Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Barak Ravid at Axios reports that when Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani a couple of weeks ago, he asked the government to have al-Jazeera Arabic “tone down” its coverage of Israel and Gaza. Blinken, addressing a Jewish group in New York on Monday, said that he “asked the Qataris to ‘turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement.'” Not sure why Blinken is the agent of censorship for the New York Israel lobby. Then yesterday, President Biden cast doubts on the death toll of Palestinians being killed by Israeli air strikes being reported by Gaza’s Ministry of Health.
The ongoing genocide against the civilian population of Gaza, perpetrated by the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu, is an embarrassment for the United States, which fully supports this reckless disregard for the lives of innocent noncombatants — men, women and children.
While Israel has the right to strike back at the Hamas organization in the wake of the latter’s hideous October 7 attack on Israel, it doesn’t have the right to do so in a way that recklessly endangers civilian lives. Beyond that issue, Israel is recognized by the United Nations as the occupying power of Gaza, and therefore has responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 to preserve the lives and well-being of the occupied population. Finally, according to the Rome Statute that underpins the International Criminal Court, targeting a group such as “the Palestinians of Gaza” for death is a form of genocide, regardless of the number killed.
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GAZA CITY, GAZA – OCTOBER 25: Palestinians try to collect usable belongings from the building containing the al-Magazi bakery, which was completely destroyed as a result of the Israeli attacks with warplanes and artillery fire as Israeli attacks continue on the 19th day in Gaza City, Gaza on October 25, 2023. As a result of the Israeli attacks, the building was completely destroyed and the surrounding businesses were also damaged. (Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)
The Biden-Blinken line that Israel is not actually killing large numbers of innocent noncombatants in Gaza, and that news outlets should not report these unlawful killings in a thoroughgoing way, fails along several dimensions. This pitiful denialism reminds me of the scene in the first Star Wars movie when Obi Wan Kenobe mesmerizes the storm troopers looking for R2 D2 and 3-CPO, telling them, “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”
In fact, the Gaza Ministry of Health is staffed by professional bureaucrats, not Hamas fighters, and its statistics are gathered from hospitals and other local institutions on the ground. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch have attempted to double check these statistics, and have never found major discrepancies, as Adam Taylor at WaPo reports.
Here are the MoH statistics for Palestinian victims in Gaza on Wednesday as reported at Reliefweb: Israeli air strikes killed “756 people, including 344 children, over the past 24 hours (as of 18:00 on 25 October), according to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza. Overall, 6,547, of whom 68 per cent are said to be children and women, were killed in Gaza since the start of hostilities, according to MoH. About 1,600 people, including 900 children, have been reported missing and may be under the rubble. Heavy Israeli bombardments have continued throughout the day.” Some 17,439 Palestinians, in addition, have been wounded.
Reliefweb adds: “Water supply through the network in areas south of Wadi Gaza has temporarily improved. This happened after UNRWA and UNICEF managed to deliver small quantities of fuel they had retrieved from their existing reserves to key facilities. However, the available fuel in these facilities will be exhausted by 26 October and supply of piped water is expected to cease again.”
Israel has dropped 12,000 tons of bombs on Gaza since October 7, damaging 183,000 housing units, or about half the housing stock in the Gaza strip.
Regardless of how many noncombatants Israel has blown to smithereens, for Netanyahu to deny them water is a war crime.
Perhaps President Biden would be interested to know that some historians view as a form of genocide the British use of the Irish potato famine as an avenue to the reform of the Irish agrarian economy in a way that failed to stem the death toll of the late 1840s. There is a parallel, I would argue, with the Israeli elite’s determination to use October 7 for social engineering purposes in Palestine.
As for Al Jazeera, on Wednesday an Israeli air strike on South Gaza killed the wife and children of an Al Jazeera reporter, Wael Dahdouh.
Dahdouh had moved his family to South Gaza in accordance with Israeli instructions, since Tel Aviv said it would bomb north Gaza intensively but leave the south alone. Actually, it has bombed the south, and it was in such an air strike that Dahdouh’s family perished.
I guess that Blinken’s message, that Al Jazeera should stop condemning the Israeli assault on tiny Gaza, will rather get lost now.