The Israeli government is in spin mode over yesterday’s events in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, when hundreds of protesters calling for the right of return marched and were met with Israeli gunfire. If the repression inflicted on unarmed protesters three weeks ago during the Nakba protests are any guide, a heavy dose of skepticism and questioning of official Israeli claims is needed.
A number of people were reportedly killed yesterday in the Golan Heights, and scores were injured in unarmed demonstrations across the West Bank quashed by Israel.
Israeli officials are busy pushing this story: the protesters in the Golan Heights yesterday were pawns used by the Syrian regime to deflect attention from Syria’s own internal uprising, and besides, Israeli troops didn’t kill the demonstrators. Instead, according to the Israeli Defense Forces, “Soldiers fired ‘with precision’ at the bottom half of the bodies of the protesters…an initial IDF inquiry into Sunday’s events found that up to ten Syrian protesters had been killed when Molotov cocktails which the protesters had been throwing set off an anti-tank minefield.”
Of course, one should take the Syrian regime’s claims lightly as well, but the Israeli claims shouldn’t be taken at face value, either. Max Blumenthal documents the Israeli spin here:
In the hours following the bloodshed, the Israeli response grew increasingly contorted. Army spokespeople claimed the demonstrators “were responsible for their own deaths,” claiming they stepped on landmines. No evidence of landmine deaths was provided by the unnamed military sources, only conjecture. Next, Israel turned to its favorite Syrian cut-out in Washington, Farid Ghadry, an AIPAC member and discredited “serial entrepreneur” who is widely regarded as the Syrian version of Ahmed Chalabi — Ghadry actually met Chalabi in Richard Perle’s living room. In a statement published on the website of his astro-turfed Reform Party of Syria, Ghadry claimed that the protesters at Quneitra were not actual Palestinian refugees, but impoverished “Syrian farmers” who had been paid $1000 each by the Assad regime just to show up, and $10,000 to die. Ghadry claimed he gleaned the information from “intelligence sources close to the Assad regime in Lebanon.”
Israeli military spokespeople appear to be pushing Ghadry’s press release, because the canard immediately showed up in a report by Yediot Aharnoth’s Hanan Greenberg, one of the many military correspondents in the Israeli media who dutifully report any claim by any flack in an olive uniform as though it were a substantiated fact. “Syrian Opposition: Anti-Israel Rioters paid $1000,” read the Yediot headline. But the story has not graduated beyond the pro-Israel blogosphere, probably because Ghadry and his shell of an opposition group — it is quite clearly a neocon front organization — have no credibility in Syria or anywhere else.
We also have the documented record of what Israel did on May 15, killing unarmed protesters demanding their right of return. A Human Rights Watch report I highlighted here shows that Israeli snipers–the very same ones we are supposed to believe fired “with precision” yesterday–killed unarmed protesters along the Lebanon-Israel border.
The wild stories Israel is pushing that Blumenthal reports on, and the history of the Israeli response to unarmed Palestinian resistance, should make this clear at the very least: the official Israeli story is one not to be trusted. Videos posted by Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada here and here also show the violence Israel meted out yesterday. In addition, as Abunimah put it, the Israeli Army’s chief of staff recently outlined a “new, more brutal doctrine against nonviolent protests.” But tell that to the U.S. media.