One thing the Age does today is that it discloses to its readers the details of the Italian report in Corriere della Sera of growing sceptism of Palestinian information about casualties published during the three week long Israeli campaign - Israelis seize on toll claim. For the better part of a month, the Age has been publishing "official" Palestinian figures of the casualty numbers as a result of the conflict. The figures were always dressed up as being from the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza (that's the Hamas ministry but the Age sees no Hamas) but the data has always been treated with suspicion as the numbers vascillated daily and the proportion of civilian deaths changed improbably from day to day. Yet, the Age continued to publish the numbers and still won't reveal the Israeli side of the story. In this Jerusalem Post article - Israel disputes Gaza death toll, we learn that the jury is still out as far as the Israelis are concerned but it leaves no doubt that they consider the civilian death count figure has been grossly exaggerated. The Israeli doubt on the figures is not explained in the Age article which sits as a mere sideline among a number of stories in today's edition.
And that's one of the problems with the Age. It's quick to come out with accusations of bad conduct on the part of Israelis and to highlight them with blazing headlines but, when the time comes for the mea culpa (like the microscopic apology for publishing Michael Backman's anti-Semitic trope in its business pages), it usually goes missing.
"Why do they come after us?" Mr Abed Rabbo said. "We are not militants here, we are not Hamas. We are just ordinary people.
See no Hamas? I'll come back to that.
Abed Rabbo's story has been told elsewhere in the past week or so. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young mentioned it to whip up the 2,000 strong crowd at a rally in support of Palestine outside the State Library last Sunday. No doubt, the crowd included some well meaning people but it was also strongly represented by supporters waving Hamas and Hizbullah flags; anti-Semitic thugs mouthing off racist slogans and carrying some vile posters like the one in the photograph above, taken at the rally. None of this was mentioned in the Age report published the following day Thousands march in Melbourne against Gaza war. Andra Jackson of the Age saw no Hamas. And like the Age, the police turned a blind eye so one can only conclude that while we do have race hate laws in this country, they are wasting their space in the statute books.
But back now to the Abed Rabbos of Jabalya. The death of the sisters was also covered in an article by Newsweek's Rod Nordland (Hamas and Its Discontents) that raises the question of who is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza. Nordland's investigation also brings up another related matter - that of the veracity of eyewitnesses in wartime situations:-"In eastern Jabaliya, just north of Gaza City, an entire neighborhood—at least 50 homes—had been bombed by the Israelis, then occupied with tank units, and then methodically demolished house-by-house, some of them with bulldozers, others with high explosives. In several hours of interviews, every one of the residents interviewed in eastern Jabaliya insisted that there had been no provocation from the area, no resistance fighters, and no rocket launchings. "They are punishing us because they can't reach the resistance to punish them," said Majdi Qatari, a lawyer whose home was one of those destroyed, leaving 13 people homeless. Near him, Najah Abd Rabo shook her head and said Israeli actions were beyond comprehension. "They were claiming there are tunnels under here," she said. Hamas fighters use tunnels, often short ones that are little more than bunkers, to pop out and launch attacks and then get back in, hiding from Israel's ubiquitous surveillance drones, reemerging in a house or backyard as an unarmed civilian. "There aren't any tunnels around here, we are not resistance," she said. Yet not more than 20 feet away from Najah, there was just such a tunnel, which Israeli troops had unearthed. Right in the middle of the road, it had a convincingly camouflaged roof that matched the rest of the road. Inside it was shored up with timbers and concrete."
I highlighted the name of the witness (Najah Abed Rabbo). She saw no Hamas but, like most of her neighbours, in saying so she lied to the journalist about the existence of a tunnel that was used by Hamas fighters. It could be simply a co-incidence that, just down the road, another Abed Rabbo gave the same reporter his version of how his daughters met their deaths. And this other Abed Rabbo also saw no Hamas.
No Hamas in the middle of the Jabalya refugee camp where Hamas is at its strongest, in a street where Hamas operatives had tunnels and a fierce gunfight is raging. And still nobody sees Hamas.
Israel the democracy will investigate the deaths of the Abed Rabbo girls and the IDF tank crew will have the opportunity to give their version. Perhaps their testimony will reveal that somewhere in the battle, they saw Hamas. In any event, if they have committed a crime, the Israeli people will demand the appropriate punishment. It's what separates them from the barbarians they're fighting against.
In the meantime, that a representative of our parliamentary democracy uses unsubstantiated and unverified allegations of this nature in an atmosphere already thick with hatred against Israel and the Jewish people is utterly reprehensible. And a media that sees no Hamas in a war that lasted three weeks and claimed the lives of perhaps a thousand people has much to answer for as well.