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From
SHALEM PRESS




Show of Force

By Noah Pollak




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O
n June 9, 2006, a beach in Gaza was rocked by an explosion that killed seven members of a Palestinian family. Shortly afterward, Palestinian Authority television released a horrific video showing a 10-year-old girl shrieking amidst the dead bodies on the beach, and Palestinian hospital workers and spokesmen angrily blamed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) artillery fire for the deaths—even though no investigation had been conducted, and the Palestinian accusers had no way of knowing what caused the explosion. The exultant declarations of an Israeli massacre were reported as fact in newspapers and television broadcasts around the world; human rights groups joined in the condemnations; and once again Israel found itself the object of international outrage over the issue of civilian casualties.
If this story and its origins fit a predictable pattern, so did Israel’s reaction to the crisis: The IDF immediately ceased military activity in Gaza, and Israeli officials at the highest levels reflexively assented to the IDF’s culpability and promised an investigation of the incident.
The last chapter of the story is equally familiar: It was ultimately determined that the Palestinians on the beach were not killed by the IDF. Rather, Hamas had mined the section of beach where the explosion occurred, hoping to defend their arsenal of Kassam rockets against Israeli commando missions. After the explosion, Hamas men combed the beach, removing shrapnel that could be used as evidence. The sensational video that captured the sympathies of credulous journalists and set off a wildfire of opprobrium turned out, upon objective evaluation, to be a mangled skein of spliced footage and puzzling anachronisms. It was, in other words, a fake. The explosion itself occurred some ten minutes after the last IDF artillery shell had been fired into the area, and the shrapnel found in the victims’ bodies was not from Israeli munitions. Hamas, in a sloppy attempt at defending Gaza, had almost certainly killed its own citizens.
In the end, none of the exculpatory evidence mattered in the least: Israel had been tried and convicted in the court of world opinion in the first few days after the incident. And, as has happened so often before and since, Israeli officials had helped their enemies make their case.






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