November 15, 2012

Assassination by Air Strike – Our Gaza Edit

Gaza attack Koran

Simply collateral damage?


I think it’s only fair to show the face of the guy who got taken out, the man in charge of Hamas’s military component. (Jaabari is bottom right.) If you look at the coverage today, you’ll realize how rare it is to do that. The other thing the photo reflects is how much Hamas now understands that PR and a public face is crucial to winning hearts and minds. (I’ll leave it up to you to explain the suits in the back. The photo, by the way, appeared in a BBC slideshow yesterday, and was taken in Cairo last year after Jaabari engineered the Galad Shalit exchange.)

Screen Shot 2012 11 15 at 12 04 27 AM

Screen Shot 2012 11 15 at 12 03 37 AM

The IDF’s Twitter account, one of several from the Israeli government commenting on the operation, promoted a blog with updates, “photos & videos all in one place.” Within minutes of the strike on Jabari, the IDF spokesman’s office posted video of his car exploding on Google Inc.’s YouTube and it was circulating on Twitter.

— from “Israel Wages Twitter War With Hamas Over #Gaza Attacks” (Businessweek)

Just like people were shocked yesterday about the matter-of-fact tweets from the Israeli military, I still can’t get my head around the routine release of these aerial videos — although the motivation, I understand, is to suggest how clean and pinpoint these kills are. Even when they’re not exactly.


A more visceral image for Americans, perhaps, who don’t have to endure airstrikes and bombings, in general, but do have an emotional investment in their automobiles. The photo also speaks to the Israeli strategy which was not just to snuff Jaabari but, apparently, to somehow cleaning separate the head of the military wing from the rest of the body.

Sderot piano

After eight years of analyzing political images, the Israel – Palestine conflict remains difficult to capture not because of the bitter feelings it raises, but because even similar photos taken one side or the other, even if they feel equivalent, are typically not because of the power and security differential. The wires yesterday were full of images of the aerial assault that killed a Hamas military leader. At the same time, there are images from the past few days showing the effects of Hamas missiles having damaged homes and property in Sderot in Southern Israel. The first sentence of this caption reads:

An Israeli boy sits next to a piano as he prepares to sleep in a bomb shelter in the southern town of Netivot November 14, 2012.

Why I think this image is effective is because it illustrates how generally much safer and better off the Israelis are when fire reigns down from the sky. In other words, I haven’t seen any photos today of Palestinians, and Gaza residents in particular, with pianos in their safe rooms/bomb shelters. (If they have shelters.)

(photo 1: Mohammed Salem/Reuters caption: A man holds a copy of Koran after an Israeli air strike on a car of Hamas’s military chief in Gaza City November 14, 2012. Hamas’s military chief was killed when his car was hit by an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday, the Palestinian Islamist group said, with multiple Israeli attacks rocking the Gaza Strip. Hamas said Ahmed Al-Jaabari, who ran the organization’s armed wing, the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, died along with a passenger after their car was targeted by an Israeli missile. photo 2: Reuters via BBC caption: Ahmed Jabari (bottom right) posed with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal (bottom left) in Cairo last year after a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel. photo 3: Ali Hassan/Reuters caption: Palestinians try to remove the remains of a car after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 14, 2012. An Israeli official said on Wednesday the assassination of Hamas’s top commander in the Gaza Strip was not the end of Israel’s assault on the coastal territory and more strikes would follow. Ahmed Al-Jaabari, Hamas’s military chief, was killed when his car was hit by an Israeli airstrike. Multiple other Israeli attacks rocked the Gaza Strip. images 4 & 5: screen grabs via Jaabari assassination video/Israel IDF. photo 6: Nir Elias/Reuters caption: An Israeli boy sits next to a piano as he prepares to sleep in a bomb shelter in the southern town of Netivot November 14, 2012. Israel launched a major offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing the military commander of Hamas in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group vowed would “open the gates of hell.”)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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