Whenever Israel commits yet another atrocity, its defenders are quick to redirect public attention away from the grisly crime scene.
Currently, there are headlines about allegedly anti-Semitic comments made by senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas. Pundits across the land evince outrage at her off-the-cuff 25-second statement made to a man who appears to be holding a camera right in her face.
Thomas issued a public apology for her words, but this was insufficient to assuage the wounded feelings of powerful antagonists, and she has now retired from a long and distinguished career.
Before we examine her comments and evaluate their possible validity, let's look at other recent events having to do with Israel.
On May 31st Israeli commandos killed at least nine unarmed volunteers attempting to take humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
According to eyewitness reports and forensic evidence, many of these aid volunteers were shot at close range, including a 19-year-old American citizen killed by four bullets to the head and one to the chest fired from 18 inches away.
Israel immediately imprisoned eyewitnesses and hundreds of other aid participants, confiscated their cameras, laptops, and other possessions, and prevented them from speaking to the press for days. Among the incarcerated were decorated U.S. veterans and an 80-year-old former ambassador who had been deputy director of Reagan's Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism.
When they finally emerged and were able to tell their stories, many described horrific scenes of Israeli commandos shooting people in the head, of those tending the injured being shot in the stomach, of people bleeding to death while flotilla participants waved white flags and pled for help.
They also described being beaten brutally by Israeli forces, again and again including those on ships that, in the U.S. media's judgment, experienced "no violence." A 64-year-old piano tuner from California, Paul Larudee, described hundreds of Israeli commandos boarding his ship. When he refused to cooperate with them, soldiers then beat him numerous times both on board the ship and after he was imprisoned on land.
Eventually he was taken by ambulance to an Israeli hospital. He wasn't treated, however, and Larudee believes he was taken there because Israel didn't want media to see his black eye, pronated joints, bruised jaw and body contusions.
Marine veteran Ken O'Keefe described similar beatings while in Israeli custody. In his case, the public was able to see his bloodied, battered face in video clips and still images but only on the Internet, since American mainstream media failed to report on his press conference or to publish the many still photos of his injuries.
Other gruesome photos available to the American public only on the Internet are of Emily Henochowicz, a 21-year-old American student whose eye and eye socket were recently shattered by Israeli forces. She has since had her eyeball removed, three metal plates inserted in her face, and her jaw wired shut.
Henochowicz was not on the flotilla; she was taking part in a nonviolent demonstration against the Israeli assault when an Israeli soldier shot a high-velocity teargas canister into her face.
A Swedish citizen standing with Henochowicz said, "They clearly saw us. They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face."
Henochowicz is not the first to have been shot by such a canister.
Thirty-year-old Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahmeh died when an Israeli soldier shot one at him at close range while Abu Rahmeh participated in a demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian farmland. A video of this is also available on You Tube; U.S. networks have also chosen not to broadcast this.