Cardinal calls Gaza 'concentration camp' -- lit up by white phosphorus, observers say

Al Jazeera report on white phosphorus in Gaza.

As Chico Marx said, "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

That's easy when it comes to Gaza. The Jewish state's brutal use of white phosphorus — alleged over the weekend by observers on the ground dispatched by NYC-based Human Rights Watch — is lighting up the landscape.

However, most of the U.S. press (a notable recent exception is Newsweek) has its usual blind spot when it comes to Israel's war on Gaza. As the Daily News noted late last week in "'Concentration camp' Gaza stirs fire":

Relations between the Holy Land and the Holy See were tense Thursday night after a leading Vatican cardinal compared the besieged Gaza Strip to a concentration camp.

"Defenseless populations are always the ones who pay," Renato Cardinal Martino told the Italian daily Il Sussidiario. "Conditions in Gaza increasingly resemble a big concentration camp."

That drew a furious denunciation from Israeli officials, who said the comment was "based on Hamas propaganda."

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the son of Holocaust survivors, called on the Pope to apologize to Israel.

Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, defended his comments.

"They can say what they want, but the situation in Gaza is horrible," he told the newspaper La Repubblica.

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Confirming that is Human Rights Watch, whose observers belie Hikind's claim that the brutality in Gaza is propaganda.

In fact, it's even worse than the cardinal says, according to HRW.

You question the watchdog group's credibility? HRW broke several major stories of U.S. atrocities in Iraq — including the horrific tale of the American soldiers in Fallujah who proudly called themselves the "Murderous Maniacs" and admitted to kicking the shit out of Iraqis just for the fun of it. (See my September 2005 item "U.S. Soldiers Reveal New Torture Tales.")

Now, here's what HRW says about what's going on:

On January 9 and 10, 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers in Israel observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area.

Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an "obscurant" (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza's high population density, among the highest in the world.

"White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch.

If the Nazis had had white phosphorus — the 21st century version of napalm — they would have used it against the Jews.

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