Jun 2006

Thoughts on the report of a massacre

I was watching the TV news last night. From the Middle East came yet another horror story to chill the blood of anyone with an ounce of empathy or compassion. On the BBC website the story is headlined, Hamas militants vow to end truce. The wording of the headline angers me, although the events reported anger me far more.

There’s a trend among right wing mouthbreathers to insist that the BBC has a significant bias against Israel when discussing the Israeli / Palestinian situation. This trend is perhaps exemplified by Biased BBC but by no means confined to them (anyone citing Melanie Phillips as an authority rather than a cautionary example clearly isn’t receiving the medication they require).

I doubt, for instance, that the next deplorable act of Palestinian terrorism will be reported beneath the headline “Israeli army vows new airstrikes”. I suspect, rather, that the headline will quite rightly call attention to the innocent children murdered. So why is a report – the primary content of which is the murder of a Palestinian family by the Israeli military – headlined by a threat of violence from Palestinians?

Hamas news clipping

Perhaps there’s another story somewhere on the BBC site beneath the headline “Israeli military shells Palestinian children”, but if so it’s well hidden. Unlike the one on the site front page.

I’m also somewhat irate about the use of the phrase “apparent Israeli shelling”. I understand of course, that so soon after a chaotic event such as this, there can be no official confirmation of the causes. No investigations have been carried out, no forensic teams have reported their findings from the scene. But within minutes of a suicide bombing, the word “apparent” is dropped from reports. Certainly long before the Israeli government gives its official reaction.

This is because it is obviously a suicide bombing. Eye witnesses confirm it, and the aftermath tells its own story. Is there a tacit assumption that Palestinian eye witnesses just aren’t as reliable as their Israeli counterparts? Is there any reason at all to believe that the Palestinians killed had set up a makeshift bomb-factory on the beach (I’ll bet the sand plays merry hell with the microswitches) and they were a victim of their own murderous intentions? Any evidence that the eye-witnesses who talk about an incoming shell are deliberately covering up the truth?

Certainly the television news made it clear that there was some confusion as to whether the shell came from a naval gunship a few miles offshore, or whether it was army artillery to blame, but there seems no doubt that it was a shell from the Israeli military. It appears that…

For many months, the Israelis have regularly shelled open areas such as fields and orchards in an effort to prevent Palestinian militants using them to fire their home-made missile into crudely made missiles into nearby Israeli territory.

I wonder what the life-expectancy of Palestinian fruit farmers is? (And yes, I know that BBC quote is awful copywriting / editing)

Statistically speaking that’s a policy guaranteed – over a long enough timescale – to result in events like yesterday’s massacre. Whether it’s faulty mechanical equipment or human error, if you spend several months shelling areas, some of your explosives are going to stray off course. It’s what the perpetrators euphemistically refer to as “collateral damage”. What Condi described as “tactical errors”. What many moral philosophers and legal experts would describe as “murder”.

How’s this for a defence in court… “well yes, your honour, I did regularly fire my machinegun into the loft of my neighbour’s house. You see, he sometimes uses that loft to shoot at me. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying enough attention yesterday and sprayed the floor below it with bullets instead. I’m sorry to say that his lodger and her 3 year old daughter were killed. But really, what else am I supposed to do? Killing some of my innocent neighbours is the only way to ensure that my family remains safe.”

For me, blowing up someone else’s child in order to reduce the risk to your own is not an acceptable way to act.

The attitude we adopt toward the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people.
– Albert Einstein

There can be little question that the Israeli people are failing that test.

Posted in: Opinion