLRS rockets and shells fired from the ground. These are even less accurate than air borne bombs. The significance here is that it appears that it was the ground troops (composed mainly of conscripts and reservists) who are likely to be the source of Meron Rapoport’s reports on the subject in Haaretz. A lot less gets leaked out of the air force which mainly uses career pilots. My understanding is up to four million bomblets were used.

    The hostile climate in Israel towards the fifth of the population who are Arab has made publication of the report a risky business. Azmi Bishara, Israel’s leading Arab politician and a major critic of Israel’s behaviour during the Lebanon war, is currently in exile under possible death sentence5. Cook uses a slight of hand here - sure there’s a death sentence for treason in Israel but seeing that it has never been applied no one in the Israeli media or Left blogosphere has seriously expressed the opinion that Bishara faces death (I know of one private expression of that opinion though). Of course a life sentence in an Israel jail could be perceived as worse than death. [On the other hand Israel has killed hundreds of Palestinians without resorting to any trial through “targetted killings” which the Hebrew media usually refers to by the more accurate rubric of “liquidations”.]

    Nonetheless they have successfully intimidated most of the Arab minority into silence.6 As an avid reader of the Israeli media including left-wing websites I’ve not noticed any cowering by Palestinian Israelis. I’d be interested to see Cook’s proof

    …a reporter from Maariv quoted parents in the Arab village of Fassuta complaining that children were wetting their beds because of the frightening bark of tanks stationed outside their homes.7 I couldn’t find that report (not all Ma’ariv articles make it to the Net.) I did, however, find a report from a year later where military correspondent Amir Buhbut of Ma’ariv was reminiscing about the time he spent “with the commander of the IDF’s Artillery Corps, Brigadier-General Lawrence Mualem, when he conducted the ‘rain of shells’ on southern Lebanon.” Again it may sound better to talk about tanks but the bombardment that did take place from that location was carried out by heavy guns that do much more damage.

    …it was widely reported during the war that 12 soldiers were killed when a Hizbullah rocket struck the rural community of Kfar Giladi, close to the northern border8. Cook is being disingenuous here. The reason the soldiers were killed was that they were outside Kfar Giladi and had not made use of its ample shelters. [And did not take any alternative measures such as digging themselves into trenches.] This matter has received wide-spread publicity as some of the parents of the dead soldiers accused the kibbutz of deliberately keeping their sons out in order to minimise the risk of Hezbollah attacks. The IDF had recently cleared the kibbutz pointing out that it was the IDF’s decision not to let the soldiers in. With ample evidence of Israeli operation from within Jewish communities why pick one where the very opposite is well documented?

    Plainly there are just too many errors and misleading statements here. It would be better for Cook to have concentrated on the actual report rather than his embellishments. As it is, he is at his best when does precisely that as he does here:

    “The Human Rights Association, however, reaches a rather different conclusion, one based on the available evidence. Its research shows a clear correlation between an Arab community having an Israeli army base located next to it and the likelihood of it being hit by Hizbullah rockets. In short, Arab communities targeted by Hizbullah were almost exclusively those in which the Israeli army was based.

    “’The study found that the Arab towns and villages that suffered the most intensive attacks during the war were ones that were surrounded by military installations, either on a permanent basis or temporarily during the course of the war,’ the report states.”

  4. anybody know anything about the internet access blackout in the middle east and India at the minute?

    apparently a set of undersea cables were severed.

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  7. Greg Potemkin29 May, 2008 04:36

    Wow, I hadn't read this from Jonathan Cook until now. Thanks for posting it.

  8. Ernie, this is a response to your comment on Eli's blog that Gore and Bush are really identical.

    Bush's first action was to take money from poor, pregnant foreigners. His very first action was to re-instate the Mexico City Gag Rule, which prevents money from going to any overseas family planning group that _mentions_ abortion.

    No, maybe you, white American, don't think poor, pregnant brown women count, but right off the bat, from the very first act, it is obvious a Bush and Gore administration are different.

    To say otherwise is fucking idiotic.

  9. I’m not at all sure why you would want to come over here, Josh, and leave an off topic comment pertaining to a thread on Left i on the news congratulating Eli on Lefti’s fifth anniversary ). But in case anyone is actually reading this, these are the comments you’re referring to.

    You wrote,

    '...I'm neither a Democrat who thinks the Democratic candidate walks on water, but I also think there is a difference between the two.

    'Is anyone _really_ going to argue that 8 years of Bush was just as bad as the imaginary 8 years of Gore?' (Josh Narins 08.03.08 - 5:13 pm)

    To which I replied, somewhat jocularly,

    '...As for imaginary administrations, they're always so much better. I expect if things had gone differently in 2000, we could say with great confidence that, with a sufficiently vivid imagination, some imaginary Bush regime would have been better than a real Gore one.' (08.03.08 - 6:53 pm)

    Most of Bush’s shenanigans, ‘from the very first act’, are on the public record, so they’re not at issue. The single most obvious difference between a Bush and Gore administration is that the Gore administration left no record, as there never was one. You may have the most plausible conjectures about what a Gore government would and would not have done, if there had been one, but they are in principle not verifiable. Nobody will ever know whether you are right or not. Certainly after eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration’s genocidal sanctions on Iraq and what all, the prospect of a Gore-Lieberman(!) government inspired little optimism.

    You seem to think you know an awful lot about me. If you read this blog, I think it would dispel some of your misconceptions.

  10. Nonsense. Hezbollah is doing good work. The more incinerated Jews the better. Kill them all.

  11. Liquidate the Jews.

  12. Exterminate all Jews everywhere. Mark Elf approves of this post.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.