Targeting Schools

In case anyone still doubts the plausibility of earlier reports that the Israeli attack on the UN school in Gaza wasn’t entirely to blame for the ensuing damage and death toll, there is now video evidence showing just such booby trapping and explosives planting in a Gazan school. My friends, this is an act that fits the legal definition of a war crime.


So how long until we start demanding war crimes investigations for this particular revelation?  Any guesses?

h/t: Michael Totten

17 Responses to “Targeting Schools”

  1. tas says:

    What I love is how wingnut bloggers will post videos given out by the IDF (or any military, really) uncritically; without questioning them. Like, “Hmm, is a video distributed by a government entity propaganda?” But then turn around and accuse the mainstream media of creating propaganda. These people really live in bizarro world … the same world which thinks Joe the Plumber is a great reporter, etc.

  2. Dustin says:

    Funny, that. It reminds me an awful lot of the “leftwing” analysis of the doctor video. There comes a time when you have to either decide video evidence is worthless across the board even if it looks legit, or admit that maybe, just maybe, your analysis is skewed by bias.

  3. tas says:

    The issue is when the story becomes the medium, and the story conveyed by the medium is not being paid attention to. But on the medium itself, I take the video from a journalist with more credibility then a video released by a government entity, released to blogs, and unvetted by media agencies. Let’s remember that the Palestinian video released went through editors at media outlets like the BBC (who I would consider to be more reputable than, say, CNN), where surely at least one seasoned editor inspected the story and video and found it to be a legit scoop. Also, the rightwing bloggers who say that the video is fake have provided absolutely no evidence to back up their assertions; they are only armed with conspiracy theories and red-baiting (“Oohh, that doctor is a Marxist!”, etc.). Whereas the booby tapped school/zoo video was released directly by the IDF after then invaded the area — having full control over the area. Israel still isn’t allowing foreign journalists to go into Gaza. If Israel will not allow newspapers and television to question them in Gaza, then what reason do I have to believe that videos released by them are accurate?

    So no, I don’t think my analysis is skewered by bias. The cases of both videos are different.

    Of course, all of this makes the medium the story, but what about the story conveyed by the medium? The Palestinian video shows a child dying. In the most recent bout of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, almost 1000 people in Gaza have died. A lot of them have been children. Anyone who thinks that the scenes displayed in the video haven’t been played out at least a hundredfold in the past couple of weeks is deluding themselves. This is real life in Gaza — and I honestly cannot see how anyone can be accused of bias for pointing out reality. Some people may cheer for Israel, others may back the Palestinians, and others may believe that all sides are being foolish… But the fact displayed in this video is true. Palestinian children in dying. Anyone who says otherwise is the biased party, willing to ignore empirical evidence to suit their own opinions.

    Or, if they’re a conservative wingnut blogger, they’ll pick one video, throw a bunch of conspiratorial circumstantial “evidence” at it and claim it’s fake.

    I’m reminded of the time Power Line claimed that an AP photog in Iraq was friends with the insurgents there, claiming that the photog otherwise couldn’t have taken a photograph that was published. Instead, it turned out that Power Line didn’t know how a zoom lens on a camera worked. That’s pretty embarrassing, but it didn’t stop the wingnutosphere from claiming that the AP was in bed with terrorists and this “staged” photograph was proof of that.

    Conservatives have a history of making the medium the story when the story disagrees with their worldview. Unable to face facts, wingnuts instead smear the messenger in a vain attempt to prove that they’re never wrong — but the facts remain the same.

    I’m rather sick of the medium being the message. Even discussing the matter just plays into their hands because then we’re not paying attention to the actual story — and the story is that wingnuts have been dead wrong again, and again, and again, and again. All the cries of wolf they make while uncritically parroting government propaganda won’t change that.

    I find it much more fruitful to discuss actual issues. If that somehow makes me biased, then so be it.

  4. Kathy says:

    You’re both missing the point. Dustin writes, “My friends, this is an act that fits the legal definition of a war crime.” Well, of course it is, and who ever said otherwise? I have yet to read a single media news report or left-wing blogger report that did not clearly state it’s a war crime for Hamas to place weapons and explosives in schools or hospitals or anywhere else where civilians are likely to be killed.

    The point is that Hamas’s war crime does NOT justify Israel’s war crime in return. It is just as much a war crime for the IDF to shoot or shell or bomb a structure meant for civilian use if they know that civilians are indeed inside that building, as it is for Hamas to put weapons and explosives in the building.

    And yet, although every left-wing blogger that I read makes sure to note Hamas’s war crime, no right-wing blogger EVER points out that the Israeli military’s assault on such a building is also a war crime.

  5. tas says:

    Maybe off-topic, but.. Is it me, or is the phrase “war crime” an oxymoron? I hate to say that, after Israel drops enough bombs on Gaza in two weeks to kill 1000 people, that I’m unfazed by Hamas lining a school with explosives… But, I mean… Priorities? Both are wrong, but if I have to choose something that’s more wrong, then I think you know where I’m headed.

    If war crime discussions in this case don’t start with Israel’s brutal bombing campaign, then I’m not sure where they should begin.

  6. gcotharn says:

    from Kathy:

    And yet, although every left-wing blogger that I read makes sure to note Hamas’s war crime, no right-wing blogger EVER points out that the Israeli military’s assault on such a building is also a war crime.

    The explanation for your perception has three parts:

    1) The right doesn’t trust initial info which comes out about alleged “war crimes”. To the right, such frequently equates to the little media boy who cried wolf. When the right believes info about war crimes is accurate(aka Abu Ghraib, murders in Iraq), the right will openly deplore the war crime committed.

    2) Israel’s assault on a building with weapons and civilians is not necessarily a war crime. It’s always a tragedy, it might be a war crime, but it’s not necessarily either immoral or a crime. From today’s International Herald Tribune:

    Moshe Halbertal, a left-leaning professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University, helped write the army’s ethics code. He said he knows from personal experience how much laborious discussion has gone into deciding when it is acceptable to shoot at a legitimate target if civilians are nearby, adding that there have been several events in this war where he suspects the wrong decision was made.

    3) The right gives a lot of leeway to a nation which must stop the 6000+ and continuing rocket attacks directed at it – rocket attacks which began before sanctions; rocket attacks which continued even after Israel eased the sanctions during the brokered ceasefire. If the right believed there existed a nonviolent solution for stopping the rocket attacks, then the right would expect Israel to be more circumspect about their targeting.

  7. Kathy says:

    It doesn’t matter how Israeli military officers, or government leaders, or left-leaning professors define the term “war crime.” The term has been defined, in international protocols to which both Israel and the U.S. have signed on. And staging a military assault on a structure or in a location where civilians are known to be, is a war crime. Period, end of story.

    Oh, and tas, I agree with your most recent comment about war crimes. The only place in which it might make moral or logical sense to claim that killing 1,000 civilians is “self-defense” while killing a handful of Israelis is “killing every single Jew and destroying the state of Israel” is Humpty Dumpty land.

  8. gcotharn says:

    Your perception is that the Right does not openly deplore a “war crime”. Whether such targeting actually is a war crime, or not, is not part of the explanation. The explanation is that the Right has a different definition of war crime, and does not necessarily consider such targeting a war crime. Thus the Right perceives no immorality and no crime to deplore.

  9. gcotharn,

    That is where your “right” disconnects itself from the rest of the civilized world. It is not up to “the right” to redefine what is or is not a war crime.

    US CODE: Title 18,2441. War Crimes

  10. gcotharn says:

    There’s no way I want to debate what is or is not a war crime. I’m only explaining why the Right does not, in Kathy’s perception, protest war crimes as often as they should. Part of the answer is the Right does not define war crimes the same way Kathy does. Damn the Right’s misguided thinking all you want. Knock yourself out.

  11. G: The point that Kathy is making is that there is such a thing as a definition of “war crime” that is not relative, set in stone, and actually signed onto by both the US and Israel.

    Look, we’re all friends here, and this is a subject that obviously people are emotional about, so I first and foremost, I want to make sure that on this subject, we’re cool with the whole agreeing to disagree (this goes for EVERYBODY).

    But in this instant, I’m a kind of “pox upon both their houses” kind of guy, and the argument over war crimes is little more than a metaphor or microcosm of the greater circular argument of who’s really at fault. As I mention in our next episode of CommentsCast, I think Ezra Klein pretty much has it right: the motivation of Palestinians, particularly militaristic Palestinian organization, is one of reality: occupation, overwhelming military force being exerted upon them, subjugation, etc. For the Israeli’s, their motivation is intent; if they don’t beat the piss out of the Gazan’s, the Gazan’s are going to come along and eat their babies.

    The trick, and this is why I’m glad that Dustin is pushing back a little, is that both points of view are valid. Hamas is a bunch of terror loving assholes. Israel does act as an oppressive force against Gaza. They are both, and have both been in the wrong for quite some time, and attempting to assign culpability is, in my belief anyway, almost futile. Tas has been vocal in his view, Kathy in hers, Dustin in his, none of them are the same, and what I appreciate is that together, between the three of them, we are getting a much more balanced spectrum of opinion.

    What would please me unendingly, though, is that we start coalescing these opinions… but whatever.

    But to get back to gcotharn; when we talk about the right, and I’m fairly certain this is something that everyone here can agree upon, there is an unusual and altogether unhealthy willingness to absolve Israel of any culpability, and in fact celebrate any and all actions from Israel as being inherently good and justified.

    I’m sorry, and I’m speaking with all respect, but this time your argument is a semantic one revolving around “war crime” and what the Right’s definition of such is. As a stand alone incident I suppose we could argue that it’s not a relative term, it has a set definition with established boundaries, as Kathy points out. You either get to live by that definition or you don’t.

    But the problem is that this isn’t an isolated incident. When it comes to the right and Israel, the Right, who often attack liberals over the dangers of moral relativism, employ that very same moral relativism to put Israel in the clear always.

    Now, maybe sometimes you luck out, and absolving Israel is okay because what they are doing at any given moment is actually fine. Maybe you can’t be convinced that the Israel offensive in Gaza is an atrocity this time. Sure. I’ll play. But if you don’t take a critical eye to Israel now, what happens when they really do commit what you would consider an atrocity if it had come from any other actor?

    That’s my only dog in this hunt. I don’t strictly adhere to the precept of proportional response, but I think that Israel has grotesquely blown things out of proportion in this case. But my opinion in this specific instance isn’t nearly as important as the overal political culture that we express in relation to Israel. We refuse to challenge them on practically anything, and I’m sorry, no state has been established that has reached such a level of perfection that it couldn’t use a friendly nudge now and again to let them know when they’re screwing up.

    Remember when France and Germany were trying to warn us to stay out of Iraq? Years later, aren’t we wishing we would have listened to them as our friends as opposed to mocking them as cowards?

    We are now England to Israel’s America in the run up to the Iraq war (which is now the Gazan offensive). We’re the only kid in the block not pointing out the millions of ways this is wrong, and the sad thing is, we’re the only kid on the block Israel would listen to.

    And yes, for the record, I do think this whole debacle is wrong, and not just for the loss of life, though that does weigh heavily into my thinking. What should concern even someone who doesn’t care much for Palestinian life, though, is that along with that loss of life we are also losing what fragile stability may exist in the region, even more credibility among the Muslim population at a time when credibility there would be worth a hundred fold its weight in gold. And, as many have pointed out, this offensive has not actually moved to weaken Hamas, but instead has strengthened it in many ways, most importantly in those areas of solidarity and ideology.

  12. And an apology to Gcotharn in light of his most recent comment. On which I agree and applaud him for making the statement that the Right does not go after war crimes as much as it should.

  13. This is scary, I’m participating in the comments section. Someone walk me through this. I’m supposed to take deep breaths, aren’t i?

  14. *sighs*

    I apparently killed the conversation.

  15. gcotharn says:

    I agree to this extent: some on the Right do not look with much of a critical eye, and they should look closer.

    Some do look closer. Here we run into the Right’s vast distrust of media reporting — which accounts for a good portion of the difference in Right and Left reactions to this Gaza action. Because the Right’s distrust of media reporting is ingrained so deeply, we rarely believe sufficient evidence exists to condemn Israel of wrongdoing. We believe suspicion exists; assumption exists; hysteria and fantasy exist; yet, sufficient evidence rarely exists in the public sphere. The Left perceive sufficient evidence in many more instances than the Right does.

    War Crime: Rather than “definition”, I maybe should have said “interpretation”, or “interpretation of the definition”. I read through Tedesco’s link. The written coda for war crime does leave room for interpretation. I would liken this to the U.S. Constitution: learned Supreme Court Justices disagree about interpretation. The same dynamic exists with the written coda for war crime. And everything is further complicated because Right and Left VIRTUALLY NEVER agree about the circumstances surrounding such alleged crime.

    I hope I haven’t pissed many persons off. I’m sort of basking in the glow of an interesting comment thread about an emotional subject.

  16. gc – I think the room for interpretation needs to be couched in a firm understanding of the areas outlined in the code (links provided):

    (c) Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—

    (1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
    (2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
    (3) which constitutes a grave breach of common Article 3 (as defined in subsection (d)) when committed in the context of and in association with an armed conflict not of an international character; or
    (4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

    You are right in that after reading all this and putting it into context there was still apparently some room for legal interpretation. If there were not, we would have been able to quickly dispatch with the seemingly twisted logic used by John Yoo in the now infamouse Bush Torture Memo’s.

  17. Kathy says:


    Whoa, man! You never participate in the comments section, but when you do, it’s gloriosky! 🙂

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