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Gaza War, Day 17: Nearly 800 Palestinian Dead, in Most Heinous Massacre to Date, IDF Shells Hit UN School, 16 Civilian Dead

In one of the most heinous civilian atrocities of the Gaza War, at least four Israeli tank shells struck a UN school in Beit Hanoun in which Palestinian civilians had vainly sought shelter from combat raging around them.  As food and water had become scarce there, the UN had asked the refugees to gather in the courtyard for evacuation by bus to a relatively safer alternate location.  Fifteen minutes before the scheduled arrival of the buses, the shells made direct hits on the compound.  Both civilian refugees and UN personnel were among the dead.

un school massacre gaza

Relatives of Palestinian boy murdered in UN school massacre mourn at morgue

The IDF’s lame excuse offered before it finally admitted it was at fault was that it had told the UN to evacuate the school days earlier since it was too close to a combat zone.  Of course, the UN already has 100,000 refugees crowding its facilities throughout the Strip.  So moving them elsewhere wasn’t a matter of finding a safer facility with space available.  It was a matter of crowding them into a place that was already overflowing with the needy and desperate.

During the 2006 Lebanon War, there was an Israeli airstrike on a UN facility called Qana that killed 44 civilians.  This will likely shape up as this war’s Qana.  Till now, the Obama administration has merely begged the sides for a ceasefire, while doing almost nothing to address Hamas’ legitimate demands that the illegal Israeli and Egyptian siege be ended.  Now, it can continue with this charade or it can pull out all the stops and get the killing to stop, while rectifying the worst injustices of Gaza’s plight.

ramallah protests

Massive protests in Ramallah against Gaza massacre

In a development that could change the calculus of the current war, thousands of West Bank Palestinians rallied in towns throughout Palestine to protest the massacre.  The IDF killed at least three demonstrators and wounded 60 through the use of live ammunition in street combat that begins to echo the pogroms initiated by the army a few weeks ago.  Then the army, under instructions from the political echelon, engaged in collective punishment after the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish youth.  7 Palestinians were killed during those protests.

People like to throw around threats of a third Intifada.  I’ve heard them too many times to credit this one as the one that will turn into a full-fledged people’s revolt.  But it certainly has the basic elements necessary to provoke a mass uprising.  Remember Tunisia?  There it only took a street vendor lighting himself on fire to start the Arab Spring.  What will happen next in this case?

If the Obama administration had any guts or vision, it would take advantage of this Israeli atrocity to exert maximum pressure for negotiating a larger resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It could get concessions from the Palestinians while demanding concessions from the Israelis along with a threat of sanctions if Israel doesn’t comply.  That could redeem Kerry’s failed peace talks.  But I fear that while there may be vision there are no guts for such a diplomatic Hail Mary.

As I wrote yesterday, while there will be enormous pressure for a ceasefire now, the effort will be totally wasted unless it addresses Gaza’s needs in a real, verifiable way.  End the siege.  Open the borders.  Allow Palestinians to have a unity government.  Talk to Hamas.  Short of this, everything else is a charade.

Here’s a perfect example of the charade in action (from Haaretz):

A senior Israeli official said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has drafted a new cease-fire proposal and presented it to both sides.

Both sides?  What does that mean?  It sure doesn’t mean the proposal was presented to Hamas because the U.S. won’t talk to Hamas.  The U.S. will talk to Egypt’s junta and Mahmoud Abbas.  But neither has the trust of Hamas.  So which side exactly is Kerry talking to?  It somehow satisfies the U.S. and Israel that they’re talking to someone who is proximate to the other side in this argument.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re reaching the party they need to be speaking to.  And that’s the problem in a nutshell, isn’t it?  We define who will speak to.  We define the problem on our terms.  Everything else is peripheral.  It’s all us (whether “us” is Israel or the U.S.): our interests.  The other side, if they have interests, doesn’t concern us.

COMMENT RULE NOTICE: I have instituted a temporary comment rule change due to my diminishing patience with hasbara efforts in the comment thread.  If  you are a new commenter or an existing one who posts propagandistic comments, arguments, etc. that have been published earlier by others; or which blame Gazans or Hamas for what’s happened, you will be immediately moderated.  I will also moderate commenters whose statements demean Israel with claims of Nazism, etc.  I will approve comments that respect the comment rules.  But if your comments appear to be part of the hasbara apparatus, they may not be.  I can only repeat arguments and produce evidence so many times before I lose all patience.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • poirefrais July 24, 2014, 4:31 PM

    It’s awful.I’m going to a protest in an hour. I’ve called white house, sec of state office, all “my” reps and sent emails.
    The killing must stop. Earlier I read a UN school/shelter was bombed.
    Thank you Richard

  • nessim dayan July 24, 2014, 5:20 PM

    Bibi himself has been heard on open mikes that he will never allow a palestinian state between the jordan and the sea.
    if that it so the rest is a charade. the creation of a second tier of citizens WITHOUT ANY RIGHTS – what is that if not apartheid not in the budding but in fact. only missing is the naming of the barbwired neighborhood and we are a descendant of south africa.
    the quote showed up a week ago in huffingtonpost.
    at this stage 1% has mesmerized the remaining 99 as lemming and we are all off to the cliff. there is not a single dissenting voice in the darkness, there is no left there is no center. just lemmings – sorrily i ache for reality to wake up call, sorrily israel is heading for self immolation in the next 15 to 20 years max.
    i beg of someone to tell me how otherwise can the walk to the abyss be avoid. oh sadness – THERE ISN’T A SINGLE VOICE IN THE CURRENT POLITICIAN CROP THAT CAN BE CALLED AN INSPIRATION OF CIVILITY – please a name please

  • Daniel Rocha July 24, 2014, 6:52 PM

    The embassador of my country, Brazil, was called back from Israel, and condemned the used of disproportionate force:


  • Mary Hughes Thompson July 24, 2014, 8:35 PM

    Why should Bibi stop the massacre of Palestinian civilians, including hundreds of children, when the U.S. continues to give him the green light to commit unlimited atrocities without being held accountable, or even criticized?
    U.S. State Department spokesman Maria Harf on Democracy Now today:
    “We will stand up for Israel even if it means standing alone.”
    How the Palestinians, especially those in Gaza who are being decimated by U.S. supplied bombs, must feel on hearing that is hard to imagine.

  • Shmuel July 24, 2014, 9:22 PM

    Richard – your new comment rules make this site mondoweiss 2 and irrelevant.
    If anything that doesn’t fit in with your opinion of what caused the present war is to be moderated as ‘hasbara’ (as if this is some dirty word) then there is no room for discussion but only grandstanding by one type of opinion, that which turns Hamas into the Boy Scouts of the Middle East.
    If you want your site to become a mutual pat on the back site then keep moderating and banning.

    • grappler July 24, 2014, 9:40 PM

      In what sense is Richard’s rule like Mondoweiss 2? Mondoweiss has large numbers of hasbarists – especially over the last few days. And typically their empty lies are called out by some pretty good arguments and evidence. Perhaps Shmuel that’s what you object to there. Since hasbara has become code for “lying for Israel” and indeed repeating the old lies time and time again even after they have been shown to be false, I can completely understand Richard. However, in the Mondoweiss context, the hasbarists serve a serious purpose since the show the wider public the kind of people who are supporting Israel. I guess you’re doing the same.

    • Richard Silverstein July 24, 2014, 11:57 PM

      @shmuel: I do love it when Israelis like you make sweeping comments predicting the demise or “irrelevance” or whatever of this blog. Your judgment, based on little more than your own outraged political views, has no objective relevance or value. But sure tells us a lot about who your “friends” are in the threads.

      You also typically neglected to note that the new rules were temporary till the end of the fighting & the MFA & IDC stop their tag team hasbara assignments to this blog. But I wouldn’t expect you to make such a fine distinction because it’s out of character for you and the hasbara crowd multiplying here like fleas.

      Hasbara means propaganda. To me it’s a dirty word.

      As for Hamas being the “Boy Scouts of the Middle East” that’s a lame, unfair portrayal of how I see Hamas & you know it. But in comparison to the crimes of the IDF in this war, yes they are Boy Scouts, or at least pikers.

      You & I have had our differences & a certain level of tolerance, if not respect. You are one of the commenters here who I feel at least makes an effort not to parrot hasbara talking points, though our views clash often. But if you want to side with the hasbarati, be my guest. You’re welcome to ’em.

      • Canuck July 25, 2014, 9:02 AM

        “the MFA & IDC stop their tag team hasbara assignments to this blog.”

        Do you have proof of such tag teaming? I’d be curious to see it – ie IP addresses that resolve to Israeli govt. buildings or to the IDC or a preponderance of pro-Israel commenters with IP addresses that resolve to known proxy servers. That would be interesting to see.

        But yes, it seems that anyone who is pro-Israel and wishes to comment here must first scan all previous comments on all previous posts to make sure that his or her point has not already been made. That’s a rather onerous requirement don’t you think?

        • Canuck July 25, 2014, 9:13 AM

          Sorry. I didn’t mean pro-Israel. I recognize that Richard Silverstein is a pro-Israel Zionist and that one need not kowtow to right wing elements in Israel in order to be pro-Israel. What I meant was “anyone who is a right-wing Zionist” or whatever you want to call it. Sorry!

        • Richard Silverstein July 25, 2014, 5:43 PM

          @ Canuck: They use IP proxies to mask the origins of their work. Even right wingers who spout abuse here but who may not be official messengers of the state use proxies so that their abuse may not be traced back to the real source.

          The idiot who hacked my site 2 years ago was so stupid as NOT to use a proxy, which is how Kaspersky IDed him for me.

          But the arguments are so repetitive & as soon as I moderate or ban one a new commenter shows up. They also repeat certain ideas & memes over & over. There’s clearly a script though it may vary from hack to hack or boiler room to boiler room. It’s all too convenient. WHen there’s a war, the presence of the hasbara crowd is enhanced. When there isn’t they’re still here but just not as intense a presence. Not to mention that the MFA is spending tens of millions on social media hasbara. IDC is giving scores if not hundreds of students course credit for sitting in hasbara boiler rooms churning out pro Israel propaganda. If you think that a few of those hacks haven’t been assigned here, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

          As for “onerous requirement,” not at all. To be a reader or commenter here is a responsibility. If you want to comment here, you have a responsibility both to know what YOU are talking about and to know what has come before you. I do not relish the boring rehash of what scores or hundreds of commenters have already said or written here. YOu do realize 80,000 comments have been published here over the past 13 yrs. And that a good 25% of them come from right wing readers. Meaning 20,000 comments have been published from right wing sources. If you think you’re going to say something original, chances are you aren’t unless you’re doing a lot of original thinking.

          I like & respect original thinking whether its right or left wing. I deplore hackery whether it’s right or left-wing (and believe me, there’s left wing hackery I ban or moderate here as well).

  • Arie Brand July 24, 2014, 9:35 PM

    One of the longest serving members of the British House of Commons, Sir Gerald Kaufman, is probably also the one who is most intimately acquainted with Israel. He has stressed again and again that mere moral condemnation of Israel is useless. The Israelis don’t give a damn. They are totally complacent and self righteous and sit at their sidewalk cafes in Tel Aviv not caring a hoot about the human misery only half an hour away from them.

    Sir Gerald has visited Israel countless times he says. When he first went there, in 1961, he was still a hopeful young Zionist. That is long ago. A while ago he led a British parliamentary delegation to Gaza.

    The situation in Gaza, even before the present onslaught, was dreadful and will now of course get worse.Water was supplied for a short period every five days. Electricity was in short supply and when Israelis do not get enough of it for their air conditioners they simply cut off the supply to their prisoners. Many children are badly undernourished. Building materials are not allowed to get in so that rebuilding what the Israelis smash to smithereens becomes impossible. Fishermen can’t go out and even if they were allowed to their exertions would be useless, the waters near Gaza are that badly polluted. I am still quoting Sir Gerald.

    The Israelis, he stresses, are fools to believe that just because they allegedly have the fourth strongest army in the world this can go on endlessly. They have a first world standard of living on borrowed money. The world should start hitting them there through boycotts and sanctions.

    I believe that this movement will be slow but inexorable. A new generation is coming along that has never seen “Exodus” or even heard of it, that hasn’t witnessed the “heroics” of the Israeli army in 1967, that regards the holocaust as an affair of their great-grandfathers that has nothing to do with them and that can no longer be blackmailed by the accusation of anti-Semitism. What it knows and sees of Israel is the violence inflicted on a largely defenceless population.

    The position of the US, the main patron of this rogue state, is also changing. It has shifted its attention to the Pacific where it will be preoccupied for a long time to come by the assertiveness of an up and coming China. Israeli attempts to cast the country in a new role as the frontline defender of “the West” against Islamic radicalism will look increasingly irrelevant.

    The movement for sanctions is underway – it will grow stronger. Haaretz reported a few days ago that the EU Commission is engaged in translating policy toward Israel in guidelines. It wants for instance products from the settlements to be indicated as such so that consumers will not be misled by the label “Made in Israel”.

    My perusal of the Dutch paper Trouw this morning also gave me some hope. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, has defended the measure to label products from the settlements in parliament, pointing to the British and Danes who apparently have already taken similar steps.

    Brussels will no longer entertain in any one way relations with the settlements. Thus, for instance, a request for subsidy by an academic at the University of Ariel, a settlement, will be refused.

    Two large Dutch supermarket chains will no longer sell products made in the settlements.

    I believe that ultimately such boycotts will be extended to Israeli products as such. As far as the world economy is concerned Israel is of course entirely dispensable. It has a small internal market, the loss of which will hardly register, it has no scarce resources that are in demand and whatever it produces can be produced somewhere else.

  • Arie Brand July 24, 2014, 11:46 PM

    Here is another snippet:

    “Turkish businesses have started removing Coca-Cola from shelves, more than a hundred Mumbai hotels are not selling any of its products, and Malaysian pro-Palestinian groups are calling for a boycott in response to the continued Israeli attacks on Gaza, which have killed more than 700 people.”

    This is an aspect that should also be mentioned: the growing importance of the third world where Israel is hardly popular. The holocaust and all it stands for has no resonance there. Some of these countries have huge Muslim populations such as Indonesia with its population of about 250 million and Pakistan with another 180 million. I am presently in a mainly Roman Catholic country but even here the chairperson of the fledgling socialist party, the Partido Lakas ng Masa, has called for the withdrawal of the Filipino ambassador from Israel and the cutting of all ties. It won’t happen (there are too many Filipino overseas workers in that region) but it is important that in a mainly self absorbed land such as this these voices are heard.

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