For years, major brands like BBC, NYTimes and Agence France Press have leavened their reportage from such terror-afflicted Israeli cities as Sderot and Ashkelon with the expression "home-made" in reference to Palestinian Arab weaponry, and especially their rockets.
A fine piece of writing in The Australian newspaper this weekend provides a valuable perspective on that sort of soft-headed, nonsensical journalism.
Here's an extract:
Qassam rockets are the brainchild of Adnan al-Ghoul - literally Adnan the evil demon who feeds on corpses - the chief Hamas bomb manufacturer until he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004. He devised the weapon after Yasser Arafat rejected the Camp David peace accords in 2000 and declared war on Israel, launching the second intifada.Please read the whole article. In fact, consider putting it aside to re-read the next time you come across such gems as the BBC's definitive backgrounder on the Gaza Strip, a classic analysis piece which manages to tell you everything you need to know without a single mention of the word Qassam (or Kassam). Why bother? They're really just for children.
Qassams are fuelled by a solid propellant made of potassium nitrate (fertiliser) and sugar, which is melted down to a combustible toffee in domestic kitchens. This fuel is packed into casings, made out of the steel poles used to mount traffic lights. The advantage of the Qassam is that it can be fired at Israel over the security wall, largely without endangering the lives of the terrorists. The disadvantage is that they are unguided but the terrorists have learned by trial and error that if they fire enough of them they will eventually murder Israelis.
Al-Ghoul's first rockets were constructed in Gaza and fired at Israel in 2001. They became increasingly deadly as their range and payload was extended. Al-Ghoul's earliest prototypes had a maximum range of 3km, weighed 5.5 kilos and had a 500-gram explosives payload. The Qassam 3 has a range of 10km, weighs 90kg and has a payload of 10kg. In July 2006, Hamas fired a Qassam that it claims has a range of 15km and hit a high school in central Ashkelon.
Qassam rockets are frequently referred to in the media as home-made, as if they were as wholesome as a tray of home-baked biscuits or simply a bit of fun for the kiddies on cracker night. Arafat before his death claimed Qassams hadn't killed anyone, saying: "They only make noise."
In fact, Qassams are deadly and Adir Bassad is only the latest to be left fighting for his life. Fatima Slutzker, 57, and Yaakov Yaakobov, 43, were killed by Qassams in November. The first fatalities were two Israeli toddlers, Dorit Benisian, 2, and Yuval Abebeh, 4, killed as they were playing outside their grandmother's house in Sderot near the border with Gaza in September 2004. Afik Zahavi, also 4, was killed as his mother was taking him to nursery school. Ella Abukasis, 17, was killed as she shielded her younger brother from a rocket. Dana Galkowicz, 22, was killed as she sat on the verandah of her boyfriend's house. Mordechai Yosepov, 49, was killed as he sat near the nursery his two grandchildren attended. In total, Qassams have killed eight people in Israel and five in Gaza - a Chinese worker, a Thai worker, two Palestinian workers and a Palestinian girl, killed by a rocket that fell short of theborder.