When you routinely report about Israel and Gaza through the eyes of Israelis, the results can be awkward, like today’s New York Times front-pager that frames what was a human catastrophe for many Palestinians–the killing by Israel of some 40 Gazans at a U.N. school–into a mere military and PR “pitfall” for Israelis. As the headline read, “For Israel, Lessons from 2006, but Old Pitfalls.”
In the third paragraph of the story, reporter Steven Erlanger mentions the killings along with other earlier “pitfalls”:
And then there are the sudden events that can throw off so many careful calculations and come to symbolize the horrors of war–like the deaths of civilians from Israeli munitions in Qana, Lebanon, both in 1996 and 2006, and the reports on Tuesday evening of as many as 40 people, including children, killed as they sought shelter in a United Nations school in northern Gaza.
In fact, neither of Israel’s Qana attacks–the attack on a building near Qana in 2006 that killed 28 civilians, nor the 1996 attacks on the Qana U.N. refugee camp that took 106 lives–resulted from from “careful calculations” being “thrown off.” As the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported (8/1/06), the 2006 attack purposely targeted a three-story building near Qana because it was near the site of a previous Hezbollah rocket launch, even though the IDF, in Ha’aretz‘s words, “had no information on rockets launched from the site of the building, or the presence of Hezbollah men at the time.”
In the case of the 1996 massacre, a U.N. investigation found that Israel Defense Forces had misrepresented key facts of the assault and had likely intentionally targeted the Qana refugee camp: “While the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors.”