Palestinian Children Have No Iron Dome

by James M. WallIslam Abdel Karim for The Washington Post

One day after a U.S. congressional committee voted to send more U.S. tax dollars to bolster Israel’s Iron Dome shield, four Palestinian boys were killed on an open beach by Israeli shelling from a naval ship offshore.

Defense for Children International  reported on the Israeli shelling:

“Eight children in Gaza were killed on Wednesday [July 16], including four boys who died as they were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were directly targeted by the Israeli navy.  Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip has killed at least 45 children according to DCI-Palestine documentation.”

DCI-Palestine identified the four boys killed, as Zakariya Ahed Subhi Baker, 10, Ahed Atef Ahed Baker, 9, Ismail Mohammad Subhi Baker, 9, and Mohammad Ramez Ezzat Baker, 11. The boys were all cousins from local families. They had been playing with a soccer ball on the beach in Gaza City’s harbor before they were killed in a missile strike just after 4 pm.

Hamada Baker, 13, was struck by shrapnel from one of the missiles fired from the Israeli ship. He and other boys ran or were carried, to the al Deira Hotel next to the beach where the four boys were killed.

Many western journalists. housed at the hotel, helped the wounded with first aid kits they brought down to the hotel terrace. One of them was William Booth of the Washington Post. Booth filed his account of the attack:

“I had just returned to the hotel to type up some notes and file inserts on the day’s news when there was a large explosion on the quay at the port, a little after 4 o’ clock in the afternoon.  .  . We saw a small fisherman’s shack on the quay, churning with gray smoke.

Then we saw a gang of kids running from the shack, down the breakwater and onto the sand, hurtling toward al-Deira.

A couple of waiters, the cook and a few journalists started waving at them. Run here!

Then a second strike landed right behind them. The staff were yelling, “They’re hurt!”

A half-dozen kids made it to the hotel. A young man also reached safety and fainted. He was bleeding from the abdomen. He was scooped up and carried to a taxi by a big, friendly bear of a bellman, room cleaner and night watchman named Mahmoud Abu Zbaidah.

Two young terrified kids (one of whom is pictured above) were bleeding and injured, and they were quickly bandaged on the floor of the terrace, where guests usually eat skewers of grilled chicken, suck on water pipes and watch the sun go down.

The kids suffered from shrapnel wounds, one to the head, one to the chest. They were treated by translators, hotel staff and journalists, who ran up to their rooms to grab medical kits.

On the quay, ambulances took away four more. They either died on the pier or at the hospital, I am not sure. The Gaza Health Ministry tweeted their names a few minutes later.  .  . .All cousins, we are told, scrawny fishermen’s kids whom we saw every day, running around on the beach, playing in the waves.”

Booth’s eye-witness account ran in the July 17 Washington Post, a daily newspaper which is a must-read for Washington elected officials and government personnel. In his story, Booth included the usual pro-forma response from the IDF:

“Later, the Israel Defense Forces issued a statement calling the civilian casualties “a tragic outcome, saying the target of the strike was ‘Hamas terrorist operatives.’ They promised that the incident would be investigated but blamed Hamas for its ‘cynical exploitation of a population held hostage.'”

Israel claims that its Iron Dome has successfully blocked more than 90 per cent of the Hamas rockets aimed at Israel.  Now the U.S. Congress is prepared to improve on that figure with an even stronger Iron Dome.

That narrative is shaped by Israel as are most details absorbed and passed on he western media.

The Christian Science Monitor has looked into these claims about the Iron Dome. It reports:

A popular narrative about the current face-off between Hamas and other Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and Israel is that the Israelis, confronted with withering volleys of rocket fire, have had no choice but to respond with overwhelming force and that the failure of the rockets to do much damage has largely been thanks to the country’s US-funded Iron Dome missile defense system.

But it turns out that compared to the last major escalation between the two sides, the Palestinians in 2014 are firing fewer rockets than in the past, and those rockets they are firing are proving less accurate.

Israel sells  its “in danger” narrative by manipulating facts.

The problem for Washington elected officials is that they live under their own self-imposed ethical shield that keeps them focused on the mantra, “is it good for Israel?”

Neither the American public nor its elected leaders  are likely to be exposed to an interview like the one which ran on London’s Channel 4 after the deaths of the four boys on the beach.

The interviewer is Channel 4 host Jon Snow. He spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s  spokesman Mark Regev. To view the interview, click here. It runs for nine minutes.

Snow begins with a hard question: How does Israel defend the killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach as a way to “defend Israeli citizens.” Regev has no answer.

What he did have is the “cease fire rejection by Hamas” segment of Israel’s narrative which he utilized in his interview with Snow. Revisit the interview above and note how Regev plays the “cease fire” failure card.

Israel and the U.S. attempted to create a narrative of a “cease fire” which Hamas was told to sign on without having been a party to any “cease fire” conservations.

Hamas refused, of course. Jonathan Cook writes on why the refusal was Hamas’ only option. Here is the opening of Cook’s report:

“We now have confirmation from the Israeli daily Haaretz of what we should have suspected: that the idea for the so-called Egyptian “ceasefire proposal” was actually hatched in Washington, the messenger boy was arch-war criminal Tony Blair, and the terms were drafted by Israel.

The intention was either to corner Hamas into surrendering – and thereby keep the savage blockade of Gaza in place – or force Hamas to reject the proposal and confirm the Israeli narrative that it is a terrorist organisation with which Israel cannot make peace.

According to Haaretz, Blair secretly initiated his “ceasefire” activity after “coordinating” with US Secretary of State John Kerry. On Saturday he headed off to Cairo to meet with the US-backed Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to persuade him to put his name to the proposal.”

And just as the U.S. and Israel wanted, Hamas’ rejection of a “cease fire” Israeli-drafted proposal, becomes the official narrative for all future discussions of this summer’s brutal attack on Gaza.  It was an obvious fraud from the start but it served its purpose. 

Meanwhile, back in Israel’s motherland, the U.S, the decision by a U.S. congressional committee to add even more money to Israel’s Iron Dome funding, was reported by Kate Brannen on the Foreign Policy web page July 15. She writes, in part:

“Congress seems poised to give Israel, and one of the United States’ largest defense contractors, a jolt of good news: $175 million in new American aid that will help fund an expansion of the program.

The additional money for Iron Dome cleared one of its final hurdles Tuesday {July 15], when a key Senate appropriations subcommittee unanimously voted to double the Pentagon’s $175 million request for fiscal year 2015.

The full committee will consider the defense appropriations bill on Thursday. Meanwhile, three other panels have already signed off on the funding expansion, making it all but certain the additional money will be provided.

Iron Dome has received $720 million in American funding since 2011, when the United States became directly involved in the program. Iron Dome, which is built by the Israeli defense company Rafael, has kept Israeli casualties so low that it’s credited with bolstering the public’s support for a longer bombing campaign rather than an immediate ground invasion into Gaza.”

Even with more funding for the Iron Dome, Israel was determined to go ahead with its  ground invasion into Gaza on the night of July 17. Ha’aretz reported on the invasion:

“A large contingent of Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip Thursday night for the first time since Operation Protective Edge began 10 days ago. 

The government made the decision after efforts to reach a cease-fire with Hamas collapsed.

Palestinian sources reported heavy IDF artillery fire throughout the entire Gaza Strip. A Gaza resident told Haaretz, “They’re firing from every direction, everything here is shaking.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ground operation’s main goal will be to deal with the threat posed by the tunnels Hamas has dug along the Gaza-Israel border.”

The robotic American political response to Israel’s ground invasion on top of its bombing attacks on Gaza? “Israel has a right to defend itself”.

That mantra is a con man’s twin to the other central Israeli narrative mantra, “Israel has a right to exist”. The fundamental flaw in both mantras is that Israel considers itself to be the only party with rights.

Congress does not operate on the “General Conception of Justice” outlined in the late Harvard Professor John Rawls’ ethical philosophy:

“All social primary goods—liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect—are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favored.”

Israel chooses not to remember how Proverbs 24:24-25 speaks to those who claim they are always right:

“Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.”

Israel is bombing and invading a small country whose only defense is an unwise use of ineffective rockets directed at Israel with little hope of doing any serious damage.

The rockets give U.S. and Israeli television news programs videos of Israeli civilians running toward shelters, incarnating another Israeli mantra, “the Jewish people are  permanent victims”.

Gaza Palestinians have no shelters to run to. They have no Iron Dome to protect their children. All they have are “roof knocking” Israeli shells landing on a roof to warn a targeted family, get out quickly because a deadlier bomb is on its way.

The message behind “roof knocking” is cynical in the extreme. After the early bombings, Jon Stewart addressed this very serious topic in his usual acerbic manner:

What are the results of these asymmetrical attacks?  Since July 8, when Israel began daily bomb attacks, this summer’s round of asymmetrical bombing assaults on Gaza have killed more than 240 Palestinians, an estimated half of whom are women and children.

The ground invasion launched Thursday may be expected to add to that figure. Israel claims its air attacks target only Hamas militants. It is yet to say how it expects to avoid killing civilians in its ground assault.

Thus far the Israeli public appears to be in favor of the attacks on Gaza. The killing of four boys playing soccer on the beach however, could prove to be a tipping point against Israel in international public opinion.

The Washington Post’s account of the death of the four boys playing on the beach is one example.

On Thursday, the nation’s leading trend-setting media outlet, The New York Times, featured pictures and two stories about the deaths of the four Palestinian boys.

One of the Times stories is by Tyler Hicks, the Times photographer who took the picture (here) of a Palestinian man carrying the body of one of the four young boys killed.

Ahead of him in the picture is a second victim of Israeli naval fire.Tyler Hicks NYT

A second story that ran in the Times after the beach killings is by Anne Barnard, writing from Gaza City:

“The four Baker boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach.

But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous.

As they played on and around a jetty in the late-afternoon sun, a blast hit a nearby shack. One boy was killed instantly. The others ran. There was a second blast, and three more bodies littered the sand. One was charred, missing a leg, and another lay motionless, his curly head intact, his legs splayed at unnatural angles.”

At the moment, with the Israeli ground invasion under way, the  future looks bleak. Have we reached a tipping point?  Will the Gaza beach murders be the moment when the world wakes up?  

Or as Jon Stewart asks us in the clip above, “has the world gone mad?”


The picture above of the injured Hamada Baker, was taken on the terrace of the Gaza al Deira Hotel, where he was treated.  The picture was taken for the Washington Post by Islam Abdel Karim.  The picture further down of the man and the two dead  children was taken by Tyler Hicks of the New York Times. An editorial note: The Post spells the family name of the four dead boys as Baker.  The Tines uses Bakr, without the “e”. My Arabic authority says the name in Arabic is pronounced Baa keer, emphasis on the Baa.  The English transliteration is more properly rendered as Baker.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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8 Responses to Palestinian Children Have No Iron Dome

  1. Pauline Coffman says:

    Thank you, Jim, for chronicling the madness of this terrible violence. As usual, you pull together the many threads of the story and put them together in such a way that the reader cannot fail to understand what is happening. I do think the world has gone mad.

  2. Unfortunately, the world has not gone mad. The world, especially, the American population has been “mad” for several decades. Their understandings and beliefs about what is happening in that land called “Holy” are disconnected from reality. That is one way of describing psychosis–a disconnection from reality. What do you call it when it most of the citizens of a country are disconnected from reality?
    Thanks, Jim, for articulating the disconnect in such a lucid manner. I only wish your comments could “cure” the reality disconnect of the American people. I fear, however, that many of the American public is no more likely to be “cured” by words than is the psychotic. Maybe we need a new miracle drug or a genetic change to the American DNA.

  3. Roy's Blog says:

    Don’t despair, Pauline. You and Jim have not gone mad. Neither have I. And we’re not alone. Many of our allies will soon be reading Jim’s post. Peace, Roy

  4. theriverflows says:

    When I hear the words “Israel’s iron dome of defense” it calls to mind the fantasy of George H.W. Bush’s “star wars” defense program. In its realization, it goes beyond triggering anti-missile strikes from Israel. A popular social networking cell phone app called “Yo” has been modified and linked into the defense system to warn Israeli citizens of possible incoming air strikes from outside of the dome with the single text “Yo”.

    On the other side of the Israel-Gaza conflict, the only warning that Gazans have is the bomb blast from a smaller bomb as a signal that a larger one is likely to follow. This was the fate of the Al Wafa rehabilitation hospital in Gaza last Friday. The remaining patients are paralyzed and too fragile to move. Israeli ground troops are now shelling near the hospital as the conflict escalates, along with the infamous Caterpillar D-9 armored bulldozers used for – defending Israel? More likely, destroying buildings in Gaza, buildings that house patients and other people.

    The dome of defense system is a collaboration between the Israeli army and the United States, where close to $200 million has been contributed as a test for the anti-missile defense strategy in the expectation that a similar plan could be executed to defend the U.S. if necessary.

    Let’s see if I’ve got this right. We’re giving money to encourage a lopsided battle between two militias with the justification that “Israel has a right to defend itself” but it’s really because we want to see if it works in case we want to employ it for our own defense. Then, three Israeli youngsters were killed by unknown assailants followed by a horrible revenge murder of a Palestinian boy and the indefensible beating of his American-Palestinian cousin, followed by the deaths of four more Palestinian boys on a beach in Gaza and a week that has seen at least 100 more Palestinian deaths by missiles. Are the patients in Al Wafa next? Where will the Israelis expect to find rocket launchers on the premises to justify their actions?

    Yo, y’all.

    P.S. Jim, the Presbyterian Church(USA) voted earlier this summer to divest stocks supporting Israeli hostilities, specifically Caterpillar because it continues to manufacture the armored D-9 bulldozer.

  5. Fred says:

    Our government voted 100% to support Israel. This is a travesty. This is our country, with a huge Christian majority. How can we permit this? What is wrong with us?

    It’s all about the huge amounts of money that our politicians want and need that they get form the AIPAC and the other wealthy members of the Israel Lobby, who control the votes with their money and their targeting of anyone who opposes Israel’s policies. This is not ok.

  6. oldkahuna says:

    Another great synthesizing article , Jim! Thanks!!
    The original NBC reporter, Ayman, was playing on the beach with the boys just a few minutes before they were murdered. YET, NBC pulled him from reporting on the main NBC news program in the evening. It was “reported” from Tel Aviv by another reporter. Ayman has been placing the entire confrontation in the context of OCCUPATION, which is not acceptable to our “mainline” media.
    If Israel has a right to defend itself, do not the much less mighty Palestinians have the same right?
    The war theater is to test new weapons and to destroy Hamas. Period! It has nothing to do with the fake “cease fire.” In the letters on the New York Times page a person had the ignorance to say that Gaza was not occupied!!! This whole catastrophe is about THE OCCUPATION.

  7. arnoldtesa says:

    There is no question that a large part of American financial support for Israel comes from American conservative Christians who are concerned about being present for the End of Days. This raises a sobering question of just how many Palestinian lives it could take for each Christian who eventually rises up to Heaven.

  8. Awad Paul Sifri says:

    Jim, Thank you for putting the Israeli-made “puzzle” together for anyone to understand what is truly happening in Gaza. The Zionist media is what has transformed it into such a “puzzle”, in the first place.
    Israel’s repetition of its fake mantra, “Israel has the right to defend itself”, does NOT apply to truth or reality. In fact, the opposite is the truth. The fact is that, Israel has been given the power – by the US – to enforce its tyrannical occupation and prevent any resistance, at any cost. And the US tax payers are footing the bill in order to enforce this complicity.

    Israel – and the US behind it – rejected free elections in Gaza, and rejected a government uniting the two main Palestinian parties. I think that, an even bigger reason for Israel’s being on a war path, is that Israel wants to test the “Iron Dome”, in order to further evaluate the repercussions of a major strike against Iran.

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