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The War Over Gaza Continues Online

Posted by gaetanoditommaso su 24 marzo, 2009


24 March 2009

As we noted in January, the English and Hebrew versions of the Israeli military’s official Web site seem to present slightly different messages about the Israel Defense Forces to domestic and foreign audiences.

A look at the two versions of the site today shows that the series of rotating images across the top of the site’s English home page still starts with seven straight images of female soldiers, while the parallel Hebrew version starts with images of male soldiers, with only one photograph of female soldiers among the first seven. The only significant change that seems to have been made to this part of the site since January, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz followed up on our post, is that the banner slide show for Hebrew readers no longer begins with an image of a male soldier wearing a prayer shawl and phylacteries.

On Monday, the Danger Room blog at Wired suggested that the I.D.F.’s Web team may have chosen to feature a profile of Cpl. Adi Rodnitzki — headlined “Israel Navy’s Beauty Queen” — on the site this week in order to deflect some attention away from a raft of recent reports in the domestic and foreign press that have raised questions about the actions of Israeli soldiers during the recent offensive in Gaza.

In fact, since Ms. Rodnitzki was named Miss Israel just last week, it is hardly surprising that the military’s Web site would report on her success — especially given that, as the site notes, she “serves as the secretary of the head of Foreign Relations, whose job it is to present the Navy to the world.”

The site also gives greater play to two other articles that seem intended to rebut the recent criticism of the Gaza war. A report on remarks by the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, is headlined “The IDF is one of the world’s most moral militaries.” Another, on the results of an internal study of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, is headlined “99 Percent of Aerial Attacks Hit Target Precisely.”

Elsewhere on the Web, activists and human rights groups are linking to an article and three video reports published by the British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday. The paper’s report, which it says is the product of a month of reporting, tells the stories of Palestinians in Gaza who claim to have witnessed war crimes being committed during the Israeli offensive. Julian Borger and Clancy Chassay write that the charge made in the first video report, that the Israeli military used Palestinian civilians as human shields, is sure to be controversial, given the heated condemnations leveled by some supporters of Israel at Hamas fighters for doing exactly that during the fighting. As Mr. Borger and Mr. Chassay write:

Some of the most dramatic testimony gathered by The Guardian came from three teenage brothers in the al-Attar family. They describe how they were taken from home at gunpoint, made to kneel in front of Israeli tanks to deter Hamas fighters from firing, and sent by Israeli soldiers into Palestinian houses to clear them. “They would make us go first so if any fighters shot at them the bullets would hit us, not them,” 14-year-old Al’a al-Attar said.

In the other two video reports, The Guardian claims to have documented “the targeting of medics and hospitals,” and “obtained evidence of civilians being hit by fire from unmanned drone aircraft said to be so accurate that their operators can tell the color of the clothes worn by a target.”

Meanwhile, activists on the Israeli left continue to press their campaign online to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Earlier this month, an Israeli human rights group called Gisha, whose goal, according to a statement on its Web site, “is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians,” released an animated Web video intended to raise consciousness about the difficulties facing Gazans who remain confined to the territory.

The Web video, “Closed Zone” (embedded below), was made for a Web site, ClosedZone.com, that explains the difficulties of the blockade in English, Arabic and Hebrew. In a discussion of the making of the film posted on YouTube, Mr. Goodman said that his goal was to create a human figure “everyone can connect to,” so he came up with a character who is “a bit Arab and a bit Jewish.”

The resort to animation is perhaps a sign, after so many years of television images showing the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians — like those who appear in The Guardian’s videos — that viewers in the region and in the rest of the world have perhaps lost some of their capacity to be shocked by those now-familiar scenes. Whether a short animated clip posted on the Web can really succeed in changing the way anyone sees the situation is an open question.



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