Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Did Hamas exploit a Palestinian girl and Sky News?

The foreign media in Gaza have been accused of biased reporting bordering on the cynical and cowardly. 

Faced with the fear of what might happen to them by Hamas caused them to abandon any presence of journalistic ethics and simply regurgitate whatever Hamas gave them, or whatever they saw from their restricted vision, ignoring, of course, the rocket fire coming from outside their hotel windows until they were outside of Gaza and felt brave enough to report in hindsight what they experienced.

What’s infinitely worse is a media outlet like Sky News who, from the safe distance of their London studio, still put out emotional Hamas propaganda that takes a gratuitous swipe at Israel.

This occurred on August 10 when they repeatedly broadcast a piece on a seven year old girl who had been apparently paralyzed in an Israeli air strike.

The girl is heard saying “We were sitting at home when we heard a noise. So we went down the stairs.”  What noise was this? Could it have been the “Knock on the roof” pre-strike warning that this house had been sited as a terror target by the IDF intelligence? What’s this girl’s family name? Is it among the names of leading Hamas terrorists? This was partially confirmed by the girl known as Maha when she said “Me and my mother were injured, and we knew if we stayed like this we would die. But my mother stayed at home and she died.” Did her mother knowingly act as a human shield (or sacrifice) for Hamas?  We don’t know. The reporter didn't ask or investigate this.

The report stressed that there are only three hospitals worldwide capable of treating anyone in her condition, a claim I found preposterous. 
There are numerous Israeli hospitals of international reputation that regular treat such injuries. In 2006, in a previous Hamas-incited conflict, another Palestinian girl was paralysed and received five years of treatment at Alyn Hospital. Her family was members of Islamic Jihad, but this did not prevent Israel from giving this girl the best of Israeli medical care at the expense of the state. When Israeli doctors thought she was well enough to continue her treatment at a Gaza hospital her family fought attempts by Israel to transfer her to a West Bank facility. So she and her family remain in Jerusalem courtesy of the Israeli state.

Sky News claimed that Maha was being prevented from leaving Gaza by Israel.  Not true! 
A COGAT top representative, Guy Inbar, told me that a request from Gaza had been made and accepted by COGAT on the same day, July 26, and that final details had been requested by COGAT to prepare her exit. 
Nothing more was heard from the other side.

It certainly appears that Hamas has cynically played a propaganda game for weeks over this little girl. They have invited members of the press into Shifa Hospital to hear her story, rather than expedite her release for treatment.
There is an excellent fully staffed field hospital set up by the IDF on the Gaza border ready to received patients from Gaza. Only problem is that Hamas physically threatens and prevents people from getting to this facility. This also was not mentioned by Sky.
The IDF Spokesman, Peter Lerner, tweeted Sky News offering to give them information but he failed to get a response. Neither did I when I emailed Sky News a list of questions on this incident and their coverage.

It is still far from certain that a Sky reporter ever met or spoke to the girl. Were they there at the Gaza hospital, did they question, did they ask for Israeli response, or did they simply put out the story as presented to them by Hamas?  
My sources in the IDF and with COGAT never received any contact by Sky News on this incident.

The Sky News item did produce some action. 
COGAT was contacted by Palestinian health officials and they are coordinating with them and also with the World Health Organization to have the girl removed from Gaza as soon as a new request is received together with all the relevant documents and information.  She will be removed first to Jerusalem and then on to a hospital where she can receive the best of care.

COGAT has facilitated every request received by people needing to leave Gaza for serious medical cases, one hundred and fifty in number, throughout this current Gaza conflict.

What was missing from the Sky News report was the fact that Maha is the daughter of Ahmed al-Sheikh Khalil, an Islamic Jihad commander and a munition expert. He was killed on October 29, 2011 by an Israeli air strike in retaliation for launching rockets into Israel from Gaza on the same day.

As for Sky News, I have yet to receive a response from them, despite having sent them a more strongly worded letter. Their reporting of this incident did wake up people in Gaza to take the accepted steps needed to have the girl evacuated.

But, by that time, they had exploited her and Sky for clearly propaganda purposes that have damaged Israel in a most unwarranted manner.

Barry Shaw is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College.
He is also the author of 'ISRAEL RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE.'

Friday, 8 August 2014

Casualty figures prove Israel’s IDF is the most moral and exemplary fighting force in military history.

Unhappy with the context-hidden journalism on much of the foreign media, I began in-depth research into the real numbers of Gaza casualties.
Finding it reprehensible that reporters were fitting their headlines into an Israeli blame game, I went in search of facts and statistics.
I swerved Israeli-based numbers. I knew that, even with accurate figures, they would be rejected by a media that already had a jaundiced editorial bias against Israel.

I dug deeply and discovered information being issued by none other than the Gaza Ministry of Health, not exactly a Zionist medical institute. Incredibly, this Hamas-run facility was publishing daily casualty lists that included the names, ages, and even where and how people died. It was relatively easy to compile groupings based on their details. The lists I built were children, women/females, elderly, and men of fighting age.

With these groupings it was immediately clear that women and children were never the majority Gaza casualties. I and others began challenging the false news put out by the media. We did this in the social media, a forum I found that was broadcasting more detailed context than the so-called professional mainstream media. I cannot say that the noise we made alarmed Hamas but on Friday, July 25, the Gaza Ministry of Health stopped publishing individual details of their casualties.

Perhaps it was the UN that demanded casualties figures but, several days later, the Gaza Ministry of Health began headlining total deaths and a breakdown of certain groups including children (up to the age of 18), women, and elderly. Clearly, Hamas wanted to emphasize these media sensitive groups for propaganda purposes which the media, indeed, lapped up. But what it did was to also throw up and expose the suspect group, the one that represents men of fighting age. By simply crunching the numbers it reconfirmed that combatant aged males, not women or children, constituted the largest casualty group.

Of course, not all males in this category were terrorists but where the deaths were in areas of serious fighting after the civilian population had fled, it takes a large leap of imagination to claim they were not involved in enemy action in some form or another.

The Meir Amit Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) is conducting deep research, digging deep to match names to those identified as known terrorists. The problem with this is it cannot link names to people killed who do not appear in their intelligence database. Many enemy fighters are unknown to ITIC. The sixteen year old that popped out of the ground near Kibbutz Ein HaShlosha is a typical example.

My numbers by August 6 showed a total body count of 1886 of which 1126 were men of fighting age. ITIC figures indicate a ratio on one civilian to one terrorist. Although I put the figures at closer to one terrorist to less than one civilian let’s take ITIC conservative numbers. This is an important ratio when discussing “disproportionate” casualties, a charge constantly leveled at Israel. I spoke with Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British forces in Afghanistan. He quotes a ratio of three civilians to one enemy dead in Afghanistan, a ration of four civilians to one terrorist in Iraq, and a ratio of five civilians to one combatant in Russia’s war in Chechnya.  This actually proves the IDF acted with more precision than armies in other conflicts.

There is a further and significant factor that radically increases the percentages of combatant-aged male casualties than women and children in Gaza. Women and children up to age fifteen make up a whopping 71% of the Gazan population, yet their casualty numbers are far less than fighting age men, despite all the headlines to the contrary by the media.

None of these figures take into account the quoted 475 errant Hamas rockets that landed on civilian sites and public facilities within Gaza killing many Palestinians. Neither does it include more than sixty people killed by Hamas for protesting their violence or for alleged collaboration with Israel. How many of the casualties were victims of the Hamas policy of holding them hostages, known as human shields, in Israel’s actions against terror targets in Hamas’s cynical war, despite repeated Israel warnings to clear an area of intended action.

This litany of Gaza casualties would be incomplete without this additional talking point. Consider 4712 Israeli air strikes in heavily populated areas, followed by intensive Israeli artillery bombardment to soften up enemy concentrations in dense urban locations, prior to the incursion of tanks preparing the way for special units and ground forces. All this, and yet only 1886 casualties in a tight population area of 1,800,000 people. 
My research is incomplete, but I can assure you that, once again, the casualty figure is disproportionately low compared to all other conflicts including Kosovo, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Chechnya.

Whichever way you cut the figures, when it comes to military proportionality, Israel’s IDF is the most moral and exemplary fighting force in military history.

Barry Shaw is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’
He is also the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College.