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Eyeless in Gaza

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Israeli deceptions revealed in story of "kidnapped" soldier


A single incident at the weekend -- the reported capture by Hamas on Friday of an Israeli soldier through a tunnel -- illustrated in stark fashion the layers of deception Israel has successfully cast over its attack on Gaza.

On Sunday, as the army indicated it would start limited withdrawals, Israel claimed Hadar Goldin was dead, possibly buried in a collapsed tunnel as Israel bombarded the area in which he was seized. His family said he was being left behind.

Israeli officials or media did not view Hamas' operation dispassionately. Goldin was not "captured" but "kidnapped" -- as though he was an innocent seized by opportunistic criminals.

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As occurs so often, many western journalists followed Israel's lead. The London Times' front page blared: "Kidnapped in Gaza," while the Boston Globe called him the "abducted Israeli soldier."

From western reactions, it was also clear the soldier's capture was considered more significant news than any of the massacres of Palestinian civilians over the past weeks.

Israel's cynical calculus -- that one soldier is more valuable than large numbers of dead Palestinian civilians -- was echoed in the diplomatic and editorial corridors of Washington, London and Paris.

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Misleading too was the general agreement that, in attacking a group of soldiers in Rafah and seizing Goldin, Hamas had violated the first moments of a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire.

The Washington Post reported on the circumstances as a Hamas suicide bomber emerged from a tunnel to explode his vest, killing two soldiers, and Goldin was pulled into the shaft. "On Friday morning, Israeli troops were in the southern Gaza Strip preparing to destroy a Hamas tunnel, said Israeli military officials. Suddenly, Palestinian militants emerged from a shaft."

CBS reporter Charlie D'Agata parroted the same Israeli briefings, also inadvertently exposing the central deceit. The soldier was "suspected of being kidnapped during an operation to clear tunnels -- crucially, [officials] say, this happened after the ceasefire was supposed to take place."

So if a ceasefire was in place, what were Goldin and his comrades doing detonating tunnels, tunnels in which Israel says Hamas is hiding? Were Hamas fighters supposed to simply wait to be entombed in their bunkers during the pause in hostilities? Or was Israel the one violating the ceasefire?

And then there was the explosion of military fury as Israel realised its soldier was missing. Israeli correspondents have admitted that the notorious "Hannibal procedure" was invoked: the use of all means to stop a soldier being taken alive, including killing him. The rationale is to prevent the enemy gaining a psychological advantage in negotiations.

The unleashing of massive firepower appeared designed to ensure Goldin and his captors never made it out of their tunnel, but in the process Israel killed dozens of Palestinians.

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It was another illustration of Israel's absolute disregard for the safety of civilians. At least three-quarters of the more than 1,700 Palestinians killed so far are non-combatants, while almost all Israeli casualties have been soldiers. This has been a pattern in all Israel's recent confrontations.

Israel's official justifications for taking the fight into Gaza have been layered with deceit too.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that Israel was dragged into a war of necessity. Barack Obama echoed him: Israel had a right to defend itself from a barrage of rockets fired out of Gaza. Later the pretext became Israel's need to destroy the "terror tunnels."

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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