Jerusalem – Israeli Foreign Ministry officials continued to explain on Monday that Hamas was responsible for the blackout in the Gaza Strip, following widespread condemnation that Israel was causing the power failure. “All of the facts that we have point to a Hamas media spin,” said Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Foreign Media and Public Relations Aviv Sar-On.
Israeli officials said on Monday that the time of the blackout and the speed with which the information made its way to the media attested to extensive planning. “Hamas planned the blackout for 8:00 in the evening – the time when the news is broadcast in Israel, the Middle East and in Europe,” said Mr. Sar-On. “That organization staged a media event and then it sent terrified children holding candles into the street.”
Foreign Ministry officials are particularly angry with the Arab television network Al-Jazeera, which Foreign Ministry officials said was party to Hamas’ campaign. “There was unprecedented enlistment here by Al-Jazeera to save Hamas,” said Foreign Ministry officials. “The Hamas leadership made sure to recruit demonstrators and children to go out into the streets. Everything was well-orchestrated and planned. This is really reminiscent of the Mohammed Al-Dura affair.”
Officials in Jerusalem complained that Al-Jazeera canceled its scheduled programming in order to allow for a special broadcast out of the Gaza Strip. The commentator in the studio was Azmi Bishara, and Khaled Mashal was given extensive air time as well. Al-Jazeera’s correspondents were sent to obtain reactions from the average citizen on the street in Cairo and Amman, and Foreign Ministry officials are furious that the network failed to let even a single Israeli on the air.
Al-Jazeera executives rejected those allegations on Monday. “We aren’t part of the game and we didn’t take part in a provocation,” said Walid Omari, the bureau chief in Israel and in the territories. “We filed credible reports about the electricity situation in Gaza. We don’t support the Hamas government, we aren’t part of it and we aren’t responsible for the fact that Israel stopped the flow of fuel. All we did was report about the turn of events on the ground.”
Many Israeli security officials were angry with the Israeli media on Monday, which they claimed provided a podium for Palestinian hysteria as if Gaza was the scene of a humanitarian crisis because the border crossings had been sealed. “The Israeli media is worse than the foreign media,” a high-ranking security official said, adding that “They made more of a stink about the situation in Gaza than the world media did.”
The decision to shut down the power plant was made by the Palestinian Authority on Saturday afternoon after it became clear that Israel intended to shut all the border crossings and the fuel terminal. Hamas informed the television and radio stations on Saturday afternoon that it intended to shut down the power plant, and the execution of that decision was reported by all the television and radio stations, including Al-Jazeera.
Israel Fears Possible U.N. Condemnation
The U.N. Security Council is supposed to convene this week to hold a session about the apparent “humanitarian crisis” emerging in the Gaza Strip. According to information that was received in Jerusalem, the U.N. Security Council will demand that Israel be condemned for its conduct and for the blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip, which is to be defined as “collective punishment.”
Officials in Jerusalem hope that the United States will torpedo a condemnation of that sort since Israel’s actions against Gaza are purely defensive in nature and since it was not Israel that initiated the most recent round of violence: it was responding for want of another choice after it found its population under continued Kassam rocket fire.
Meanwhile, UNRWA announced on Monday that if Israel were not to lift its blockade it would be forced to stop food distribution to 860,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the next day or two.
Arab Journalist: Hamas Is Responsible For Gaza Situation
“Who is responsible for the situation in Gaza-Hamas or Israel?” on Monday asked Abd a-Rahman a-Rashad, a prominent Arab journalist. His clear answer was: Hamas. In an article that he published in the mass circulation daily Asharq al-Awsat, Mr. a-Rashad attacked Hamas’ policy, which he said had brought a disaster upon Gaza. Mr. a-Rashad, a former editor of Asharq al-Awsat and the director general of El-Arabiya network, wrote: “when Hamas fires rockets it is committing suicide operations and is sacrificing the security of all the Gaza Strip’s residents.”
Mr. a-Rashad also attacked Hamas’ decision to resume Kassam rocket fire into Israel. “Hamas decided to provoke the Israelis after a long period of an unwritten cease-fire, and fired rockets at Sderot. The result-dozens of Israelis merely injured and a terrible disaster for Gaza.” He underscored that he could understand neither the expedience nor the wisdom of the rocket fire. “Where is the wisdom of these operations, which only intensify the suffering of a million and a half Palestinians and do not damage Israel militarily or cause it to make concessions in the political arena?” asked the author.
“For the sake of what is all this Palestinian blood and suffering? Hamas behaved foolishly when it provided Israel with an opportunity to attack in response to a few useless rockets.” Mr. a-Rashad also criticized the harsh Israeli response to the rocket fire, but clearly pointed the accusatory finger at Hamas. “Even though Israel’s method of response is criminal, and there can be no argument about that,” he wrote, “Hamas is the one responsible for making a million and a half Palestinians vulnerable to attack.”
Mr. a-Rashad wrote that he was afraid that Hamas’ irresponsible behavior was liable to bring Israel back into the Gaza Strip. “The Palestinians in Gaza have suffered greatly because of Hamas’ conduct, which now is bringing the Israelis back into the Gaza Strip after Palestinian forces liberated it,” he concluded.
IDF Company Commanders To Olmert: Take Responsibility
Eight days before the release of the final report of the Winograd Lebanon Investigation Committee report, a letter signed by 50 IDF company commanders in reserves was sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The IDF commanders, mainly captains and majors in the Israeli army reserves, called on Mr. Olmert to shoulder his responsibility and to resign his post for his failings in the course of the Second Lebanon War.
All 50 company commanders took part in the fighting in the course of the war in 2006. The contents of the letter were leaked to the local media. No response from the Prime Minister’s Bureau was available in any of the news reports yesterday morning.
The commanders say that the significance of Mr. Olmert’s declaration that he does not intend to resign after the final report’s conclusions is damaging to Israel’s national security, and they therefore call on him to take responsibility. “This is not just our right, but also our duty, to demand that you retract this and that you declare that you will accept the conclusions of the final Winograd Committee report, that you take responsibility for your failings in the Second Lebanon War and that you draw the requisite personal conclusions,” they wrote.
Aviad Rodan, who served as a company commander and who lost friends in the war says that he is disappointed with the prime minister and calls on him to resign. “Out of a feeling that there were egregious failings in how the war was managed, I think that the prime minister has to take responsibility, just as all the military ranks took responsibility.
Maj. Shai Avisra, who was with the Paratroopers Brigade in the central and eastern sectors, also thinks that Mr. Olmert failed in his job. “If he declares from the outset that he will not resign in any case, then I think that he is announcing from the outset that he is not taking responsibility and as such, I don’t want him as a leader.”
Maj. Nir Yadid, a company commander in the Paratroopers Brigade, called on Mr. Olmert to retract his statement. “It is not fitting that a prime minister who has pretensions of being a leader speaks as he did in the last few days.”
Maj. Yaron Kites, who served as a company commander in the Armored Corps, wants to wait for the report to draw conclusions.
“I am critical of Olmert’s saying that he won’t resign in wake of the Winograd report, but I call on all of us to read the report and only to draw conclusions afterwards,” he said.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008