Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, November 21.
1) The back history
Returning to the Middle East, former New York Times bureau chief, Ethan Bronner reported in With Longer Reach, Rockets Bolster Hamas Arsenal:
A number of recent Israeli military attacks were aimed at cutting the
supply chain into Gaza. In late October, a munitions factory in Sudan
was hit from the air. Israel did not acknowledge carrying out the
attack, but the winks and nods of officials here make clear that it did.
Israel has carried out several other such attacks on Sudan, including
on convoys, in the past few years.
Bronner's reference to the killing of Mahmoudd Mabhouh was not random. The other day on Twitter, a number of analysts (Jonathan Schanzer, Michael Doran and Tony Badran) fleshed out the argument. Mark Chandler also noted the significance of Bronner's speculation at Tablet.
In addition, Mossad agents killed a Hamas official in a Dubai hotel in
early 2010 because he was thought to be crucial to the Hamas supply
chain of weapons and rockets into Gaza.
One official here said that until Israel ended its military occupation
of Gaza in 2005, there were only primitive weapons factories there. The
Hamas rockets had a flight capacity of about a mile, they could not be
aimed and they flew in a wild cylindrical pattern. Hamas then built
better rockets that could fly up to 12 miles.
(In some accounts Ahmad al-Jabari, who was killed at the outset of
Pillar of Defense, was a moderate. He was Mabhouh's replacement. Maybe
he was playing both sides - arming and leading Hamas on one hand, and
talking peace with gullible leftists on the other - but he was a real
threat to Israel.)
Going back to contemporaneous reporting of the Mabhouh killing, Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv wrote in Israel's hit Squads in the Atlantic:
What made Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas man visiting Dubai, worth all
the trouble and risk this time? He was involved in the killing of two
Israeli soldiers 22 years ago. But that’s not why he was assassinated.
The hunters stalked him because of his key role in forging secret
connections between the Palestinian radicals who rule Gaza and the
Al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran. Israel believed that
Mabhouh had a major role in arms shipments from Iran to Gaza via the
shores of Sudan and Egypt, and on through the Sinai. And rockets that
get into Gaza have a high likelihood of killing Israelis.
Edward Jay Epstein made similar observations in More Questions about the Dubai Assassination. Epstein also noted that Dubai "... the principal transshipment points for the lethal arms trade between Iran and Hamas..."
Mabhouh’s passing definitely sets Hamas back, at least for a few months.
It will take time to find a suitable replacement. And the leadership of
his radical movement is now in a tizzy trying to figure out where the
security breach occurred. The vortex of suspicion can only be a good
thing for Israel.
As for complaints by the British, Irish, French, and German governments
that their passports were misused, the issue is likely to simmer down.
Israeli intelligence can get its contacts in London’s MI6 and Berlin’s
BND to put in a good word, pointing to favors Israel regularly does for
European security agencies. The Mossad might even unveil dossiers
showing how dangerous Hamas is to everyone.
The arms smuggling that allowed Hamas to rebuild its military capacity
has been underway for some time - probably since the end of Cast Lead.
But the recent escalation of hostilities by Hamas also sheds light on
another news story. In 2010 Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara,
which was part of an attempt to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. Israel
suffered a major public relations blow, when its forces were attacked
and in response killed nine Turkish nationals. Israel was accused of
damaging its relationship with Turkey and isolating itself. Given that
the flotilla was intended to aid arms smuggling to Hamas, the complaints
against Israel were misplaced. Turkey was aiding Israel's enemies.
Subsequent pressure to get Israel to relax the blockade (including from
the Obama administration) only aided Hamas.
Another news story worth revisiting is Israel's disengagement from Gaza. Bret Stephens has written an amazing mea culpa for having advocated disengagement, The Truth about Gaza. (For the complete article, click on the title here.) Stephens concluded:
Now Israel may be on the cusp of purchasing yet another long-term
strategic failure for the sake of a short-term tactical success. The
Israeli government wants to bomb Hamas into a cease-fire—hopefully
lasting, probably orchestrated in Cairo. That way Israel gets the quiet
it seeks, especially on the eve of elections in January, and the
Egyptians get the responsibility for holding the leash on Hamas.
Israel abandoned the Philadelpi corridor at the insistence of the Bush
administration (which also pressured Israel to allow Hamas to run for
legislative election in 2006).
That is largely how it played out during Cast Lead. But as one
leading Israeli political figure told me in January 2009, just as the
last cease-fire had been declared, "Notwithstanding the blows to the
Hamas, it's still in Gaza, it's still ruling Gaza, and the Philadelphi
corridor [which runs along Gaza's border with Egypt] is still porous,
and . . . Hamas can smuggle new rockets unless [the corridor] is closed,
to fire at Israel in the future."
That leading political figure was Benjamin Netanyahu, just before he
returned to office as prime minister. He might now consider taking his
own advice. Israel can afford to watch only so many reruns of this same,
Yaacov Lozowick adds more background about disengagement and the withdrawal from the Philadelphi corridor:
The significance of this is that between September 2005 and early
2006, there was no Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Gazans were in an eiree
sort of diplomatic limbo, unlike anywhere else in the world, with no
internationally recognized sovereign, but with lots of internationally
recognized clout, and could have reasonably expected the Palestinian
Authority to move towards an upgrade of its status. There can be little
doubt that had the Gazans done in 2005 what the Jewish Agency did in
1947, namely purposefully go about the mundane but crucial task of
nation building, Israel wouldn't have interfered. On the contrary: a
majority of Israelis were hoping - fervently or dubiously - they'd do
exactly that, which is why Sharon, then followed after his illnes by
Ehud Olmert, built the election strategy of their brand new party Kadima
on the idea of continuing the disengagement process on the West Bank.
(Hitkansut, Olmert called it).
Listening to the news, I get the impression that the main goal of a
ceasefire is to end the suffering of civilians on both sides. But unless
something substantive is done - more than worthless promises of Hamas -
Hamas will simply re-arm and Israeli civilians will soon be under fire
again. Any ceasefire that doesn't substantially improve Israel's
capacity to deter Hamas will fail and Israelis will pay the price for
The reason none of this ever happened is that the Palestinians made
their choices, and their choices were not what Israel had hoped. And
thus began the downward spiral to where we're at now.
Is Hamas is now negotiating for what already existed in 2005, after
having spent the intervening years pounding into the collective Israeli
psyche that the gamble of 2005 was idiotic?
2) The Israeli narrative, muddled
Jodi Rudoren reports in Missile’s Firing, Bomb Blasts and Sirens Shatter Gaza Calm:
Suddenly, just after 2 p.m., the crowd was startled as militants near
the hospital fired a missile — most likely one that landed near
Jerusalem. In an instant, anticipation gave way to fear, and horror, as
Israel fired back, explosion after explosion in the distance.
Rudoren wasn't the first to report the firing of a rocket from near the hospital. But what does this reporting tell us?
And then came the sound of sirens roaring up the circular driveway,
signaling what would become the bloodiest afternoon yet in the seven-day
firefight with Israel.
First there were six ambulances, one after the other, unloading the
bodies of men identified as militants, at least two of them decapitated.
Then came three more, this time with children, dead and wounded.
Another ambulance rushed in, then quickly sped back out.
What "anticipation" was Rudoren referring to? Was the crowd waiting to cheer the latest strike against Israeli civilians?
- Hamas, as Israel charges, strikes at Israel from populated areas.
- The injuries to the children show that there was also a play area near where the terrorists fired from.
These are issues that Rudoren doesn't address. She was quick, though, to filter the events through the eyes of Hamas.
Even the medics unloading the bodies grimaced.
Then Rudoren muddies the narrative further:
“There’s a real massacre now,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman,
who was at the hospital waiting for the diplomatic delegation. “At the
same time when the Arab leaders came to Gaza, 10 persons are killed. At
this moment, kids playing soccer are hit. It is a clear reflection of
the mind and the thought of the occupation, thinking how to kill more
and more Palestinians.”
It remains unclear whether the intense afternoon bombing was in
retaliation for the Jerusalem strike, the second in five days, or an
effort to take out as many targets as possible while final details of a
cease-fire deal were being discussed. A frenzy of about 200 rockets also
flew from Gaza into Israel on Tuesday, hitting the southern cities of
Beersheba and Ashdod as well as the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon LeZion; an
Israeli soldier was killed in a week of cross-border battles, along
with a civilian.
If the first casualties to come were "militants" as she calls them, this
wasn't a retaliation but rather an attack to neutralize a cell that was
targeting civilians. Also she provides excuses to Hamas. Hamas is the
governing authority in Gaza. "Rival factions" wouldn't have weapons if
Hamas didn't allow it. Though it is a common journalistic conceit that
Hamas "largely observed" ceasefires, ceasefires are either observed or
The violence, which health officials said brought the Palestinian
death toll to more than 130, may complicate the efforts of the Hamas
government to persuade people, especially rival factions, to abide a
What's remarkable about Rudoren's effort here is the degree to which she
confirmed Israel's narrative and then, through naivete or malice, chose
to obscure the implications of what she wrote.
Labels: Fajr-5 rockets, Gaza expulsion, Hamas rockets, human shields, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Middle East Media Sampler, Soccer Dad