The increasingly popular TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) lectures are known for their winning blend of innovative thinking and inspiring messages presented in an easy-to-digest package. The organization's apt slogan is "ideas worth spreading."
Every year, the organization selects 40 "exceptional individuals" as TED Fellows based on "the strength of their achievements, their potential for impact, and their character." Fellows participate in TEDs global conference, gain access to leading opinion shapers and other coveted resources, and score a platform to spread their own messages.
Eman Mohammed, described as Gaza's only female photojournalist, is one of this years fellows. In an interview on TEDs blog about hardships she faced while navigating Gaza's conservative society, Mohammed inserted a malicious libel about an Israeli airstrike during Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-2009:
There had been an air strike on a police compound, and I was there afterwards. The thing about the Israeli military, when they start an air strike, they wait for civilians and medical teams to arrive, and then they strike again, so they can have biggest number of casualties. So there were strikes maybe four minutes apart, which was the time it took me to arrive from a very nearby hospital.
Does the Israeli air force really aim to cause the "biggest number of casualties"?
During Operation Cast Lead, Israel dropped over 2,500,000 leaflets throughout Gaza and phoned residents in order to warn them of impending attacks. (Israel likewise dropped warning fliers during the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank.) Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2009, praising the extraordinary measures that Israel took in Cast Lead to avoid civilian casualties:
I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Governments Joint Intelligence Committee.
Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.
Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.
Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes
A photo caption accompanying the interview indicates that Mohammeds gratuitous slur about Israel targeting civilians was in context of the attack on the Al Saraya (al-Shujaeiyah) police compound the second day of Cast Lead. The infamous Goldstone Report addressed that incident, primarily to debate whether or not it was a legitimate target. An Israel Defense Forces investigation into the armys conduct during Cast Lead discussed the precautions that Israel took in this particular attack to safeguard civilian lives. Addressing initially a strike on a police compound in Deir al-Balah, the document stated:
The IAF took several measures in order to minimize collateral damage, including the use of munitions with a warhead of reduced size and strength, equipped with a delay fuse. Advanced warnings could not be given due to the timing of the strike, which required the element of surprise.
About the Al Saraya strike, the report noted: Similar precautions to the ones implemented in the strike against the station in Deir al-Balah were used in this strike as well.
While the IDF investigation went on to note the unfortunate deaths of four civilians in the Al Saraya strike, it maintained that the strikes were in accordance with international law. The report then added:
Nonetheless, the findings of the command investigations will be studied as part of the operational lessons learned analysis, in order to consider measures which can minimize the danger to civilians in future military actions.
That's a bizarre finding for an army intent on extracting the biggest number of casualties.
Mohammed mentions various other incidents that took place in Gaza, but does not provide enough details to identify most of them. She does, however, discuss in some detail the story behind one of her images, shown below:
One of the strongest images in the series is of a girl, one-and-a-half years old, sitting on a motorcycle that is really damaged. She was an unborn baby when her dad, his brother, and her 2-year-old brother were all on this motorcycle coming back from the hospital. The boy had walked into something and had gone for stitches. On their way home, an air strike targeted them on the motorcycle. The three of them were killed, but the motorcycle survived. The grandfather rode the motorcycle to the house, and kept it as a reminder. The girl was born six months later and named Islam, her brothers name, in memory of him.
The story and the picture are moving. However, a different picture emerges when the reason for the attack is taken into account, a key fact that Mohammed carefully omitted. This is how B'tselem reported on the incident
On 19 August 2011, around 9:30 P.M., the Israeli air force fired a missile into a street in the heart of Gaza City, killing Muataz Kreqa, his two-year-old son Islam, and his brother Munzar. The IDF Spokespersons announcement of 20 August said that Muataz Kreqa had been the operations officer in charge of rockets. . . [and] had played a major role in planning and firing long-range rockets at Israel in the period preceding the attack on his life.
For the Hebrew version of this post, please see Presspectiva.