You must have a heart of stone not to feel the outrage that those of us watching this experienced yesterday. This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity yes, if the Israeli air force truly bombs with the " pinpoint accuracy'' it claims, this was also a war crime. Israel claimed that missiles had been fired by Hizbollah gunmen from the south Lebanese town of Qana as if that justified this massacre. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked about "Muslim terror" threatening " western civilisation" as if the Hizbollah had killed all these poor people.
I must have a heart of stone, then, because I never once thought of what happened to those who unfortunately died in this attack as 'an atrocity', 'slaughter', or an 'obscenity'.
And I certainly never looked at it as a 'war crime'.
An unfortunate accident? Yes. Something tragic? Of course.
But a "massacre"? No. Not in the context in which it is usually used when talking about warfare.
Oh certainly, he can apply them to Qana if he wishes, and, if one wanted too, a case could be made for at least some of them applying. Technically "slaughter" and "massacre", for instance, can be applied in the most general sense.
But what is missing from all of this is the word "purposeful". That's the word Fisk and the purveyors of outrage avoid like the plague. These poor people were huddled in a basement while on the street above, Hezbollah was engaging the Israelis. The civilians killed were not purposefully targeted. There was no intent to kill them. In fact, I feel pretty sure in saying the Israelis didn't even know they were in the area.
But they were and critics like Fisk fan the flames of outrage by misusing the language. Where's the condemnation of Hezbollah in Fisk's piece? Where's the outrage at a group that purposefully uses civilians and civilian areas as shields for their attacks against Israel?
It's all Israel's fault according to Fisk, not even giving them credit for warning civilians to flee the area:
The Israelis had dropped leaflets over Qana, ordering its people to leave their homes. Yet twice now since Israel's onslaught began, the Israelis have ordered villagers to leave their houses and then attacked them with aircraft as they obeyed the Israeli instructions and fled. There are at least 3,000 Shia Muslims trapped in villages between Qlaya and Aiteroun close to the scene of Israel's last military incursion at Bint Jbeil and yet none of them can leave without fear of dying on the roads.
Fisk is sure those two attacks out of literally thousands were "purposeful". Fisk's only acknowledgment of Hezbollah's role in this?
The Hizbollah do take cover beside civilian houses just as Israeli troops entering Bint Jbeil last week also used civilian homes for cover. But can this be the excuse for slaughter on such a scale?
Incredible moral equivalence, isn't it? Attacking from the cover of civilian areas is now the same as using the civilian areas for cover as you try to clear them.
Is it any wonder why the man's name is synonymous with what I just did?
UPDATE: An Israeli mother tells it like it is. She talks about her son who's in the army and his conversation with a friend who is with the IDF airborne unit in Lebanon. Afterward she puts the other side of the argument out there as only a mother can do:
My son spoke to his friend yesterday,and this is how he described it:
The village looked empty, and then we heard noises coming from one of the houses, so we opened fire. But when we went inside, we found two women and a child huddled in the corner of the room. We were so relieved we hadn't hurt them. We took up base in one of the empty houses. And then, all of a sudden, we came under intense fire. Three rockets were fired at the house we were in. Only one managed to destroy a wall, which fell on one of us, covering him in white dust, but otherwise not hurting him. I spent the whole time feeding bullets to my friend who was shooting non-stop. We managed to kill 26 terrorists. Not one of us was hurt.
Our commanding officer kept walking around, touching everybody on the shoulder, smiling and encouraging us: "We're are better than they are. Don't worry." It calmed us all down. And really, we were much better than them. They are a lousy army. They only win when they hide behind baby carriages.
Please remember this when you hear about the "atrocity" of the Israeli bomb (allegedly) dropped on Kfar Kana, killing many civilians, a place from which Hizbullah has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel. Unlike previous administrations, Mr. Ehud Olmert has my respect when he says: "They were warned to leave. It is the responsibility of Hizbullah for firing rockets amidst civilians."
Terrorists and their supporters have lost the right to complain about civilian casualties, since all they have done this entire war is target civilians. Every single one of the more than 2,500 rockets launched into Israel is launched into populated towns filled with women and children. Just today, another suicide belt meant to kill civilians in Israel was detonated harmlessly by our forces in Nablus.
So, don't cry to me about civilian casualties. Cry to those using your babies and wives and mothers; cry to those who store weapons in mosques, ambulances, hospitals and private homes. Cry to those launching deadly rockets from the backyards of your kindergartens and schools. Cry to the heartless men who love death, and who, however many of their troops or civilians die, consider themselves victorious as long as they can keep on firing rockets at our women and children.
UPDATE II: Was some of the Qana tragedy staged? Strata-Sphere looks into some of the questions surrounding the incident and the reporting. (HT: Keith, Indy)
There was little blood, CNN’s Wedeman noted: all the victims, he concluded, appeared to have died while as they were sleeping — sleeping, apparently, through thunderous Israeli air attacks. Rescue workers equipped with cameras were removing the bodies from the same opening in the collapsed structure. Journalists were not allowed near the collapsed building.
Rescue workers filmed as they went carried the victims on the stretchers, occasionally flipping up the blankets so that cameras could show the faces and bodies of the dead.
But Israelis steeled to scenes of carnage from Palestinian suicide bombings and Hezbollah rocket attack could not help but notice that these victims did not look like our victims. Their faces were ashen gray. Their limbs appeared to have stiffened, from rigor mortis. Neither were effects that would have resulted from an Israeli attack hours before. These were bodies that looked like they had been dead for days.
He also brings up a good question.
If citizens of these towns are having such a hard time moving on the roads, how did rescue workers, and reporters get to the scene???
An IDF investigation has found that the building in Qana struck by the Air Force fell around eight hours after being hit by the IDF.
"The attack on the structure in the Qana village took place between midnight and one in the morning. The gap between the timing of the collapse of the building and the time of the strike on it is unclear," Brigadier General Amir Eshel, Head of the Air Force Headquarters told journalists at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, following the incidents at Qana.
Eshel said that an additional attack took place at 7:30 in the morning, but added that other buildings were targeted. "This was an attack on three buildings 460 meters away from the structure we are talking about. Four bombs were dropped and all of them are documented by the planes’ cameras. They all struck their targets. In addition, we carried out a filming sortie that photographed the village during the afternoon showing that the three targeted buildings we struck. We have verification of strikes on the building and that the bombs reached their targets," Eshel said.
"An attack that took place at two in the morning struck two targets, both of them 400 meters away from the building (that collapsed). They were also destroyed. The attack between 12 and 1 a.m. struck the area of the affected house, and there were accurate strikes on the target. We are asking the question – what happened between 1 in the morning and 8 in the morning… we understand this building was attacked between 12 and 1 in the morning, seven hours before it was seriously damaged," he said.
You must have a heart of stone not to feel the outrage that those of us watching this experienced yesterday. This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity yes
Indeed, I am outraged. Outraged that Israel is being attacked for something it bears zero responsibility for. If Hezbollah wasn’t hiding among civilians, attacking Israel, this never would’ve happened. And maybe Hezbollah just did it themselves. Wouldn’t be the first time.
UPDATE II: Was some of the Qana tragedy staged? Strata-Sphere looks into some of the questions surrounding the incident and the reporting. (HT: Keith, Indy)
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That’s not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
It’s all a side effect of the wussified western sensibility now. If we can’t fight an immaculate war- where absolutely no accidents happen, where absolutely zero of our soldiers die, where all results are highly visible and immediately tangible, we can’t do it. It’s a disaster, stop the war, etc etc.
Sheesh. So in the comfort zone that even seeing a gruesome picture means we have to bring in waves of counselers and threapists.
Someone tell me again why the west should even bother anymore? We’re already dead from the neck up. Once the body stops twitching, more of us will follow the lead of the media, which rolled over for the Mohammad cartoon protestors.
Hmmm. If that’s moral equivalence, then what is one to make of this?
I like this quote of his, in particular:
That is why the massacre at Qana occurred. The Israelis had bombed Qana 80 times. They were destroying all of its buildings. Therefore, of course, they destroyed the building where dozens of children and families were hiding. This tactic is both collective punishment and ethnic cleansing all at once. It is not only a matter, as the Israelis claim, of hitting Hizbullah rocket launchers. They are destroying all of the buildings.
So, according to distinguished professor Juan Cole, the Israelis are obliterating Qana. (One wonders why the Israelis are therefore only blamed for ~700 dead, and not several thousand?)
Then there’s this fellow, who claims that Hizb’allah isn’t hiding behind civilians at all.
The following would seem to present a conundrum, however:
So the analysts talking on cable news about Hezbollah "hiding within the civilian population" clearly have spent little time if any in the south Lebanon war zone and don’t know what they’re talking about. Hezbollah doesn’t trust the civilian population and has worked very hard to evacuate as much of it as possible from the battlefield. And this is why they fight so well — with no one to spy on them, they have lots of chances to take the Israel Defense Forces by surprise, as they have by continuing to fire rockets and punish every Israeli ground incursion.
If the author is correct, then most of the civilians were evacuated by Hizb’allah, in which case those who remained are doing so by choice, and one wonders why. It also suggests that most of those who remain (and therefore those who are being killed), are presumably Hizb’allah fighters (since Hizb’allah is leery of non-aligned civilians).
On the BBC today , the film showed several people who were disabled and wheelchair bound who could not leave easily, and many sources reported that several of the dead in Qana were also disabled for example although a local source the report was carried by The Australian a reputable Australian paper
"FIFTEEN physically or mentally handicapped children were among 52 people killed by Israeli raids on the village of Qana in south Lebanon overnight, a Lebanese MP said today. "There were 15 physically or mentally handicapped children among the children killed in Qana," said Bahia Hariri, who represents south Lebanon.
Now Israel warned people to leave - but it would seem that without a safe corridor and help it would be next too impossible for disabled and mentally hadicapped people to leave of their own accord.
Responsibilty for evacuations falls on the government (Lebanon) and the miracle working soup kitchen running chaps at the local Hezbollah office. Since the Hezbollah types seem rather busy hiding behind the wheelchair bound children and the Lebanese government is collectively on summer vacation in Montego Bay, I’m not really sure who should evacuate these folks. Maybe the Syrians? It seems like every time you turn over a dead Lebanese journalist or political leader, a Syrian turns up. They might put in a spot of help. Or how about the giants of efficiency and moral courage at the UN?
Geneva Convention covers it- looks like ALL parties have a duty of care, and now that Israel has suspended some air raids to faciliate people leaving - it would seem that by conduct they (Israel) are following the convention.
The Parties to the conflict shall endeavour to conclude local agreements for the removal from besieged or encircled areas, of wounded, sick, infirm, and aged persons, children and maternity cases, and for the passage of ministers of all religions, medical personnel and medical equipment on their way to such areas.
JB, I agree with you that Israel is doing its part. I do question the application of Geneva (which seems like a popular topic here at QandO of late). Does Hezbollah acknowledge the Geneva terms? Are they speaking as a direct representative of the Lebanese government or as a non-governmental organization (terrorist group)? Since this is hardly a declared war in the Westphalian state sense of the word, does Geneva even apply here? I’m not necessarily convinced one way or the other on any of the above points, although I lean to Geneva not applying here.
I would think that if Israel by conduct appears to be following the Geneva convention, then they have made it apply to the conflict. which is a double edged sword, esp as most people would accept that Hezbollah has no use for any legal convention, which would be true of all terrorist groups, as in some jurisdictions - membership of a terrorist group is in and off itself against the law. Any group placed outside the law by default is not going to obey it.
Entirely true, JB. I think that Israel has given this conflict the legitimacy of the Geneva Convention. Hezbollah will, of course, not bother about any of the clauses of said document, however they don’t have to as the media will give them a free pass (I mean, they’re like terrorists you know). The advantage to Israel in doing this (other than PR and political) is that some of the Hezbollah types may, in a moment of weakness, decide that surrendering may be better than matyrdom. I’m not sure how frequently this will happen, but every one in custody is one less shooting at you. So, I don’t know. Maybe it is a good thing that they are applying Geneva. Frankly, given world opinion, I don’t think they had much of a choice.
Blimey. How much propaganda are you some willing to believe?
The IDF have alleged that Qana was "manufactured". What a surprise. It’s the worst publicity disaster for Israel; they always throw up some smoke after these incidents. It’s amazing how desperate some people are to believe that Israel can’t be guilty of such a massacre.
I’ve no doubt that facts will emerge in the following weeks that will prove beyond doubt that the deaths were the direct consequence of military action, but in the mean time the IDF have achieved their objective of defusing a proportion of the outrage about this massacre.
Hezbollah are clearly guilty of war crimes: but so are Israel. All this "hiding behind civilians" nonsense is pure propaganda too. Killing civiilians = killing civilians. Israel have taken a calculation that the world doesn’t care enough to prosecuted them and so far they’re right.
The IDF now have had to acknowlege that it wasn’t a "forgery"; their strike killed the occupants of the building and that the strike was a mistake. People have tried to minimise the horror by claiming that fewer people died. This may be the case, but the US body Human Rights have verified that 28 bodies were pulled from the rubble and that 13 people are definitely missing. That is sufficient for me to be horrified; it should be the same for anyone with any moral sense at all.
As for the "hiding behind civilians", Hezbollah are a democratically established group - however murderous their intentions. They’re similar in that sense to Ireland’s Sinn Fein. As a political entity, they exist among the community.
Howevever their tactics are different from Hamas; one of the reasons they are more successful militarily than Hamas is that they have tighter security. They keep their military separate from the community. Israel is simply using the fog of war to try and excuse civilian casualties that are an inevitability of modern warfare.
In fact in today’s news there is increasing evidence that for tactical reasons Israel deliberately chose not to distinguish between civilian and military targets.
Obviously Israel can only continue an assault as long as the US permits it to; at the same time as chosing this tactic, it’s necessary to try and mollify US public opinion as much as possible. That’s why it creates this deliberate fog about Qana being a "forgery" and about Hezbollah "hiding behiind civilians".
They’re helped by the US media who largely concentrate on reporting Israeli casualties. They’re also helped by people who are so eager to believe these arguments that they don’t look at what the facts are.
Of course, anyone saying this is accused of "supporting Hezbollah" - just as anyone here in Britain who pointed out how counter-productive British tactics in Ireland were during the 1980s was accused of "supporting the IRA". Personally, I think Hezbollah’s use of indescriminate missile fire are despicable.