Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shot in the foot: a follow-up

When faced with evidence of Israeli wrongdoing, especially by the Army, Hasbara peddlers can always be counted on to state that:

1) the regrettable, but isolated, incidents come to light because Israel grants freedom of speech to all; and
2) Israel investigates the few rotten apples that do bad things.

On the surface, it would look like yes. If the crimes are reported, it's because someone was allowed to do the reporting; and cases are in fact opened against bad-behaving soldiers or settlers.

However, the Middle East being what it is, it's always healthy to aim for a deeper level of analysis. And when one does so, two questions arise: Are people actually free to report on the Israeli army's criminal actions -- or do they face consequences? And the cases that are opened against soldiers who commit crimes -- do they lead to convictions?

To try and answer these questions, I decided to look into an incident we have already talked about on this blog: the shooting of a blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian in the foot by an Israeli soldier in July. It's not the only crime of the Israeli army I'm aware of, but I'm rather lazy and I took advantage of this incident about which a lot of information was available.

Who denounced the shooting? A Palestinian girl, who filmed the incident with a camera that had been provided to her by her school to film a student's party. She handed the video over to B'Tselem, an Israeli human-rights organization funded by European churches and leftist institutions.

Good. She filmed it and the story hit the headlines. But was she encouraged by the Israeli State to keep on with her work -- or at least left alone?

Er, no. Since the day she filmed the army's criminal action, her house has been shot at on a daily basis by the Israeli Defense Forces, the same ones that "take extreme care not to hurt any civilians." As can be read in her testimony:

“Since my video was shown, the soldiers shoot at our house all the time,” she said. The shattered and cracked windows at the front of the building confirm her story. “When we leave the windows open, they fire tear gas inside too.”


A photo of her in her house is available:



Be sure to notice the bullet hole in the window right at the center of this blown-up detail:



So we have here that the Israeli "freedom of speech" means that if you expose the army and are not fortunate enough to be Jewish, your house will be shot at. Just like in those pseudodemocracies where newspapers are not closed down, but contrarian journalists suffer strange accidents.

But what about the commander who ordered the shooting and thus faced the implacable investigative machinery of the Israeli army? To be sure, he was prosecuted. But was he jailed, or dismissed from the Army?

Er, again no.

Omri Burbag --such is the beast's name-- was removed from the command of the battalion, transferred to another position and tried in the military court on the relatively light charge of "unworthy conduct."

What other position? Well, he went on to command the armored branch at the training center for warfare on land near Ashkelon. See here (Hebrew).

That's right: the commander who ordered a prisoner to be shot is now training other soldiers.

The bottom line would seem to be that Palestinians can't freely expose the Israeli army's crimes; and that while cases are opened against offending soldiers, they don't result in convictions. Which dispels yet two more Hasbara myths.

Hat tip: Jews sans frontières.

11 comments:

andrew r said...

This is off topic Ibrahim but I just have to know this: Was that slimy paragraph in Dr. Lozowick's latest post already there before you posted your rebuttal? Or did he update the post with that later?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

It was already there.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

they don't result in convictions

Do you ever use adverbs? Do you mean they sometimes don't lead to convictions or they seldom lead to convictions or they never lead to convictions? And whatever the answer is, how do they compare to other countries in this respect?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

The new Reporters Without Borders report on Freedom of the Press writes as follows:

The Israeli authorities are capable of the worst and the best when it comes to press freedom. Despite military censorship, the media continues to enjoy genuine freedom. However, while getting the best marks in the region (44th in the world) in the Reporters Without Borders worldwide press freedom index, its record is badly marred by Israeli army violence against media workers in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/rapport_en-2.pdf

The facts you like to focus on have some place in the characterization quoted above, but the attempt to sum things up gives Israel some credit that you would, I think, normally write off as "Hasbara." Or am I wrong about that?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Do you ever use adverbs? Do you mean they sometimes don't lead to convictions or they seldom lead to convictions or they never lead to convictions?

"Never" is a word I never use. I don't believe people or institutions can be evil with zero exceptions. Therefore, what I obviously meant is that cases opened against Israeli soldiers suspected of violence seldom lead to convictions. Several human rights groups, like B'Tselem or Yesh Din, concur with this judgment. See here for a primer. My statement is statistically accurate.

The facts you like to focus on have some place in the characterization quoted above, but the attempt to sum things up gives Israel some credit that you would, I think, normally write off as "Hasbara."

I write off as Hasbara the notion that Israel grants universal press freedom to all people under its jurisdiction.

Israel doesn't grant press freedom to Palestinians in the territories. In fact, that amounts to racism. Israeli soldiers wouldn't shoot at a Jewish journalist's home (say, Amira Hass's), but they have no problem shooting at the homes of Palestinians who dare denounce them. Don't you feel even slightly ashamed at this reality?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

but they have no problem shooting at the homes of Palestinians who dare denounce them.

Do you ever notice that one of your techniques is to pluralize specific incidents or situtations?

Don't you feel even slightly ashamed at this reality?

I don't view it as the whole reality. If it is true that the girl's house was shot at simply to punish her for shooting and publicizing a video, then I agree that it is a blot on Israel's record.

I write off as Hasbara the notion that Israel grants universal press freedom to all people under its jurisdiction.

Do you have any examples of this claim? It is often pointed out, I think, that Israel has a fairly robust free press. I don't think anyone expects relations between military forces and an intensely hostile population to be a good example of a civil society at peace. And the Palestinians have enough autonomy to commit all sorts of offenses against their own press freedom, by the way. Was there any Hasbara in the Reporters Without Borders quote? I'm not quite clear on your answer.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Do you have any examples of this claim?

Past experience has taught me that when you ask for examples of a claim, that doesn't mean your viewpoint will change if I in fact provide examples. For instance, when I gave proof that Rabbi Lior was paid by the State and could be fired by the State, or that certain people claim that Barak offered 97% of the West Bank at Camp David, you still criticized me, not Israel or the Hasbaristas.

Which begs the question: if I provide examples of people claiming that Israel grants freedom of speech to Palestinians in the territories, what will I get in return?

I don't think anyone expects relations between military forces and an intensely hostile population to be a good example of a civil society at peace.

Even when faced with a hostile population an Army has the obligation not to break the law.

Seizing someone's camera and smashing it, or shooting at someone's house, are examples of law-breaking by the Israeli army.

And the Palestinians have enough autonomy to commit all sorts of offenses against their own press freedom, by the way.

Israel controls 86% of the West Bank and is responsible for press freedom there.

Was there any Hasbara in the Reporters Without Borders quote?

Did I claim that RWB were Hasbara peddlers? This is a clear straw man.

But not to leave your question unanswered, the passage you quote doesn't look like Hasbara to me.

It is often pointed out, I think, that Israel has a fairly robust free press.

I think it's rather fallacious to speak of the press freedom that indeed exists inside the Green Line when most of Israel's human-rights violations take place beyond that line.

B'Tselem is part of the Israeli press, and its reporters, who are mainly Palestinians in the territories, are not free to document Israel's crimes. Therefore I assume it's safe to doubt that Israel has a free press.

If it is true that the girl's house was shot at simply to punish her for shooting and publicizing a video, then I agree that it is a blot on Israel's record.

And do you intend to do anything about it?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Past experience has taught me that when you ask for examples of a claim, that doesn't mean your viewpoint will change if I in fact provide examples. For instance, when I gave proof that Rabbi Lior was paid by the State and could be fired by the State, or that certain people claim that Barak offered 97% of the West Bank at Camp David, you still criticized me, not Israel or the Hasbaristas.


We're having a conversation. Sometimes I just ask questions to satisfy my curiosity. I thought you were making cheap and superficial points about Rabbi Lior: He gets state money, therefore he is a state official, therefore everything he says is state policy, therefore Israel is racist, blah, blah, blah. I tried to explain why I thought you were being superficial, but I'm not the biggest expert myself on Israeli sociology. I remain critical of this Hasbara Busting project of yours, but I like the word "Hasbaristas." Viva los Hasbaristas! (grammar?)

Did I claim that RWB were Hasbara peddlers? This is a clear straw man.

You seem to object to notions of Israel having unique good qualities. RWB seemed to me to grant that in some respects it does, for a Middle East country anyway. So I was wondering if you would apply the term "Hasbara."

Israel controls 86% of the West Bank and is responsible for press freedom there.

In square miles? You are making a very sloppy and superficial point.
Palestinians in the West Bank have various news agencies, papers, TV stations, etc. Do they convey a sense of robust public debate? When they don't, is it Israel's fault?

do you intend to do anything about it?

Like getting on a boat with Yvonne Ridley? Are you planning to do that?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Sometimes I just ask questions to satisfy my curiosity.

I can understand that, but the striking fact is that you seem not to be aware of certain frequent claims of Israel advocates, such as "Barak offered 97% at Camp David."

I remain critical of this Hasbara Busting project of yours, but I like the word "Hasbaristas." Viva los Hasbaristas! (grammar?)

It would be vivan, since Spanish verbs have plural forms.

Of course I don't expect you to encourage this project. That said, I hope you'll at least understand that certain things that do not particularly bother you are very much annoying to me, and it's only logical that I'll try to respond to them. For instance, the claim that Israel is morally superior to its critics.

Do they convey a sense of robust public debate? When they don't, is it Israel's fault?

I never said "when the PA tortures a journalist, it's Israel's fault;" I said "when Israeli soldiers shoot at the house of a girl who denounced them, it's Israel's fault."

You might have a point if press freedom in the Israeli-controlled West Bank depended in any measure on press freedom in the Palestinian-controlled zone. But it does not.

Like getting on a boat with Yvonne Ridley? Are you planning to do that?

We're both married and the people would gossip.

I think there's a vast array of options to criticize Israel without converting to Islam, which should only be left as a last resort.

UPDATE: I've seen a picture of her on the Internet, and my wife is much more beautiful. No way I'd get on that boat.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

you seem not to be aware of certain frequent claims of Israel advocates, such as "Barak offered 97% at Camp David."

No, I have noticed myself that there is a fair amount of muddle where this is concerned. 97% of what? The West Bank? All the territory that the negotiation was about? And then many Israel-bashers claim that the Palestinians were only offered "Bantustans." Not according to Dennis Ross and Bill Clinton.

I never said "when the PA tortures a journalist, it's Israel's fault;" I said "when Israeli soldiers shoot at the house of a girl who denounced them, it's Israel's fault."

But you tried to approach the question without much reference to the actual press that is either free or not free. The PA controls enough of Palestinian society to have a press which we can judge by whether free-debate takes place or not. The Hamas-controlled areas do also. And I would like to see someone besides you and someone besides someone on a comment thread use wording such as "Israel grants universal press freedom to all people under its jurisdiction."

Health Blog said...

And the cases that are opened against soldiers who commit crimes -- do they lead to convictions