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Jan 162009
 

So various organisations claim that Israel is using white phosphorous munitions in Gaza, and Israel denies their use. Or to be more specific denies the use of “WP” which is military slang for white phosphorous munitions intended for uses other than smoke (i.e. set things burning which might not otherwise burn – like people).

But Israel is using white phosphorous munitions; tell-tale pictures of shell casing designed for use as smoke screens have been released, and they have admitted using smoke screens. This makes their denial of white phosphorous (or more specifically “WP”) considerably foolish.

Whilst a nit-picker could claim their denial is in fact true, their denial relies on people understanding the difference between “WP” munitions and smoke-screen munitions. It would be far better to say that their use of white phosphorous is compatible with the various laws of war (the Geneva conventions, etc.).

But is it ? A spokesperson for Israel is hardly in the position to know. They may well know there is a policy to only use white phosphorous smoke screens in areas where civilians may be, and they may not be used to target civilians, but they do not know that Israeli armed forces have stuck to those policies. It is easy to imagine that some artillery unit has noticed that their smoke screen shells when “accidentally” fired too low are quite effective at setting fire to things and to carry on having “accidents” without letting their senior commanders know.

Even if that is not happening, and Israel is sticking to the letter of the laws of war, they may not be sticking to the spirit of the laws of war. The use of white phosphorous munitions in cvilian areas is banned to prevent horrific injuries to civilians; the use of smoke-screen weapons in civilian areas that may cause such injuries sounds like it should also be forbidden.

White phosphorous is a terror weapon in much the same vein as chemical weapons … it is not classified as a chemical weapon because armed forces find the smoke screen effect so useful. It is worth pointing out that one of the first uses of white phosphorous was by a terrorist organisation in the 19th Century (the Fenians).

Jan 032009
 

Never has an overused phrase been more deserved as in the case of the Israeli government and the Hamas group in the latest chapter in the long running sorry story of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Both sides should be mortally ashamed of their actions. Both sides are more interested in political posturing than in concern over the people they supposedly represent.

It also demonstrates that governments at best are only interested in paying lip service to serving “the people” and will spend far more resources looking after their own interests – retaining power. It is just that you rarely see governments lusting after power quite this much.

What does Hamas think it is doing with those pathetic rocket attacks against Israel ? They seem to serve little purpose other than to annoy Israel, and provide an ego boost to the Hamas militants. It is not as if they are very effective at killing innocent civilians.

And as for the Israeli response, you have tried this same thing before … over and over again for around 60 years. You have not managed to stop Palestinians military or terrorist actions in the past with this (over the long term), so why do you think it will work this time? All this indiscriminate killing will achieve is further evidence that Israel does not give two hoots for international law or for the lives of innocent (in many cases) Palestinians.

It is interesting to note that Israel does not permit journalists to enter Gaza. Almost as if they know what they are doing is wrong and just do not care. And of course as their ground offensive has started, perhaps they are trying to hide something ?

Israeli actions will drive Palestinians into being more accepting of extremists and will in the long term increase the amount of violence against Israeli civilians. Does that mean Israel should not respond to Hamas missile attacks ? No of course not, but the response must be proportionate (to be legal), and must go out of the way to avoid “collateral damage”. It may well be right that Hamas uses civilians as a shield for military purposes, but Hamas will not be blamed for those collateral casualities no matter what Israel claims.

Personally I do not really believe that those who govern Israel are so stupid as to believe these miltary attacks will accomplish anything. They are pandering to the Israeli fanatics frothing at the mouth who insist that something must be done, and the only reason they are doing it is to keep popularity so that they keep power when the next elections occur.

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