Thursday, April 23, 2009

Israel, Gaza and White Phosphorus: Telling the Truth

... and, as always, the truth depends on who is writing the headline.

During the Gaza War, anti-Israel mainstream media and blogs insisted that Israel was using white phosphorus against civilian populations. I and others denied the charge, demanding to see evidence. Indeed, as Jack noted at the time, the Red Cross said Israel's use of white phosphorus was neither unusual nor illegal.

Now Israel has concluded five separate investigations into allegations of IDF misconduct, and has concluded that white phosphorus was never used illegally:
White phosphorus was used in a type of shell fired by mortar squads, as well as by the navy, which fired a 76 mm cannon that every few rounds also fires a white-phosphorus shell to help track targets.
In addition, the IDF fired some 3,000 155 mm artillery shells - which looked like exploding octopuses in the air - that are not white-phosphorus weapons and are used exclusively to create smoke to screens troop movements.
The probe, conducted by artillery officer Col. Shai Alkalai, revealed that white phosphorus weapons were used strictly in open fields and not in urban centers.
The weapon was also not used against terrorists, but for marking and ranging when the forces targeted Kassam rocket cells operating in open areas.
The IDF said it knew of only one case when white phosphorus was used for its burning capacity. That incident also took place in an open field, to burn away shrubbery and uncover tunnel openings.
The army said that the use of the weapon in that incident was also in line with international regulations.
While the IDF was not required to, on January 7, the General Staff decided to stop using white phosphorus.
Alkali discovered three instances where forces continued to use the weapon despite the order - but this was because these units had not yet received the new directive. Once they did, use of the weapon was halted.

So how is this covered by mainstream media and blogs?
Times of London: “White phosphorus in Gaza: from flat denial to final admission
Monsters and Critics – “Israel admits mistakes, use of white phosphorus in Gaza offensive
And CNN buried the news deep in an article entitled “Iran accuses Israeli leaders of war crimes

Apparently, they missed the Ethics sessions in Journalism school.

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