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Attack on Gaza: As Usual, U.S. Media (And Most Liberals) Silent -- As Israeli Newspaper Raises Doubts

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In the usual process, the U.S. government, media here -- and many of the leading liberal bloggers -- are silent or playing down questions about whether Israel overreacted in its massive air strikes on Gaza, while the foreign press, and even Haaretz in Israel, carries more balanced accounts.

Anyone who cares should consult the respected Haaretz site often, if for no other reason than to learn that criticism of Israeli military actions are usually more heated inside that country than in the USA. The New York Times, for example, as of today (Monday), has not yet editorialized on the air assault. You may recall the lockstep support in the U.S. for Israeli's invasion of southern Lebanon, which included the use of U.S.-made cluster bombs. That invasion turned out to be a genuine fiasco.

One Sunday analysis at Haaretz: "A million and a half human beings, most of them downcast and desperate refugees, live in the conditions of a giant jail, fertile ground for another round of bloodletting. The fact that Hamas may have gone too far with its rockets is not the justification of the Israeli policy for the past few decades, for which it justly merits an Iraqi shoe to the face."

Another opinion piece in Haaretz -- titled, "Neighborhood Bully Strikes Again" -- by Gideon Levy: "Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: 'Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!' Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation 'Cast Lead' is only in its infancy."

Also from Haaretz, Zvi Barel writes: "Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it when it blew up a tunnel, while still asking Egypt to get the Islamic group to hold its fire." Yet the U.S. media refers that only Hamas violated the ceasefire.

Another columnist there, Yossi Sarid, writes: "I can only hope that this time, for a change, we will know when to stop. This war must be described from the get-go as a war 'to be on the safe side,' rather than of necessity, and it is still unclear whether the last missile fired will be fired by us or by them."

Amira Hass, the paper's correspondent in Gaza, reports: "There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue. Relatives search among the bodies and the wounded in order to bring the dead quickly to burial. A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent."

From the lead Haaretz editorial: "[T]he inherent desire for retribution does not necessarily have to blind us to the view from the day after....Israel's violation of the lull in November expedited the deterioration that gave birth to the war of yesterday. But even if this continues for many days and even weeks, it will end in an agreement, or at least an understanding similar to that reached last June."

UPDATE: A McClatchy dispatch quotes Daniel Levy, a political analyst in Israel who once served as an adviser to Ehud Barak, who is leading the military campaign against Hamas: "I don't see how this ends well, even if, in two weeks time, it looks like it ends well."

Haaretz has just posted this from another columnist, Tom Segev: "[T]he assault on Gaza does not first and foremost demand moral condemnation - it demands a few historical reminders. Both the justification given for it and the chosen targets are a replay of the same basic assumptions that have proven wrong time after time. Yet Israel still pulls them out of its hat again and again, in one war after another."

And this from another columnist, Akiva Eldar: "The tremendous population density in the Gaza Strip does not allow a "surgical operation" over an extended period that would minimize damage to civilian populations. The difficult images from the Strip will soon replace those of the damage inflicted by Qassam rockets in the western Negev. The scale of losses, which works in 'favor' of the Palestinians, will return Israel to the role of Goliath."

The Monday editorial from the paper declares: "The current Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza began with air strikes. In its first two days, there have been no reports of ground troops entering the Strip. But appetite is liable to overcome common sense and this tendency must be fought. Israel must adhere to the outline of Operation Cast Lead thus far, eschewing any major invasion that will end in occupation, a military administration and months (if not years) of fighting the local forces who will inevitably oppose the occupiers."


The New York Times
late Sunday reported, "At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, women wailed as they searched for relatives among bodies that lay strewn on the hospital floor. One doctor said that given the dearth of facilities, not much could be done for the seriously wounded, and that it was 'better to be brought in dead.'"

The Washington Post's update: "By late Sunday night, the toll had reached 290 dead and as many as 1,300 wounded, Moawia Hassanain, a senior Palestinian Health Ministry official, said in an interview. The fatalities included 22 children younger than 16; more than 235 children were wounded, he said."

Greg Mitchell is editor of Editor & Publisher. His latest book, on Iraq and the media, is "So Wrong for So Long."