Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Beach Blanket

[Update below]

Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, is claiming that Israeli investigations of the beach bombing incident of last week demonstrate that the incident was not the result of an errant, or otherwise, Israeli artillery shell.
An Israeli inquiry concluded that the blast was caused by an explosive buried in the sand, not from Israeli shelling on the afternoon of the Palestinian family's beach picnic.
This is disputed by HRW military expert Marc Garlasco, who says that the shrapnel, blast pattern and victims' wounds indicate an Israeli shell "had come in" and that a land mine could not have been responsible. Obviously, anyone not there is hardly in a position to question either claim but you've got enjoy the juxtaposition of two pertinent statements:
The head of the Israeli inquiry, Major General Meir Klifi, declared: "There is no chance that a shell hit this area. Absolutely no chance."
Israel has been pounding northern Gaza with hundreds of artillery shells for weeks, trying unsuccessfully to stop Palestinian militants from setting up and launching homemade rockets at Israel.
Hundreds of shells launched into northern Gaza but yet there is "no chance" that a shell landed on the beach. Breathtaking confidence.

And while the Israeli Defense Ministry is denying responsibility for the beach incident, they certainly don't deny this:
An Israeli airstrike targeting a key figure in Palestinian rocket attacks killed 10 people Tuesday, including the militant, two children and three medical workers who rushed to the scene of an initial blast.
It is unclear why the Israelis would feel such a strong need to adamantly deny the putative beach shelling while, at the same time, they demonstrate no qulams about blowing up civilians in other parts of Gaza. I guess it falls under the same general mentality that would focus on investigating Haditha -- months after it took place -- while civilians in Iraq are blown up and shot on a daily basis. That is, investigations are needed, and denials created, because the event in question became a media frenzy. Similar but otherwise common and unnotable violence gets short shrift.

Update: via Cernig, comes more argument that the IDF investigation is likely bogus and an admission that, indeed, the Israeli military had been shelling the beach very nearby:
The Israeli military is now admitted that, indeed, they were launching shells onto the beach and that they cannot account for one of the rounds:The military now says that it fired six shells on to and around the beach where Huda Ghalia's family died, with one of them falling about 100 yards away...

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that the army concedes that five shells landed along a 250-metre stretch of beach and that a sixth shell is unaccounted for.
Further details about the expertise of the above mention HRW expert, Marc Garlasco, who disputes Israeli claims of a "land mine":
[Garlasco is] a former Pentagon expert on battlefields who led the US military's battle damage assessment team in Kosovo and worked for its intelligence wing, the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Sounds like a guy who would know what he is talking about. Garlasco claims direct evidence of Israeli shelling:
But after investigating the scene, Mr Garlasco concluded that the army's explanation is deeply flawed. Among the new shrapnel he collected at the scene of the deaths is a piece stamped with the figures: 155MM.

"The 155mm shell is what Israel uses in the howitzers that regularly shell northern Gaza," he said.

Mr Garlasco said the crater where the family was killed closely resembles others scattered the length of the beach caused by Israeli shells. Each is lined with a white power left by the explosion, including the one where the family died.
The IDF are relying on an "eight minute gap" between the firing of the unaccounted for shell and the reported time of the explosion on the beach. On that basis, the IDF claimed there was "no chance" that it was an errant shell from one of their howitzers. Smell that?


Blogger Kel said...

Thank God that there's an American prepared to challenge the Israeli script.

As I argued here the Israelis have gained enormously from this appalling incident, which has forced Hamas away from any possible position of compromise, and made Israel's plans for the implementation of a unilateral solution more likely.

I've slagged him for the past three years - despite campaigning for him during two general elections - but for once Blair has made the right call and refused to accept the Israeli version of events and is insisting that they must negotiate with the Palestinians.

Israel's version of events, that this calamity was caused by a buried device, deserves to be treated with scepticism.

After all, the aftermath of all this carnage is that Israel's aims have been forwarded whilst the Palestinians have been set at each others throats.

When one side gains so obviously from any incident, it is wise to question whether or not they were behind it.

5:41 PM  
Blogger theBhc said...

Thanks, Kel. And I have to agree with you about Blair. But his sudden pragmatism regarding Israel's unilateral "plan" makes me wonder how he manages to veer off track when he contemplates state funerals for Thatcher.

The US position on the Israeli/Palestinian issue, albeit rhetorically moderated by Bush of all people, has got to change. Unnbridled support for Israel is nothing but dead, or deadly, weight in efforts across the Middle East.

There is a great quote in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, when the author is in a clandestine meeting with an old, former advisor to the Shah of Iran, who later realised what a crazed maniac the Shah had become. Before the '79 Iranian revolution, this old Iranian warns of the impending revolt. During the meeting and while explaining why the US supports the despot, he says,

He is your only real ally in the Middle East, and the industrial world rotates on the axle of oil that is the Middle East. Oh, you have Israel, of course, but that's actually a liability to you, not an asset. And no oil there. Your politicians must placate the Jewish vote, must get their money to finance campaigns. So your're stuck with Israel, I'm afraid.

There is far more to it than that, though, and it smacks of anti-Semitism, and it certainly is not a politically tenable argument to be made in public. The kernel of truth here is undeniable, however: Israel as an ally in the Middle East is a liability and it would be one you might think the US would do well to turn around, at least by more forcefully backing a peaceful, equitable two-state settlement.

6:36 PM  
Blogger qrswave said...

good post. solid analysis.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Kel said...


I'm reminded of a comment a Catholic priest made when someone once described Israel as America's only ally in the Middle East. He replied, "Yes, but before the creation of Israel you didn't have any enemies in the Middle East".

And Blair's position vis a vis Israel's desire is easily explained as here in Europe we don't have the rose-tinted spectacles approach to the Middle East that appears very prevalent in the US.

Europeans support the state of Israel, but we cannot pretend that the historic injustice that was perpertrated on the Jews was not corrected through an equally historic injustice being inflicted on the Palestinians.

To be honest this would have been sorted years ago were it not for successive US administrations viewing this situation through an Israeli prism. The Europeans, Russians and Chinese all know what the final status will look like. It will look like resolution 242 demands.

America have aided Israel (through the longest occupation in modern history) in attempting to avoid that stark truth.

No other single factor contributes more to the way your nation is viewed in the Middle East than the US's insane support for what is in many ways no different from Apartheid.

Europe is not being anti-semitic in this, we are rather capable of looking at a wrong - the oppression and occupation of people by a foreign force - and calling it what it is. Wrong.

The greatest beneficiary of a withdrawal to the 1967 borders would be Israel herself. The Cheney's, Rumsfeld's, Perle's and Wolfowitz's have been very bad friend's to Israel over the years by convincing her that she need not negotiate and allowing her to continue with the fantasy that she could hold on to land that was never hers.

Thankfully, even the Israelis seem to be waking up to the fact that, after almost forty years of war, this is never going to end until she hands it back.

11:33 AM  
Blogger theBhc said...


I agree fully. The media coverage here regarding the Israeli/Palestine issue is about as one side as it could get and that has always annoyed those of us who saw through the bullshit about US support being based on the fact that Israel is "the only democracy" in the Middle East (yes, this is what US supporters of Israel, eg. many of the neocons, say).

There has never been even a questioning in the media about Israel's decades-long violations of UN resolutions; this is never, ever pointed out. Violations of UN resolutions is the putative reason why the Bush administration invaded Iraq. But US has never reallly conceded, until recently and by Bush, that the Israeli occupation is the problem.

12:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home