Sunday, June 11, 2006

The "Shelling" and the Haditha Flu 

It seems the Haditha flu may be even more contagious than its Avian cousin. Of course, the bird flu lacks the advantage of a media environment that willingly transmits the virus faster than the speed of reasoned investigation.

Haditha flu breaks out when an atrocity is alleged against a Western military power that is unpopular in the press. Generally it is accompanied by accusations of a cover-up that was only exposed by the media's own dilligence -- active and ongoing military investigations notwithstanding. The media -- eager to publish in the earliest possible news cycle before any contrary findings from military investigations muddy the water -- quickly pursues the case all the way to conviction and recommended sentencing. If it later turns out that the accusations depend on premises that are questionable or false, it's no worry because the general truth of the allegations is already proven by the charges having been published everywhere so quickly -- everyone agrees so they must be true.

The latest outbreak of this virulent pathogen might be found in the fury surrounding this weekend's alleged IDF shelling of a Gaza Beach that killed seven innocent Palestinians. I consider this diagnosis not based on evidence exonerating the IDF, but from a recognition that there is little condemning the IDF at this point except an accusation and the intense willingness to believe on the part of much of the world's media and diplomatic elites.

The immediate Palestinian reaction to the explosion was that it was an Israeli naval shelling. Ironically, the only thing established thus far by the IDF investigation was that it was not a result of naval or air force activity. Does this mean it wasn't the IDF, that the accusations are false? No. But it does remind one that these knee-jerk allegations are generally not made carefully, but automatically. It is rare that a Palestinian is killed in an explosion without the initial accusation being levelled against the IDF, even though it is well known that the IDF normally takes responsibility for its "targetted killings." The fact that almost all of these allegations are quickly retracted and the explosions admitted to be the result of work accidents -- bomb lab mistakes, premature detonations and so on -- does little to mitigate the harm done to Israel by the initial charges. The same media that trumpets accusations finds it can only whisper an embarrassed we-goofed-in-our-rush-to-publish statement on page 17 a week later. Damage done, as is the point in this game.

And damage is being done here too, long before anyone really knows what happened. Palestinians have already lodged enough new threats to get their own security warning. The anger on the Palestinian street is such that it may even endanger the mythical cease fire. Diplomats the world over are wringing their hands and calling for restraint and the French are condemning Israel's disporpotionate strike.

What disproportionate strike? So far all we have is a disporportionate accusation which may, or may not, be true. To the best of my knowledge, first of all, there was no "strike" whatsoever, if by strike it is intended to imply that this was an intentional act aimed at civilians on a beach. But even if the issue is only the possibility of a tragic operational mistake, it is by no means clear that such an error actually occurred, at least not by the IDF.

But if not the IDF, who could it be? Consider that even as the IDF has been firing the artillery shells that so many are so eager to believe killed these people, Palestinian terrorists have been firing their own rockets -- unguided and inaccurate though they may be -- in the general direction of Israel.

While it may yet turn out that Israel will conclude its investigation and announce that it was indeed an Israeli artillery shell that was responsible, one has to wonder why the world is so ready to believe these uncorroborated allegations before the investiation is even done, just as in Haditha or before it Jenin. Is it really so much more likely this was caused by a high-tech ballistic artillery shell -- whose accuracy even the Palestinians extol in their rush to paint the killing as intentional -- than by unreliable homemade Palestinian rockets? This would not be the first time Palestinian rocketeers have hit their own. To assume the risk of hurting their own people would inhibit the terrorists from firing their rockets would be a big mistake. In fact, even the very day after the beach explosion saw a Kassam rocket injuring Palestinians.

At this point, there are few facts, only accusations and the rush to believe them. It may well turn out that a misfired IDF shell has caused this. It may not. No one knows yet. The loss of innocent life certainly is terrible -- even Israel has expressed regret, while not announcing responsibility since so far its thorough and on-going investigations have not yet concluded how the deaths occurred or whether Israel was involved at all.

But in the meantime, consider what the pre-ordered judgements say about those who are rendering them. Most of the charges come from the same people who, while giving lip service to a sovereign state's right to defend itself, nevertheless have already ruled out any and all specific defenses Israel has tried, like: checkpoints, bomb searches, protective fences, targeted killing of bombers and their infrastructure, closing border crossings after they are bombed, and anything else other than Israeli surrender as long as the surrender isn't unilateral. These charges are not coming with the intent of improving the IDF's wind direction analysis so as to prevent future errant shells. No, this is a story about another defensive action Israel must not be allowed to take. It doesn't really matter whether it turns out Israel was really responsible or not -- heck, even when Israel's artillery shells are hitting their targets the are condemned anyway. But for those who know better than to allow Israel to actively defend itself, this story clearly illustrates that if terrorists are launching rockets into Israel from Gaza, Israel must not fire back at the source because a mistake might be made. Please think it through before you sign on for this agenda.

None of this is meant to diminish the tragedy of seven innocent Palestinians who were killed,whether by the IDF or not. I wish for peace and an end to the death of innocents. But those who take every excuse to shackle Israel's ability to defend itself will not hasten that day, unless of course you believe it can only arrive if Israel finally succumbs to the terror and unceasing war against it.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: