To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Daily War Crime: Drone Footage From Gaza Reveals Appalling Destruction---And A Pattern Of Indiscriminate, Disproportionate Shelling Of Civilian Areas


Trigger warning: This drone camera footage from the destroyed Gaza neighborhood of Shejaiya is Very Disturbing, especially if you followed the military action as it unfolded. Mark Perry, who often writes for Foreign Policy, has a great piece at  Al Jazeera on the indiscriminate IDF shelling that obliterated Shejaiya on July 20, as observed by US military officers in the Pentagon who closely monitored the fighting in twice-daily classified reports. Perry reports that the Israeli artillery barrage left American military monitors “stunned” at its ferocity. The YouTube footage, which was featured on the BBC this morning, is what really brings it home---pounds it home is more like it. Think Berlin, 1945. Some of it actually looks like Dresden, or a videogame depiction of Planet Null.

The IDF is putting a lot of effort into addressing Palestinian war crimes charges with its internal legal advisors going into overdrive; Israeli political leaders and diplomats have been working tirelessly on other fronts, including the US Congress,  trying to block a formal UN inquiry and Palestinian efforts to present their case to the International Criminal Court.  This footage shows why Palestinians in Gaza have a lot to work with, and why Israel might be in for a unprecedentedly rough legal ride, especially with Palestinian human rights workers improving the reliability of their forensic evidence compared to prior Israeli operations in Gaza in 2009 and 2012. And from what Perry reports, Israel better hope that human rights investigators don’t get their hands on the Pentagon reports or any similar “logs” kept by the IDF.  

According to Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem who spoke at a New America event last week, answers to war crimes questions from Gaza “aren’t necessarily found in Gaza.” When I asked him if they were exploring the possibilities that there might be a Bradley Manning/ Edward Snowden scenario on the horizon wherein someone from inside the IDF might leak incriminating information, or, in the case of Pentagon, to allow a “sanctioned leak” of the information the US military has, El-Ad was coy, only saying “We’re exploring all options and scenarios.” I doubt the White House would order a “sanctioned leak” but you never know. There’s no real love lost between the CIA, the NSA or the DIA and Israel over Israel’s lack of reciprocity with those agencies and its continued spying on US targets, including Secretary of State John Kerry while on the ground in Israel during failed peace negotiations this spring.

I don’t like the idea of these kind of leaks, at least the Manning and Snowden actions where a single individual takes it on himself to make the decision to divulge state secrets. (I’ve since come around to a reluctant acceptance of Snowden’s actions, especially because he revealed that the Obama administration authorized a sharing agreement between the NSA and the Israelis in which metadata of US citizens and politicians would be given to Israel, with very little enforceable legal protection against violations of privacy and free speech.) Still, when you look at the utter destruction of a place like Shejaiya , you could see why someone in a position to bring those responsible for it to justice might be tempted to release information capable of doing that.

Watch the footage---and watch this space. A Manning /Snowden scenario, or an Israeli version of it, is fanciful at this point, but still...  

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