Massacres upon massacres.
It's almost impossible to describe this as anything other than a crime for the simple reason that Israel knows full well that thousands if not tens of thousands of Palestinians are now sheltering in these schools, the only semi-safe havens there are in the entire Strip. It knows full well because it has been dropping leaflets across the territory ordering citizens to vacate their homes or face the consequences, making the ominous telephone calls that houses are about to be destroyed, all while claiming that civilians will be dealt with with "silk gloves". The Israelis know the exact locations of these schools, because the UN gave them the GPS co-ordinates.
There are therefore no excuses whatsoever for hitting them with artillery fire, or launching air strikes at them, as another suffered, which killed 7 of those sheltering there. Even if we believe the Israeli claims that Hamas fighters were launching mortars from inside the school, information which the UN completely denies, although they accept that there was fighting close by, there is no justification whatsoever for hitting somewhere which will almost certainly result in gross civilian casualties, just because you are getting shot at. The Israeli propaganda ministers, sorry, spokesmen, even have the audacity to claim that it's Hamas that is launching cover-ups and conspiracies in response to the massacre at al-Fakhura. In reality, Israel has participated in cover-up after cover-up and whitewashed inquiry after whitewashed inquiry whenever large numbers of civilians are killed. The explosion on the beach in Gaza which killed most of Huda Ghalia's family was first blamed on Hamas mining the beach; only later did they admit that it was most likely the result of unexploded Israeli ordnance, although others also still believe it was the result of Israeli shelling, with the IDF admitting a shell had gone "missing" during firing at the time. The shelling of Beit Hanoun later in 2006 which killed 19 Palestinians initially brought an end to the Israeli attacks and apologies for the "malfunction"; the Israelis then however repeatedly blocked a UN fact finding mission led by Desmond Tutu from entering Gaza, only letting them in at the third attempt, while decrying the UN for criticising Israel after it had expressed regret. Finally, there was the air strikes which hit a building north of Qana during the 2006 Hizbullah-Lebanon war, which killed 28 civilians, again mostly children sheltering from the bombing. Initial claims that Hizbullah had been firing rockets from the buildings or nearby were shown to be false, with missiles have been fired from south of the village. The Israelis then claimed they had "intelligence" that the building was unoccupied and was being used by Hizbullah, statements which were again given short shrift by human rights groups and journalists in the area. Instead it seemed that Israel was continuing with its collective punishment regime, flattening many of the buildings in Qana and north of the village where the building was located.
This time round there has not even been the slightest suggestion of apologies or regrets for the targeting of the UN schools. The response has instead been as combative as ever, the same old repeated blaming of Hamas while refusing to accept responsibility for so much as hurting a hair on a Palestinian child's head. The Israeli propaganda offensive has been completely overwhelming, a constant flow of spokesmen (and women) repeating the same lines endlessly into cameras, controlled by the recent establishment of a National Information Directorate and fear of repeating the mistakes of 2006, when the propaganda offensive fell down, partially thanks to independent reporting from Lebanon, but also due to there being those on the opposite side who were felt to be representative and which broadcasters would not be criticised for hosting. This time round, Israel has successfully blocked foreign journalists from entering Gaza, leaving the West's hacks stranded and dependent on local producers, while the Arab news channels can broadcast live from the Strip around the clock. As much as this will inflame the Arab street and put pressure on governments in the Middle East, it's Western governments and especially the US which are in a position put pressure on Israel to end the assault. With television in America especially either completely ignoring the conflict or so pro-Israeli that it's beyond a joke, very little pressure is being placed on anyone. Only today did Barack Obama bother to so much as mumble a few lines on the situation, spreading the blame equally. Combined with this is that few stations will put on Hamas members or leaders, at least the ones not in hiding on screen, or give them the time to properly interview them. The result is much the same as the disparity in strength between Israel and Hamas, with only one message being put across, even as the scenes of carnage are being broadcasted, themselves sanitised less any squeamish Westerners be shocked by the polls of blood along with the twisted bodies which are now routinely being pulled out of the rubble of bombed buildings.
The propaganda offensive is naturally not just limited to print news and television, but to internet comment threads as well. No longer are the likes of just GIYUS selecting pieces on mainstream news sites as well as individual blogs to target and invade with the same old rehearsed arguments which have been heard a thousand times, the Israeli Foreign Ministry itself is now taking part in similar efforts, with the Guardian and Times among those being targeted. Dissent from the view that Israel is perfectly justified in slaughtering at least 595 Palestinians in just 10 days is simply not to be tolerated, especially when claims that white phosphorus or depleted uranium is being used are made. We've yet to see the risible claims from right-wing bloggers during the Lebanese war that the Qana massacre was staged for the cameras, but we have had, as mentioned yesterday, the just as ridiculous idea that Palestinians are actively pretending to be injured for the cameras. That there is no need for such tactics or manipulation when so many have been injured or killed is beyond their imagination.
At the same time, there are those who repeatedly apologise for the Israeli assault while providing deafening denunciations of leftists for palling up with the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah supporters when going on marches. Sunny from Liberal Conspiracy even complained on CiF about how a tiny minority on Saturday's march had tried to chant "we are all Hamas" and then had shouted "Allahu Akbar", which unpleasant as it is for secular leftists is always likely to take place. Such temporary coalitions when protesting against murderous cynicism are unavoidable, however much we dislike those involved. Additionally, if it wasn't for the likes of the Socialist Workers' Party or the Stop the War Coalition such protests would probably either not take place or be as well organised as they are, however much you dislike the SWP's politics or the StWC's partners. However much some dislike it, at the moment the only people actively defending the Palestinians in Gaza are Hamas and the other militant groups, and even if they stopped fighting or firing missiles tomorrow the fighting and the siege are hardly likely to be lifted any time soon. The policy has gone from stopping rocket fire to the apparent overthrow of Hamas, and the Israeli concession of "humanitarian corridors", when it denies there is any humanitarian crisis in Gaza suggests there is still plenty more shelling and missile strikes to come rather than a quick ceasefire.
If there is an abiding image of this conflict, apart from the incessant images of the brutalised and eviscerated coming into Gaza's close to collapsing hospitals, it's this one of Israeli citizens, the ones so apparently fearful of Hamas's rocket attacks, the ones terrorised for 8 years while the Israelis disengaged from Gaza, who made the journey to near Gaza's border to watch the IDF attack Beit Hanoun. While the Palestinians cower in their shattered homes, they watch and comment on how the IDF could be doing more. Both sides have been damaged by the incessant conflict, but only one finds the time to go and watch from afar the destruction being waged in their name. Probably because the Gazans can't even if they wanted to.