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Why Is Israel Bombing Gaza?

August 28, 2011

(This article by Peter Hart is re-posted from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.)

The coverage of the Israeli attacks on Gaza is following some predictable patterns. The New York Times has a headline today (8/26/11), “Israeli Strikes in Retaliation Kill Nine Gazans.”  Readers should ask: Retaliation for what?

It’s widely understood that this violence stems from the attack last week in the southern Israeli town of Eilat. As the Times puts it:  “The recent round of violence started a week ago, with a terrorist attack on southern Israel in which eight Israelis were killed.”

The real question, though, is who committed these acts.  The Times says:

Israeli officials said the perpetrators and planners of the terrorist attack were originally from Gaza, and Israel has retaliated with strikes that have killed at least 23 Palestinians. Gazan officials say they know nothing about the source of the attack.”

That’s a massive understatement.

To date, no armed Palestinian groups have claimed responsibility for the Eilat attack. Israeli officials claimed the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) were behind it, but have offered no proof to back up these allegations.  And there has been almost no critical coverage of the weakness of the Israeli case.  On NPR (8/18/11), for example, listeners have heard Israeli ambassador Michael Oren claim that Palestinian militants carried out the attack, and five days later London Times reporter James Hider (8/23/11) stated the same thing as if it were a well-established fact.

A handful of journalists have been persistently pointing out that the weakness of this case. One of those writers, Yossi Gurvitz, explains in his latest piece at the Israeli website +972 (8/25/11) that Israeli media are beginning to raise serious questions:

Since Monday, there have been a few more reports in the Israeli media, casting more doubt on the official story. Yediot reported on Tuesday (Hebrew) that nameless people in the security apparatus doubt the PRC were responsible for the attacks, and raise an interesting question: If they were responsible, why was the PRC’s entire leadership in the same place?

According to Yediot’s anonymous intelligence sources (bear in mind that such sources should always be viewed with skepticism; by their very nature they cannot be corroborated, and they tend to be unreliable even when speaking openly), the attribution of the attacks to the PRC stems from one somewhat incoherent comment on some Jihadi message board.

Ha’aretz reported on Tuesday (Hebrew) that at least three on the attackers were Egyptian Jihadis. American intelligence sources – the same caveat above applies here–told Globes (Hebrew) that they, too, doubt the PRC are responsible, though they may have had a small role in the attacks.

Two days ago, the IAF attacked the Gaza Strip again–naturally, it does not consider itself bound by the ceasefire; only the Palestinians are, and only them can be blamed for breaking it–and killed some Islamic Jihad apparatchick. Yesterday, the IDF claimed (Hebrew) that he was in charge of funding the Eilat attacks. Hold on a minute, I’m confused: I thought you said the attacks were carried out by the PRC, and now it’s the Islamic Jihad left holding the bag? As of yesterday, reported Amira Hass in Ha’aretz (Hebrew), there are no mourning tents in Gaza. As of today, one week after the attack, the IDF refrains from exposing the identity of the attackers it killed.”

This is a remarkable story that deserves serious coverage. Two-dozen people in Gaza have been killed in “retaliation” for an attack that very well could have originated somewhere else.

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