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Friday, May 23, 2014
Recent footage of the alleged shooting of two unarmed Palestinians
during Nakba Day clashes at Beitunia were quickly picked up by news
outlets around the world, prompting UN and other officials to call for
an “independent investigation.”
the death toll in Syria surpassing 160,000, one cannot help but note
the absurd irony of a UN official lecturing Israel about the need for
responsible action. It would have been equally ridiculous for the UN to
issue directives to Canada, for example, in the wake of alleged
transgressions by police during the 2010 G-8 riots in Toronto. Liberal
democracies – Israel and Canada alike – have long-established processes
to investigate such incidents and hold security officials accountable.
Putting aside the clear double standard, those
quick to express outrage should take a moment to consider the veracity
of the video footage in question. Without prompting, several Canadian
military experts contacted me privately this week to state – with
considerable confidence – their belief that the incident is a hoax.
After reviewing the footage and accompanying
coverage, they cite the way the victims fell, the absence of blood at
the scene, and the lack of entry or exit wounds consistent with such a
shooting. All of which would explain why the Palestinians are refusing
to bring forward critical pieces of evidence, including the bullets and
extended footage of the incident. Indeed, of the footage that has been
released, the camera’s scope is narrow and omits any context of the
This would not be the first time that the
confusing events of clashes between Israeli security forces and
Palestinians have been cynically manipulated to trigger international
censure of Israel. Palestinian activists have a long record of staging
events for media (including faux funerals) or the “selective” editing of
photo or video evidence so as to decontextualize events.
This has become a key component of the
Palestinians’ attempt to “internationalize” the conflict, the fomenting
of diplomatic pressure on Israel from third parties – whether Western
states or organizations like the UN. From the Palestinian perspective,
the goal seems to be the same as past campaigns of terrorism: to erode
the will of Israelis and achieve greater leverage in bilateral
relations, without the costs entailed by a renewal of orchestrated
What’s most concerning is that – as in the past – third parties have been all too eager to take the bait. The Al-Dura incident
in 2000 did serious damage to Israel’s reputation in the early stages
of the Second Intifada. The footage of the shooting of 12-year-old
Mohammad Al-Dura and his father was immediately blamed on Israeli
troops. It offered a simple, personal, and compelling image to the story
of Israeli collateral damage, which in turn cast a shadow on the IDF’s
subsequent actions to contain the explosion in terrorism.
The problem, of course, is that we now know
that the Al-Dura incident was a hoax, and his death was almost certainly
the result of Palestinian gunfire. Despite substantial analysis by
independent European media and the Israeli government, the damage to
Israel’s image was irrevocable.
Worse, the Al-Dura incident provided a
template for future manipulation of the international community’s best
intentions. This ranges from the petty, such as the miraculous revival of a “wounded” Palestinian on BBC
during Operation Pillar of Defense, to the notorious. We should not
forget that the Jenin “massacre” of 2002, the outright fabrication of
the killing of 500 Palestinians by the IDF following the Passover Seder
bombing in Netanya, was picked up by the media and international human
rights agencies alike – including Amnesty International, Human Rights
Watch, and the UN itself.
Last week’s events in Beitunia represent the
latest episode of the chronic manipulation of international sentiment.
As the maxim goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on
me.” If my military colleagues here in Canada are right – and we have
every reason to accept their judgment – the UN has once again played its
shameful role in the internationalization of the Palestinian conflict