Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Israel Bombs School: United Nations Wants Impartial Investigation

Sounds good, doesn't it? The United Nations wants an impartial investigation.

Israel hit two schools recently. Quite a few people were killed. Including three men. The schools had great, big, United Nations flags on them: a detail that U.N. people seem to never tire of saying. And lots of people were in one of them: civilians, we're told. Taking shelter from the Jews.

The Israeli defense force says that the schools were being used by Hamas. People living nearby told The Associated Press that they saw a mortar crew firing near the school. (The Associated Press) They didn't want their names used, and I don't blame them.

One outfit looking for them is the U.N.

"Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, disputed Israel's account of the bombardment of the northern Gaza school. But he said that if anyone could clear up the remaining uncertainty, 'We would like them to come forward and be part of an impartial investigation.' " (CNN)

"Impartial" Investigation?

The United Nations is on record, saying that they're "'99.9 percent certain' there were no Palestinian militants in or on the grounds of a school that was shelled by Israeli forces," (CNN) and they're looking for witnesses who can prove otherwise.

I may, perhaps, be forgiven if I'm a little dubious about just how "impartial" the United Nations would be, investigating whether or not it lied about Hamas using its schools.

Come on Out, Witnesses, We Only Want to Talk to You

There's nothing in the news about this, but I'd be a little surprised if Hamas isn't looking for the people who finked on them. The propaganda value of those schools goes down, if word gets around that they were associated with Hamas operations.

Dead Men Tell No Tales: Usually

One of the places hit by the Israeli Defense Force was a girls school. One of the bodies found in it belonged to Imad Abu Askar, and another to Hassan Abu Askar. There's a pretty good chance these are the same two men mentioned in the news yesterday.

If you haven't heard about the Askar duo, you're far from alone. It's a detail from a relatively obscure piece from The Associated Press:

"An Israeli military statement said it received intelligence that the dead at the girls school included Hamas operatives, among them members of a rocket-launching squad. It identified two of them as Imad Abu Askar and Hassan Abu Askar.

"Two residents who spoke to an AP reporter by phone said the two brothers were known to be low-level Hamas militants. They said a group of militants — one of them said four — were firing mortar shells from near the school." (The Associated Press)

Hamas, Gaza, Israel, the News, and Preferred Selections of Reality

Putting all the facts about an event into a news story isn't practical. Even if they could all be collected in a reasonable time, an account like that would make War and Peace look like flash fiction.1

Selecting what's important, and what's not, depends in large part on assumptions the reporter and editor make about how the world works. I think that's part of the reason we're used to seeing headlines like these: Political or ethnic preferences are only part of the story, of course. "If it bleeds, it leads" is a common newsroom philosophy. Still, the way a reader has to dig for something beyond the "Zionist regime's crimes against humanity in Gaza" approach to news from Gaza, it's hard to avoid thinking that there may be a little bias here.

Related Posts: In the news: Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
1 "Flash fiction" is a story that's really, really short. One person defined it as being fiction with less than 500 words, but the term seems to be rather flexible. A Hemingway story, six words long, is definitely 'flash fiction.'

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.