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Facts and Logic About the Middle East

January 19, 2016

The West levels Ramadi in order to save it—but where's the outrage we saw regarding Gaza?

Dear Friend of Israel:

On December 29, Iraqi army forces, backed by heavy U.S.-led air support, finally seized ISIS' military headquarters in Ramadi, marking the end of a three-month campaign to recapture the city, which had been lost to ISIS back in May.

Unfortunately, according to the al Jazeera news agency, "the victory would appear as a loss, as the Iraqi state won back Ramadi, but utterly devastated the city in the process." As you'll read in this week's FLAME Hotline featured article, more than half the city of Ramadi has been destroyed, most of that residential, which could amount to as many as 40,000 destroyed homes in this city that once housed more than 450,000 residents.

So far neither Western news media, nor Western politicians nor the U.N. Human Rights Council have raised an objection to this devastation of civilian habitats, let alone any accusations of war crimes. This, of course, is in stark contrast to reporting on the damage caused in 2014 Gaza war, which was initiated by Hamas terrorists shooting more than 3,000 missiles at Israel within a few months prior to that war's start.

For example, the UK Independent newspaper reported that "more than 20,000 homes are estimated to have been rendered uninhabitable by shelling and air strikes that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed targeted only 'terrorist' sites used by Hamas for military purposes." As you'll see in the article below, that number is a substantial exaggeration—probably by a factor of 100 percent. There's also no mention in the Independent report that Hamas terrorists were embedded among Gaza City's residential buildings, just as ISIS fighters were in Ramadi.

More telling was the New York Times, summarizing a U.N. Human Rights Council report on the Gaza war, which notes that in six cases of residential building damage in Gaza City following Israeli aerial bombing, the U.N. panel "found little or no information to explain why residential buildings 'which are prima facie civilian objects immune from attack, were considered to be legitimate military objectives.'"

Yes, residential buildings are indeed "prima facie civilian objects," and under normal warfare conditions they might indeed be considered inappropriate military targets. Tell that to the U.S. Air Force, which led the bombings of Ramadi, and to the Iraqi soldiers who no doubt fired thousands of rocket-propelled grenades into Ramadi residential buildings to clean out nests of embedded ISIS militants.

I doubt that these coalition forces courteously dropped warning notes on Ramadi homes—as Israel did obsessively in Gaza—before they leveled them with heavy armaments

More importantly, I seriously doubt we'll be reading any New York Times or U.N. outrage about the illegitimacy of American or Iraqi conduct in the Ramadi victory.

For a better understanding of the hypocrisy of Western politicians and media regarding the disparate treatment of Israel during the 2014 Gaza war and the U.S.-led devastation in Ramadi, please take just a few minutes to read commentator Evelyn Gordon's incisive article below.

This piece will better equip you to expose the double standards we see regarding Israel almost on a daily basis in American and world press, as well as among self-righteous politicians and pundits. Please take a minute to review this brief analysis, then pass it on to your friends and colleagues who may benefit from it.

I hope you'll also review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME's hasbarah campaign to explain how the mainstream media unfairly fail to make the obvious connection between Islamist terrorism in France, the U.S. and worldwide with terror attacks in Israel.

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Executive Vice President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)


Just a few months ago, the world was shattered by the attacks against innocent civilians in Paris (and then again in San Bernardino), just as we Israel advocates continue to be unnerved by the so-called "knife intifada" being carried out against innocents in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel. Yet the press has been unable to connect the dots between this tale of three cities. That's why FLAME is now publishing a new position paper in media nationwide—which explains how the Paris terrorists' motivation is precisely the same as that of the terrorists in Israel. I urge you to preview this outspoken hasbarah message today: "Paris. Jerusalem." This hard-hitting paid editorial appears in magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it has been sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and President Obama. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able—with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to donate now. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs—from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

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Ramadi, Gaza, and Western hypocrisy

by Evelyn Gordon, Commentary

During the Hamas-Israel war of 2014, both Obama Administration officials and their European counterparts repeatedly accused Israel of excessive force over the "massive" destruction of civilian property in Gaza. But if those officials retain even a shred of intellectual integrity, the recent devastation of Ramadi during a joint Western/Iraqi effort to retake the city leaves them only two options: either hand themselves over to the International Criminal Court as suspected war criminals, or publicly apologize to Israel for all the slurs they hurled at it over far less extensive damage.

As the New York Times reported last week, the successful recapture of Ramadi from the Islamic State left the city "in ruins." Reporter Ben Hubbard described one neighborhood as "a panorama of wreckage so vast that it was unclear where the original buildings had stood." The city has no electricity or running water, and "Many streets had been erased or remained covered in rubble or blocked by trenches used in the fighting." When Hubbard asked an Iraqi officer how residents would return to their homes, the officer replied, "Homes? There are no homes."

Indeed, a different Iraqi officer told the Associated Press "that more than half of the city's buildings have been destroyed, including government offices, markets, and houses."

This is devastation orders of magnitude greater than what Gaza suffered. According to UN figures, 9,465 homes in Gaza were completely destroyed and another 9,644 badly damaged, out of a total of roughly 319,000 (the latter figure is my own calculation based on official Palestinian statistics: Dividing Gaza's total population of 1.82 million by its average household size of 5.7 people gives you 319,000 households). Thus even according to the UN - which traditionally exaggerates Palestinian casualties and damage - only about 6 percent of Gaza's homes were destroyed or badly damaged. That's a far cry from "more than half of the city" in Ramadi.

But the reasons for the destruction, in both places, are no less significant than its scope. One, as Hubbard noted, is the inherent difficulty "of dislodging a group that stitches itself into the urban fabric of communities it seizes by occupying homes, digging tunnels, and laying extensive explosives." In Ramadi, he reported, Islamic State built tunnels under the streets and planted explosives in roads and buildings. Indeed, "Entire areas are considered no-go zones because they have yet to be searched for booby traps left by the jihadists."

These are the same tactics Hamas used in Gaza: Tunnels, booby traps, and weapons stockpiles were placed in and under civilian buildings on a massive scale. On July 30, 2014, for instance, three Israeli soldiers were killed by "an explosion at a booby-trapped UNRWA health clinic that housed a tunnel entry shaft," the Times of Israel reported. At the same press briefing where those deaths were announced, an Israeli officer said Hamas had thus far detonated more than 1,000 bombs, destroying "thousands of buildings" in Gaza. As an example, he cited a street the army searched the previous night in which 19 out of 28 buildings were booby-trapped.

But in Gaza, both the Obama administration and European officials blamed Israel for the ensuing destruction. In Ramadi, in contrast, both American and Iraqi officials quite sensibly "placed blame for the city's destruction on the jihadists, who mined roads and buildings."

The other factor in Ramadi's devastation was airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition. As AP reported, these strikes "smashed large parts of the city into rubble." Nor is that surprising: When a target area is extensively booby-trapped, even precision airstrikes often cause greater-than-expected damage, because the attacking force can't know which buildings are wired with explosives, and hitting a wired building will set off massive secondary explosions. Yet airstrikes are unavoidable when fighting militants entrenched in a sea of tunnels and booby-trapped buildings, because using ground troops alone would result in unacceptably high losses for the attacking force.

Consequently, a Pentagon spokesman correctly blamed Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) for the damage to Ramadi: "One hundred percent of this is on ISIL because no one would be dropping any bombs if ISIL hadn't gone in there," Colonel Steven H. Warren told Hubbard.

Yet in Gaza, both the Obama Administration and European officials largely blamed the damage on Israel rather than Hamas, even though Israeli airstrikes were employed for the exact same reason, sometimes caused greater-than-expected damage for the exact same reason, and obviously wouldn't have been launched at all had Hamas not attacked Israel to begin with. Indeed, Israel's airstrikes were arguably far more justified than America's were: Islamic State wasn't firing missiles at America from Ramadi or digging attack tunnels into American territory from Ramadi. In contrast, Hamas had fired thousands of rockets at Israel from Gaza over the previous decade and dug dozens of cross-border attack tunnels, including one that notoriously emerged right next to a kindergarten.

Ramadi, incidentally, is far from the only example of the way the Obama Administration and Europe hold Israel to a double standard. On Monday, the Elder of Ziyon blog highlighted another one: According to the Herald Scotland, "The British government is refusing to accept evidence of civilian fatalities in UK air strikes from human rights groups monitoring the results of bombing raids" in Syria and Iraq; instead, it relies exclusively on "evidence from its own internal surveillance." But that same government uncritically accepted NGO reports saying that almost 70 percent of Palestinian casualties in Gaza were civilian, even though Israel scrupulously investigated those reports and found that in reality, about half the casualties were documented members of either Hamas' military wing or smaller terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad.

I don't really expect any Obama Administration or European official to admit to having unjustly criticized Israel during the Gaza war. But any fair-minded person comparing the devastation of Ramadi to that in Gaza should reach the same conclusion a group of high-ranking Western military experts did in a comprehensive report issued last month: that during the Gaza war, Israel "met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations' militaries."






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