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.
ISIS/ISIL calls it a “protective edge” when decapitating victims. It’s no different than Israel’s.
In brighter news:
Jonathan Groll says
Mano, I’ve been reading your blog for more than a year now, but am going to unsubscribe shortly. It is about time you wrote posts about Yemen and Syria too.
Mano Singham says
I’m curious. Did you do a search on this blog (you can use the magnifying glass at the top right) for Yemen and Syria to see the number of posts dealing with those countries?
@2. You can have a story about Israel helping Al Qaeda in Syria:
Self-similarity is a universal concept after all!
“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. ”
That is clearly, demonstrably, false. The Israelis have far more powerful weapons than those used, even discounting nuclear weapons. The existing stockpiles of ammunition consumed by those weapons systems were not depleted so, even given the lower power weapons used, they could have done much, much more. The Israelis are quite capable of leveling the entirely of the Gaza strip and killing virtually everyone present, under cover or not, without resort to nuclear or chemical weapons.
I realize it seems unnatural to see pictures of blasted buildings and mangled bodies and conclude that ‘it could have been worse’ but I assure you that it really could have been much, much worse. The irony being that as the power of modern high-explosive weapons deployed are increased the pictures of the carnage tend to become rarer and less alarming. A weak weapon leaves mangled but recognizable parts of the human body. At significantly higher energies the ballistics of the human body are of a liquid. The term of art is “ballistic transparency”. This is where we get the term “pink mist”. After the fact there is very little to photograph. If the victims are wearing heavy leather boots you might find a foot, which is why combat soldiers sometimes tie dog tags to their boots. Boots with feet inside are often the last bits identifiable as human remains.
Jon G says
What does this blog say about Syria? Mostly how bad the Israelis and Americans are, like
“US and Israeli hypocrisy on full display with Syria
It should have come as no surprise that US secretary of state John Kerry scurried over to Israel as soon as he could after reaching a deal with the Russians that averted the bombing of Syria, at least for now. Israel and its lobby in the US had been going flat out for the US to bomb Syria. ”
What does it say about Yemen?
“We see that yet another Middle Eastern country that the US has been meddling in is slipping into anarchy and chaos. Yemen, where the US has been doing it drone bombing in pursuit of the al Qaeda affiliate group AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) is now on the verge of becoming a failed state like Libya.”
It is almost as if the people doing the actual killing have no agency at all. It is always the US and the “brutal” Israelis. I don’t buy it.
Channeling / with apologies to The Digital Cuttlefish :
War in Gaza one year on,
What’s been gained and what’s been won?
So much lost, so many dead
Too many deprived, both kinds of bread
Hamas fired rockets, got more back
Has their ruling facade been made to crack?
Israel acted mighty tough,
Its haters would say more than enough
But now when all is said and done
Aren’t we just back to square one?
Ah yes, the memories. Just the ones I have and you have and the commenters here and we weren’t even there! (Were we? Anyone who was feel free to chime in.) I still think this “Hammassive Stupidity” clip by ‘The Young Turks’ sums up the conflict and its issues best -- no doubt plenty will disagree with me :
I do think the one thing that’s being overlooked on this blog a bit remains the crimes and actions and choices of the Hamas side here.
Ultimately, the conflict Hamas started and kept going (& yeah, Israel has some blame for too) is all just so sad and futile. Children were killed, damage wrought admittedly more so to Gaza than Israel but not for want of trying on Hamas’es part -- on both sides for nothing.
So where now?
How long till the next war?
What chance of Hamas or the Palestinians finally accepting a peace deal or even having yet another one offered to them once again after all the ones they’ve already turned down and years of wars and failures? When is that likely? What plausible hope is there of that now? Any hope of moving on and things in that region getting better? Wish I could say I saw some.
PS. Been watching any of the Ashes Mano Singham? We (Australia) need a record breaking 412 to win on the start of our final innings with two days to go.