Israel has finally allowed selected media into the hell that is Gaza, permitting some survey of the staggering destruction that has accompanied the mass killing spree. The evidence of callous murder and massacres is all around, with almost every humanitarian agency on the ground now calling for immediate investigations of Israeli war crimes.
Yesterday, the BBC and ITN came upon entire villages reduced to rubble. In a rare departure from BBC timidity, reporter Christian Fraser tracked down the father of a little girl discovered lying in an Egyptian hospital bed. Though smiling, she couldn't yet realise that she'll never walk again. When Fraser told the father of his daughter's whereabouts and injuries, he broke down. Later, he tells Fraser how the soldiers had stepped out of their tanks and ordered the family out of their home, shooting dead the little girl's two sisters. He talks of the terror and how "some of the soldiers were eating chocolate and crisps" while the murder went on.
In another heartbreaking account, ITN's Robert Moore entered Zeitoun and heard the corroborated testimony of a young boy whose father had been executed by Israeli soldiers. After cutting down his defenceless dad, they sprayed the house with bullets, leaving other family members to bleed to death. They even stopped ambulances getting through to the injured. Commenting on everything he'd seen, Moore said that "at a minimum, there needs to be a formal war crimes investigation." In one of his most wicked denials to date, Mark Regev suggested that Moore had been misled by Hamas's "atrocity propaganda".
Other accounts tell of how the Israelis ran over Muslim graves and left calling-card graffiti gloating over Palestinian deaths. "Arabs need to die", said one piece.
Aims and atrocities
Ehud Barak is said to be obsessed by clocks and time. We can now see the full results of his murderous precision. In just twenty three timescaled days, between the festive holidays and Obama's inauguration, Gaza was pulverised. With the world and its media fixated by the Washington event, Israel withdrew its tanks and talked of 'objectives completed'. We're now getting a closer view of just what that really entails.
Yet, while bewildered Gazans pick through the rubble of their homes, lamenting politicians and media still continue the canard that Hamas rockets are mainly to blame for the carnage unleashed by Israel.
After his swearing-in, Obama made courtesy calls to Olmert and Abbas, but still found no words of condemnation for the massacre of over 1300 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians. Reporters may now be revealing some of the gross atrocities on the ground, some may even be talking of "war crimes", but little of this is matched by serious consideration of the 'Hamas threat', Israel's true, murderous motivations or Obama's silence on their crimes.
Contrary to the template language peddled by Regev and repeated ad nauseam by the media, this has never been about Israel's 'security' or 'deterrence'. It was, and is, about the deliberate annihilation of Gaza. As Ben White - going against the Guardian's editorial supplications - bravely wrote, "Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis."
Never, notes White, did the rocket factor seriously figure in Israel's calculations:
"First, to what this war on Gaza is not about: it's not about the rockets. During the truce last year, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip was reduced by 97%, with the few projectiles that were fired coming from non-Hamas groups opposed to the agreement. Despite this success in vastly improving the security of Israelis in the south, Israel did everything it could to undermine the calm, and provoke Hamas into a conflict."
Why has this most basic truth been shunned by the media? Why have the BBC and others consistently repeated Israeli objectives as being 'defensive'? Why this compliant service to power when the true aims are all too manifest. As White insists:
"There is, however, no shortage of evidence available that points to rather different Israeli aims. Estimates for the proportion of civilian deaths among the 1,360 Palestinians killed range from more than half to two-thirds. Politicians, diplomats and journalists are by and large shying away from the obvious, namely that Israel has been deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians and the very infrastructure of normal life, in order to – in the best colonial style – teach the natives a lesson."
For White, Israel's killing has been driven by three main aims: firstly, "to humiliate and weaken Hamas" - breaking them as a political force; secondly, "to teach a lesson to the Palestinians in Gaza, and elsewhere, that the only way to avoid the wrath of the Israeli military is to accept Israel's idea of a two-state solution, a generous concession to be gratefully received by Abbas and fellow moderates": and, thirdly, "to further "catastrophise" the territory, reducing the capacity for continued existence to the barest of minimums – perhaps to bring about "an end to the persistence of Gaza's ordinary people in wanting the chance of a peaceful and dignified life"."
Israel's real cumulative objectives, thus, look very different from its claims of security, stability and, perversely, its supposed desire to help Gaza reconstruct. As White concludes:
"Israel seeks to turn the Gaza Strip into a depoliticised humanitarian crisis, always on the brink of catastrophe, always dependent; its population reduced to ration-receiving clients of international aid."
Ben White's analysis is a welcome respite from the standard 'rocket threat' and 'two sides' narrative that pervades the 'moderate' liberal media. It would be useful to see him direct his comments about shy-away journalists to the Guardian itself. But let's not expect too much.
BBC, ITN and other journalists are now confronted by the starkest evidence of Israeli war crimes. Their basic journalistic sensibilities tell them to report what they see. And, as in this case, they have. They, too, are human beings, emotionally affected by such gruesome sights. Yet, while these atrocities are being highlighted, any thought of them being stated as Israel's key objectives remains taboo. The cynical, clock-timing exercise in mass murder is never considered as such. The possibility that Israel actually wants a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza can never be seriously contemplated or explored.
And, yet, as Jonathan Cook, like White, shows, the real aim is devastation:
"None of this will be regretted by Israel. In fact the general devastation, far from being unfortunate collateral damage, has been the offensive’s unstated goal."
Murder, devastation and catastrophe. It's all very obvious, isn't it? It should be to serious journalists. It is to some. Even those in the mainstream. But the darker reality behind Israel's mass violence, the political machinations which inspire it, and the clock-watching zealots who plan and execute it, must all stay safely off-limits, shrouded and avoided, like a terrible, shameful truth.