All fighting within cities and all bombardments of urban spaces, even the most "precise and surgical", is a potential death trap for civilians. Consequently, the permeation of war into cities inevitably transforms their inhabitants into potential human shields.

For Palestinians living in Gaza today, simply spending time in their own homes, frequenting a mosque, going to a hospital or to school has become a dangerous enterprise since any one of these architectural edifices can become at any moment a target. One can no longer safely assume that the existence of masses of human bodies – even the bodies of children – in civilian spaces can serve as defense of the weak against the lethal capacity of the hi-tech states.

But since hi-tech states can and do kill hundreds or thousands of civilians, they have to provide moral justification for their action in order to preserve their standing in the international arena; they have to demonstrate that they are protecting the principles of liberal democracy. It is precisely within this context that we should understand the series of posters recently disseminated by the Israeli military through its Twitter account, Facebook and blogs.

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It will likely take some time to determine who downed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people onboard. Initial speculation is that someone with a missile battery mistook the plane as a military aircraft, but the precise motive may be even harder to discern.

Given the fog of war and the eagerness among the various participants to wage “information warfare,” there is also the possibility that evidence – especially electronic evidence – might be tampered with to achieve some propaganda victory.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko immediately labeled the tragedy “a terrorist act” although there was no evidence that anyone intentionally shot down the civilian airliner. But Poroshenko and others in the Kiev government have previously designated the ethnic Russians, who are resisting the Feb. 22 overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, as “terrorists” so Poroshenko’s bellicose language was not a surprise.

For their part, the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine denied responsibility for the crash – saying they lacked anti-aircraft missiles that could reach the 33,000-foot altitude of the Malaysian airliner – but there are reasons to suspect the rebels, including their previously successful efforts to shoot down Ukrainian military aircraft operating in the war zone.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin deflected questions about who may have fired the missile as he called for an international investigation. But he made a telling point when he noted that the “tragedy would not have happened if military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine.”

Those likely to agree with that statement include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande who, during a lengthy four-way conference call with Poroshenko on June 30, tried desperately to get him to prolong the ceasefire. Only the U.S. voiced support for Poroshenko’s decision to spurn that initiative and order Ukrainian forces into a major offensive in the east.

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Screen-Shot-2014-07-17-at-4.57.25-PMCui bono? Who benefits? Who stood to gain? That is the first question everyone should ask with any potential crime (although of course it’s not the only one). Yet, that is the question that is being generally ignored regarding the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Instead, the western media leaps to “whodunnit?” only to immediately answer their own question with, “Well obviously either Russia, the separatists, or both.”

The reason for this is obvious. If they were to even consider the “qui bono?” question, they would have to admit that there is virtually no way that either Russia or the Donetsk separatists could possibly have expected to benefit from downing an airline full of internationals. There was no strategic value in it, and they couldn’t have expected it to be blamed in western media on anyone else or to do anything other than galvanize world opinion against them. Therefore, if either did do it (which is highly unlikely, given that the Russians were not directly fighting in the area, and the separatists were most likely not prepared to reach a flight at that altitude, given the limitations of their equipment and experience), it was almost surely by mistake.

This does not eliminate any culpability and liability they might carry, but it does make ridiculous their characterization by some as mustache-twirling super-villains, on the part of the Russians, or crazed international terrorists, on the part of the separatists, out to murder any citizen of the free world who wanders into their grasp. It should also knock the legs out from any attempt to use this tragedy as a justification for the U.S. to increase intervention, for the E.U. to increase sanctions, or for world opinion to deny the separatists’ right to self-determination.

If the Ukrainian government downed the plane (which they were fully equipped to do), it might have been by mistake on their part as well, but not necessarily. That is because they, in contrast, could very well have expected to gain by downing the plane, for precisely the opposite reason: namely, that it was very likely that the western media, already sympathetic with them anyway, would pin the blame on their enemies, as of course they actually did.

The situation is similar to the gas attack that was almost used as casus belli by the U.S. for bombing Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Especially after Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line”, the international fighters trying to overthrow Assad had everything to benefit by attacking locals with such weapons, since it could easily be pinned on the Syrian government, and Assad had nothing. Ignoring this obvious fact, the political class used the incident to (unsuccessfully, thankfully) try to convince the western public to support airstrikes on Syria. And the most likely interest-analysis assessment of the situation turned out to be the correct one, as subsequent conclusive evidence showed that Syrian government forces could not have been behind the sarin attack, and it very likely may have been Syrian rebels provided with chemical weapons by Turkey.

And yet, Russia and the separatists had even less to gain from an atrocity than the Syrian government, since Assad could have at least conceivably gained extremely short-sighted strategic benefits from gassing his enemies, whereas the former could gain absolutely nothing from killing tourists.

Speaking of cui bono, not even the biggest sell-outs in the establishment media stand to gain from the nuclear holocaust they are risking by whipping up anti-Russian hysteria in the west and tension between two nuclear powers. So they should seriously consider going off-script for once, ask the most basic questions, and be honest about the most obvious truths for a change.

This was what the original The New York Times report of the Israeli military bombing to death four children while they were playing soccer on an otherwise generally empty beach.


 


They have since made the URL for this article redirect to a different one, that looks like this:


 


This is also the version NYT went with for its print edition. You can track the changes at newsdiffs.org. Notice how they replaced the direct, plain-English headline “Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach” with the anodyne “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife.” Language about individual children being “killed,” which implies killers and victims, is replaced by vague language which eliminates any conveyance of culpability, and characterizes the affair as just an unfortunate tragedy resulting from general regional “strife.”
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Even the shameless Israeli state seems momentarily shamed, as it has announced a five-hour ceasefire in their bombardment of Gaza after having shelled to death four Palestinian children who had been playing soccer on a beach, thereby presumably serving as “human shields” for Hamas fighters ingeniously hiding under the sand.

Over 36 children have now been killed by Israel’s assaults out of 200+ total (mostly civilian) Palestinian deaths. Such a high proportion is hardly surprising, given that a majority of the population in Gaza is under 18, and over 40 percent are age 14 and under. Israel is bombing what is for the most part a vast open-air prison camp for children. This is what the Obama administration refers to as Israel “defending itself.”

“Eye for an eye” probably wouldn’t make the whole world blind. But, “the eyes of your children and neighbors for an eye,” sure as hell will. This bombing campaign of collective punishment is bloodthirsty, rank tribalism of the most primitive sort. Every American should be as aghast as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder recently expressed himself to be that his tax dollars are paying for it.