Yes or No.
Pierre Krahenbuhl, the commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, appeared on CBS Face the Nation yesterday for a quick question-and-answer.
OK, maybe not so quick.
Mr. Krahenbuhl used 450 words — about the length of a typical newspaper editorial — to avoid answering two simple, yes or no, questions: Are your facilities protecting Hamas members? and Is Hamas using children as human shields?
Norah O’Donnell sat in for long time CBS host Bob Schieffer.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Are your facilities protecting members of Hamas?
Pretty simple yes or no question, wouldn’t you think?
PIERRE KRAHENBUHL: Look, I think what you have to get a sense of is we have two hundred fifty thousand people now sheltered in our schools as a result of the intensity of the conflict that is going on in Gaza. Some of these people have received instructions from the Israeli Defense Forces to leave areas that they were living in. Others fled the fighting. And because we have numerous school buildings throughout the Gaza Strip, we have been able to accommodate them in about ninety school buildings. And so this is very clear under international law that these are premises that are protected. The sanctity of which have to be respected by all parties and so, of course, when they are shelled it is something that is unacceptable in any sense. Now, we have also had incidents — and there were three — in the course of inspections we carried out we have identified weapons caches that were in the premises, something that we made known to the world in a very proactive and transparent way because those ways of endangering our premises by placing weapons in them are unacceptable and we condemn them unreservedly.
It was a “yes” or “no” question.
“Can I rinse your plate?” SWMBO asked as we finished breakfast right after hearing that.
“Well in the grand scheme of the surface chemistry, as we study the chemical reactions at the interfaces, we’re really looking at heterogeneous catalysis. The adhesion of the food molecules to the plate is known as adsorption. This can be due to either chemisorption or by physisorption. … ” I began, just getting wound up.
“It was a yes or no question.”
NORAH O’DONNELL: Mm-Hm.
“There are 1,500 dead Palestinians, you know,” my friend Nola Guay said. “That far outnumbers the 64 Israelis killed. How is it fair that so few Israelis are getting killed?”
What, are you nuts? I’m thinking when you poke a bear with more than 2,500 rockets, you gotta prepare to pay the price.
Ms. O’Donnell asked the most important questions.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Israel says that Hamas is using civilians, children as human shield. Is that what you found?
Ms. O’Donnell asks yes or no questions, doesn’t she?
PIERRE KRAHENBUHL: What we’ve found and what we know is that when armed forces be it in this case, the Israeli Defense Force or non-state arm groups as the groups present inside Gaza, all of them are bound by rules of international law and humanitarian law which regulate the way in which military operations and combat is taking place in any conflict around the world. And in the case of Gaza, because of its very densely populated environment, all of these military operations have a great risk of endangering the civilians. And that is the case for all of the actors involved. Yes, there are certainly behaviors that expose the population on the ground by militant groups that operate close to civilian premises. But, certainly, if you look at the extent of the damage, the extent of the physical destruction but also the extent of the loss of human life and I witnessed that myself visiting this week the pediatric ward in the main hospital in Gaza seeing the broken bodies of the children there, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that insufficient measures of precaution and control and protection are being taken, including by the Israeli Defense Force when engaging in Gaza. And the message I’ve heard repeatedly this week by civilians in Gaza is that they don’t feel safe anywhere. And what they’ve been saying to me is if we are not safe in an UNRWA school building, where are we going to be safe.
247 words this time and not a single “yes” or “no” to be found.
Ms. O’Donnell asked the two most important questions. And she didn’t get an answer.
Worth noting is this commentary that Mr. Schieffer offered on Face the Nation last week:
In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause, a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters. Last week, I found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel’s early leaders, which might have been said yesterday. “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, she said, “but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”
That was just 96 words.
Mr. Krahenbuhl and the agency charged to maintain international peace and security could take a lesson. So could the Hamas apologists who conveniently forget those inconvenient 2,500 rockets.