Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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Israel Gears Up PR Following Targeting of Civilian Institutions

Posted by Alessandro Accorsi su 16 gennaio, 2009

MEL FRYKBERG (Middle East Times)

JERUSALEM — Israel’s slick public relations machine, known abroad as the Hasbara, has taken a savage bashing internationally as Israeli attacks on civilian targets such as U.N. installations, schools, ambulances, hospitals and medics continue unabated.

With massive demonstrations taking place in major capitals of the world and many Jewish supporters of Israel condemning the disproportionate level of force used against Gaza, the Israeli government has dispatched a team of ministers abroad to launch a PR blitz.

Over 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 5,000 wounded. The United Nations said at least half of those killed were civilian. More than 10 Israelis have been killed, three of them civilian, and the rest soldiers mainly as a result of “friendly fire.”

Contrary to repeated erroneous reports in the Western media, the current cycle of violence started when Israel launched a cross-border military incursion into Gaza on Nov. 4, prompting a barrage of rockets in retaliation.

Prior to the Nov. 4 incident, a six-month ceasefire had held for the most part. However, Hamas accused Israel of breaching conditions of the truce by keeping border-crossings into and out of the coastal territory sealed for most of the time.

This exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as people died of medical complications due to shortages of medicine and the inability to reach hospitals in Egypt or abroad for urgent medical attention.

The latest attack on a civilian installation occurred on Thursday when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shelled the U.N. Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City. This is where desperately needed food aid is stored. Three aid workers were injured.

The same day the al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza city was bombed causing a fire to break out.

A number of U.N. schools have been shelled by Israeli troops during the three-week assault on Gaza.

The most serious incident involved a UNRWA school in the Jabaliya refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza city. Forty-three civilians sheltering there lost their lives.

The IDF originally claimed that Palestinian gunmen had been firing from inside the clearly marked U.N. school. To back up its claims the IDF showed what it alleged was footage of gunmen firing from a U.N. facility.

Later, however, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had conceded wrongdoing.

“In briefings senior IDF officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabaliya were responding did not originate from the school,” Gunness said. “The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the U.N. site was unintentional.”

The United Nations gave Israel the precise GPS coordinates of all U.N. installations in Gaza prior to Operation Cast Lead, as the current military incursion into Gaza is codenamed.

Three mobile clinics provided by a Danish NGO, DanChurchAid, were also destroyed during an Israeli attack.

According to DanChurchAid the clinics were clearly marked with red crosses and were parked in the Union of Healthcare headquarters.

In another incident, The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for a war crimes investigation into Israel’s shelling of a civilian building in Gaza City on Jan. 4.

In a report it described the shelling as “one of the gravest incidents” since Israeli infantry and armoured troops entered Gaza.

Eyewitnesses stated that Israeli ground troops ordered more than 100 Palestinian civilians into a house in Gaza city. Allegre Pachecho, deputy chief of OCHA, said that the following day the building was hit by Israeli shells.

Red Cross and Red Crescent rescue teams were also prevented from reaching the building in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza city. But after intensive negotiations the team reached the area on foot, and were able to rescue starving toddlers found near the bodies of their mothers.

Several years ago Israel caused an international furore when it accused UNRWA ambulances of transporting gunmen in one of its ambulances. The IDF claimed to have satellite pictures of ‘gunmen’ loading a ‘rocket’ into the back of an ambulance.

A subsequent investigation established that the ‘rocket’ was a stretcher and the ‘gunmen’ medics. UNRWA demanded an apology, and never got one.

Following the outbreak in 2000 of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, Israel accused the ICRC of transporting a suicide bomber with an explosives belt around his waist in one of its ambulances. The ICRC strongly denied the claim, and demanded evidence. None has been provided.

In the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Israeli shells killed several U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers in the south of Lebanon during a shelling period which lasted several hours, despite repeated calls to the Israelis by UNIFIL commanders that they were being targeted.

During Israel’s 1996 Grapes of Wrath campaign into southern Lebanon, over 100 Lebanese civilians sheltering in a U.N. compound in Qana were killed. The Israelis again said it was an accident.

However, footage taken by a UNIFIL soldier showed a Israeli reconnaissance jet circling the compound the day before it was hit, despite Israeli claims they were not aware of the compound and the civilians sheltering in it.

Winning the PR campaign for Israel has got even harder during the last three weeks. To try and counter extensive international media criticism, the Israeli foreign ministry has created a special task force comprising six ministers.

The team will blitz foreign governments and the foreign media in order to try and rectify what they call “the distorted portrayal of the Gaza assault.”

Foreign journalists have been banned for almost two months from entering Gaza and the Israelis are afraid that once they are allowed in again, the full picture of the death and destruction wrought on Gaza will be immense.

Meanwhile, the U.S. administration plans to cut about $1 billion from the balance of its loan guarantees to Israel because of its investments in the illegal West Bank settlements.

http://www.metimes.com/International/2009/01/16/israel_gears_up_pr_following_targeting_of_civilian_institutions/9688/

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