Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Independent on Sunday

As it happens, L and I were in London this past Sunday and I would not have noticed 'The Independent on Sunday' front page if not for my good buddy RB. There we were standing in a train station coffee shop waiting to pay when RB called my attention to the piece. My first thought was: 'there they go again...' My second thought was to write this for The Post.



Thursday - Those Israeli 'death squads'


Considered part of what passes these days for Britain's prestige press, The Independent "viewspaper" has a circulation of just over 211,000. Though it sells for less than the Guardian or Times, the Sunday edition is hemorrhaging readers. The Independent caters to that sliver of readership which finds the Guardian a tad too conservative. If cash prize contests don't boost circulation, it may soon have to switch to an Internet-only format.

The daily is edited by Roger Alton; the Sunday edition by John Mullin. Simon Kelner is managing director of both editions. But The Independent's overarching animosity toward Israel has been entrenched by its Middle East editor, Robert ("I am being vilified for telling the truth about Palestinians") Fisk. Osama bin Laden personally vouched for Fisk's objectivity. By comparison, Katherine Butler, the paper's foreign editor, can only be thought of as a Zionist-sympathizer. The paper's reporter in Israel since 2004 is the genteel Donald Macintyre, its former chief commentator.

This brings us to the "viewspaper's" cover story this past Sunday: "Israel's death squads: A soldier's story" written by Macintyre in cooperation with the nebulously funded advocacy group "Breaking the Silence," which describes itself as devoted to gathering "testimonies" that expose the "depth of corruption" in the Israeli military.

The protagonist of Macintyre's rendering is a "former sharpshooter with psychological scars" who cannot be identified by name. On November 22, 2000 the soldier was purportedly part of an elite unit ordered to arrest "a Palestinian militant called Jamal Abdel Razak" at Morag Junction in the southern Gaza Strip.

Macintyre's quotes the soldier as saying that his unit was abruptly informed that Razak was on the way "and then we got an order that it was going to be an assassination [not an arrest] after all."

Razek, The Independent says, was unarmed. To complicate matters, a taxi carrying Sami Abu Laban - a "baker" - and Na'el al Leddawi - "a student" - chanced upon the scene.

The Breaking the Silence soldier continued: "They gave us two seconds and they said, 'Shoot. Fire.'" So he "fired 11 bullets into the head of the militant Razek." The "baker" and "student" along with another "militant" caught in the crossfire, were all killed. Macintyre sums up: The soldier "never told his parents what happened." Coming from "a good home," how could he?

There you have it: A front-page Independent scoop "proving" that the IDF employs death squads which kill with little compunction, both unarmed "militants" and any civilians who get in the way.

THE NAME Itamar Yefet doesn't figure in Macintyre's account. He was an 18 year-old from Netzer Hazani killed a day earlier by Palestinian snipers at the Gush Katif junction. The day Yefet was ambushed, a bus travelling in the Galilee was firebombed. And two days earlier, St-Sgt Sharon Shitoubi, 21, had been mortally wounded by enemy snipers close to Morag junction. Also around this time, three children ages 8-12 from the Cohen family, Orit, Yisroel and Tehila, each lost a limb in an attack on their school bus.

Yasser Arafat's war of attrition - the second intifada - which would claim over 1,000 Israeli lives - was underway. As IDF soldiers were seeking Jamal Abdel Razak, a car bomb in Hadera killed two Israelis and wounded 50.

FOR REASONS that remain obscured by the fog of war, the arrest operation of Jamal Abdel Razak went sour; he along with three other Palestinians were killed.

But Razak was no mere "militant." He was a senior Tanzim operative who had been imprisoned by Israel (1992-1997) and when released planned numerous bombing attacks.

Contrary to the implication left by Macintyre, all four killed were Fatah. The movement issued a statement condemning "the assassination of four of its cadre…" warning that the "blood of its sons" would be avenged.

Some may wonder why we bother taking umbrage over yet one more slanderous attack in a British press long fixated on delegitimizing Israel.

Because though anti-Israelism pervades the British media and academia, truly independent readers deserve to know the wider circumstances of Jamal Abdel Razak's demise, and that there are no "death squads" in Israel.

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