IT took two days for carrier pigeons to deliver news of Wellington’s rout of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 – ‘a damned, near-run thing’, admitted the gumboot general – to London.
In stark contrast, today’s battles are played out ‘live’ before a worldwide audience, tooled up with hi-tech gizmos, commentary too often provided by rookie correspondents parachuted in, having read the Janet & John primer to Middle East conflicts on their flights over.
But so horrendously tragic are images of the unfolding carnage, alone they are worth a thousand words, even if they conceal a hundred lies. Or, as a German reporter on the scene noted tellingly, ‘The viewers see everything, yet understand nothing.’
Because, epitomised by Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, the vast majority of coverage is slickly choreographed, as a TV cameraman friend told me in 2012, having covered Operation Pillar of Defence, the previous Israeli incursion into Gaza to root out the Hamas murder machine.
‘Your local ‘minder’ – an embedded Hamas PR – tells you where to go, what to film,’ he explained. ‘Since you also need a permit from them to work, don’t get the idea you can roam around freely.
‘So, it’s all carefully contrived and tightly controlled. One day it’s ‘Go to a hospital and film the injured children’; next you’re ‘advised’ where a stack of apartments has been hit, even if the damage is a Hamas ‘own goal’, caused by a misfired rocket.
‘They’ll say ‘Pick out a child’s toy or battered shoe…great colour!’ But don’t – don’t! – show any of the hordes of young men, scurrying around with AK4s, hijacking civilian ambulances or setting up missile-launchers in mosques or next to schools. If you do, your footage will never see the light of day.’
Hamas runs its PR machine with ruthless efficiency. And its greatest weapon is Gaza’s innocents – the old, the infirm, women, but preferably kids – who are expendible cannon-fodder in the ghastly name of jihad…the ‘dead-baby strategy’, as one commentator labelled it.
Even donkey and dogs are used as suicide bombers and foreign journos human shields, according to a Japanese news crew.
So the higher the body count, the greater the joy expressed by a gang of cynical, Islamo-fascist fanatics, their minds warped by a 7th Century, death-cult credo. As Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, spouts from the safety of his bolthole in Qatar, ‘We love death more than the Israelis love life.’
Shamefully, the UN’s Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), is complicit in the bloodbath, because twice within days they’ve been caught red-faced, when stores of rockets were found in UN schools. More shamefully, UNRWA returned them to their rightful owner – Hamas.
Meanwhile, the usual, hypocritical Left-whingers in the Western Press salivate over every Hamas porkie, like the absurdities that ‘the fighting all started when Israel retaliated’ and Israel’s response in defending its people within the legitimate rules of warfare is ‘disproportionate.’
Incidentally, ‘proportionality’ emphatically does not demand casualties must be equal on both sides or that an army use less force than needed to obtain its objective, just because the other side is weaker.
Still, it’s understandable ordinary folk can be temporarily seduced by Hamas’s odious PR, but only those afflicted by crass gullibility or driven by an atavistic hatred of Jews really buy this devious bile long-term.
At least The Times of London rumbled Hamas’s diabolical charade, stating in an op-ed, ‘The deaths of Palestinians, many of them children, are the direct and predictable outcome of Hamas’s tactics and its use of civilians as, in effect, human shields. Instead of providing good governance and economic development, anticipating statehood, Hamas practises theocratic thuggery. Palestinians are paying an unconscionable price.’
However, it can’t be denied that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are unwittingly helping the merchants of terror achieve their ghoulish ambition of sacrificing as much of their poplace as possible. And no amount of explanations from Israel’s spokesmen diminish the impact of the heart-wrenching, civilian tragedy.
The Jewish state, though, is continually held to higher moral account than any other nation by the pious Left, so the inevitable tragedies laid at the feet of IDF in the fog of war are immediately branded ‘war crimes.’
Yet – according to Colonel Richard Kemp, a former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan – the IDF does ‘more to safeguard the rights of civilians in combat zones than any other army in the history of warfare.’
Unlike the Israelis, NATO troops in Afghanistan (civilian death toll: circa 23,000) and Coalition forces in Iraq (civilian death toll estimate: 140,000) never phoned ahead to give building occupants 15 minutes warning before they attacked, then aimed a ‘knock-on-the-roof’ smoke grenade at a target property before commencing to strike five minutes later.
One can only wonder, then, how the dovish Obama would react if Mexico suddenly turned terrorist and lobbed fusillades of deadly missiles into California. I’d bet the Marine Corps would be over the border within minutes.
Moreover, Israel faces the most implacable and intractable of foes. Not simply because Hamas’s denies its existence and wants to annihilate every Jew on earth, but humanitarian considerations are out of its equation.
Last week, when the IDF suspended hostilities in three, Egypt-brokered truces, Hamas repaid the gesture with more fusillades from its stockpile of 8,000 missiles. Ditto today, after Israel agreed a 24-hour ceasefire, only for the ghouls of Gaza to pour scorn on it with further attacks.
The Jewish state’s key concern, however, is not the aerial bombardment, but Hamas’s $multi-million labyrinth of sophisticated tunnels – some large enough for trucks to navigate – which burrow deep into Israeli terrority and were built with concrete America insisted be allowed into Gaza for ‘civilian purposes’.
Already 24 tunnels have been identified and intelligence from Hamas prisoners has revealed a mega-plot for waves of terrorist cutthroats to use them to infiltrate kibbutz settlements and villages, striking during the Jewish high holy days in September in a mini-reprise of the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
Which is why the Israelis baulked at ‘peace proposals’ from US Secretary of State, John Kerry, that – among assorted concessions rewarding Hamas – would have banned the IDF from destroying the remaining tunnels and left the terror regime free to continue subterranean ambushes, one of which killed six IDF soldiers.
After his abysmal failure to forge a treaty between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank Palestinian Authority (PA) – talks collapsed when Abbas invited his arch foes, Hamas, into a ‘unity government’ – America’s premier diplomat has flopped again.
Following a brief flurry of consultations in the tinderbox region, including in Qatar, which bankroll Hamas, and Paris, Kerry has retreated back to Washington, underscoring yet again America’s growing impotence on the world stage.
So the bloody mayhem will persist until either Israel achieves its objective of destroying the terror tunnels and degrading Hamas’s arsenal or it dawns on Gaza’s Islamo-fascist crazies there are only so many babies they can sacrifice