Monday, June 19, 2006

Death on Gaza Beach: Some Suggestions

Regarding the killing of a Palestinian family on Gaza beach as a result of an explosion, Palestinian and Israeli narratives have now completely diverged. We may never get to the truth behind this tragedy. The following blogger (this is a blog that is well worth following) suggest an independent inquiry. I'm all for it.

Alex Stein, at

(Alex Stein is the Abba Eban Scholar in International Relations (M.Phil) at Queens' College, Cambridge)

1. There is one easy way to clear up who was responsible for the Gaza beach deaths – an independent inquiry. If both sides are confident that they aren’t responsible, there should be nothing to fear. Israel’s latest move has been to attribute responsibility to a Palestinian mine, an unconvincing claim in the light of the evidence. The IDF acknowledges that it fired six artillery shells at Gaza on Friday afternoon, and that it cannot trace what happened to the sixth. Furthermore, it admits that the other shells all landed between 100 metres and 200 metres from the beach. It seems a bit too much of a coincidence that, just as this is all taking place, a Palestinian mine suddenly goes off. It seems especially strange when there has been no evidence of Hamas using this tactic before. Where are all the other mines planted to stop Israeli commandos? Either way, though, an independent investigation would clear this all up. Both sides say the shrapnel retrieved from bodies point to their side of the story. If this is true, neither side should have much to worry about, should they?
2. Leaving aside the events of Friday afternoon, twenty civilians have been killed from the shelling of Gaza, as Israel has pursued a futile policy of one hundred artillery rounds for every Qassam fired. Someone needs to remind the IDF of the word proportionality. Predictably, it doesn’t work. Riling up the civilian population simply makes things worse. I’ve stated my views on targeted assassinations elsewhere. A couple of weeks ago the army sent Special Forces in. They waited for the rocket launchers to arrive and then took them out. That’s the way to do it. There’s no easy way to say this, but it is better that IDF soldiers die than Palestinian civilians.
3. As is well known, Qassam rockets are notoriously inaccurate. While it must be pretty awful living under fear of rocket attack, the threat they pose is minimal. The IDF has deployed the Red Dawn early defence system – this detects the rockets as they are launched and gives civilians 20 seconds warning, thus minimising much of the threat. And Israel is due to purchase Skyshield, a Swiss designed rapid fire anti-aircraft system, designed to counter Qassams. Despite this, there is always the fear that constant Qassam fire could turn into constant Katyusha fire. But here’s a tactic that hasn’t been tried – taking it. Israel could make huge soft power gains by cutting down on its military response and improving its defensive measures. It’s hard to make the point that your towns are needlessly under siege when the only people being killed are Palestinians.
4. Hamas came to power promising to bring law and order to the areas under PA control. The policy of using the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) as a proxy for firing rockets runs counter to this aim. If I had been wounded on Friday, and Ismail Haniyeh had come and visited me in hospital, I would have been pretty angry. The rocket-launching is already futile, illegal and immoral. The fact that the rocket-launchers operate in civilian areas makes it doubly so.
5. I don’t usually agree with Zacharia Zubeidi, the head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin, but he has come up with one good idea. He has suggested that all sides should have a cease-fire during the entirety of the World Cup. This could have shades of Christmas Day during World War One. Football is one of the things that might be able to unite the Israeli and Palestinian populations. The idea should be taken seriously.


At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Mad Ian said...

An excellent piece - clear-headed and reasonable. The rest of that guy's blog is worth checking out too...

At 7:41 PM, Blogger -canuck- said...

if there was no palestinian terrorism there would be no need for targetted killings......sorry if that sounds political but its also instinctively obvious...


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