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Yesterday, a devastating tunnel attack by Palestinian fighters inside Israel killed five soldiers in a border outpost inside Israel.  The IDF put out a story that turns out to be false, that they were killed by an RPG rocket that struck their pillbox killing them.  A Hamas video of the incident shows that this version is a fraud.  Actually, the enemy fighters crept up on the outpost in the early evening and killed the five at virtually point-blank range.

Haaretz, not one to rock the boat in any extreme fashion in such potentially embarrassing circumstances, offers this:

The video does not show Hamas militants firing an anti-tank missile at the forces, as the Israeli military had reported. 

My Israeli source confirms that the soldiers who died were all asleep when attacked.  There was one soldier who was supposed to be on guard duty.  He was located at the top of the structure and asleep as well.  When he heard the shooting he awoke and began firing at the attackers.  They were attempting to take the body of the one of the dead soldiers back to Gaza.  He killed one of the attackers and the rest left the soldier’s corpse behind and escaped.

These Israeli boys died in an attack that speaks of massive negligence either on the part of the soldiers themselves or their commanders.  The IDF too has lied in a brazen way to protect its reputation.  Bad enough if they were killed in an RPG attack, but to allow the Palestinians point blank access to the pillbox?  Astonishing malfeasance.

There will be many who believe that I post material like this to embarrass the IDF or Israel.  Not at all.  Of course, I believe the Gaza war is an abomination and that attacks like the one featured here wouldn’t happen unless the IDF had killed 1,100 Palestinians.  But that’s besides the point.  In this case, the IDF is betraying its soldiers and lying to the public about what happened.  Transparency in the face of such disasters is the best approach.  How else could you avoid such fashlahs in future unless there is accountability in the ranks, and accountability to the Israeli public?

This is the spirit behind this frame-by-frame analysis of the film provided by a Rotter member.  His analysis was removed by the moderators at Rotter.  Luckily, the HaKafe forum has more willingness to expose this incident to the public and has republished it.  Here is the summary in translation (the full Hebrew text is here):

“Terrorists” approach the outpost and fire at point blank range.  Both the outer gate and inner door of the pillbox is open.  If there are soldiers inside, they’re apparently asleep.  There is no return fire on the terrorists.  They simply enter the site firing.  They attempt to drag away a soldier who’s either wounded or unconscious.  He screams out from his wounds.  They kill him with shooting, blows, or both.

There was no anti-tank fire [as claimed by the IDF].  The IDF spokesperson lied.

There are those among pro-Israel advocates who argue that attacks like this prove that Israel must fight to the end to destroy all the tunnels.  They will say there is no justification for attacking soldiers inside Israel.  While I might agree with this under normal (non-war) circumstances, in the context of a war in which the IDF has killed 1,100 Palestinians as an invading force inside a foreign country, those Palestinians have a right to resist.  I would say the same if a foreign country invaded Israel.  Whether Israelis like it or not, they are invaders and when you invade a foreign country the victims have the right to resist both on their home turf and they have the right to take it to the invaders’ home turf.

jabaliya UNWRA school massacre

Gazan baby injured in IDF attack on Jabaliya UNWRA school (Khalil Hamra/AP)

Further, if Israelis truly wanted to end attacks they would negotiate an agreement the Palestinians. Instead of lambasting John Kerry for having the temerity to believe Gazans deserve the end of the crippling Israeli siege, they’d end it and recognize Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital and concede the Right of Return.  Short of this, the bloodshed can only continue.

UPDATE: The last time IDF shells struck a UN school, they killed 15 including many women and children.  Today, Israeli tank fire (the same lethal weapon that struck the Beit Hanoun school) struck another, this one a girls school in Jabaliya refugee camp run by UNWRA. This time 20 Palestinians died.  Unlike last time, there isn’t even a hint of hesitation that the IDF was responsible.

There are reports that Hamas officials are on their way to Egypt to discuss a “temporary humanitarian” ceasefire proposal.  All I can say is that any longer-term proposal that doesn’t end Israel’s siege should be null and void.  Why are these poor people dying at Israel’s hands if not to end this savage injustice that has continued for nearly a decade?

gaza playground massacre

Woman wails over children killed while playing on a playground swingset.

Today brings the second-highest number of IDF deaths during all of Operation Protective Edge. Ten soldiers were killed today.  Five died in a Hamas ambush inside Israel.  Another five were killed in a mortar attack.  53 have been killed so far.

What’s astonishing about the ambush is that the tunnel that allowed the Gazan fighters to infiltrate wasn’t unknown to the IDF.  In fact, Army Radio reports that the IDF had identified it:

IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz said: “We knew about the tunnel from which the attack occurred.    We’ll never be able to promise a 100% success rate [in neutralizing tunnels].  It’s possible there will be other similar incidents like this one [in future] since Hamas is always trying [to penetrate our defenses].  Apparently, we knew about this tunnel.   We knew it existed.  The matter will be investigated.

The failure to neutralize the tunnel seems an outrageous act of malfeasance.  How can an IDF general face the grieving families knowing he couldn’t prevented these deaths.  But almost no one is ever held accountable for such fashlahs in Israel.  Nor do I expect accountability in this instance either.

Nine Gazan children were killed in an IDF attack on a swing set in the park where they were playing.  The IDF claims, without offering any proof, that it was an errant Hamas shell that killed them.  Frankly, I have heard no evidence of any Hamas shells killing anyone during this particular invasion.  So I automatically discount the IDF account as lies.  Recall that in most similar situations like the Beit Hanoun UN school massacre, the Israeli army first trots out the “Hamas did it” mantra.  But within days it fesses up and acknowledges that it caused the mayhem (of course, always accidentally).  If some countries who’ve lost wars killed as many people “accidentally” as Israel has, they’d likely have been the victors!

Israel destroyed the home of Hamas political chief, Ismail Haniyeh.  I’d like Israeli to consider that if they can commit such brazen acts of vengeance against the leadership of their enemy, that enemies around the world will have little compunction in taking their own vengeance.  As I’ve often said here: what goes around comes around.  Israel is a bulwark.  Hard to penetrate.  Well-protected.  But the essence of guerilla war is not to target your enemy head on, but to probe for the weakest point.  So I don’t presume Bibi Netanyahu’s home will be destroyed in a future attack.  But you can be sure there will be one.  And not necessarily by anyone associated with Hamas.  Such unrestrained mayhem provokes not just the immediate victims, but all Arabs, all Muslims throughout the world.

Today a former Shin Bet deputy chief and current MK told EU diplomats they can expect Islamist terrorists in their “homes, under their beds and in their kindergardens.”  Leave aside the utter idiocy of such a harebrained comment.  The truth in the comment is that Islamism is fueled by such Israeli blood vengeance.  Not only will Europeans suffer.  Diaspora Jews will suffer as well.  We can protest against the conflation of Jews and Israelis.  Israel’s enemies should distinguish between Israeli and Jews.  But given that the current rightist government implicates all of world Jewry in its machinations, why would those seeking vengeance necessarily make such a distinction.  Of course, if avengers target Jews, Israel will be the first to cry anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred.  But they, at least in part, have only themselves to blame.

Though it hurts to say this, Diaspora Jews, in some respect, are to blame as well.  They have not distanced themselves from Israel’s blood lust.  If not cheerleading, they’ve been content to stand on the sidelines and watch is silence as the Palestinian bodies pile up like cordwood.  Diaspora Jews, especially liberal Zionists who should know better, stand speechless.  They don’t know what to do or say.  Their silence only gives the killers further rope to hang themselves with the blood of Palestinians on their necks.

As for our government, don’t get me started.  Israel rejected John Kerry’s latest ceasefire proposal.  Our response?  Here’s how ABC characterizes it:

…There is growing U.S. frustration with the mounting number of Palestinian casualties …

If I had a dollar for every time a U.S. official was quoted saying this to a reporter during this war, I’d be a rich man.  ‘Frustration’ doesn’t mean squat.  Only actions mean anything.  And there is no action.

Eran Efrati, an activist with Anarchists Against the Wall, is in the Israel-Gaza theater.  He published this astonishing post in Facebook.  As you read it keep in mind that he’s talking about the killing of 7 IDF soldiers in an outdated APC who died after an anti-tank shell struck their vehicle.  The deaths of so many just after the land invasion began, was a deep shock to the Israeli nation and especially their comrades.  Instead of taking it out on the battlefield against Palestinian fighters, the IDF took it out on the most vulnerable, Palestinian civilians, who were most visible and available targets:

 Soldiers in two different units inside Gaza leaked information about the murdering of Palestinians by sniper fire in Shuja’iyya neighborhood as punishment for the death of soldiers in their units. After the shooting on the Israeli armored personnel carriers, which killed seven soldiers of the Golani Brigade, the Israeli army carried out a massacre in Shuja’iyya neighborhood.

A day after the massacre, many Palestinians came to search for their relatives and their families in the rubble. In one of the videos uploaded to YouTube, a young Palestinian man Salem Shammaly calls the names of his family and looking for them between the ruins when he is suddenly shot at in his chest and falls down. A few seconds after that, there are two additional shots from snipers into his body, killing him instantly.

Since the video was released, there was no official response from the IDF spokesperson. Today I can report that the official command that was handed down to the soldiers in Shujaiyya was to capture Palestinian homes as outposts. From these posts, the soldiers drew an imaginary red line, and amongst themselves decided to shoot to death anyone who crosses it. Anyone crossing the line was defined as a threat to their outposts, and was thus deemed a legitimate target. This was the official reasoning inside the units. I was told that the unofficial reason was to enable the soldiers to take out their frustrations and pain at losing their fellow soldiers (something that for years the IDF has not faced during its operations in Gaza and the West Bank), out on the Palestinian refugees in the neighborhood. Under the pretext of the so-called “security threat” soldiers were directed to carry out a pre-planned attack of revenge on Palestinian civilians.

These stories join many other similar ones that Amira Hass and I investigated in Operation Cast Lead. The death toll that continues to rise is steadily reaching the numbers of the massacre of 2009.

What Efrati is revealing is a semi-officially sanctioned My Lai-type massacre.  The Man in Green murdered in cold blood in the YouTube video wasn’t killed by a lone gunman operating on his own.  His murder was approved as an act of vengeance on all of Gaza.  Let’s remember that 120 Palestinians died that night in Shejaia.  This was no accident.  They weren’t collateral damage.  They were the targets.

I don’t know how many times I can use the word “shame” before it loses its value.  But this is an act of deep shame.  A stain on Israel and anyone who cares about Israel.

tal inbar fraud

Tal Inbar, champion of IAF drone program killing Palestinians in Gaza.

Tal Inbar is mad at me.  Really, really mad at me.  He’s called me names.  They. Hurt. So. Much!  In fact, I may never be the same again after his fraudulent campaign to report my Facebook account as fake.  The Pied Piper of Herzliya has enough Facebook Friends that they all collaborated in the hoax and enough of them reported my account so that Facebook automatically disabled it.

During the entire process, Facebook’s notices implicitly blamed me for not using my real name or providing fraudulent personal information (none of which were true).  After providing them my driver’s license it still took them 24 more hours before re-opening the account.  When they sent me a reply to my appeal they didn’t even tell me my account had been restored:


Thanks for your response. We updated your account with the information listed on your ID. Facebook requires everyone to use their real identities so that you always know who you’re connecting with.

You can list an alternate name (ex: nickname, maiden name) on your Timeline along with your real name. Learn how to add an alternate name in the Help Center.

From this message, you’d think they actually added some information I hadn’t already provided to them in creating my profile.  I reviewed my profile and Facebook did NOT update my account or add any information.  Nor did I ever list an “alternate name” on my Timeline as the statement implies.  All this simply proves the utter opacity of Facebook.  It isn’t human, it’s an algorithm.  It’s not accountable to anyone, especially the users who fuel its growth and success.  All this opacity enabled charlatans like Tal Inbar to game the system.

The shame of it is that a human hand at Facebook might make Inbar pay a price for his chicanery.  But it’s doubtful he’ll pay in any real sense.  So perhaps we can make him pay in some small way by calling him out and linking whatever reputation he has to this fraud.

Inbar is the “director of UAV and space programs” at the Fisher Institute.  It’s unclear to me what this is.  It’s an organization affiliated with veterans of the IAF.  But its website is so amateurish that it’s hard to believe it’s a real academic body.  But I’d like to forever associate the Institute with one of its senior directors.  Inbar even lists his professional affiliation with Fisher on the same Facebook profile in which he organized his campaign against me.  One has to ask whether Fisher is as fraudulent as Inbar himself.

Inbar and Fisher, as well as the IAF, derive enormous benefits from the current Gaza massaacre.  Their weapons are at the forefront of the killing there.  Their expertise is sought after.  War is good.  Therefore, when individuals like me come along, we threaten the gravy train.  We rock the boat.  We are the enemy.  The danger I pose is critical to them because my posts and social media messages reach an Israeli audience, unlike many other critics of the war.  That’s why it’s especially critical to silence someone like me.

The great thing about hasbarists who overreach as Inbar has, is that events catch up to them.  Remember Semion Kras who hacked my site?  Kaspersky caught him in the act.  I got to call him and tell him personally I knew what he’d done.  I told his employer as well.

But even better is that hasbarists generate so much sympathy and interest for their victims that you couldn’t possibly buy the support that comes your way after episodes like this one.  500 new Twitter followers in the past month.  300 new Facebook Friends.  70,000 unique visits in the past three days alone.  So, Kol HaKavod, Tal.  It backfired on ya, baby.  Fraud can only take you so far.  Eventually, the system catches up with you.

tal inbar fisher institute

Tal Inbar’s Facebook thread conspiring to close my account

You are reading the blog of a dangerous man.  A very dangerous man.  Or so the Israeli pro-war propaganda machine believes.  That’s why yesterday, an Israeli Facebook user named Tal Inbar began a campaign to get my Facebook account removed.  Here is what he published in Hebrew:

בואו נדבר לרגע על ריצ’ארד סילברסטיין. היהודי האנטי ישראלי הזה”
הגרפומן המכלה את זמנו בניגוח של כל דבר הקשור בישראל, תוך הפצת שקרים
מחליאים ומחרידים – מקדם כעת את הסיפור שלו על כך ש”צה”ל רצח חייל” על מנת
למנוע חטיפתו על ידי חמאס. את הבלוג של השרלטן מסיאטל לא ניתן להוריד מהרשת
- אבל את שקריו , דברי הבלע שלו וההתעללות במשפחה שכולה (הוא מפרסם שמו
ותמונתו של חלל צה”ל ש”נרצח” על ידי הצבא)- ניתן ורצוי להסיר מהפייסבוק.
“REPORT, חברים! ?

Translation: Come let’s talk for a moment about Richard Silverstein.  This anti-Israel Jewish is a compulsive writer who devotes his time battering everything related to Israel, through disseminating sickening and appalling lies.  Right now, he’s promoting his story that the IDF “murdered a soldier” in order to prevent his kidnapping [sic] by Hamas.  We can’t remove the blog by the charlatan from Seattle from the web.  But his lies, his calumnies, and abuse of a bereaved family (he publishes the name and picture of the IDF soldier “murdered” by the army) it’s possible and desirable to get him removed from Facebook. Friends, report!

In a later passage in this Facebook thread, he writes:

Keep reporting [him to Facebook] till he is denounced and vomited from every public platform he may have.

tal inbar, facebook fraud

Tal Inbar, orchestrator of fraudulent campaign to disable my Facebook account.

Who is Tal Inbar? The head of the space and drone program at the Fisher Institute, an aerospace project of Israeli Air Force veterans.  This is a guy at the heart of Israel’s military-industrial complex.  Those who read my blog know that one of my subjects is exposing the deficiencies of Israel’s drone program along with others like Iron Dome.  You don’t think there might be an element of payback in this, do you?

The Fisher Institute’s name is now associated with Inbar’s behavior.  Clearly, on his Facebook account he notes his affiliation.  So while his account may be personal, anything he writes there reflects on the Institute, especially when he engages in an act of fraud like this.

I wouldn’t have known about his campaign if he hadn’t included my name and link to my Facebook account so that I saw the invitation for campaign against me.  Needless to say, Inbar and everyone who joined him is engaging in fraud.  They’re knowingly reported to Facebook that my account is fake when they know it isn’t.  There are probably Israeli Facebook users who’ve used this tactic before against people like me.  They know that Facebook will not actually individually examine an account to determine if it is fake.  They’ll base the decision to disable on the number of reports they get.  If there are enough, it’s automatically disabled.

That’s what happened to me.  And it’s a clever strategy.  It takes me off Facebook in the middle of the Gaza war.  It silences my voice on Facebook.  It brings the actual war into the arena of social media.  While Von Clausewitz said that war was an expression of politics by other means, this act of fraud is an extension of the Gaza war by other means.  Just as much of Israel’s justification for the war is fraudulent, so is this.  The problem is that Facebook isn’t aware of the exploitation and manipulation of its procedures by master fraudsters like these.

These pro-war hawks can’t win by legitimate means.  Not satisifed to control the media inside Israel, they seek to silence critics outside.  This is the opposite of democracy.  It’s fascism, Israeli fascism.  They know they can’t rebut the truth.  So they resort to lies, subterfuge and deception.

The best I can do is expose the fraud and ask Facebook users to do what they can to complain about the way I’ve been victimized by the hasbara apparatus.  I would hope there’s a journalist in Israel not cowed by the pro-war hasbara machine to write something about this.

I have appealed the decision to disable my account.  I’ve provided personal information that confirms my identity and that it is an account that follows Facebook’s terms.  I don’t know how long it will take to reinstate my account.  I hope as well, that once reinstated they will restore my account to the exact status it had before it was removed.

This sort of behavior shows that they’ll stop at nothing, they’ll stoop to every trick to advance Israel’s wars and supposed interests.  It’s feeble, pathetic and will only backfire upon them.  Let’s start making that happen now, shall we?

By the way, the issue that got Inbar into high dudgeon was my report that the IDF killed Sgt. Guy Levy to prevent his capture by Hamas.  Inbar thought this story was a calumny.  But guess what, it turns out the it’s true as confirmed earlier today by Ronen Bergman.  Those “lies” of mine that so upset Inbar?  They’re true.

guy levy ronen bergman

Ronen Bergman report (now censored) on Tel Aviv radio confirming Sgt. Guy Levy was killed by IDF to prevent his capture

Ronen Bergman was interviewed on Tel Aviv radio yesterday and confirmed my report that Sgt. Guy Levy was killed by the IDF in order to prevent his capture by Hamas fighters during a battle in Gaza.  The report reads:

…Levy was killed in Gaza in the course of a kidnap [sic] attempt.  IDF soldiers succeeded in preventing the kidnapping and killed one terrorist [sic] but Levy too was killed in the midst of the attempt to prevent it.

While I’m grateful to Bergman for affirming the accuracy of my prior report.  I’m disturbed by the interview (audio) between Bergman and radio show host, Guy Zohar.  At no point, do either of them doubt or question the moral basis for the Hannibal Directive.  There seems a Spartan sense of sacrifice among Israelis that part of the cost of serving in the army is that your own brothers may be forced to kill you for the greater good of the nation.

There is something deeply troubling, even demented about such a regulation.  I could perhaps understand it in ancient Sparta; or even among the diehard Japanese kamikaze fighters during World War II.  But in a country that prides itself as being the equal of any western democratic nation?  No.

Another bizarre aspect of this report is that the text that appeared on the radio station website above was censored (removed), presumably by the IDF censor.  But the audio of the interview itself remains, uncensored.  The “logic” of censorship.  Go figure.

Oren Persico covered this story in 7th Eye.

A number of commenters here derided my earlier report about the killing/murder of Guy Levy.  I won’t go into the various epithets used.  Suffice to say they were strong, mean and abusive.  I put anyone on notice who disputed the accuracy of this report that unless I read in the comment thread here an acknowledgement that I was right, they won’t comment here again.  Anyone who does not do so will lose their comment privileges.  I’m sorry for the taking such a strong position on this, but I’m sick and tired of the crap people write when I report major scoops like this one.  It’s easy to write crap.  It doesn’t cost you anything.  Well, I want them to know it has a cost and I’m taking payment.

It’s worth noting a few linguistic oddities involved in this Gaza war.  Israelis mobilize Hebrew as a weapon that either obscures the troubling moral dimension; or deliberately distorts reality in order to allow them to feel empowered in their outrage against their enemies.  In this particular case, Israeli soldiers are not “captured.”  They are “kidnapped.”

The use of the latter term allows Israelis to claim that their soldiers are not occupiers or invaders, but rather defenders.  No enemy has the right to kidnap Israel’s soldiers whose only sin is defending the homeland.  If the soldiers were “captured,” then it would infer that they are fighters engaged in a war with a legitimate enemy.  Israelis refuse to acknowledge the validity or (often) even the existence of Palestinians or Palestine.  Therefore, anyone fighting for Palestine must be a terrorist (illegitimate), not a soldier (legitimate).  Terrorists “kidnap” hostages.  Soldiers capture the enemy.  Palestinians can never be the latter.

One of the major new developments of this iteration of the Gaza Wars is the tunnel network that Hamas dug underground.  Though some of the tunnels have been used to cross into Israel and attack mostly military targets, the lion’s share of the tunnels are used to defend Gaza from the Israeli invaders.

Nevertheless, in the Israeli hasbara apparatus, they’ve become “terror tunnels.”  Instead of being a means of defense of the Palestinian homeland, they become the deadly underground lairs of terrorists.  Any act of defense by Hamas using these tunnels becomes nothing more than terrorism.  It’s a shameful distortion of reality.

On a related matter, Israel proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire, which wasn’t actually a ceasefire at all.  It claimed it would cease “offensive operations.”  But reserved the right to search and destroy Hamas tunnels.  In IDF-speak, the destruction of tunnels is a defensive operation.  This is utter nonsense.  The tunnels are meant to defend Gaza.  If you want a ceasefire you cease firing.  You cease all military operations.  You don’t cease some of them.  If you refuse a general ceasefire in the accepted sense of the term, then you’re not observing a ceasefire.  You’re observing an artificial conception which you call a “ceasefire,” but which isn’t.

This hasn’t stopped Israel from pointing its finger at Hamas and claiming that while Israel was honoring a ceasefire, Hamas wasn’t.  Of course, there was no reason for Hamas to honor anything since there was no real ceasefire on the table.  Israel, as usual, is playing games with the truth.  The shame of it is that there is no one but Hamas to make them pay for this sham and deception.  John Kerry and the Obama administration have been snookered.  The EU is toothless.  The world stands by jaws agape, while Israel pulverizes Gaza into limp hamburger meat.

A few days ago, I reported on Israel’s shelling of a UN school in Beit Hanoun in which 16 civilians were killed, among them 8 children.  At the time, Israel didn’t deny it might’ve been the culprit, while witnesses and the UN spoke clearly of Israel’s responsibility.

Now, IDF spokesflack Lt. Col. Peter Lerner acknowledges that the IDF hit the school.  But he does so in a way that complete obfuscates reality and the truth:

Israel acknowledged Sunday that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza last week, but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone.

The shell was not fired at the school intentionally, an army spokesman said.

…Lerner raised the possibility that shrapnel from the shell might have wounded some at the school. He also offered other scenarios — that the wounded were “brought to the compound after injury” or were caught in a crossfire between Israeli troops and Gaza militants.

So to summarize the Israeli claims: it fired a mortar shell accidentally at a school whose courtyard was empty.  So none of the 16 people who did die, died from this shell.  They somehow either didn’t die or died in some other fashion.  The shrapnel could have wounded some, but only from the shrapnel of the blast.

As usual, the IDF explanation defies logic and common sense.  Not to mention that the IDF hasn’t produced the “aerial footage” on which it bases its claim the courtyard was empty.  If it has such evidence it should produce it rather than merely to claim it exists.  The claims of the IDF are useless.

If one mortar shell did hit the compound where did it come from?  Who fired it?  And why did it hit the school?  What was it trying to hit?  The IDF will answer none of these questions because it essentially doesn’t give a crap about evidence, proof, or reason.  It only cares about covering its ass and looking clean even if takes lies to do so.

I particularly like Lerner’s claim that the wounded were brought to the school after they were injured.  And why would anyone bring gravely injured people to a propaganda event rather than taking them to the hospital?  He avoids dealing with the 16 dead.  Were the corpses trucked there for propaganda purposes?  If so, how and by whom?  The implication is, of course, that Hamas is evil and duplicitous enough to have contemplated and organized such a project.  But the only thing this proves is the weird, malevolent imagination of the IDF in coming up with such a cockamamie piece of nonsense.  In doing so it makes a mockery of itself and defiles the sanctity of the women and children it killed.

The UN itself says it tried to conduct its own investigation of the tragedy but had to abort the investigation because the IDF fired again at the school.  This is considered a subtle way to communicate in Israeli circles.

The Jewish Agency’s chief social media propagandist, Avi Mayer, has been tweeting hasbara like crazy during the War.  He’s in high dudgeon about the horrors perpetrated by Hamas.  It’s “criminal” that the PA has refused to accept Israel’s offer of humanitarian aid to offset its guilt in murdering 1,110 Gazans.  But the corker is Mayer’s anger at the “disproportionality” of foreign journalists freely shooting and publishing photos of IDF soldiers, while not doing so for Hamas fighters.  So he dares photographers to publish pictures of Hamas.

There are a few problems with this.  First, anyone who takes a picture of a Hamas fighter is liable to get himself and the Hamas fighter killed.  Anyone photographed fighting against Israel would likely become a target of Israel.  Unlike Hamas which doesn’t engage in targeted assassinations of Israeli soldiers, Israel does (kill Palestinian fighters).

Further, the IDF itself has warned foreign journalist not to embed or locate themselves near Hamas fighters.  It has told them that they could become a target.  Israeli snipers cannot distinguish between a reporter and a fighter through a rifle scope.

So in essence, Avi Mayer is encouraging foreign journalists to get themselves killed.  No skin off Avi’s back.  The IDF is already targeting foreign journalists, especially ones like Al Jazeera which it hates.  So what if another one bites the dust.  Right, Avi?


Israel’s Slaughter, Based on a Lie

Sheera Frenkel has just tweeted an amazing, deeply troubling statement from Israeli official sources. To most of us here, this tweet will be nothing new. Journalists were reporting within a few days after the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers that the Netanyahu claim that Hamas was responsible was false. But now we have official confirmation that this claim was a lie.

Some may reply: Bibi lied?  How shocking!  Of course, we know Bibi lies.  If telling the truth would save a life he probably couldn’t do it.  But what’s different here is that the entire month of hate and slaughter that followed from those kidnappings originated in Bibi’s lies and incitement.  Had he not exploited the murders of the three boys for maximum political leverage against the PA and Hamas; had he not sent 10,000 IDF troops into the West Bank where they engaged in a massive pogrom resulting in 7 dead, 500 arrested and thousands of homes ransacked in the dead of night; had he not done these things, Hamas would not have fired rockets into southern Israel.  Israel would have had no justification for invading Gaza and 1,000 Palestinians would still be alive and breathing.

israeli peace rally

Israeli anti-war rally in Tel Aviv: Caption: “End the slaughter in Gaza!”

This entire slaughter is based on a lie.  And not just a small lie, but a huge, cancerous, evil lie.  I do not like to make absolute moral statements if I can avoid it.  But there is no doubt in my mind that Bibi Netanyahu is evil.  While that doesn’t necessarily mean all of Israel is evil, as long as they elect this melalomaniac to office, then all of Israel is culpable in his malevolence.

Bibi must be brought to the Hague.  Benny Gantz should join him along with all the other Israeli leaders who authorized war crimes with names like Cast Lead, Pillar of Cloud and Mavi Marmara.  Certainly, there should be a few Palestinians joining them.  But let’s keep things in perspective: 800 of the 1,000 Palestinian dead are civilians; 3 of the Israeli dead are civilians.  If there are crimes here we know whose crimes have proven far more lethal.

To return to Sheera’s tweet, lest anyone question her source, the BBC’s Jon Donnison is reporting that Israeli police spokesflack, Mickey Rosenfeld is saying the same thing explicitly.

On a related matter, several thousand Israelis marched yesterday night in Tel Aviv against the Gaza massacre.  It is not easy to do so when 90% of your fellow citizens believe you’re being traitorous.  I don’t know if such protests are enough to exonerate the nation of war crimes.  But they are some small solace.

Another IDF soldier has just been killed in a mortar attack, bringing the number of soldiers who’ve died to 43.


Israel Murders IDF Soldier to Prevent His Capture

I’ve devoted a good deal of my life to Israel.  I’ve studied, read, visited, lived, breathed it.  Not in the way diehard pro-Israel fanatics do.  But in a different way that matched my own intellectual and political proclivities.  It’s a subject that is rich, varied, troubling, bedeviling, and exhilarating.  But every once in a while I learn something I never thought possible; and I don’t mean this in a good way.

sgt guy levy idf death

Sgt. Guy Levy of the armored corps, killed today by the IDF to prevent his capture

Tonight, my Israeli source informed me that Sgt. Guy Levy, serving in the armored corps, was captured by Hamas fighters.  He had been part of a joint engineering-armored-combat unit searching for tunnels.  Troops entered a structure and discovered a tunnel.  Suddenly, out of the shaft sprang two militants who dragged one of the soldiers into it.  By return fire, one of the Palestinians was killed, while the other fled, presumably with the soldier.

This Israeli report, which was censored by the IDF, says only that the attempt to capture the soldier failed.  It says nothing about his fate.  The expectation of anyone reading it would be that the soldier was freed.  But he was not.  In order to prevent the success of the operation, the IDF killed him.  Nana reports that the IDF fired a tank shell into the building, which is the same way another captured soldier was killed by the IDF during Cast Lead.

I would presume that once the militant fled into the tunnel with his prisoner that the IDF destroyed the tunnel and entombed those within it, including the soldier.  I would also presume that the IDF knows he is dead because they retrieved his body.

To the uninitiated this will seem a terribly strange, uncivilized, even immoral act.  But that’s where I learned something I’d never known before about the IDF.  There is an unwritten secret regulation written by the IDF High Command, but nowhere codified in writing.  Its existence is protected by military censorship.  Journalists have rarely written about it.  When they have it’s usually been in code or by inference.

It’s called the Hannibal Directive.  Though the Wikipedia article doesn’t explain the reference to Hannibal, I assume it relates to the death of the great Carthaginian general, who took poison rather than allow himself to be captured by his mortal enemy, the Romans.  Though Sara Leibovich-Dar wrote in 2003 that the name came from a military computer!

In my long history of dedication to this subject, I’ve rarely seen anything that has disturbed me as much.  The Hannibal Directive is:

…A secret directive of the Israel Defense Forces with the purpose of preventing Israeli soldiers being captured by enemy forces in the course of combat.

…The order, drawn up in 1986 by a group of top Israeli officers, states that at the time of a kidnapping the main mission becomes forcing the release of the abducted soldiers from their kidnappers, even if that means injury to Israeli soldiers.

The order allows commanders to take whatever action is necessary, including endangering the life of an abducted soldier, to foil the abduction…

As happens so often in these cases, an IDF commander instrumental in drafting the order denied the horrific logic of the directive and then offered an example of how he would proceed which only confirmed it:

In a rare interview by one of the authors of the directive, Yossi Peled…denied that it implied a blanket order to kill Israeli soldiers rather than let them be captured by enemy forces. The order only allowed the army to risk the life of a captured soldier, not to take it. “I wouldn’t drop a one-ton bomb on the vehicle, but I would hit it with a tank shell”, Peled was quoted saying. He added that he personally “would rather be shot than fall into Hizbullah captivity.”

In other words, the IDF will do almost everything in its power to prevent capture of its soldiers including killing him.  It might not put a bullet directly in his brain, but it would certainly shell a home or vehicle in which he was situated.

Perhaps there’s a lingering bit of the liberal Zionist I once was here, but I’d always heard that Israel never leaves a soldier behind.  It does everything possible to bring all its troops home, and once captured does everything possible to retrieve or free them.

All this time I was sorely mistaken.  When all hope is lost of liberating the soldier from captivity, he dies.  What’s equally disturbing is that the existence of the directive is an open secret.  Commanders warn their soldiers that no one may be captured and that if you are you must commit suicide.  If you can’t do that, then they will do their best to kill you.  Perhaps they don’t articulate it precisely in those words, but that’s the clear intent.

Lest you think Hannibal is a theoretical regulation, it has been implemented before and captured soldiers have been killed by the IDF.  Most recently it happened during Operation Cast Lead:

During the war there was a case where the Hannibal directive was invoked. An Israeli soldier was shot and injured by a Hamas fighter during a search of a house in one of the neighborhoods of Gaza. The wounded soldiers’ comrades evacuated the house due to fears that it was booby-trapped. According to testimony by soldiers who took part in the incident the house was then shelled to prevent the wounded soldier from being captured by Hamas.

You have every right to ask: what soldier in his right mind would follow such an order.  There are thankfully examples of ones who refused.  But there are a number who didn’t including the tank commander who fired on his comrade in that home in Gaza, killing him.

You also have a right to ask how the IDF could approve such a regulation.  The answer is it didn’t.  It has never been vetted by military lawyers.  If it had been, the High Command might’ve been told it was an illegal, immoral directive which had no standing.  Then the IDF would have to implement an order its highest legal authorities had deemed treif.  That would never do.  So neither the generals, nor the Judge Advocate has ever delved into the matter.  It is yet another example of the national security state refusing to examine the deepest, most troubling principles on which it is based.

Implementation of the Hannibal Directive comes on the heels of the freeing of Gilad Shalit after five years in captivity.  The nation freed 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in order to release Shalit.  Israeli hardliners screamed bloody murder about freeing murderers with blood on their hands.  Some said it would have been better if Shalit had died rather than face this ignominy.

I believe that Benny Gantz and Bibi Netanyahu aren’t prepared to go through such a trauma again.  They believe their constituency would understand if they killed a soldier rather than lose him to capture.  Let’s make no mistake about this: it is a purely political calculation.  A nakedly, cynical political calculation.  It suggests that the interests of the nation trump the life of the individual.  These are considerations of an authoritarian state and not a democratic one.  A democracy values the individual.  It recognizes that the nation cannot exist without the individual.  Even that the nation should not exist unless it respects and values that individual.

The Hannibal Directive perverts such principles.  It embraces a fascist perspective in which the individual is subsumed within the mass.  He has no specific individual value unless he is serving the interest of the nation.  And his interests may, when necessary be sacrificed to the greater good.

I thank Dvorit Shargel for raising an important, and thorny issue. She implored me to consider the trauma of Levy’s family hearing their son was killed not by Palestinian fire, which would be painful enough, but by his own comrades.

It’s very doubtful the IDF would tell the family the truth unless it had no other choice. So then the question is, should we allow the IDF to lie just to cover up the use of the Hannibal directive and allow the family to believe he was killed by the enemy instead of his own?

My answer to this reluctantly is No. The greatest good is served by transparency. By knowing the truth, telling the truth, forcing everyone involved to explain what they did and why. Secrecy and pandering helps no one, even the dead soldiers’s family. I am sorry if this causes them added suffering. But blaming me is blaming the messenger not the real culprit.

Here is some of the discussion around the matter conducted by military ethicists (if there can be such a thing):

Dr. Avner Shiftan, an army physician with the rank of major, came across the Hannibal directive while on reserve duty in South Lebanon in 1999. In army briefings he “became aware of a procedure ordering soldiers to kill any IDF soldier if he should be taken captive by Hizbullah. This procedure struck me as being illegal and not consistent with the moral code of the IDF. I understood that it was not a local procedure but originated in the General Staff, and had the feeling that a direct approach to the army authorities would be of no avail, but would end in a cover-up.” He contacted Asa Kasher, the Israeli philosopher noted for his authorship of Israel Defense Forces’ Code of Conduct, who “found it difficult to believe that such an order exists,” since this “is wrong ethically, legally and morally”. He doubted that “there is anyone in the army” believing that `better a dead soldier than an abducted soldier’.

On this point however Asa Kasher was apparently wrong. In 1999 the IDF Chief of StaffShaul Mofaz said in an interview with Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth: “In certain senses, with all the pain that saying this entails, an abducted soldier, in contrast to a soldier who has been killed, is a national problem.” Asked whether he was referring to cases like Ron Arad (an Air Force navigator captured in 1986) and Nachshon Wachsman (an abducted soldier killed in 1994 in a failed rescue attempt), he replied “definitely, and not only.”

The legality of the order has never formally been examined by the IDF’s legal department. According to Prof. Emanuel Gross, from the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa:…”Orders like that have to go through the filter of the Military Advocate General’s Office, and if they were not involved that is very grave,” he says. “The reason is that an order that knowingly permits the death of soldiers to be brought about, even if the intentions were different, carries a black flag and is a flagrantly illegal order that undermines the most central values of our social norms.

I hate to harp on this, but liberal Zionists enjoy claiming Israel is a nation of laws.  That is upholds the rule of law.  But this is clearly not the case.  No democratic nation would permit such a directive after undergoing legal review.  So the answer in Israel is simply to prevent it from undergoing any such review.  It allows the flourishing of a secret code that governs critical aspects of the Israeli military.