Monday, January 5, 2009

Broken Telephone in the Hyper Media-Age.

Throughout the day today I was reminded of my junior kindergarten days. Namely of playing broken telephone. Remember the game? Well basically - the first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly from the one uttered by the first.

Which brings us back to today, first people around the internet, and specifically in the blogosphere were shrieking from the rafters that Israel was using Depleted Uranium in Gaza then later this became accusations of Phosphorus Gas. So I decided to investigate this further. Here is what I found:

The source of the story of Israelis using Depleted Uranium in Gaza comes from Press TV:

Medics tell Press TV they have found traces of depleted uranium in some Gaza residents wounded in Israel's ground offensive on the strip.

Norwegian medics told Press TV correspondent Akram al-Sattari that some of the victims who have been wounded since Israel began its attacks on the Gaza Strip on December 27 have traces of depleted uranium in their bodies.

The report comes after Israeli tanks and troops swept across the border into Gaza on Saturday night, opening a ground operation after eight days of intensive attacks by Israeli air and naval forces on the impoverished region.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Sunday that the wide-ranging ground offensive in the Gaza Strip would be "full of surprises."

A ground offensive in the densely-populated Gaza is expected to drastically increase the death toll of the civilian population.

But who is Press TV really?

Press TV is an English language international television news channel which is funded by the Iranian government, based in Tehran and broadcasts in English on a round-the-clock schedule. With 26 international correspondents and more than 400 staff around the world, its stated mission is to offer a different view of the world events.

Then about the Phosphorus Gas... Well this stems from a 'credible' news source, although the reporting is well - libelous at best.

Israeli artillery shells explode with a chemical agent designed to create smokescreen for ground forces.

Israel is believed to be using controversial white phosphorus shells to screen its assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip yesterday. The weapon, used by British and US forces in Iraq, can cause horrific burns but is not illegal if used as a smokescreen.

As the Israeli army stormed to the edges of Gaza City and the Palestinian death toll topped 500, the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops’ advance. “These explosions are fantastic looking, and produce a great deal of smoke that blinds the enemy so that our forces can move in,” said one Israeli security expert. Burning blobs of phosphorus would cause severe injuries to anyone caught beneath them and force would-be snipers or operators of remote-controlled booby traps to take cover. Israel admitted using white phosphorus during its 2006 war with Lebanon.

The use of the weapon in the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s mostly densely population areas, is likely to ignite yet more controversy over Israel’s offensive, in which more than 2,300 Palestinians have been wounded.

Which leads most logical people to ask? Why is Israel 'believed' to be using this? Photos of course. I have attached one for reference.

Seems concrete to me. Let's run with the story.

In the meantime, Israel is denying this.

Israeli military spokesmen deny that their forces have used phosphorus in Gaza, despite photographs and film of munitions showing similar characteristics to the potentially lethal shells.

The Israelis have not said what kind of munitions they have been using, other than saying that their use is permitted under international law.

Phosphorous shells are not illegal if they are used to create a smokescreen or to illuminate targets, rather than as a weapon against people, military experts and human rights campaigners said yesterday.

Mark Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, said it seemed from news films that Israel had used "artillery-delivered obscurants" which were not illegal.

So now that this is all cleared up, some can run off and start quoting this as fact ;)


Michael said...

I too am tired of endless partisan speculation about weapons being used or not being used. So just that we're clear, there are AFP/Getty photographs, to which you fail to refer, showing 155mm M825A1 white phosphorus smoke rounds, with fuzes on, standing ready beside an Israeli self-propelled howitzer on the Israel-Gaza border on 4 January 2009.

Look - here they are:

This doesn't in any way resolve the debate about whether the way in which WP is being used during the current conflict is lawful or not. But the debate about whether it's being used or not is over. The IDF is using WP in Gaza.

Just because a news source is Iranian (or Israeli, or US, or anything else) doesn't immediately mean it's wrong.

Please try to be more balanced.

canadian gal said...

hi michael - thank you for your comment.

as to your point about whether this photos resolve the debate, i wholeheartedly agree and would suggest that those around the blogosphere, instead of citing their use as fact - rather use caution about said weapons being used. which clearly hasn't happened.

Michael said...

No, I'm afraid you've missed my point. The photos prove that WP rounds *have* been used. i.e. their use *is* fact.

Whether they've been used *lawfully* or *unlawfully* is another question, but they *have* been used.

canadian gal said...

michael - did you bother reading the diary and attached article?

its pretty explicit in that the photos prove nothing, but are rather speculation by the media. this combined with the fact that israel has denied their use, lack of any third party on the ground verifying their use - would lead a 'balanced' person to reserve judgement rather than to idly throw out 'facts'.

Michael said...

Yes, I did bother reading the diary and article. Did you bother reading the link to the Times article?

If so, you would have seen that these are not the previous photos showing some kind of airburst explosions over Gaza. They are new photographs of IDF artillery units taken on 4 January clearly showing artillery shells themselves, with their markings (M825A1, which are 155mm white phosphorus artillery shells) clearly visible. Just in case, I have posted the link again:

canadian gal said...

michael - i read your link and again will state that photos, especially in this context are not proof of anything. but thank you for your comments.