The blame for the tragic deaths of the Gaza family last week has been laid squarely at Israel's door by Palestinians, and by much of the international media. The Palestinians staged the usual protests and the expected heart-rending interviews, in an attempt to fasten the blame firmly on Israel, and others followed suit, including some Israelis who should know better.
In the ordinary course of things, people and institutions are innocent until proven guilty. Many of those who have been most outspoken in blaming Israel would tenaciously defend the right of every suspected malefactor to a fair trial, including all the O.J. Simpsons of the world. Israel seems to be an exception to the rule. In a way, Israel was blamed for the killings before they happened.
According to several reports (see Washington Post Haaretz Yediot Ahronot
) an IDF inquiry due to be summarized today (Tuesday) casts serious doubt on the claim that the deaths were due to Israeli action. The major points are:
No IDF shells were fired at the probable time of the blast. Only one IDF shell is supposedly unaccounted for, but it was fired ten minutes previously.
Aerial photos seem to indicate that the blast came from below ground, and may have been due to detonation of a mine.
Palestinians arriving in Israel for treatment had had all of the shrapnel carefully removed, so that the origins of the blast could not be determined.
Palestinians reported that a team of Hamas operatives had cleaned up the area of the blast, presumably in order to destroy forensic evidence.
The IDF evidence can be doubted by skeptics. However, the fact that Palestinians did no investigation, provided no proof, and took great pains to conceal the evidence, seems pretty damning. At the very least, we have to say that the verdict is "not proven."
This is another of those movies we have been through before. In 2002, Israel was accused of a massacre in Jenin. For months, European media used the supposed massacre to demonize Israel, before some of them quietly retracted the story, which was a myth concocted by Palestinians.
Unfortunately, the "Gaza Massacre," like the "Jenin Massacre" has probably already served its purpose. The Jenin massacre myth was intended to help the world forget that Palestinian terrorists had murdered over a hundred Israelis in the month preceding the IDF attack on Jenin. It was a successful diversionary tactic. Likewise, the "Gaza Massacre" has succeeded in focusing attention on supposed Israeli misdeeds, rather than on the rain of rocket fire emanating from Gaza.
Hamas had the means and the opportunity to perpetrate the massacre. They also had a motive, since they used the massacre as an excuse to end their unilateral cease fire, and the publicity and outrage generated by the massacre are helping to torpedo the referendum that Mahmud Abbas has called on the Palestinian Prisoners' document. As Ghassan Khattib pointed out:
The immediate reaction from Hamas after the killings on the beach seemed to try to link the Israeli escalation with the dispute between Abu Mazen and Hamas over the document.
The spokesperson of Hamas, in his first official reaction, said it didn't make sense to put Hamas under internal pressure to give political concessions through a referendum while the Palestinian people at the same time are subject to such escalation.
The leaflet of the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, was more direct. It accused any Palestinian group that put political pressure on Hamas to give up part of its political program of being collaborators with the Israeli occupation.
It is possible that Hamas, which is facing serious difficulties in running the Palestinian Authority, might see the escalation as a way to escape internal and external political embarrassment.
Khattib also tries to find an Israeli motive for the escalation. He forgot that the rockets on southern Israel are causing intense embarrassment to the Israeli government and to the IDF internally and are eroding support for the unilateral consolidation plan of the Israeli government.
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