Yet Another Round of Middle East Notes

1. Israel has tried to extend the current truce. Hamas has apparently rejected Israel’s offer. I am sure that anti-Semites anti-Zionists will find a way to blame Hamas’s actions on Israel.

2. One of the reasons why Israel was motivated to take action against Hamas was because it blamed the organization for kidnapping and killing three Israeli teenagers in June. Israel’s detractors have claimed that Hamas had nothing to do with the operation. Israel’s detractors are wrong:

Yesterday, Israeli security officials claimed the funding and instructions for the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in June came from two top leaders of Hamas in Gaza: Fathi Hammad, the former Hamas interior minister, who lives in Gaza, and Saleh al-Arouri, a close associate of Khaled Mashaal, who masterminds terror operations from a safe haven in Turkey. Ordinarily, the news that a terrorist organization funds terrorism wouldn’t qualify as much of a news item. But as those paying attention to the coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza know, the question of who was behind the kidnapping has bloomed into a persistent conspiracy theory. Israel, wailed its critics, had known all along that the kidnappers were members of a breakaway sect of the terror organization, yet had blamed Hamas anyway in order to justify its bloody pre-planned assault on Gaza.

This theory, such as it was, was supported largely by the reporting of Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel. “If there was an order, from any of the senior Hamas leadership in Gaza or abroad, this would be an easier case to investigate,” Frenkel quotes an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer “intimately involved in investigating the case” as saying. “We would have that intelligence data. But there is no data, so we have come to conclude that these men were acting on their own.”

Having an Israeli security officer—one “intimately involved” in the investigation, no less—flat-out deny that Hamas had anything to do with the kidnapping and murders certainly qualifies as a major scoop. But Frenkel, it’s now clear, got the story flat-out wrong: The Israelis had, in fact, reached the exact opposite conclusion three weeks ago, after having quietly taken one of the three main suspects in the case into custody.

Why believe the new, official Israeli version of events over Frenkel’s anonymous intel sources, who said flatly that Hamas wasn’t responsible? This is where some background in reporting comes in. Anonymous sources can be slippery, which is why reporters are generally very careful in relying on information that they provide. They are the lowest rung on the sourcing ladder for this kind of story. Next come public officials, who are willing to be cited by name. At the very top of the ladder are public documents, especially those that emerge in the context of a legal proceeding—where falsification of evidence could lead to jail time, and certainly to the end of any public official’s career. The new version of events comes from state documents in a court case and not from anonymous sources. By showing that a major suspect in the case was in custody three weeks ago, the documents also strongly suggest that Frenkel’s information didn’t come from a whistle-blower. Rather, it suggests that her information was either badly out of date or the result of a deliberate attempt to mislead her.

How very inconvenient for opponents of Israel that facts and reality consistently interfere with their narrative.

3. Behold video of Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Someone tell the New York Times.

4. A note on hypocrisy. Consider this story:

Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst.

Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children.

Unable to dig deep into the rocky mountainside, displaced families said they have buried young and elderly victims of the harsh conditions in shallow graves, their bodies covered with stones. Iraqi government planes attempted to airdrop bottled water to the mountain on Monday night but reached few of those marooned.

“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” said Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster.”

Most of those who fled Sinjar are from the minority Yazidi sect, which melds parts of ancient Zoroastrianism with Christianity and Islam. They are considered by the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State to be devil worshippers and apostates.

More. I am unable to excerpt, so just go ahead and read it all.

Done? Good. Now, you may be wondering why you haven’t heard more about the plight of the Yazidis in Iraq, and about the atrocities they are suffering at the hands of ISIS. Could part of the answer be that Israel has nothing whatsoever to do with this conflict, and that as a consequence, those who profess to be oh-so-concerned about the humanitarian plight in Gaza just can’t bring themselves to care about what is going on in Iraq?

Bret Stephens makes a similar point:

What follows are excerpts from a June 30, 2014, news account by Tim Craig, the Washington Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan:

“Pakistan’s military launched a major ground offensive in the northwestern part of the country Monday, beginning what army commanders say will be a ‘house-to-house search’ for terrorist leaders and other militants.

“The offensive began after two weeks of airstrikes in North Waziristan. . . .

“In a statement, Pakistan’s military said its soldiers discovered ‘underground tunnels’ and ‘preparation factories’ for explosives during the initial hours of the ground assault. . . .

“Backed by artillery and tanks, troops killed 17 terrorists Monday, the army said. Combined with the toll from airstrikes that began June 16, a total of 376 terrorists have died in the offensive, the army said. . . .

“More than a half-million residents fled North Waziristan ahead of the ground offensive. The mass evacuation of the area, which has a population of about 600,000, was intended to limit civilian casualties during the operation. The military also set up checkpoints in the area to trap militants.”


Underground tunnels, explosives factories, weeks of airstrikes, artillery bombardment, mass displacement of civilians—leaving aside the probability that this is the first that you’ve heard of any of this, does it ring a familiar bell? If so, maybe the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the various self-described antiwar groups that marched near the White House on Saturday to protest Israel’s military campaign in Gaza can organize another big rally outside the Pakistani embassy. No more U.S. aid to Islamabad! Boycott Pakistani products! Divest from Pakistani companies!

I’m dreaming. Over the weekend there was saturation coverage of an Israeli strike near a U.N.-run school that killed 10 people, three of them members of Islamic Jihad. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the hit “a moral outrage and a criminal act” that had to be “swiftly investigated.” The State Department pronounced itself “appalled.” If the Secretary-General, the Secretary of State and other arbiters of international decency have expressed themselves similarly with respect to the conduct of Pakistan’s army—take a look at the picture accompanying this column to see how that one looks—I must have missed it. More than 1,500 Pakistani civilians have been reported killed since the government’s offensive began in mid June.

But since Israel can’t be connected to their killings, no one cares.

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