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sedki al maket

Sedki al-Maket, Golani Druze, delivering video report on IDF meeting with Syrian rebel commanders

If you want a lesson in the ways of the Israeli security apparatus–how it manipulates law and media in service to its interests–take a lesson from the case of Golani Druze Sedki al-Maket.  As I reported a few days ago, the security apparatus arrested him (in secret, of course) and slapped a gag order on the case.  No Israeli reporter could report the name of the detainee or the charges against him.  Thanks to a report in Syrian state media, I was able to expose his identity.  My own reporting added the reason why he irked the security apparatus to the extent that it arrested him and likely will bring charges that will send him to prison for years.

UPDATE: Israel’s secret police are so freaked out by Israeli media even noting in their reporting that foreign media outlets (like this blog and two Arab media sources) have reported information about this scandal, that they today issued a sweeping new version of the gag order.  By the way, this is the handiwork of Judge Chana Sabag of the Nazareth District Court, one of the apparently infinitely pliable Israeli jurists when it comes to security matters:

As an extension of the gag order of 2/25/15 in the matter of the security case investigated by the Northern District police and the Shin Bet, today a new gag order was published by Judge Chana Sabag, vice-president of the Nazareth District Court.  According to it, the earlier gag order is widened to prohibit publication of any details of the investigation; any detail that might identify the suspects, publication about the reporting of any other media outlets including full or partial quotations from foreign media or publications on the internet, including any direct or indirect hint concerning the information prohibited [in Israel] from publication in this case.

I would urge Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists and any other NGO which ranks press freedom internationally to take this ludicrous ruling into account when you determine Israel’s ranking.

Now, Syria’s state media outlet reveals two other Golani Druze were arrested along with al-Maket.  They are Sheikh Atef Darwish from Baka’ata and Fidaa Majed al-Shaer from Majdal Shams.

A confidential Israeli Druze source informs me that yet another Druze has been arrested.  His detention is still secret inside Israel, as is his identity.  I can report that he is an IDF soldier, Hilal Halabi, from Daliyat Al-Carmel (near Haifa).  My guess is that Halabi serves in the Golan. He knew about the meeting between IDF and Syrian rebel commanders. He conveyed the information to al-Maket, who used it to film his video.

In the coming days, you’re likely to see lurid headlines spoon-fed to the Israeli media by the intelligence services about a Syrian spy cell within the IDF; about Druze who passed secret intelligence to the enemy.  And it will all (or mostly) be crap.  Don’t believe any (or much) of it.

This is an extraordinary development, but not for the reasons the Shabak would have you believe.  The only major non-Jewish ethnic groups who serve in the IDF are Druze and Bedouin.  The Druze are especially known for their fierce devotion both to the State and the army.  Their history of service goes back to the founding of the State. In recent years, there have been no Shabak arrests of Druze soldiers, while there have been such arrests of Jewish soldiers.

Only recently have young Druze begun to question the legacy of older generations.  Several who reached the age of military service have become refusers and gone to jail for their principles.  Carmel Druze recently protested Israeli medical treatment offered to al Nusra fighters who’ve killed Syrian Druze.

The arrest of Halabi indicates the gradual deterioration of relations between this minority and the State. The fact that an IDF soldier has collaborated with Golani Druze signifies a growing solidarity between Carmel and Golani Druze.  Many of the Golani Druze maintain support or allegiance to Syria.  Until now, Israel never had to doubt the loyalty of the Carmel Druze.  Until now.

The hawkish Israeli security site 0404 reported this incident revealed a “major security breach.” It said further that the particulars of the case will cause re-evaluation of basic security assumptions.  I’m sure that one of them will be the growing suspicion of the loyalty of the Israeli Druze.

Turning to Syria, Israel would like you to believe it’s neutral in the civil war.  But it isn’t.  Israel has serially bombed Syrian targets and assassinated Syrian and Iranian generals (two) supporting the regime.  Several media outlets and I have also reported Israel established a military encampment for Syrian rebels in Israeli-occupied Golan. Israeli media reports:

UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel. The Syrians also warned that if the UN would not evacuate the tent camp, the Syrian army would view it as a legitimate target.

UN peacekeepers have also written reports confirming this.  Israel also shared intelligence and transferred weapons to al-Nusra Islamist rebels on the Golan border, and shot down a Syrian fighter jet which spent less than one second over airspace of Israel-occupied Golan (which itself is internationally recognized as Syrian territory.

That’s what al-Maket further exposed.  He followed a group of four Syrian rebel commanders as they crossed into Israel-occupied Golan and made their way to a rendezvous with Israeli intelligence officers.  They met near border known in Hebrew as Ramat HaMagshimim (UN outpost 85). He videotaped a report some yards from the meeting and described it in detail.  Al-Maket then offered the video to the Syrian regime and it was aired on Syrian national TV.

You can imagine how happy the Shabak and IDF AMAN were with this development.  Besides noting how poor Israeli security was in ensuring the meeting was held covertly, it further blows out of the water Israel’s claim of neutrality.  This couldn’t be countenanced.  That’s why he was arrested and the security apparatus is going to such great lengths to try and find him guilty in the media without revealing anything specific about the charges.  This is standard operation procedure: to bruit about the claim of a “grave security violation.”

Israeli media coverage of national security issues is of the lowest quality.  Reporters routinely publish stories derived from intelligence sources who are anonymous.  When arrests are made, reporters very rarely quote defense lawyers or interview family members or colleagues to learn about the suspect (something I try to do whenever I can).  They present one side, the side of state power.  This makes the detainee guilty before the public even knows his name.  It’s a benighted form of journalism, one in which the intelligence apparatus co-opts the Fourth Estate, turning it into an accomplice in victimizing those who resist or dissent.

The truth of the matter is that any real reporter would give their eye-teeth to cover the story Al-Maket had.  Israeli journalists, however, would know there wasn’t a chance in hell they could get such a report on the air.  The IDF censor would stop it in a heartbeat.  But of course, no Israeli Jewish journalist would be arrested for practicing such journalism.  That only happens to minority (non-Jewish) journalists.  Can you imagine what it must be like for an Israeli reporter knowing he or she can’t do their job?  Such is the sorry state of Israel’s “free press.”

Here is Walla’s strange coverage of the story, which amounts to: this is big, but I can’t tell you a thing about it:

Shabak and Police Investigate Grave Security Case in the North

A sweeping gag order has shrouded every detail of the investigation, and any detail likely to identify the suspects in the case.  Therefore, we can’t report any additional information at this point.  The police released a statement about the existence of the case in light of revelations by journalists of several nations who published about it.

Even this vague non-coverage is incomplete.  I was the first journalist who reported both the identity of the detainee and the reason for his arrest (yesterday an Arab-language outlet reported the story and was the first to break the gag order, since its reporter is stationed in Jerusalem and subject to it).  As a result, Israeli secret police felt compelled to partially lift the veil on their activities.  That’s why it’s so important that foreign journalists not subject to Israeli jurisdiction be able to blow the lid off cases like this.

Foreign media aren’t as constrained: Vice has already reported on similar liaison meetings between Israeli intelligence and rebels.  FoxNews aired a TV news segment showing footage of Israeli commandos returning home after liaising with Golani Druze inside Syria.  Everyone but the Shabak seems to know this is going on.  But the fact that a Golani Druze proved it with video footage rises to a criminal offense.

You and I and any reasonable person (including many Israelis) would want to know if their government was making common-cause with radical Islamists (al Nusra) allied with Al Qaeda.  You might, as a citizen, have a good many questions about whether this is a sound policy.  You might compare it to the U.S. alliance with the mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan.  You might compare it to the Israeli alliance with the Lebanese Phalangists.  Most observers now concede that little long-term good came from these temporary alliances of convenience.  But if the Israeli security police have their way, no Israeli will be hearing or talking about any of this.

The way they do this is by using the tools of the national security state (secret arrests, censorship, gag orders, a compliant judicial system) to compel obedience and consensus, and to suppress dissent.

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netanyahu aipac 2015

Bibi Netanyahu’s beady-eyed stare as he sternly lectures Aipac conference

Today, Bibi Netanyahu lectured American Jews at the Aipac national conference about his Churchillian date with destiny.  John Boehner’s even giving him a bust of the dead Brit tomorrow as a gesture of eternal political omerta.  Tomorrow, Bibi will address those members of Congress who don’t have the temerity to skip his megalomaniacal oration.  As of the minute I write this 55 members (UPDATE: now 56), including eight Senators, will be absent.  That’s 15% of the House and one-quarter of the entire Democratic caucus, and just short of 10% of the Senate.  These people are heroes.  They shouldn’t have to be, but in light of the power of the Lobby, they are.

The latest Senator to decline is Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  It’s interesting to think that this potential presidential candidate may be setting up a comparison between herself and her Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.  The latter, of course, is a captive of the Lobby and would certainly attend the speech were she still in the Senate.

I’m embarrassed to say that my own senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell don’t have the guts to say No.  But my Congress member Jim McDermott won’t be there.

Today, Josh Earnest, Obama’s spokesperson offered the most naked warning so far to Netanyahu.  He essentially said that if Bibi exposed any U.S. intelligence secrets in tomorrow’s speech, the Obama administration will view this as a “betrayal.”  That is exceedingly strong language from a press secretary.  In other words, Israel faces the prospect of burning its intelligence relationship with the U.S. for the remainder of Obama’s term.  Channel 10 reported to its Israeli audience that the U.S. has already completely cut off any intelligence sharing regarding the Iran nuclear talks.

I was the first individual to create an online petition to protest Bibi’s speech.  J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace followed with petitions that garnered more than 100,000 signatures.  I urge you to sign if you haven’t already done so.  We’re close to 400 signatures.  You still have time to call or e-mail your elected representatives to tell them: don’t go.

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micha peretz

Micha Peretz’ photo is in the top row, second from the right.

Ynet released a short report and Haaretz a longer one, based on information provided to them by the secret police about the arrest of a smuggling ring that included Micha Peretz, who I reported two weeks ago was secretly detained by them for unspecified crimes. At the time, I correctly surmised that the charges against him related to Gaza tunnels.  The current reports don’t mention him by name, but they do say the detainee is from Mivtahim, Peretz’s home.

The Shabak claims Peretz, with the support of two unnamed Israeli, and several Palestinian partners, supplied “tens” of truckloads of metals and other fabrication materials that could be used to restore the tunnels destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.  The three were purportedly paid by a Gaza contractor nearly $500,000 per month for their role in supplying and shipping the material.  Peretz’s role was to store materials in his warehouse near the border, where they were kept until they were re-loaded on trucks that made their way to the Kerem Shalom border crossing.  What makes no sense is that this crossing is heavily guarded precisely to prevent such smuggling of prohibited material.  How could tens of trucks have succeeded in hauling tens of tons of contraband metals into Gaza?

Further, the items transported to Gaza weren’t exactly small or easy to conceal.  There were no mini-chips or nanotechnology.  We’re talking miles of pipes and similar equipment.  You can’t hide this stuff.  It’s there in plain site.  So if they succeeded in smuggling dangerous materials into Gaza (which is questionable) then the security personnel didn’t catch what should’ve been in plain sight.

micha peretz warehouse

Micha Peretz’s warehouse and materials destined for Gaza (Israeli Police)

Further, the police acknowledge that the detainees conducted legitimate business hauling similar materials to Gaza.  But somehow these materials were classified as “military use,” whereas the other materials were not.  Shabak also claims that the defendants also knew they were providing materials to Hamas.  Though given that there was a Gazan middleman who received the goods before they were distributed in Gaza, it’s entirely possibly they didn’t know.  At least didn’t know explicitly.  Frankly, given the gravity of the charges and the severity with which the Israeli security apparatus would look upon these alleged acts, I strongly doubt any Israeli would knowingly traffic with Hamas.  Despite the money to be made, it couldn’t possibly be worth the risk of going away to prison for years and bankrupting one’s family with legal fees.

The group is accused of making contact with an “enemy organization” and money-laundering to avoid paying taxes on their profits.  Unfortunately, but typically, Ynet made no attempt to contact the suspect’s lawyer or family (as I have done repeatedly).  It merely accepted the word of the secret police as to the guilt of the charged party.

Peretz’s son told me that his father is innocent and the victim of persecution.  He told me that his father had served in the IDF and contributed widely for the betterment of his community.  I have tried to interview him repeatedly and an uncle as well.  But they’ve refused to speak beyond those few words.  The moshav of Mivtahim responded with anger to Peretz’s alleged “betrayal” of both them and the State.  I fear for his family in such circumstances.

News1 says that Peretz was moved to solitary confinement after he threatened to commit suicide.  Note, that this is precisely what happened to Ben Zygier.  He was placed in solitary confinement and did commit suicide.

None of the Israeli reporting on this story credits me with breaking the original story.  Now, the NY Times has published a story, but also neglected to credit my original reporting of it. Thanks for nothing Isabel Kershner.  Par for the course.

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There are Lies, Damn Lies, and Ron Dermer

Two incendiary Likudist media provocations today: the first is yet another in a series of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s New York Times ads touting Sheldon Adelson’s anti-Muslim agenda.  Previous ads in the series have attacked Iran, Hamas and the UN with equal vitriol.  I’ve written about a few of them before here.  But today’s ad is truly extraordinary.  It essentially accuses Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor, and by extension the President himself, of being willing collaborators in a future genocide against not just Israel, but the entire Jewish people.

As I’ve noted before in posts on these ads, the ad copy makes no pretence of truth or accuracy.  It is shameless, hucksterism for Likudist values.  In case anyone needs to read Boteach’s accusations against Rice in long-form, he’s elaborated on his diatribe here.

Note, in the ad the attempt at drawing a parallel between Rwandan and Jewish genocide.  This is no accident: Paul Kagame is a “good friend” of both Israel’s and Shmuley’s.  He’s appeared at pro-Israelfests along with Elie Wiesel and Adelson.  Kagame’s Rwanda is a major customer of Israel’s military defense industry, buying millions in advanced weaponry.  As I’ve written here, Israel likes its African clients to be hungry for weapons, corrupt and tyrannical.  Kagame, co-author of Congolese genocide which has murdered over 4-million, fits the bill perfectly.

Now let’s explain why this is Boteach’s Night of the Long Knives for Susan Rice.  Though the OBama administration has made perfectly clear its boiling anger at Netanyahu for bringing his anti-Iran road show to Congress, it has been careful about the tenor of public statements on the matter.  Officials have argued that the speech is ill-advised and politely expressed their displeasure.  Off the record statements have been more strongly negative.

But Rice was the first official to take out after Bibi publicly.  The Washington Post reported her interview with Charley Rose, in which she accused Netanyahu of :

“inject[ing] a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship.  It’s always been bipartisan. We need to keep it that way. We want it that way. I think Israel wants it that way. The American people want it that way. And when it becomes injected or infused with politics, that’s a problem,” Rice said Tuesday, using the strongest language yet from an Obama administration official regarding a visit that has rankled both sides and strained ties between the countries.

Bibi is not one to take such “impertinence” from a mere Obama underling lying down.  His reply took the form of this disgusting ad.  How disgusting is it?  It’s so bad almost the entire Jewish communal world released statements denouncing it as soon as Shabbat had ended.  That is quick work.  Usually when some outrageously offensive pro-Israel statement like this comes out, it will take the ADL at least days to respond, if it ever does.

While these criticisms of Boteach are welcome, they’re hypocritical.  Most of these organizations, including Aipac, support Bibi’s views of Iran.  They may not believe Iran contemplates genocide against the Jews, as the loony tunes brigade does.  But they believe Iran is evil and probably support a military attack against it if either Israel or the U.S. were willing.  So the Jewish communal leadership is only marginally saner and more pragmatic on Iran than Bibi.

Further, none of these groups attacked any of Boteach’s previous disgusting Islamophobic ads.  As long as Boteach smears Muslims it’s fine with the Jewish elites.  But when he smears a U.S. president and high administration official, then it goes too far.  I’ve got news for them all.  Boteach and Adelson are a menace to American Jewry.  If they don’t take a stronger stance against them, pretty soon they’ll have bought there way into positions of even greater power and influence here in America.  You think the last election cycle, when Adelson pumped over $100-million into the presidential campaign, was bad?  Try $200-or even $300-million in 2016.  And Adelson the gambling magnate will put it all down on one number: Israel.  Adelson’s next president, if his money has any say in the matter, will turn the adminsitration into an annex of the Likud party.  All administration personnel having anything to do with the Middle East will be vetted by Adelson and Bibi and their political minions.

There is another thinly concealed factor in the attack on Rice: race.  It’s no secret that the majority of those Congress members refusing to attend Netanyahu’s Congressional speech are members of the Black Caucus.  The Israel Lobby, which heavily finances some House races in minority districts, doubtless sees this as a betrayal.  Further, Boteach and Adelson can’t attack Obama head-on since he’s the President, so they attack the second most senior African-American in the administration, Susan Rice.  Make no mistake, this is politics as ugly as it gets.  And the only reason it won’t get a lot uglier in the next election is the likely Democratic candidate will be white.

More must be done to inoculate the American people against the hate and lies spewed by the Adelson-Boteach cabal.

A junior member of this cabal is Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.  He’s a former operative in the Frank Luntz political consulting machine and Bibi’s brain according to some Israeli media portrayals.  Dermer was the “mastermind” behind Bibi’s Congressional speech, having organized it with John Boehner.  Not to be outdone by that feat of political malpractice, Dermer has tweeted a memorable fake New York TImes front page from 2025.  The headlines scream about a dystopian world in which gas prices have pentupled, Iran has ICBMs capable of striking New York, and Pres. Rouhani boasts about the lies he told to hoodwink President Obama into a terrible nuclear deal.

To say the tweet is shameless and moronic is an understatement.  In fact, I’d say there are lies, damn lies, and Ron Dermer.

There will be a nuclear agreement with Iran.  I hope Pres. Obama will sell it well to the American people.  I hope his enemies will not carry the day in portraying it as a betrayal of American interests.  I very much doubt that will happen.  Bibi Netanyahu will scream bloody murder about it.  He will travel the world telling anyone who will listen about American betrayal and nuclear apocalypse.

More than anything else what must happen is that the world must tune this static out.  It must send Bibi and his world view packing.  The Middle East deserves better.  It deserves a chance to see Iran and the U.S. engaged in building a constructive relationship, even if this takes years or more to accomplish.  The region deserves stability and development.  Not endless rancor and blood-letting: the nostrum Bibi offers.

There another important reason why this agreement must succeed.  Islamism is on the rise around the world.  There is only one way to combat it successfully: by showing an alternative.  Iran can exert a positive, stabilizing force in regional affairs including serving as an anchor against Islamist terrorists like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Today’s Israel, ruled by megalomaniacs like Bibi and disciples like Bennett and Lieberman, leads only a dead end.  The U.S. must not follow these ultra-nationalists into that Alley to Nowhere.

Sign the petition: we’re up to 328 signers of the Change.org petition asking Congress to skip Bibi’s speech.  There are now five senators and over 20 House members who are doing so. Keep the momentum going. Please sign.

 

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Sedki al-Maket, rearrested in secret by Israel's Shin Bet for exposing collaboration between Syrian rebels and the IDF

Sedki al-Maket, rearrested in secret by Israel’s Shin Bet for exposing collaboration between Syrian rebels and the IDF

Israel’s Shin Bet rearrested Golani Druze Sedki al-Maket (age 48).  Until his release in 2012 (Hebrew), he’d been the longest serving Israeli security prisoner, having spent 27 years detained.  News of his arrest is under gag order by Israeli media. The gag is laughable since the arrest has been reported not only by Syrian media, but in a Hebrew Facebook post.

Though Israeli security services haven’t offered any reason for his arrest, it’s likely they’re angered because a week ago he followed Syrian rebels to a meeting inside Israeli-occupied territory.  The rebels met with IDF forces who’ve previously been shown to receive logistical and intelligence support from Israel in previous reports here and in Israel and foreign media.  Al Maket filmed a video  while the meeting was underway, in which he described what he saw and offered it to Syrian TV.  It was aired to the entire nation and likely monitored by Israeli security.

The Shin Bet doesn’t want any further leaks about such collaboration because it allows the Syrian regime to paint the rebels as Israeli stooges.  It also gives the lie to those Israeli intelligence figures and journalists who’ve spoken falsely about Israel remaining neutral regarding the two sides fighting in Syria.  Despite numerous air attacks against Syrian government facilities, assassinations of Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian military, and security cooperation with rebels, Israel continues to maintain the fiction it hasn’t chosen sides.

If anyone wonders why Islamists are beheading western journalists and occupying Iraq and Syria, while carefully avoiding Israeli targets, this will explain a lot.  It will also explain Israel’s approach which is to weaken central power in Syria, so that the Golan region closest to the border will become a protectorate, as was southern Lebanon until Israel’s withdrawal in 2000.  Having Syrian rebels under Israeli sponsorship ruling the Syrian Golan will be much more conducive to maintaining Israel control and occupation for years to come.

Meanwhile, the Israeli media is content to publish happy news about the Golani Druze village of Majd al-Shams (home to al-Maket), which apparently has become a playground for a certain hip Israeli scene which enjoys pub crawling in the midst of Israeli-occupied Golan.  If the report is to be believed, you can hardly tell the difference between it and Berlin or New York!  And let’s not forget the glorious skiing almost under the guns of those nasty Syrians who spoil all the fun with their inconvenient civil unrest.

Israel’s media fiddles while Syria burns.

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toveet radcliffe tragedy

Black Hebrew community statement on Toveet Radcliffe tragedy

Yesterday, the Israeli Black Hebrew community released a statement about Toveet Radcliffe’s death, four days after the tragedy, which demanded that the Israeli military provide clear, straight-forward answers about this tragedy.  The press release noted that the Black Hebrews, a community which made aliyah to Israel beginning in the 1960s, began sending their children to military service eleven years ago.  This is the first time one of their own has fallen.  It would be one thing had the first soldier died in battle.  But to have this sort of tragedy befall them seems doubly senseless and tragic.

The first Israeli media report has been published at an independent site called HaMakom.  It largely summarizes my own post (without linking to it) and the new press statement.  But this is the first one.  Let’s hope a groundswell of coverage follows.

Here is the community statement:

We, the Hebrew community are struck by grief as a result of the tragic death of our daughter, Toveet Radcliffe, the daughter of Yisrael z”l.  The grief is even graver and more profound in light of the catastrophe at the military base, occuring during a time when we are not even in the midst of active military conflict.  Toveet is the first soldier from the heart of our community killed during military service in the eleven years during which our children have been serving in the IDF.

Our hearts and prayers are with the family in this time of sorrow and we know our pain is understood and felt by many families in Israel who’ve lost their dear ones while serving the nation.

toveet radcliffe memorial page

Toveet Radcliffe IDF memoral page

Our loss is made even more bitter in light of hard questions which still have not been answered.  Among them:

1. We were told she [Toveet] was on guard duty in a secure military facility between the hours of 10PM-12 midnight.

2. They found her shot in the face, but never told us whether the shots were fired from her own gun or not.

3. They haven’t clarified whether she was shot once or twice.

4. It is quite strange that no one heard shots on the military base at that late hour at night.

5. Her body was found only after a soldier arrived to relieve her on guard duty.  This is highly unusual  in light of our understanding of military procedure in which a soldier doesn’t stand guard alone and especially a female soldier.  When soldiers do guard duty they are monitored every quarter hour to confirm their safety.  Apparently, this procedure was not observed in this case. Why?

6. It’s reasonable to assume that in a sensitive security area within a military base  there would be a surveillance system, but we were told there were no such security cameras in the area. Very strange.

7. We were met with conflicting and inconsistent versions [of the events leading to Toveet’s death].  For example, in the original report we were told they found her lifeless in her bedroom but afterward we were told she shot herself while standing guard.

These are only a few of the basic questions to which we demand answers in the effort to comprehend this terrible tragedy.  We urge the military investigators to perform their work honestly, faithfully and urgently.  The family and the entire community are shrouded in sadness and wait for their conclusions.

We are certain the investigators are aware that our hearts are in their hands and that they treat them as is fitting and proper.  At this stage, we will restrict our comments until we know what really happened.

Adiv Ben Yehuda
Yukin Ben Yisrael

Not content to cover-up Toveet’s death, the IDF has compounded the tragedy by noting in its online memorial page for Toveet that she’s male, rather than female.  I guess when you make a big blunder you’ll make lots of smaller ones as well.  You’d think having caused enough suffering to this family at least they could get this small matter right.

I just published a new piece at Middle East Eye about the IDF’s effort to forestall war crimes charges regarding the Gaza war and its use of the horrifying Hannibal Directive.  This piece summarizes my previous reporting on Hannibal and my role as the first journalist to confirm that it involved the IDF deliberately killing its own soldiers and massive numbers of enemy civlians as well.

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toveet radcliffe

Toveet Radcliffe, IDF soldier who died two days ago on Palmachim AFB, under mysterious circumstances

On February 21st, the Radcliffes, a family of Black-Hebrews living in Dimona received a dreaded 3AM knock on their door.  IDF officers had come to tell them that their 19 year-old daughter, Toveet, who’d been serving in an intelligence unit of the Israeli Air Force at the Palmachim air base, had been shot and killed three hours earlier. The first version told to the family was that she’d died in her bedroom at the base. The army told them it would return later that morning with further news.

In that second visit, which happened at 1PM, four hours later than the army had promised, the overall commander of the air base, Brig. Gen. Nimrod Shifroni, arrived with the army contingent.  I consulted with a former IDF officer who’s familiar with cases in which soldiers either died or committed suicide.  She told me it’s entirely out of protocol for this to happen.  Curiously, Toveet’s own commanding officer was not among them.  He has never visited nor communicated in the four days since she died.

Toveet was in the final year of her IDF service, scheduled to be released this coming summer.  Until a few weeks ago, she’d been serving in a different base.  She was then transferred to Palmachim against her will.  She was given leave before assuming her new position and returned home, where she told her mother she would not go.  She refused for an entire week.  Finally, her mother persuaded her to report to Palmachim.  Within ten days, she would be dead.

From the photos in her Facebook account and an interview I had with a close family friend, she comes across as a typical young woman.  Smiles abound.  Flirtatious poses with girlfriends. Lots of colorful outfits and a fashion consciousness.  The family friend told me that Toveet was a sweet, petite, attractive girl.  Very kind and soft-spoken.  She called her “a sweet little butterfly. She never raised her voice, had a soft presence and would do anything for anyone.”  Toveet was also a vegan and, as you can see below, an artist.

On her Facebook page, a friend who also served in the army featured this painting created by Toveet and her best girl-friend, with the heartbreaking caption:

“Only a true-given Yah mind!” Can think and paint such a beautiful painting of herself. Being able to see herself through Yah’s eyes gifted from birth!. R.I.P Toveet Radcliffe You’ll always be in our hart’s and have our love.! “FAMO Sister!!!”

toveet radcliffe painting

Painting by Toveet Radcliffe

The afternoon following Toveet’s death, five senior officers arrived including, as I wrote above, the base commander.  Instead of consoling the family as you would expect, they asked troubling private questions meant to elicit damaging information confirming that Toveet either was troubled or came from a troubled home.  A member of the family ended that line of questioning.

The IDF contingent then offered the family a different account of the victim’s death than they heard during the 3AM visit.  This time, they said she had been in the security shack on guard duty around midnight in a top-secret highly classified portion of the base.  They told the family that she’d killed herself by shooting herself in the face twice with her own M16 rifle.

Anyone who has reviewed suicide statistics and profiles of victims knows that very few women kill themselves with firearms and even fewer do so by shooting themselves in the face.  Not to mention, how and why does someone intending to kill themselves shoot themselves twice!  Also, Toveet was around 5 feet 2 inches tall.  Given the length of the barrel of her gun and relative shortness her own arms, it would be almost impossible for her to shoot herself in the head.

The former officer I interviewed said her own review of many such military cases revealed only one case in which a female soldier had committed suicide with a gun.  She has never heard of a case in which a female soldier killed herself by shooting herself in the face.  She also said she’s never heard of a suicide in which the gun was fired twice.

When the Radcliffe family asked whether any other soldier accompanied her on duty, they said no.  Toveet herself had told her mother that women doing guard duty at night must be accompanied by a second soldier.  They may not work alone.  When the family asked if there was any surveillance footage of the area where she died, they were told there wasn’t.  The IDF tells them Toveet was patrolling a top-secret portion of the base which did not have video surveillance?  Is that credible?

The army said that Toveet’s body was discovered at the end of her 10PM-12 midnight shift.  Only 47 minutes later, someone posted a notice to Rotter about her death!  How does that happen?  Some IDF ghoul tells a gossip site a girl’s been murdered and her own family doesn’t find out until three hours later?!  It’s obscene.  This is the translation of the above tweet:

Palmachin AFB: 19 year-old soldier shot herself in the head.

Of course, it’s possible a soldier from the base leaked the story, but who would do something like this?  Part of me believes this might’ve been the murderer himself though that’s speculation.

During their family visit, the IDF representatives told the family they were prepared to conduct a burial within a few hours.  The family said they wanted her body cremated.  The army told them that cremations aren’t performed in Israel.  They did find someone who would cremate her but then the army decided that the charges for his services were too expensive.

At that point, the family decided they wanted their own independent autopsy.  This raised concerns with the army.  They wanted to know who the pathologist would be and wanted him to sign an agreement with the military before he would be permitted to do the job.

So far, three days after Toveet’s death, no one in the family has seen her body.  No one has identified her.  The army says they will not permit this until her birth father, who has never visited Israel before, comes and gives permission.  Why does the IDF refuse the mother who raised her and has permanent custody of her the right to see her daughter’s body?

My strong suspicion is that Toveet was murdered.  Given that a number of IDF commanders in the past few months have been cashiered for sexual abuse and the fact that sexual violence is common in the IDF, my hunch is that she was murdered by someone at the base.  The IDF seems to be moving heaven and earth to cover-up the real cause of her death, which indicates to me that if she was killed it was by a superior officer.  If a low-ranking soldier had done this, the IDF would not go to the extraordinary lengths it has.

As I talked to the close family friend I mentioned, it was clear that the Radcliffes don’t want vengeance.  No one wants their pound of flesh.  No one wants to get a high price lawyer and sue.  This is a family living on the periphery.  They have little material means and no friends on high places.  What they do have is their dignity and a child who was a butterfly handed to the army for safekeeping.  What did it do to her?

This family, part of the Black Hebrew community discriminated against for decades by an Israeli government that refused to recognized them either as Jews or as Israeli citizens, only wants the truth.  They want the IDF to come clean and tell them what really happened.  Is that too much to ask?

A pertinent consideration for this discussion is that for many Black-Hebrew families, the only path to legitimacy in Israeli society is through serving in the IDF.  Though the older generation can’t do that, their children can.  The State has agreed to offer citizenship to children who serve in the Army.  It’s for this reason that Toveet’s military service, which was scheduled to end this summer, was so important to her and her family.

UPDATE: Carmela Menashe, Israeli TV military correspondent, just told me that this incident is under investigation by the military police.  This is more than the family has been told until now.  But at least it’s something.  Given the history of the military police and prosecutor this doesn’t guarantee justice will be done.  But at least there’s that possibility now.

UPDATE II: For Hebrew speakers, Channel 2 posted this to its Facebook account and then removed it.  It appears that either the IDF military censor removed it or there is a gag order preventing publication.  What’s interesting about this post is that it’s written from the perspective of a female IDF officer.  I wish I knew who was the author.  Maybe someone out there knows?

החיילת טובית רדקליף מקהילת העבריים בדימונה נהרגה אתמול בבסיס שלה.

צבא הגנה לישראל ידע לבוא להודיע למשפחתה על מה שקרה והוסיף כי אינו יכול לעשות לה הלוייה מפני שהיא לא אזרחית.רק מה שאני לא מבינה זה אם היא לא אזרחית איך היא גוייסה לצבא?ומעבר לזה…איך זה הגיוני לא לעשות הלוויה למישהי שבחרה לקחת חלק במסגרת הזאת בשביל לעזור להגן על המדינה ולתרום שנתיים מחייה –
הכבוד המינימאלי שמגיע לה ולכל אדם הוא קבורה ראויה!

מעבר לזה,הצבא גם מיהר לקבור אותה בלי לבדוק ולחקור כמו שצריך את נסיבות המוות שנותרו כסימן שאלה! זה נראה לכם הגיוני שתמות בחורה ואף אחד לא יידע ב100% מה קרה??
הצבא דואג לטאטא מתחת לשטיח מקרים קשים ואי אפשר לעבור על זה בשתיקה!

איך אני יכולה לקום בבוקר,ללכת לצבא בידיעה שאם חס וחלילה יקרה לי משהו מחר בבסיס יש סיכוי שהצבא בכלל לא יבדוק מה קרה? ימהר לקבור את הגופה ושהסיפור אפילו לא יגיע לעיתונות.

מעציב אותי בתור מפקדת,חיילת,ישראלית ובת אדם! משתתפת בצער המשפחה.

שתפו את המקרה הנורא כדי שאולי העוול יתוקן.
הכאב יישאר גדול אבל המעט שאפשר לעשות הוא להקל ולתת למשפחתה וחבריה את התשובות שמגיעות להם.”

Special h/t to David Sheen.

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