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December 31, 2008

The Chance Of Biscuits (Or, Is That A Snuff Film The Israeli Air Force Has Posted On YouTube?)

At the Hassouna Bakery near Shifa Hospital, about 100 men and 50 women waited in separate lines to buy bread. Amal Altayan was telling others in the line that she kept her cellphone in her pocket so that if an Israeli missile destroyed her house she would be able to phone for help. The other women mocked her, saying that if a missile hit her house, she would be gone. Showing familiarity with the kind of knowledge circulating in Gaza these days, Ms. Altayan replied, “It depends. If it is an F-16 I will turn into biscuits, but if it is an Apache I may have a chance.” — from: "Amid a Buildup of Its Forces, Israel Ponders a Cease-Fire" (NYT)

I've been checking out the Israel Defense Force YouTube channel, as well as the Israeli Consulate's Twitter site.

Certainly, Israel has made substantial tactical and PR strides since Lebanon. Still, as much as these videos illustrate how heavy firepower can be confined to a limited footprint, these images still convey extreme shock and the sense that such overwhelming firepower couldn't possibly avoid all collateral damage in densely populated areas, especially given secondary explosions.

In terms of aerial surveillance, as well as getting the goods on Hamas, by the way, this video is particularly illuminating.

Update 1/1/09:


Thanks to multiple readers for calling out my link to the IDF video in the last line above.

Research from a number of sources, including the Israeli-Palestinian B'Tselem group in Gaza, indicates that the owner of the truck in the Israeli Defense Force bombing was not a Hamas member transporting rockets, but instead a civilian transporting gas welding canisters from his metalworking shop.

According to B'Tselem, eight people were killed in the bombing, including the son of the shop owner, Ahmad Sanur. My apologies for the horrible event and my flippant comment. As best as I can tell at this point, the video I linked to yesterday from the Israeli military's YouTube Channel (posted above, for as long as it remains on-line) documents the same attack on Mr. Sanur's shop. The second image of the gas canister was taken by B'Tselem field workers after the fact.

  • Miguel Marcos

    Does anyone know how the missile loading video is captured? Is it from an AWACS-type plane?

  • M S G

    Getting the goods on Hamas? Israel is threatened by a couple of popgun rockets in a quarter ton pickup truck? Didn’t Hamas win an election in there somewhere? Claims of self defence cut both ways.

  • DW

    Well Israel is winning 90-1 in the death ratio so far. As usual.

  • richard dent

    The goods on Hamas include the deliberate embedding of weapons in civilian areas, in violation of International law. These are hardly “popgun” rockets. These are now going 10 and 20 miles, and are killing people in Israel. When Hamas didn’t fire rockets or send out suicide bombers, Israel didn’t attack.
    When the elected Fatah part of the government was operating, Israel (and Egypt) didn’t impose the sanctions. Hamas took over Gaza by force, that is simply not disputable.

  • Stan B.
  • lytom

    richard dent@Dec 31, 2008 at 09:22 AM
    Do you really believe it is as serious as you write it?
    ..these are now going 10 and 20 miles…and are killing people in Israel…
    From September 2000 through 2003 there were more than 28,000 Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons/camps. Do they really know how long will they be held in prison?
    …Violation of International law?
    Israel has been violating international law in its Gaza offensive by heavy destruction and endangering civilians in acts of collective punishment banned under the Geneva conventions on the conduct of warfare.

  • Our Paul

    ??? Certainly, Israel has made substantial tactical and PR strides since Lebanon. ??? Surely you jest, Bag Man.
    A web channel for the Israel Defense Force on YouTube showing unremitting footage of “pin point” bombing is a PR tool? With trucks loaded with humanitarian aid crossing into Gaza when Israel refuses a cease fire and hospitals are running short of basic meds? Ah yes, but a true compassionate heart, a child on a stretcher crossing one of the few portals between Gaza and Israel for medical services…
    Tactical strides? Hamas became stronger politically in Lebanon after the Israeli attack. Any bets what will happen when this little bit of “defense” is over?
    Surely the Bush Administration gave a green light, as it did for the Lebanon fiasco. A parting Christmas gift to Obama. But then, Obama did have the temerity to vote in favor of a ban on cluster bombs, so much favored by the Israeli Defense Force in the last three days of Lebanon conflict. Does anybody think that Obama would give a green light to this kind of destruction?
    Internal Israeli Right Wing and fundamentalist religious concerns mediated this attack. With an election looming, and the potential of a softer US foreign policy, the war hawks had to move now. Just another blunder to lay at the Decider’s feet…

  • spaetzle

    “She was Shekinah, Queen, the White Goddess of the Kabbalah, Israel, Daughter, Bride Mother of God. But her incarnation was evil and she murdered children…”

  • mse

    I respect and appreciate much of mr.bagnewsnotes observations and points of view, but my heart sinks and pales whenever he attempts to address the complexity of this issue. At the heart of the story is an ongoing and illegal occupation accompanied by continual land theft and deep disregard for human rights.
    I wish mr.bag would expose himself to richer sources of data beyond the “great PR” of the Israeli machine itself. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in Palestine and witness the vast ugly realities that profoundly give lie to Israeli PR.
    “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed”…. this tactic has worked for Israel and it’s worked especially well here in the US – but in the face of this latest atrocity, I am heartened to hear shame expressed even by former supporters of the Zionist state. There is always more to be said, but I’ll leave it at that.

  • richard dent

    If Israel’s violation of International law justifies terror bombing of civilians, placing rockets in mosques and in homes, etc., which are violations of international law, then where does it end?
    I never say that Israel does no wrong. Unfortunately, to some it seems Israel can do no right.
    Why hasn’t Hamas built any bomb shelters? It easily could, but deliberately doesn’t. This is a big factor in the civilian casualties caused unintentionally by Israel. Please remember that Israel has given advance warning of its attacks. It is terrible that the regular Gazan residents have inadequate places to go. It didn’t have to be that way, but that’s how Hamas likes it.
    Why didn’t Hamas stock up on food and medicine, especially in advance of its plant to increase dramatically the rocket fire after the cease fire? It could, but didn’t.
    Where is there any Red Cross access to Galil Shalit, who was kidnapped two years ago? That’s a violation of international law. Prisoners in Israel have access to mail, Red Cross inspections, etc. Some of those prisoners belong in jail, and probably some don’t. Does Shalit? Does he deserve to be mocked as he was in a recent Hamas rally?
    The fact that Gaza was taken by force from Fatah, and a second Prime Minister “declared” by Hamas (but never elected) remains undisputed. That’s a violation of Palestinian law, and I assume of international law. It’s as if in 2007, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid declared themselves President of the US of California. Or, if in 1994, House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared himself President of a group of “red states.” Would you say that since they had been “elected” (to something) they were now legitimately “President?”
    BNN has been one of the best sites, and it is unfair to suddenly criticize Bag because he doesn’t agree 100% with one side of the story. I have no doubt that Bag checks out many sources of information, and their are many in the US and beyond that harshly criticize Israel. Why condescend to say he is unable to address “the complexity of the issue” which apparently some posters can sum up in a few sentences (blaming only Israel).
    For the record, there are human rights violations and illegal actions on both sides. That doesn’t mean they are equivalent or equal. We can and obviously do have disagreements about who is “worse.” But if you deny any illegality, brutality or hatred emanating from Hamas (Iran, Hezbollah) then there is no basis to discuss this further. I won’t join in the invective about “big lies” since I think they are being perpetrated by Hamas and its supporters.
    You also need to recognize that Hamas’ arsenal, growing as it did during the cease fire, is deadly. If Israel hadn’t prepared, its casualties would be much worse. When Iran gets nukes, who knows what will happen. Who will care? Or will you say that Israel isn’t perfect, so it deserves annihilation? Hopefully not.

  • cenoxo

    Does anyone know how the missile loading video is captured? Is it from an AWACS-type plane?
    Probably not. A large manned AWACS aircraft would be too big, too easy to notice, too ponderous, and too expensive. It would be like hitting a nail with a sledgehammer: wrong tool for the job.
    The IDF are most likely using small, remotely-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as the Aeronautics Defence Systems Aerostar Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle System as spotter planes. Here’s a benign demo video (turn up your audio for the catchy techno background music).
    For the benefit of the television audience, though, the developers really need to work on the infrared blooming effect when a missile explodes on target. That big white-hot flash obscures the game’s otherwise realistic 3D imagery — for children 18 and over only, please — of flying heads, arms, legs, and torsos.
    A plain old rock cracking someone’s skull just can’t gather the same ratings.

  • cenoxo

    Why hasn’t Hamas built any bomb shelters? It easily could, but deliberately doesn’t… It is terrible that the regular Gazan residents have inadequate places to go. It didn’t have to be that way, but that’s how Hamas likes it… Why didn’t Hamas stock up on food and medicine, especially in advance of its plant to increase dramatically the rocket fire after the cease fire? It could, but didn’t.
    This would be like bulldozing someone’s home, then criticizing local authorities because they failed to provide the now-homeless family with emergency food, shelter, and clothing. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound.
    Would Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza have anything to do with this?

  • Miguel Marcos

    Thanks for the info on the video capture, cenoxo.

  • anonny

    If you’ve been checking out the idf-youtube snuff films, you should do a post on the IDF video recording the murder of eight palestinians working at a metal factory, presenting them as Hamas terrorists on Youtube, the video pulled by Youtube then reinstalled after complaints, now currently being investigated by B’Tselem as a warcrime:
    It would mean you were interested in the (mis-)use of images for propaganda regardless of whose propaganda it was. I sincerely hope I you do!

  • cenoxo

    Clearly, the Gaza metal shop that annony refers to is in the IDF video in the BagMan’s last link: “In terms of aerial surveillance, as well as getting the goods on Hamas, by the way, this video is particularly illuminating.
    Indeed, as B’Tselem’s article and photographs point out. T’was blind, but now we see.
    A somewhat similar incident occurred during the Iraq war when an American Apache helicopter fired upon suspected insurgents in a farmer’s field. The gunship’s infrared video (NSFW) gives a very graphic illustration of what modern weapons technology can accomplish, especially when guided by remote, fallible human judgment.
    Thank God today’s armies use tele-operated scalpels instead of swords — it makes war games much more civilized.

  • anonny

    “it makes war games much more civilized”
    Ok, I give up. Are you Ernst Junger or Rudyard Kipling from beyond the grave?

  • anonny

    oops, sorry, bad case of irony-deficiency.

  • richard dent

    The near-blockade of Gaza by Egypt and Israel has not stopped Hamas from amassing materials for and already made weapons. It certainly hasn’t stopped Hamas from coming up with some cinder blocks and cement for bomb shelters– if it wanted to.

  • lytom

    To@richard dent
    One can see the “thinking of the aggression on Gaza” in your dense argument.
    If you think cinder blocks would have saved lives you are either deluded, or are abetting and excusing the crime.
    and so it goes, gas canisters become rockets and justification for bombing…vae

  • Michaeldg

    I know that it has become very unpopular to bring up the fact that Israel was born from the ashes of the Holocaust and that in spite of it’s powerful military, existential threats seem very real to both Israelis and to their family members around the world. When Iran starts to develop nuclear weapons and their president denies the Holocaust and promises to destroy Israel, Jews around the world take these threats very seriously. My parents are both Holocaust survivors, our family lost 76 out of 88 members to the Nazi genocide between June 22 1942 and July 13, 1944 (the time period that our home town of Vilna was occupied by the Germans). Hitler told the world what he intended to do to the Jews but no one took him seriously. Now when Hamas or Hezbolah or Iran declares that they want to annihilate the “Zionist Entity” do you think that we should not take such statements at face value?
    If the Palestinians want Israel to step back from it’s reflexively defensive posture, they and their allies around the Middleeast (and around the world) need to enunciate their vision of what should happen to the 5 million Jews now living in Israel. What exactly does Hamas or Hezbollah or Iran’s leadership have in mind when they talk of destroying, annihilating, obliterating Israel? What is their vision? Another genocide? Has anyone from Hamas or Hezbollah given Israelis any alternative to fighting to the death?

  • Our Paul

    In defense of the BagMan and The Chance Of Biscuits
    The goal of this site, as I understand it, is to present images and to attempt to engender thought, and discussion as their meaning or propaganda value. Palestinian resident Ms. Altayan, quoted directly below the presented YouTube clip, as saying. “It depends. If it is an F-16 I will turn into biscuits, but if it is an Apache I may have a chance”, points to the savagery of the Israeli attack.
    I doubt our host would present that quote if he was approving of IDF’s “snuff films”. Well said, annony! Snuff films, indeed.
    My own churlish comment (Dec 31, 2008 at 02:33 PM), was not aimed at our host, but at the obvious nod of approval by the US Government. Israeli and our internal politics dictated that this attack had to take place before Obama is inaugurated as President of the U.S.
    The discussion and the length of this thread point to the success of this posting in engendering discussion. cenoxo deserves a round of applause!
    I for one look forward to the BagMan’s presentation of the events that will unfold on 01/20/09. It is said that musical accompaniment will be provided by Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero to the event.
    Now, Gabriela is a lady that really has “got it”, including what my pappy used to call sparkle. I present this little snip, as a New Year’s gift to our host for all his hard work and the pleasure he has given us. To start the New Year, we need something more uplifting from YouTube.

  • cenoxo

    No one can forget the Holocaust: it’s only 9 keystrokes away. Those atrocities against the Jewish people ended almost 63 years ago when the Allies unconditionally defeated the government who perpetrated it, destroyed their cities, and brought its leaders to justice.
    Israel is a relatively small country with its back against the Mediterranean Sea, and surrounded by larger, hostile countries. In that regard, Israel’s substantial military forces (including the deliberately ambiguous threat of an unknown number of nuclear weapons and alliances with the world’s most powerful military) can be justified. The IDF uses expensive, highly advanced guided weapons systems that can meet or beat anything they come up against.
    Compared to Israel, the Gaza Strip is also a relatively small country with its back against the Mediterranean Sea, and surrounded (for the most part) by a larger country that certainly acts hostile at the moment. Gaza has no real military to speak of, and no larger countries willing or able to fight on its side. Hamas’ heavy weaponry consists mostly of rhetoric, AK47s, RPGs, and crude rockets that are deadly only when they’re lucky enough to actually hit something.
    The problem with Israel’s current blockade, bombardment, and disproportionate body count against Gaza is determining who is David, who is Goliath, and whose existence is more at risk.
    It’s hard to see Israel as the victim any more.

  • Matt Platte

    Moving acetylene or oxygen cylinders in that manner is just asking for trouble. If a valve gets popped during transport, things may well go boom! The cylinders should be transported in an upright position and secured so they do not jostle around or bump into things, especially each other. Ideally the truck would have a slot or stanchion for each cylinder and a clamp or chain for each. Otherwise one should use ropes and/or chains to hold the cylinders upright and up against the cab of the truck.
    Even with makeshift racks and no other equipment, the loading of cylinders requires no more than four people; two to carry and two to attach to the truck.

  • Michael (The BAG)

    I appreciate Our Paul’s comment to the extent it defends the mission of the site, which is an exposition of visual dynamics.
    In the past, I steered 100% clear of the Israel/Palestinian crisis because I couldn’t separate my own feelings from the visuals. (Of course, as a Jew with a “Peace Now” focus, I’m plenty split on the issue already.) Anyway, starting with the Hizbullah/Israeli battle in Lebanon, I got over my own block. The result, however (in contrast to my domestic political analysis, which is admittedly dripping with opinion), has been that I tend to come off as “too partial” to the visual politics/analysis free and clear of the issues themselves. I understand that’s frustrating, too, considering the passions involved, but I feel like the attempt to think about the imagery (and the conflict at the “media level”) is something worthwhile to contribute.
    If you notice, by the way, I did add an update to the post above. I did so not to make any moral point, however, or to play to one side or the other but to simply clarify the visual record.
    Regarding the inauguration, I think we’ll have some great coverage here at The BAG. Up till a couple days ago, I was considering going. At this point however, considering we’ll probably have two or three photographers (and possibly more) filing images with us from D.C., I thought it would make sense if I wasn’t smack in the middle of it.

  • Michaeldg

    Many thanks to cenoxo for a very insightful and thought provoking response to my post. This is a rare place, where there is actual exchange of ideas and viewpoints. Pointing out B’Tselem’s reports and photos is truly “eye opening”. Kudos to all for such an open exchange, and to the Bag for his update in response to his readers.

  •[email protected]/ DennisQ

    Eighteen years ago we were treated to very similar videos of so-called “surgical” strikes on military targets. I remember General Schwartzkopf’s briefing in which he boasted that Americans were keen on preserving Iraqi lives. That war ended on a different note – General Barry McCaffrey ordered the slaughter of thousands of retreating Iraqis along the “Highway of Death.” McCaffrey later used what has become the standard excuse for one-sided massacres, i.e., We were defending ourselves.
    We’re again hearing the claim that the attackers are the good guys, and that they’re trying to avoid too many casualties, etc. The Israeli PR team ought to dress up the standard script – not just stick with the same denials we first heard 18 years ago. The fact that the Israeli government thinks so little of Americans’ critical judgement makes me wonder how much of the rest of the story is false as well. Why did it take litigation before the Israelis allowed the foreign press into Gaza? Is Israeli “self-defense” just a cover story for ethnic cleansing?
    Here’s similar footage from the Gulf War:
    See also the photograph of McCaffrey’s massacre of a retreating army:

  • Lightkeeper

    I am unbelievably sick of the righteousness and vehemency on display in both sides’ defense of their actions. I think it is extremely unhelpful and leads ultimately to a deadlock from which it seems we can never (re)emerge.
    A lot of my Jewish friends feel threatened even today – even in places like Europe or Canada – about their existence as Jews in the world. I know that the Holocaust must loom large in their memories, but I think there is something…almost static about their fears; like they cannot see how much the world has changed since WWII. Of course, there is no denying that anti-semitism still exists – but there is also no denying that it is no longer possible to discriminate against Jews in the ways it was prior to the Holocaust. Tony Judt stated it best in his essay ‘The ‘Problem of Evil’ in Postwar Europe’:
    ‘Imagine the following exercise: Would you feel safe, accepted, welcome today as a Muslim or an “illegal immigrant” in the US? As a “Paki” in parts of England? A Moroccan in Holland? A beur in France? A black in Switzerland? An “alien” in Denmark? A Romanian in Italy? A Gypsy anywhere in Europe? Or would you not feel safer, more integrated, more accepted as a Jew? I think we all know the answer. In many of these countries—Holland, France, the US, not to mention Germany—the local Jewish minority is prominently represented in business, the media, and the arts. In none of them are Jews stigmatized, threatened, or excluded.’
    This is one of the reasons why people who criticize Israel’s actions find it hard to be alarmed by Ahmedinijad’s psychotic pronouncements or Hamas refusal to recognize Israel. Not just because, as cenoxo points out, this conflict seems more and more like one between David and Goliath, but also because we know that we could never let what happened to the Jews in 1941 happen to them again in 2009. Not just because Israel is one of the most powerful militaries in the world with an unknown number of nuclear missiles, but because we know that a puny militant group like Hamas can in no way threaten Israel’s exist – no matter how much it may claim otherwise.
    Having said all this, one of the things I am wary of is the use of the Holocaust to justify Israel’s actions. The implicit idea here is that Israel must be committing such atrocities that only the shroud of the most evil crime ever committed – the Holocaust – can justify its actions. This, to me, is no longer a reasonable defense of Israel’s position vis a vis the Palestinians. If I was threatened every single day, locked up without reason, denied access to my generational home and not allowed to till my own olive groves – why would I recognize such a state? So while I can understand how awful it is that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, there is a rhyme and reason why it refuses to do so. And in the long run, it probably will not matter. This is just bluster and posture on Hamas’ part – it has no bearing on the possibilities of the future. Israel cannot be destroyed (thank God).
    However, it becomes more and more apparent every day that Palestine, its memory, its land, its people, can be destroyed. Not only ‘can be’ but are being destroyed. While there is something latently anti-semitic in comparing the IDF’s actions to those committed by the Nazi, it is very useful to remember that Holocausts can (and have) happened again. I will leave with Judt, again:
    ‘And so, if we teach the history of World War II above all—and sometimes uniquely—through the prism of the Holocaust, we may not always be teaching good history. It is hard for us to accept that the Holocaust occupies a more important role in our own lives than it did in the wartime experience of occupied lands. But if we wish to grasp the true significance of evil—what Hannah Arendt intended by calling it “banal”—then we must remember that what is truly awful about the destruction of the Jews is not that it mattered so much but that it mattered so little.’
    I urge everyone interested in this conflict to read this lecture. It is one of the most eye-opening ones I have ever read: (

  • sohbet

    The goods on Hamas include the deliberate embedding of weapons in civilian areas, in violation of International law

  • Ken Krayeske

    when you only use a hammer, everything looks like a nail, or, when the world thinks you have a hammer, everything can be made to look like a nail.

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