Did Israel go too Far? The Massacre at the UN School/ Refugee Center

By Juan Cole

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports for The Nation from Gaza on the Israeli shelling of a UN school that killed 16 and wounded 200, even though the school’s coordinates had been given to the Israeli military. Despite Israeli water-muddying, there isn’t any doubt that the Israelis struck the school, nor is there any evidence that the school was an origin point for any Hamas rockets. Indeed, correspondents on the ground find no evidence for Hamas using civilians as human shields.

CBS explains that the Israeli military contacted the UN and told them that the compound would be attacked by Israel. The UN replied that they would need time to move the large number of refugees sheltering there. They tried to cooperate. They never heard back from the Israeli army, and then Israeli tanks opened fire. It is outrageous that Israeli media spokesmen attempted to assert or imply that the school was hit by Hamas rockets. They were lying pure and simple. Because the Israeli generals had already told the UN that they were going to shell the school!

I don’t think it is any accident that soon thereafter, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire for Saturday (though it had already violated the ceasefire by Saturday morning). The images of dead children and of reckless and illegal shelling of civilian structures where there were no militants or munitions have piled up in the World’s consciousness, and even though the Israeli leadership likes to pose as macho, they are open to being pressured, and they are being heavily pressured, by the outside world.

Likewise, the eruption of large demonstrations on the West Bank must be worrisome to the Netanyahu government, since it would stretch the Israeli army thin to try to have it police both Gaza and the whole West Bank. Worse, the West Bank protesters are secular Fateh types, and are more sympathetic figures to the Arab neighbors like Egypt than are Hamas. Cracking down on them won’t be as relatively cost-free as the Israeli campaign against Hamas, which is disliked by the governments of most of Israel’s Arab neighbors or near neighbors. Still, the ceasefire is so far a phony ceasefire, and unless the siege on Gaza is lifted any ceasefire is just a prelude to another war.

The UN school incident is explained by Tomo News:

Tomo News: Gaza War 2014: UN-run refugee center hit by shells, kill at least 15

12 Responses

  1. What we are seeing with Israel isn’t exactly hubris (although there is that as well), but where their behavior is leading them is every bit as inevitable.

    You (they, we) can keep on with anything indefinitely if we are in harmony with the world around us. On the other hand, if we insist on conflict and disregard the rest of our world, we’re operating on borrowed time. Israel inflicting their victim’s mentality and self-righteousness on the rest of the world is a case in point, which seems to be leading them to the very self-fulfilling prophecy they most dread.

    Whether it’s the West Bank exploding behind their back or Hamas (or successor organization) coming up with a $50 improvement to their homemade rockets that makes a real difference, Israel’s fate at some point will be sealed.

    Even now, what we’re seeing may actually be acts of desperation. Its a matter of the underlying weakness of their position. Israel isn’t exactly weak in any sort of military sense, but their position stands only to deteriorate, one way or the other, slowly, one intifada at a time…

    • Unfortunately this is incorrect, although it is a very popular idea. Wrong actions are not inevitably self-correcting in this way. Israeli policy has no real counterweight, and can continue indefinitely if it is not changed. The policy will not change itself.

      • You’re right, as far as you go. The world, however, is turning, literally and figuratively. The context in which Israel (and others) may get away with things is always changing, and Israel has to change with the world to stay alive. Otherwise, its just a matter of time before their disconnection with it becomes too extreme and they become history. Forever, or indefinitely, is too long a clock to try to run out.

  2. MSM journalists are manufacturing WW3 by suppressing information/comments that would help the American Public to make political/military decisions.
    Example: Juan Cole’s comments are not in the MSM. Yet Juan Cole, a senior university professor, expresses very strong, scholarly descending opinions that might help the public particularly in making going-to-war decisions..

    • Fucking A Nel.

      Should academics rule the world? Maybe, maybe not. But let’s cut the crap. To whom are we going to listen to about the Mideast? Someone who has studied it their entire adult life and knows the languages and culture, such as Juan Cole, or should we listen to someone like Sean Hannity? Hmmm. Juan Cole . . . Sean Hannity. Hmm. Hmmmmm. (I am now stroking my fast greying beard thoughtfully). Hmmmm – Juan Cole – knows Arabic, knows the history, is a respected published author with good presses whose work has been vetted and knows the material inside out, or Sean Hannity. Hmmm, yes, hmmm. Let me see, who’s the better qualified? Gee, gosh, not sure on that one.

      Let’s move on . . .

      Who’s the better to discuss climate change? James Hansen, Bill McKibben or (wait for it) . . . Sean Hannity. Hmmm. Let’s see. Hansen and McKibben have studied science and devoted their lives to it, and Hansen sounded the warning bell on this issue a quarter of a century ago and has been right at every turn . . . but then, Sean Hannity is on tv and can shout. Gosh, who has more authority, knowledge, intellectual, and moral clout on this. Hmmm, let me think, hmmm, yes, hmmm. Well gosh I’m agnostic on this one too.

      So let’s move on again . . .

      . . . to matters of economics, education, sociology, other regional conflicts, and so on. This is an absurdity – hey, I have an idea, why don’t we have computer programmers farm and have farmers do computer programming? Then we can have fishermen start to teach Latin and Latin teachers can start to fish. Because we’re a democracy right? And everyone and everything is equal right? RIGHT?!?!?!? So since Juan isn’t on tv as much as Hannity he CAN’T absolutely CAN’T know as much about the Mideast as Mr. [Ins]Hannity. Plus, Mr. [Ins]Hannity can shout louder than Professor Cole (I suspect!)

      I will shout this from the roof tops: Conservatives talk about the value of work, but they do not, absolutely do NOT value academic work. They are hypocrites in the extreme on this score, and the only consolation a thinking being gets is that intellectuals get beaten up simply because we scare the shit out of these creatures.

      • Its easy to share your exasperation, but this is the messiness of democracy, when disengaged, uninformed, and sometimes outright stupid citizens are to some degree allowed to influence policy. Ultimately the only hope is education and a proliferation of engaging information that will somehow shine through the smoke once issues become important.

        Especially when issues are smaller and under-the-radar of special interests, things can work more cleanly. Whatever the concern, the problem is rarely that knowledgeable people aren’t getting to participate in the policy process. The government is full of conscientious people who know their business and go outside their office, often to academia, when they need more perspective. The problem is that top policy-makers are swayed by intemperate political factors rather than rationality. And that would’ve included you and me until whatever point we had both the time and inclination to think and observe events a bit more critically ourselves.

        Your argument is not invalid, but you have to consider where it leads us: to a corporate bottom-line state with no soul or genuine human sensibility, where dissent and creative organic progress cannot emerge. This would be a state where accountants, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, run things. In joyful collaboration, of course, with the NSA, since a technocratic perspective and approach can grasp neither the potential nor the inevitability of human weakness, much less the magnitude of its consequences.

        • Your critique is well taken and I appreciate it . . . until we come up against a situation with existential implications such as war, nuclear proliferation, or climate change – esp. climate change (my own pet issue since as a farmer it impacts me directly). To what extent will we let the “messiness of democracy” degrade and destroy our planet? The forces of denial and obstruction – primarily in the legislative and corporate sectors of this country – are counting on running out the clock on this, and they have just about done it. A political system works . . . until it doesn’t. “Allowed” to influence policy? How about willfully manipulated by copious doses of fear and misinformation until they feel compelled to reject the common good just as a matter of principle and identity politics? Moreover the outline of your nightmare scenario sounds a lot to me like the system we now have.

          I agree that we want to avoid a technocratic dystopia – who doesn’t? However as to becoming a state that is soulless and has no genuine human sensibility I think the past twenty or thirty years or longer indicates we are pretty close to that if not already there, at least as industrialized democratic countries go. Torture, huge percentages of kids in poverty (20-40% in some regions), the devastation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the utter impunity with which war criminals in this country can act, the roll back on some essential civil liberties, the capture by the corporate sector of our government and media, the funding of a vast and destructive armaments industry at public expense, the militarization of the police force, the general contempt for those less fortunate, and of course, the carte blanche backing of an Apartheid ally that is prone to commit war crimes on occasion – I could go on, but why?

          How much further do we want to sink?

  3. This bombing of innocent children is eerily similar to a report from the Ukraine, a grisly new strategy – bringing in neo-Nazi paramilitary forces to set fire to occupied buildings in the country’s rebellious southeast – appears to be emerging as a favored tactic as the coup-installed regime in Kiev seeks to put down resistance from ethnic Russians and other opponents.

    The technique first emerged on May 2 in the port city of Odessa when pro-regime militants chased dissidents into the Trade Unions Building and then set it on fire. As some 40 or more ethnic Russians were burned alive or died of smoke inhalation, the crowd outside mocked them as red-and-black Colorado potato beetles, with the chant of “Burn, Colorado, burn.” Afterwards, reporters spotted graffiti on the building’s walls containing Swastika-like symbols and honoring the “Galician SS,” the Ukrainian adjunct to the German SS in World War II..

    Think of the reporter who tweeted about Israelis cheering as Israeli missiles exploded in Gaza.

  4. I read some of that nonsense “it was a Hamas rocket!” stuff on my facebook page. Just shameless propaganda.

    To paraphrase Tyrion (from GOT)… “Israel is a lost cause. It’s the rest of us I am worried about.”

  5. What will it take for the Al shujaiya massacre to break through to the MSM conscience? Bombing the UN school broke a “rule of war,” but leveling an entire district and burying untold number of people in rubble is a horrific crime.

  6. “Danny Muller focuses on disaster management and response in the Middle East and Haiti. He is a coordinator of public health and humanitarian aid efforts for the Middle East Children’s Alliance. He said today, “What can’t be seen or understood in the pictures and reporting coming out of Gaza is the long term impact the most recent Israeli assault is having on the young minds of children in Gaza.”

    We need a law forbidding support of countries (like Israel) who are killing/injuring children. We send billions of dollars to Israel every year. This support must be conditional.

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