Gaza Update

The initial IDF report will conclude tentatively that the cause of the Gaza explosion was a Hamas bomb planted on the beach in order to deter Israel Navy commandos:

Some of the findings have already been reported: that five of the shells definitely landed some

250 meters from the beach, and that the explosion occurred at least eight minutes after the missing sixth shell was fired. However, this evidence has now been bolstered by three new findings:

* The shrapnel. Three people wounded in the blast are now hospitalized in Israel. Shrapnel was apparently removed from their bodies, and this is likely to reinforce the conclusion that the explosion was caused by a bomb

rather than a shell.

* The crater. Based on photographs, the crater left on the beach by the blast seems to have been made by an explosion from below (a mine), not a hit from above (a shell).

* Intelligence. Israel has amassed considerable information indicating that over the past few weeks, ever since Israeli commandos infiltrated Gaza and killed a rocket-launching cell, Hamas has been systematically mining the northern Gaza beach in an attempt to keep Israeli commandos from landing there again.

The main hole in the army’s evidence is the missing sixth shell actually, the first to be fired whose landing site has not been determined. From an examination of the cannon, the army is convinced that the shell could not have fallen on the beach, almost half a kilometer from its intended target. But there is no firm proof of this, only an educated guess.

We’ll see. This could be a study not only of how different propaganda machines are fighting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also how the blogosphere is doing it.

UPDATE: The Palestinians have retained an expert who sharply disputes the Israeli story, arguing that the wounds sustained by the victims could not have been caused by a mine. There is also a claim that a fragment of a shell was found on the beach. We know little about the expert, except that he used to work at the Department of Defense, and I confess to being a little skeptical about finding a shell fragment. Evidence concerning the wounds, however, could be objectively considered.

UPDATE TWO: The expert is Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch. Doing a few minutes of research on Garlasco reveals that he is a serious analyst, whose conclusions need to be seriously dealt with. It is good to see that HRW, whose credibility in my view was injured by its very biased report on Jenin, has hired someone with Gerlasco’s credentials. If HRW comes up with an interim report (which Garlasco no doubt will write), and the IDF releases its report, then we can compare and contrast. I will update the story as it proceeds in new posts.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

19 thoughts on “Gaza Update”

  1. Mr. Zasloff,
    Perhaps our "study" of how the different propaganda machines are spinning the conflict could begin right here with you, although we only have to look down the page to your prior post "In other assassination news" to see where your loyalties begin and end.
    "I have no moral objection to Israel's targeted killings: it is simply unproblematic morally to fire at the leadership and soldiers of someone who says that they are at war with you."
    My question to you is as follows:
    Since I can readily find verifiable quotes from numerous Israeli leaders (both political and military, past and present) stating that Israel is at war with the Palestinians, and I can also easily document numerous actions by the Israeli government in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, United Nations Resolutions, and the Nuremberg Accords, is it then in your view "morally unproblematic" for the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinians to sanction the targeted assassinations of Israeli leaders?
    BTW, I like the way you phrase your final paragraph to suggest that you are a dispassionate observer rather than the advocate your earlier writings reveal you to be. I find yor views to be morally problematic and repugnant.

  2. Chris,
    Jonathan can answer for himself. Your question is interesting, although your tone and the underlying attitude it represents is obvious.
    There are clear cases and unclear cases. Let's change the context a bit so we can argue without too much emotionalism. The attack on the USS Cole, or the Khobar towers, or the Marine barracks in Beirut — these in my view weren't terrorism because they were aimed at the US military, not at civilians. The attack on the Word Trade Center clearly was terrorism. The attacks on the US embassies in Africa aren't as clear-cut but I'd say, given the functions of embassies and the protections they are traditionally afforded, that those were terrorist attacks. The attack on the Pentagon is harder still but the target itself, probably not. The means clearly was morally problematic since it cost the lives of 100+ people who just happened to be taking an airplane. An attack on the White House or Congress, even though aimed at leadership, I would say was like attacking an ancient church or mosque. And this is leaving aside the question of whether I think it makes sense to equate all democratically elected leaders. Hitler was democratically elected.
    So to answer your question for myself. Attacks by the Palestinians on Israeli military targets are morally unproblematic. They may be politically unwise and so morally problematic from the perspective of ultimately helping to improve the situation but that's a different question. Attacks on civilians qua civilians, immoral. Attacks on political leadership, a little less clear. Here I'd point to the false equivalence point I made above. The Hamas leadership may not be Hitler, but a leadership that calls for attacks against civilians qua civilians and the destruction of another country isn't the same as a leadership that doesn't.
    Re the larger issue of your feelings on this matter. There are a lot of horrible things in the world. Actual genocide has occurred at least four times since World War II. It's happening right now. Your emotion is focused here. The West has much to feel guilty for. We live on land stolen from the native Americans, who we slaughtered (see my posting on Jonathan's previous note). A long and bloody history of colonialism to be attoned for. Projection is a social as well as psychological defense mechanism. In religious terms, Israel is the paschal lamb. This is not to say it is without sin, but I wonder whether some perspective isn't in order. We have Haditha, now, on our hands. I hope this doesn't seem harsh to you. But there's a long history of this in the Christian West. Don't get angry at me; just think about it.

  3. IDF Seals?
    I'm unaware of any recorded event where Hamas mined the beaches of Gaza in order to stop a Seal attack.
    I guess you think Hamas is just bloody stupid, since they have 24 MILES of coastline, and planted one bomb.

  4. Josh, as to whether any of this is true, we'll have to see. As to how many mines Hamas may have planted, why would you infer that because one is alleged to have exploded, they only planted one? As to 24 miles of coastline, only a few would be useful for shooting rockets at Israel, hence a target for Israeli counterattack.
    None of which is to say this story is true. We'll have to see.
    Also see my comments to Chris above.

  5. Mr. Birnbaum,
    While I certainly respect the measured tone and considerable knowledge you bring to this discussion (as evidenced by your earlier posts which I have read carefully), I think you are mistaken on several points.
    You say: "…a leadership that calls for attacks against civilians qua civilians and the destruction of another country isn't the same as a leadership that doesn't."
    I would argue that a country, or its leaders, whose actions amount to the de facto destruction of another country or its people is, regardless of its stated intent, equally liable for those actions.
    Furthermore, I think that with a minimal amount of research you can find any number of historical documents referencing quotes from Ben Gurion, Begin, Sharon, et al, that advocate the targeting of Palestinian civilian populations.
    I also believe that a reading of statistical casualty studies, from non-partisan sources, would show that the Palestinians have suffered a greater number of civilian casualties than the Israelis. Please note the numbers regarding children.
    Re: Haditha.
    Part of what prompted my "emotional" response is that I find it more than ironic that Mr. Zasloff's posts are sandwiched between a post by Mr. Kleinman decrying the Haditha incident and the attempts by the rightwing to minimize that alleged atrocity.
    Doesn't that strike a discordant note with you?
    Finally, as regards my tone and attitude suggesting where my sympathies lie, you misread me.
    I hold no brief for either side, but I do know that there is very little balance in the reporting on the conflict and I would again state that our country and the world is ill-served by that lack of balance.
    Thank you for your response.

  6. larry birnbaum wrote, "The Hamas leadership may not be Hitler, but a leadership that calls for attacks against civilians qua civilians and the destruction of another country isn't the same as a leadership that doesn't."
    So how do you describe the Israeli leadership that attacked civilians in Lebanon in the early 1980s, leading to thousands dead?

  7. rilkefan wrote, "Also note that the Irgun was given a cease-or-be-destroyed order by the Israeli govt at the time."
    If you really mean Israeli _government_, then that's a false parallel. There is no Palestinian government. And it's hardly historically unique that after a state is formed by a variegated independence movement, the state brings under its control more radical factions of the movement.

  8. Tierce,
    Note that that information appears to be covered in the link provided by rilkefan.

  9. Tierce, I linked to that above. It's evidence, but it's not that convincing as it stands. For example, the 155MM piece might be simply have been planted.
    And "I've been to hospital and seen the injuries. The doctors say they are primarily to the head and torso." is not confidence-building. Nor is "The Israelis have been postulating". Nor is an investigator willing to reach conclusions at this point. What does he say about the claim that the shrapnel is inconsistent with coming from a(n Israeli) shell? About the reported tampering with the scene? About the eight-minute gap?

  10. "If you really mean Israeli _government_, then that's a false parallel. There is no Palestinian government."
    I suspect at the time the nascent administration or what-have-you of Israel wasn't that different in IR-theoretic terms. I don't know actually anything about IR-theoretic terms, but the PA under Arafat had many aspects of a govt while it was still sponsoring terror, and now the PNA has territory, a flag, a PM, an armed service in uniform, and a majority in parliament of a group currently sponsoring terror.

  11. Thanks to rilkefan for posting the story in the Guardian: I will post it in the update.
    Chris C's question concerning the hypothetical assassination of certain Israeli leaders has an easy answer: no, I would not find that morally problematic as a military tactic. The Defense Minister, for example, is involved in setting strategy for Israel's participation in the war: he or she is not off limits simply because not in uniform. The killing of former tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi is a closer call because he was, well, the tourism minister. But he was also a member of the Cabinet.
    Put another way: if the Nazis had assassinated Franklin Roosevelt during World War II because they thought he was an effective leader, then that would not be problematic as a matter of military ethics. FDR was, after all, the commander in chief. It would be reprehensible solely because it would serve to advance a reprehensible cause.
    This is my entire point: when speaking of assassinations of leaders, we cannot consider it independent of ends. Some means, of course, are out of bounds–say, blowing yourself up in a pizzeria as a way of getting as many civilians as possible.
    But that is not what is at issue in the controversy surrounding Israel's targeted killings. For the most part, those who condemn targeted killings are doing so because they believe that Israel is substantively wrong in the way, and thus believe that anything Israel does to secure or advance its position is incorrect. They may be right on that (although I obviously disagree), but they should no obscure the matter by saying that it is an "extrajudicial killing": war is a series of extrajudicial killings.
    Some commentators are quite confident that they know all my views on the conflict; I'm quite confident that they do not. A place that pretty much encapsulates my view of what the final settlement should look at

  12. Chris,
    First, Jonathan has answered your question himself.
    I understand your point about Haditha. I'd simply say that I believe Israel attempts to hold itself to the standard that the US will eventually hold itself to.
    And here's a balance question for you to consider: How much time do you spend thinking and arguing about the standards to which the Palestinians hold themselves in this conflict?

  13. Mr Zasloff,
    Thank you for your response and I appreciate the intellectual honesty of that response.
    However, I would take issue with several of your statements.
    Zasloff-"Some means, of course, are out of bounds–say, blowing yourself up in a pizzeria as a way of getting as many civilians as possible."
    I would argue that launching rockets from a U.S.-made Apache into an apartment building that results in the deaths of women and children is equally morally reprehensible…as is shooting rock-throwing children.
    Again, I would ask that this community look to the non-partisan statistical studies regarding non-combatant casualties, especially children.
    I would also ask that you consider the lack of non-combatant casualties, on both sides, after the first Intifada and before Sharon's provacitive trip to the Temple Mount which, in my opinion, triggered the second Intifada.
    Zasloff-"For the most part, those who condemn targeted killings are doing so because they believe that Israel is substantively wrong in the way, and thus believe that anything Israel does to secure or advance its position is incorrect."
    I think I can agree with the statement that Israel has the absolute right to "secure" its postion, but exactly what position does Israel need to advance? More land? Less Palestinians? More U.S. aid?
    Similarily, I'm also quite confident that you, and other commentators here, are not aware of my overall views regarding the conflict.
    I believe that both sides are equally responsible for the intractable situation that exists. I believe that both sides have exhibted bad faith at the most crucial junctures in the conflict. I believe that both sides have committed, and continue to commit, atrocities that are on par with eachother.
    Please note that in each of my posts I have asked for balance. Unfortunately, achieving any sort of balance is an uphill battle in our country with the preponderance of propaganda and reportage favoring Israel.
    You see, I'm perfectly willing to stipulate to virtually every point you might make in support of Israel's position, and in your condemnation of Palestinian actions. Are you willing to allow that the same can be said in support of the Palestinians?
    Mr. Zasloff,I would strongly agree with the settlement proposals outlined in the website you mentioned, but I would argue that that solution can only be achieved with Israel, as the much stronger entity, providing the impetus.
    Finally, and I apologize for the length of this post, but to answer Mr. Birnbaum's point-
    "…I believe Israel attempts to hold itself to the standard that the US will eventually hold itself to."
    With all due respect, I think you might want to rethink that statement in light of our country's deplorable record re: Bagram, Fallujah, Abu Gharib, etc. etc..
    Are you really comfortable with the standard of accountability under our current government?

  14. Chris: Not with the current administration, no. That's why I said "eventually." It's our responsibility to move ourselves to a higher standard.
    And this ultimately is why I don't share your notion of "balance" either with respect to the US or Israel. I see political values and mechanisms in place in these societies that make it possible, fitfully, to learn from painful mistakes and over time — sometimes centuries — acknowledge wrongs committed. I don't see these values and mechanisms in place in the Arab world right now. You (and I) expect the Israeli government to perform a thorough and open review of what happened. Neither of us expects the PA to do so, do we?

  15. The point has been addressed, but finding shrapnel which came from a shell is not definitive proof that the wounds were caused by a shell *fired* from some position or another – it could easilt have been an IED made from a shell. The presence or absence of sand in the wounds isn't dispositive, either – even a low airburst could drive sand into wounds, and a shell might bury itself a small distance before detonating.

  16. Probably time for another update before the clock runs out.,,1-3…
    The IDF's story relied crucially on the timing of the shells. Now, by their own admission it is known that two shells were fired at around the time of the deaths. But the IDF would like to suggest that these landed too far away to have been the shells that killed the beach visitors.
    Anyone else having an urge to question the veracity of the IDF's story which was only offered after the Times obtained evidence rendering their previous version of events as propaganda.

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