Today marks the first anniversary of the extremely brutal assault called Operation Protective Edge that Israel perpetrated on the people of Gaza. Glenn Greenwald interviews Max Blumenthal who has a new book out that deals with that event called The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. (You can read Greenwald’s review of the book here.)
Blumenthal says that last year’s attack opened the eyes of many western journalists who for long had unquestioningly accepted Israeli propaganda that they were an extraordinarily humane force that sought to avoid civilian casualties and was merely reacting to an inhumane enemy.
This time, during Operation Protective Edge, unlike Cast Lead [the previous major Israeli assault in 2008-MS], we saw the Israeli government issue unprecedented amounts of credentials to journalists, including myself. And when the war began, as journalists were clustered around the Al Deira hotel in Gaza’s sea port, the Israeli navy, which has maintained this siege for six or seven years, about three kilometers out at sea, began lobbing a series of artillery shells at four boys who were affiliated with the main fishing family who are huge in the fishing industry in Gaza City, the Bakr boys. They were playing hide-and-go-seek on the beach in front of journalists who were hanging out at this hotel where most of the journalists stay whenever there’s a war, and their bodies were torn to shreds.
A friend of mine, Lazar Simeonov, was one of the journalists who rushed out of his apartment and caught these harrowing images on film of these really slender, small boys, with their bodies shredded apart, being carried to ambulances. And the intimacy of the violence shook these journalists who had always kind of reported on this as a conflict, and not as a disproportionate assault, or settler-colonial conquest. And I think they really saw what people on the Gaza Strip had been going through, and how the violence was affecting families, women, and children.
And this is the other factor: This war that Israel waged on the Gaza Strip this time was waged with unlimited violence. I mean, the full malevolent capacity of the Israeli military was brought down on the Gaza Strip. The AP found that over 850 people were killed at home, mostly at night, in their beds. And that nearly 90 percent of them were civilians. People being killed with 2,000-pound fragmentation bombs falling on apartment blocks containing over 30 or 40 people. Most of them were from single-family units. So, 89 families were wiped out of the civil registry during Operation Protective Edge.
And so journalists would come upon these scenes of entire families shredded to pieces the day after the attack. I spoke to one journalist when I was waiting for my credentials in Ramallah. He had just come out of Gaza. He had covered Iraq, he had covered Syria, and he said he had never seen anything like the carnage in the Gaza Strip when he arrived at the al-Batsh house. It’s a family called al-Batsh. The head of the household was the police chief in Gaza City. The Israeli military concluded he was a military target, targeted his family. I think 20 members of this family were killed, and this journalist said that he found fingers on the ground, arms dangling from trees, freshly charred flesh in the rubble.
So the journalist corps, the international media corps, was radicalized to a substantial degree by this attack. And Glenn, you did a really important job exposing NBC’s removal of Ayman Mohyeldin who was one of those journalists on the scene for the massacre of the Bakr boys and the killing of Salem Shammaly, this 19-year-old guy who was looking for his family in the rubble of Shuja’iyya and was executed on-camera by an Israeli sniper. Ayman was mysteriously removed – he was basically big-footed by Richard Engel.
So I think this was an important moment for online and independent media in pressuring the mainstream media to report more accurately on how disproportionate the Israeli violence on Gaza was. That this was, in fact, a massacre that took place over the course of 51 days.
I have not read Blumenthal’s new book but have read his Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel that chronicles the rapid rise of outright racist attitudes in Israel towards Palestinians and the creation of an apartheid state, and can recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the terrible state of affairs in Israel today.