Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Washington Post documented a war crime in Nablus - but it was done by Palestinians, not Israelis

This frame appears to show a muzzle flash, but the WaPo can't see it.

The Washington Post has an article that they believe damns IDF troops - and they are so excited about it they took away the paywall so everyone can see their computer-modeled 3D analysis.

They did indeed document a war crime, but not the one they are pretending to have uncovered.

Israeli security forces in an armored vehicle fired repeatedly into a group of civilians sheltering between a mosque and a clinic after a Feb. 22 raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, killing two people, including a teenager, and wounding three others, according to witnesses and a visual reconstruction of the event by The Washington Post.
For all the fancy 3-D modeling and hundreds of photos they claim to have used, the newspaper relies completely on one video, taken from above, showing a man with his arm extended with what appears to be a gun, and then running for cover. It is in the third part of this video:

The newspaper tries to claim that there is no evidence that the gunshot one can hear was from that gun, and even says, " The videos reviewed by The Post do not clearly show whether the man had a gun or fired, and none of the witnesses interviewed by The Post said they saw a gunman fire at the Israelis." Yet there appears to be a muzzle flash at the very beginning of the video (see photo above.)  It is ignored by the Post.

They consult two experts about the two bangs heard, who say wildly different things: one says that they are not gunshots at all, and the other says they are gunshots but come from the Israelis, without saying how he could make such a distinction. 

If two experts cannot even agree if a sound is gunfire or not, then what value do they add? The answer is that the WaPo can claim that they consulted audio experts when coming up with their foregone conclusion, even when they don't agree on anything!

When you look at the video of the man who appeared to be pointing a weapon then running to where the civilians are trying to avoid gunfire, it is obvious that he is holding something heavy like a gun. If his hands were empty he would not be running with his arms close together in front of him; his arms would be pumping at his sides the way normal people run.

Moreover, the civilians are running away before the IDF vehicle is shooting anything. (Look at the ones in the sunken plaza.) It appears they are running away from previous Palestinian gunshots, not Israeli.

The nature of open source forensics is that they are necessarily incomplete. We have no idea if there are any gunmen in the building behind the civilians, or on surrounding roofs, or across the street that may have shot the victims. The IDF did certainly fire in this video; we can see that some shots hit the pillar.  But even if the IDF did shoot at the gunman and accidentally hit the victims, it is not a war crime. It is a split-second decision based on the information the soldiers had - they were being shot at, the gunman went for cover behind a stone pillar, and they were responding to the likelihood that the gunman would resume shooting at them as they passed the pillar. It is unclear that the soldiers even saw the civilians on the top of the stairs before the gunman ran to cover behind the pillar.

The entire life and death decision needed to be evaluated and made in fractions of a second.

Under the laws of armed conflict, while the existence of civilians is one factor to be weighed in such a decision,  it is not the only factor. Troops are allowed and expected to defend themselves. A known gunman who runs for cover behind a pillar and who is about to be in line of sight is certainly a legitimate military target. 

In peacetime, police are held to this higher standard of doing everything possible to avoid accidentally hitting civilians even if it means the gunman gets away. For armed conflicts, the laws are different. But the Washington Post doesn't say that  - their entire article is geared towards the idea that the IDF had no right to target an armed man who was hiding among civilians. (And they know quite well that the civilians were not the intended targets.)

Isn't it interesting that the Post spent weeks and used four reporters with several experts consulted, and yet didn't even ask an international law expert whether Israel violated the laws of armed conflict? 

And that brings up the other omission in the Washington Post's coverage: the armed man ran for shelter among civilians, making them into human shields. I mean this literally - he placed himself behind civilian bodies knowing that he was a target, possibly even shoving one person aside. And that really is a war crime!

Apparently,  the reporters know quite well that the IDF didn't violate any laws. And that the Palestinian gunman did. And they don't want their readers to know that.

Remarkably, whenever the news media spends lots of time and money putting together elaborate 3D models of something involving Israel, it is always to say Israel is guilty. They try to replace honest investigations with razzle dazzle. And they are nearly always wrong.

When you put it all together, this article, like the others, is not meant to illuminate the truth, but to obfuscate it. 

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