While there is no way to detract from the real suffering in the Gaza Strip, the following extract from an article appeared in Yediot Aharnot, January 9. It is by Ron Ben-Ishai, one of Israel's best reporters, and embedded in an Israeli unit in Gaza. In one house held by the troops, the Palestinian family insists on staying so the soldiers let them. Here is what happens when Ben-Ishai enters:

"The family suddenly notices the cameras, and immediately, the expression on their faces changes. "We have no food," they say in Arabic, as one of the youngsters suggests we interview him in English about their plight. Givati troops are extremely concerned about being portrayed as abusing innocent civilians. [An Israeli officer] points to a stack of canned goods, water bottles and other provisions. "We provided some of that and they cook and eat quite well," said [the officer]. The Palestinians seem to understand him and one of them smiles. “It's a war - they had to try." http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3653238,00.html

In other words, they do not mention the food given them and pretend they are being starved by the Israeli army, despite the fact that the food and water are in plain sight!  How many times a day does this happen and how often does it work?

It should be stressed that making such points does not negate the death, wounding, and suffering of Palestinians. But the issue remains, of course:

• How many people are involved and whether these numbers are exaggerated. Even according to Hamas and the UN, 75 percent of the Palestinian casualties are military. (It might be noted that in Lebanon in 2006, contemporary--misleadingly inflated as we have learned since--reports claimed there were 10,000 civilians killed in the war and attributed to Israel. The equivalent number for the Gaza Strip is about 100 people.

• How Israel has tried to limit these problems. (As in the above case.)

• How the responsibility of Hamas is ignored.

• How Israel's own sufferings are minimized or ignored.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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