Account of Gaza war misleads through omissions

Commentary writer Laila El-Haddad feels "betrayed" by Judge Richard Goldstone's repudiation of the central allegation of the U.N.'s Goldstone commission investigation. Turns out the Israelis, as they said all along, did not intentionally target Palestinian civilians during the anti-terrorist Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.

El-Haddad quotes her father, from Gaza City, saying Israeli forces "destroyed everything living and beautiful and ordinary," and cites the displacement of "more than 50,000 people" to prove it. The population of the Gaza Strip is about 1.4 million. That means roughly 1.35 million people were not displaced. Hardly the "destruction of everything living, beautiful and ordinary."

Rather than the wild "onslaught" El-Haddad portrays, "Cast Lead" was a targeted incursion against Hamas and affiliated groups that had fired more than 4,000 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told the U.N. in 2009 that "the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."

El-Haddad claims "more than 1,400 Palestinians were dead" when the operation ended. But she doesn't distinguish between combatants and noncombatants.

Israeli military sources counted 1,166 Palestinian fatalities, identifying 709 as combatants, 295 (including 89 children under 16 and 49 women) as "uninvolved" and 162 men who had not yet been categorized. The Goldstone commission discounted this in favor of the higher Palestinian number. But last November, Fathi Hamad, interior minister of the Hamas government in Gaza (Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Canada and other countries), acknowledged that Hamas and affiliated groups lost between 600 and 700 fighters. CAMERA's analysis of Palestinian fatality reports showed 74 percent were males between 15 and 40 years of age — combatant age for many Palestinian groups — although that demographic accounts for only 25 percent of the strip's population.

El-Haddad is conspicuously silent on the Palestinians' choice, after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, to turn the area into a staging ground for attacks against Israeli civilians. She mentions Goldstone commissioners who still uphold their anti-Israel claims without telling readers those members publicly had declared Israel guilty before the U.N. chose them to "investigate." El-Haddad refers to Israel's recent killing of 19 people in Gaza without noting that 14 were terrorists attempting or staging attacks.

Lack of context, unsubstantiated generalizations, telling omissions: El-Haddad betrays Sun readers.

Eric Rozenman

The writer is Washington director of CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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