Debunking Israel’s 11 Main Myths About Gaza, Hamas and War Crimes

You've got to hand it to Israeli spinners like Mark Regev. They are masters of PR. In fact, as the Independent's Patrick Cockburn revealed over the weekend, “the playbook they are using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe”.

Mark Regev

Let's be clear: I'm no fan of Hamas, a brutal and anti-Semitic group which has been accused by Amnesty International and other NGOs of human rights abuses against the people of Gaza and of war crimes against the people of Israel. Firing rockets into civilian areas isn't justified under international law, even if it is framed as part of a (legitimate) struggle against foreign military occupation.

Having said that, however, in recent days I've been debating supporters of Israel's latest assault on Gaza on radio and on Twitter and I've been astonished not just by the sheer number of fact-free claims made by those supporters, but also by their confidence, slickness and sheer message discipline. According to the pro-Israel, pro-IDF crowd, Hamas is to blame for everything.

This, of course, is utter nonsense. To quote the late US senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

So, in a Moynihanian spirit, here are fact-filled, evidence-based rebuttals to the 11 main myths, half-truths and self-serving 'talking points' that are repeatedly pushed by various Israeli spokespersons, both on the airwaves and on social media:

1) The Gaza Strip isn't occupied by Israel

Boston Globe: “Israeli-imposed buffer zones.. now absorb nearly 14 percent of Gaza's total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land. Similarly, the sea buffer zone covers 85 percent of the maritime area promised to Palestinians in the Oslo Accords, reducing 20 nautical miles to three.” Human Rights Watch: “Israel also continues to control the population registry for residents of the Gaza Strip, years after it withdrew its ground forces and settlements there.” B'Tselem, 2013: “Israel continues to maintain exclusive control of Gaza's airspace and the territorial waters, just as it has since it occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967.”

2) Israel wants a ceasefire but Hamas doesn't

Al Jazeera: “Meshaal said Hamas wants the 'aggression to stop tomorrow, today, or even this minute. But [Israel must] lift the blockade with guarantees and not as a promise for future negotiations'. He added 'we will not shut the door in the face of any humanitarian ceasefire backed by a real aid programme'.” Jerusalem Post: “One day after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas, fell through, the terrorist organization proposed a 10-year end to hostilitiesin return for its conditions being met by Israel, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.. Hamas's conditions were the release of re-arrested Palestinian prisoners who were let go in the Schalit deal, the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings in order to allow citizens and goods to pass through, and international supervision of the Gazan seaport in place of the current Israeli blockade.” BBC: “Israel's security cabinet has rejected a week-long Gaza ceasefire proposal put forward by US Secretary of State John Kerry 'as it stands'.”

3) Israel, unlike Hamas, doesn't deliberately target civilians

The Guardian: “It was there that the second [Israeli] shell hit the beach, those firing apparently adjusting their fire to target the fleeing survivors. As it exploded, journalists standing by the terrace wall shouted: 'They are only children.'” UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay: “A number of incidents, along with the high number of civilian deaths, belies the [Israeli] claim that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect civilian lives.” United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, 2009: “The tactics used by the Israeli armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practices, most recently during the Lebanon war in 2006. A concept known as the Dahiya doctrine emerged then, involving the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations. The Mission concludes from a review of the facts on the ground that it.. appears to have been precisely what was put into practice.”

4) Only Hamas is guilty of war crimes, not Israel

Human Rights Watch: “Israeli forces may also have knowingly or recklessly attacked people who were clearly civilians, such as young boys, and civilian structures, including a hospital – laws-of-war violations that are indicative of war crimes.”Amnesty International: “Deliberately attacking a civilian home is a war crime, and the overwhelming scale of destruction of civilian homes, in some cases with entire families inside them, points to a distressing pattern of repeated violations of the laws of war.”

5) Hamas use the civilians of Gaza as 'human shields'

Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor: “I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel's accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” The Guardian: “In the past week, the Guardian has seen large numbers of people fleeing different neighbourhoods.. and no evidence that Hamas had compelled them to stay.” The Independent: “Some Gazans have admitted that they were afraid of criticizing Hamas, but none have said they had been forced by the organisation to stay in places of danger and become unwilling human-shields.” Reuters, 2013: “A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.”

6) This current Gaza conflict began with Hamas rocket fire on 30 June 2014

Times of Israel: “Hamas operatives were behind a large volley of rockets which slammed into Israel Monday morning, the first time in years the Islamist group has directly challenged the Jewish state, according to Israeli defense officials.. The security sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, assessed that Hamas hadprobably launched the barrage in revenge for an Israeli airstrike several hours earlier which killed one person and injured three more.. Hamas hasn't fired rockets into Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense ended in November 2012.” The Nation: “During ten days of Operation Brother's Keeper in the West Bank [before the start of the Gaza conflict], Israel arrested approximately 800 Palestinians without charge or trial, killed nine civilians and raided nearly 1,300 residential, commercial and public buildings. Its military operation targeted Hamas members released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011.”

7) Hamas has never stopped firing rockets into Israel

Jewish Daily Forward: “Hamas hadn't fired a single rocket since [2012 Gaza conflict], and had largely suppressed fire by smaller jihadi groups. Rocket firings, averaging 240 per month in 2007, dropped to five per month in 2013.” International Crisis Group: “Fewer rockets were fired from Gaza in 2013 than in any year since 2001, and nearly all those that were fired between the November 2012 ceasefire and the current crisis were launched by groups other than Hamas; the Israeli security establishment testified to the aggressive anti-rocket efforts made by the new police force Hamas established specifically for that purpose.. As Israel (and Egypt) rolled back the 2012 understandings – some of which were implemented spottily at best – so too did Hamas roll back its anti rocket efforts.”

8) Hamas provoked Israel by kidnapping and killing three Israeli teenagers

Jewish Daily Forward: “The [Israeli] government had known almost from the beginning that the boys were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas' West Bank operations.. Nor was that the only fib. It was clear from the beginning that the kidnappers weren't acting on orders from Hamas leadership in Gaza or Damascus. Hamas' Hebron branch — more a crime family than a clandestine organization — had a history of acting without the leaders' knowledge, sometimes against their interests.” BBC correspondent Jon Donnison: “Israeli police MickeyRosenfeld tells me men who killed 3 Israeli teens def lone cell, hamas affiliated but not operating under leadership.. Seems to contradict the line from Netanyahu government.”

9) Hamas rule, not Israel's blockade, is to blame for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip

US State Department cable: “Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.. Israeli officials have confirmed.. on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” The Guardian: “The Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza's daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010, according to files the defence ministry released on Wednesday under a court order.. The Israeli advocacy group Gisha.. waged a long court battle to release the document. Its members say Israel calculated the calorie needs for Gaza's population so as to restrict the quantity of food it allowed in.”

10) The Israeli government, unlike Hamas, wants a two-state solution

Times of Israel: “[Netanyahu] made explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.. Amid the current conflict, he elaborated, 'I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.'”

11) All serious analysts agree it was Hamas, and not Israel, that started this current conflict

Nathan Thrall, senior Mid East analyst at the International Crisis Group, writing in the New York Times: “The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement.” Henry Siegman, former national director, American Jewish Congress, writing for Politico: “Israel's assault on Gaza.. was not triggered by Hamas' rockets directed at Israel but by Israel's determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government that was formed in early June, even though that government was committed to honoring all of the conditions imposed by the international community for recognition of its legitimacy.” More

 

The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit & Expo

The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit & Expo
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Honolulu Convention Center, Honolulu, HI
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Neil Abercrombie, Governor, State of Hawai‘i
Major General Anthony Crutchfield, US Army, Chief of Staff, US Pacific Command (PACOM)

Kyle Datta, General Partner, Ulupono Initiative
Captain James Goudreau, Director, Navy Energy Coordination Office, US Navy
Rahul Gupta, Principal, Public Service Practice, Sustainability, and Cleantech, PricewaterhouseCooper

Mike Howard, President & CEO, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
Taholo Kami, Regional Director, IUCN Oceania Regional Office (ORO)

Richard Lim, Director, State of Hawai‘i, Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT)

Updated Program: http://www.islandsconnect.com/program/dag.html

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Chris Hedges on the Gaza Massacre

Hedges is currently a columnist for news website Truthdig, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City,[1] and a contributing author for OpEdNews.[2] He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and theBalkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, NPR, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times,[3] where he was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years (1990–2005).

The cruel cease-fire charade

So far, the diplomatic effort to end the violence in Gaza has failed miserably, with Israel on Friday rejecting a cease-fire proposal from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (On Saturday Israel and Hamas agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian pause in the fighting brokered by the United Nations.)

Washington’s attempt is representative of the overall failure of American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only on this occasion the consequences can be measured in the growing pile of dead bodies and the widespread devastation that includes numerous homes, public buildings and even artillery damage to several United Nations schools sheltering Palestinian civilians.

The U.S. approach fails because it exhibits extreme partisanship in a setting where trust, credibility and reciprocity are crucial. Kerry is undoubtedly dedicated to achieving a cease-fire, just as he demonstrated for most of the past year in pushing for a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Yet the United States exhibited its tendency toward extreme partisanship when it designated Martin Indyk, a former staff member of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and former ambassador to Israel, as the U.S. special envoy to the peace talks.

The U.S. approach up to this point to achieving a cease-fire in Gaza has been undertaken in a manner that is either woefully ignorant of the real constraints or callously cynical about their relevance. This is especially clear from the attempt to garner a cease-fire by consulting only one side, Israel — the party bearing the major responsibility for causing massive casualties and damage — and leaving Hamas out in the cold. Even if this is a consequence of Hamas being treated as “a terrorist entity,” it still makes no sense. When Israel wanted to deal with Hamas in the past, it had no trouble doing so — for instance, when it arranged the prisoner exchange that led to the release of the single captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit back in 2011.

The basic facts are astounding: The U.S. relied on Egypt as the broker of a proposal it vetted, supposedly with the text delivered personally by Tony Blair to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo, endorsed by the Netanyahu government, and then announced on July 15 via the media as a cease-fire proposal accepted by Israel, without Hamas even knowing the details. It’s a diplomatic analogue to the theater of the absurd. Last July, then-General Sisi was the Egyptian mastermind of a coup that brutally cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and criminalized the entire organization. The Sisi government has made no secret of its unrelenting hostility to Hamas, which it views as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It destroyed the extensive tunnel network connecting Gaza with the outside world to circumvent the punitive Israeli blockade that has been maintained since 2007. Is there any reason for Hamas to go forward with such a cease-fire arrangement? As some respected Israeli commentators have suggested, most prominently Amira Hass, the “normalization” of the occupation is what the Israeli military operation Protective Edge is all about. Hass suggests that Israel seeks a compliant Palestinian response to an occupation that has for all intents and purposes become permanent. Such periodic shows of force aim to break once and for all the will to resist, associated with Hamas and its rockets.

Even more telling, the cease-fire’s terms were communicated to Hamas via the media, making the proposal “take it or leave it.” It also ignored the reasonable conditions Hamas had posited as the basis of a cease-fire it could accept. These conditions included ending the unlawful seven-year siege of Gaza, releasing prisoners arrested in the anti-Hamas campaign prior to launching the military operation on July 8, and stopping interference with the unity government that brought Hamas and the Palestinian Authority together on June 3. Kerry, by contrast, has urged restoring the cease-fire text that had been accepted by both sides in November 2012 after the previous major Israeli military attack upon Gaza.

Hamas’ chief leader, Khaled Meshaal, has been called “defiant” by Kerry because he would not go along with this tilted diplomacy. “Everyone wanted us to accept a cease-fire and then negotiate for our rights,” Meshaal said. This was tried by Hamas in 2012 and didn’t work. As soon as the violence ceased, Israel refused to follow through on the cease-fire agreement that had promised negotiations seeking an end of the blockade and an immediate expansion of Gazan fishing rights.

In the aftermath of Protective Edge is it not reasonable, even mandatory, for Hamas to demand a firm commitment to end the siege of Gaza? Israel as the occupying power has an obligation under the Geneva Conventions to protect the civilian population of an occupied people. Israel claims that its “disengagement” in 2005, involving the withdrawal of security forces and the dismantling of settlements, ended such obligations. Such a position is almost uniformly rejected in the international community, since the persistence of effective Israeli control of entry and exit, as well as air and sea, and violent incursions amounts to a shift in the form of occupation — not its end. Israel is certainly right to complain about the rockets, but it is wrong to impose an oppressive regime of collective punishment on the civilians of Gaza. More

 

Distributed Water Balance of the Nile Basin [HD]

Water is the new oil. This means that it will become, if it has not already done so, become a trigger for conflict.

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This visualization shows how satellite data and NASA models are being applied to study the hydrology of the Nile basin. The Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) Multisensor Precipitation Analysis fTMPA) provides three-hourly estimates of rainfall rate across much of the globe.


Here we see the seasonal cycle of monthly precipitation derived from TMPA for Africa, including the Nile Basin. The annual migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) from the Nile Equatorial Lakes region around Lake Victoria, source of the White Nile, northward into Sudan and the highlands of Ethiopia, headwaters of the Blue Nile, and back is evident in the seasonal cycle in precipitation. This precipitation cycle drives flow through the Nile River system. The Nile basin, however, is intensely evaporative, and the majority of the water that falls as rain leaves the basin as evaporation rather than river flow—either from the humid headwaters regions or from large resen/oirs and irrigation developments in Egypt and Sudan.


The Atmosphere Land Exchange Inverse (ALEXI) evapotranspiration product, developed by USDA scientists, uses satellite data to map daily evapotranspiration across the entire Nile basin, providing unprecedented information on water consumption. The balance of rainfall and evapotranspi ration can be seen in seasonal patterns of soil moisture, as simulated by the NASA Nile Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS), which merges satellite information with a physically-based land surface model to simulate variability in soil moisture—a critical variable for rainfed agriculture and natural ecosystems. Finally, the twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) can be used to monitor variability in total water storage, including surface water, soil moisture, and groundwater. The annual cycle in GRACE estimates of water storage anomalies clearly shows the seasonal movement of water storage due to precipitation patterns and the movement of surface waters from headwaters regions into the wetlands of South Sudan and the resen/oirs of the lower Nile basin.

The Nile is the longest river in the world and its basin is shared by 11 countries. Reliable, spatially distributed estimates of hydrologic storage and fluxes can provide critical information for water managers contending with multiple resource demands, a variable and changing climate, and the risk of damaging floods and droughts. NASA observations and modeling systems offer unique capabilities to meet these information needs.

Completed: 7 May 2013

Animator: Trent L. Schindler (USRA) (Lead)

Producer: Jefferson Beck (USRA)

Scientists: David Toll (NASA/GSFC)

Ben Zaitchik (Johns Hopkins University)