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New Evidence of al-Ramuni Murder

Yigal Sarna's Yediot report on al-Ramuni killing

Yigal Sarna’s Yediot report on al-Ramuni killing

Tonight, a report in Yediot Achronot by Sokolov Award-winning journalist, Yigal Sarna, offers more circumstantial evidence that Hasan al-Ramuni, the East Jerusalem Egged bus driver found hung in his bus, was murdered.  For the basic elements of the story, read my last post here.

Sarna writes his story as a Tale of Two Cities, one Jewish and one Palestinian.  Just as in Dickens the two cities are separated by class, wealth, and status, so Jerusalem is divided by race, religion and ethnicity.  As Sarna moves from one part of the divided city to another, his observations are sad, almost elegaic, about the opportunities lost by both communities.  It’s Israeli journalism at its finest.

At the scene of the crime, which took place in the same neighborhood as the Har Nof synagogue terror attack, Sarna met investigators for the Israeli human rights NGOs, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Ir Amim.

This is a translation of excerpts of Sarna’s report:

“The bus driver was found dead,” the Palestinian investigator told me, “a few hours after the Bratslav Hasid was stabbed (Hebrew).  This too is a reason we believe this [al-Ramuni’s killing] was an act of revenge.”  According to his investigation, a dispatcher and another driver found him [al-Ramuni] strangled and [his body] almost seated, because the bus was too short for hanging.  “He was strangled with thin twine, not appropriate for hanging, which cut into his flesh.”

…Even if the police claim of suicide is correct, the Palestinians accept only one version, that he was murdered by Jews.  And that is what fans the flames.  This was also the same day that Bentzi Gopstein, one of the primary agitators in Jerusalem against employing Arab workers, was photographed brandishing a noose.  The picture was later removed from his Facebook page.

…As I made my way home through alleyways filled with Israeli SWAT teams wearing body armor, as a single elderly Palestinian street sweeper swept among them, I was reminded what the two NGO investigators had told me about a series of attacks against “Arab” bus and taxi drivers.  They work alone among Israelis every day.  Even the bus driver found strangled had complained in the past about being attacked.

It’s unfortunate that NGO investigators are the only ones continuing to pursue this case.  The Israeli police have forgotten it, even closed it.  They have no interest in proving anything other than suicide.  This rush to judgment will be further proof in the minds of Palestinians that there is no justice for them in Israel.

UPDATE: Interesting that the Israeli police, the very ones who’ve whitewashed this case, are attempting to strongarm the Palestinian pathologist who said he believed al-Ramuni was murdered.  Apparently, in Israel if police don’t like what you have to say they can browbeat you into submission.  Imagine threatening a medical professional with arrest, interrogation and prison (or God knows what other forms of harassment they have in store for him) because he offers his opinion on a matter within his field.  If only the police would treat all the other Israeli Jewish generals, politicians, and police officers who actually lie to the public the same way!

I challenge the authorities to allow an independent forensic pathologist from abroad to examine the body and conduct any relevant tests.  Such an individual could not be pressured, hectored or bullied.  If his or her opinion supports Israel’s that should go a long way to put to rest any doubts about the cause of death.  If this does not happen, then no amount of police bullying will stop Palestinians from drawing the proper conclusions.

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Terror Rules Jerusalem

All the U.S. national news headlines speak of yesterday’s heinous synagogue terror attack by Palestinians in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof (largely populated by Haredi Jews).  The assault resulted in five Israeli dead with the two Palestinians attackers killed as well.  U.S. news programs have also focused on the American citizenship of three of the victims, bringing it closer to home.

Ironically, Har Nof means roughly (“lovely view”) and is the Hebraized name for the village of Deir Yassin, where the Irgun murdered 100 Palestinians as part of the pre-war (1948) violence that eventually led to the Nakba.  It’s also a bit of black humor that after the War of Independence, Deir Yassin became the site of an Israeli mental asylum, the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center.  It’s horrible to think that this single place could be the site of two such tragedies.

Jerry Haber offered this eloquent perspective on Har Nof:

I refuse to be affected by scenes of blood distributed by partisans from Har Nor or from Gaza. I refuse to play moral one-upmanship on behalf of my tribe or any tribe. In Cast Lead, I told people to stop forwarding me pictures of Palestinian babies who were blown to bits, the purpose of which was to harden my heart against the Other. The scenes of praying Jews lying in their blood remind me of the Jewish terrorist Barukh Goldstein and not Kristalnacht. But I pray to God that He gives me the strength to be unaffected, except by what I know to be right. This is not hardening my heart. This is stiffening my resolve not to be swayed by tribalist emotions. And, frankly, after seeing this go on for decades, it becomes easier.

In the next few days, after the IDF and the settlers will have taken their vengeance, under the Orwellian cover of “deterrence”, life will go on. The settlers who commit price-tag attacks will be condemned for a day, then understood, then arrested, maybe, convicted maybe, and pardoned, probably. The soldiers and police will do whatever they want with impunity, B’tselem cameras or not. Land will be expropriated, freedoms eliminated, the matrix of control and, most of all, the routine will continue until the next time, when Jews die, and the clueless Israelis hold everybody and everything but themselves responsible.

The families of the terrorists will have their houses blown up, and God’s name, and the memory of the Jews who were murdered today, will once again be desecrated

In this post, I want to focus on an earlier killing that has dropped out of the headlines.  Two days ago, a Palestinian bus driver, Yusuf Al-Ramuni, was hung on his Egged bus.  Israeli police immediately pronounced the death a suicide, before any forensic investigation.

Al ramuni corpse

Blood pooling on corpse of Hasan Al-Ramuni

An autopsy was performed by an Israeli pathologist.  The victim’s family also named their own Palestinian pathologist to join the procedure.  Within hours of the autopsy, Israeli media trumpeted the confirmation from the Israeli coroner confirming the verdict of suicide.  They erronenously claimed that the Palestinian medical expert concurred with the Israeli opinion.  Based on my own experience in such matters, everything seemed way too pat.  When it appears Israel is overexerting to fit circumstances to a preconceived set of “facts,” you know something is askance.

I wanted to find out what the family’s medical expert said before wading into the subject.  Last night, VICE linked to the Palestinian media version (similar report here), which stated categorically that the man was murdered by unknown “criminal others.” The following offers excerpted translations of this report (Arabic):

…According to the results of the initial autopsy he [the victim] was murdered by ‘strangulation by hanging’ and did not commit suicide…

The expert [pathologist] explained that … the autopsy showed postmortem lividity on the back, not on the lower extremities, indicating that the victim was not hanging for long.

In other words, in a standard case of suicide by hanging the blood would flow downward and pool in the legs and feet. In this case, the blood pooled in his back, indicating that he died while lying on the ground. He would later have been strung up in the bus in the condition in which he was found.

The account continues:

He [the pathologist] said samples of body fluids were taken to be tested in the laboratory to determine the presence or absence of narcotic substances… and pointed out that it devolves to the possibility that the martyr has been sprayed by someone with drugs, and at the same time  another person may have tied a wire around his neck from behind and cut off oxygen from his brain…

There was no dislocation of the first neck vertebrae, which is usually found in cases of suicide by hanging.

He said that the crime lies in the context of “organized crime” in which criminals are working to hide any evidence… and added that the laboratory tests need a long time, which exceeds three months.

Again, I do not know how Al-Ramuni died. But neither do the Israeli police. And the fact that they rushed to declare him a suicide before having any scientific or medical basis for doing so–along with the Palestinian pathologist’s finding–offer a strong basis for suspecting murder.

Not to mention that suicide is exceedingly rare in Palestinian society and suicide by hanging even rarer. I think the Israeli version of events stinks.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what really happened because Palestinains are so cynical and mistrustful of past Israeli bad behavior that they wouldn’t believe Israeli authorities even if they provided video of Al-Ramuni hanging himself. There is a deep credibility crisis, which no one seems to acknowledge. Why is it that Palestinians always have to prove their trustworthiness, while Israelis always assume that they are self-evidently so? That’s certainly not the way Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world see things.

Further, in the media rush to cover the horrific attack on the Har Nof synagogue, let’s not forget that this incident preceded it. Terror always has a context. Do not forget that no matter how heinous an event, something equally heinous preceded and incited it.

While the world justifiably gasps at an attack on a Jewish house of worship, let’s remember that Palestinians see their own mosques and cemeteries torched and desecrated by settler price taggers. They see hundreds of heavily armed Israeli Police defiling the sacred precinct of Haram Al Sharif. Does anyone believe that a Muslim is not as horrified by this encroachment as a Jew is by an assault on praying Jews?

It takes two, and Palestinian rage derives from Israeli provocation. Certainly, the settlers who murder Palestinians believe the converse. So why not credit Palestinian rage as much as Israeli?

I was bemused yesterday by John Kerry’s demand that Mahmoud Abbas express contrition for the Har Nof attack (which the PA leader dutifully did). Why should a measure of the worthiness of a Palestinian leader be based on how obeisant he is to Israeli pain or rage, when no Israeli leader (except perhaps Reuven Rivlin) expresses anything but rote lines of insincere, rehearsed regret at similar Palestinian suffering?

Examine once again Bibi’s response to the Kafr Kana police murder. He dispensed with rote regret altogether. He launched into barely controlled rage at Palestinian protests against this cold-blooded murder and warned they would be “dealt with” severely if they didn’t learn to behave themselves.

Bibi doesn’t mind the current level of civil unrest. It plays into his hand for upcoming elections, and this is literally all he cares about. Israelis flock to the strong man, even if he’s utterly unable to stifle Palestinian terror. The problem will be that Bibi will win an election, but have no more idea how to quell the rebellion after the election than he does now.

I wrote the title of this post deliberately, conveying a literal and figurative meaning. Law does not rule in Jerusalem. Bibi does not rule. Not even the security state rules. The wild-eyed, vengeful god of Terror does. Woe betide such a hellish zone of fire.

Those who murmur about a Third Intifada should admit that it’s already here. But unlike the earlier Intifadas, this one is a mutual affair in which Jewish terror (whether official and State-sponsored or vigilante-based) responds to Palestinian terror (or vice versa). This is a far more dangerous phenomenon than anything that preceded it. My fear is that the State, when it runs out of options, will resort to naked terror, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Think of Kent State in a U.S. context or Tiananmen Square in a Chinese context.

Like Casey Jones of the American folk-myth, we are on a train careening down a mountain grade after losing our brakes. Furiously blowing the whistle to warn bystanders to get out of the way won’t help. We are headed for disaster and no one will be spared. It’s only a matter of time before it happens.

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Those of you who go back with this blog to 2009, may remember a few posts I wrote then analyzing a fascinating bit of hasbara branding Frank Luntz prepared for The Israel Project.  Reading it five years ago felt so much like walking into the lion’s den, that I was endlessly fascinated by it.  I wrote four posts and only reached page 20 out of 80!  I rather liked my needling of the concept calling it a “hasbara fictionary.”

Now, of course, Luntz’s advice is much more stale and and less striking than it was then.  His arguments have been endlessly bruited about since then.  The cynicism and abject hucksterism of his approach has been ridiculed.

Jewish National Fund funds new hasbara handbook

Jewish National Fund funds new hasbara handbook

But after this summer’s Gaza war, his Israel Lobby clients decided they needed a sequel to the 2009 hasbara handbook.  I haven’t determined who his client is this time.  Since Josh Block has upended Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi at TIP, Luntz may no longer be the preferred consultant.

In September, the Jewish National Fund featured a national phone briefing with Luntz which featured his new “research.”  So it’s likely this hired gun is now working for JNF.   The Rabbinical Assembly has also distributed the new work.  When he consulted for TIP, they paid him $200,000 a year, so that gives you an idea of how much this PR project earns him.

They commissioned the presumptuously titled, Communicating the Truth about Israel.  Jewish Voice for Peace and Zak Breiterman first publicized its existence.  It’s shorter this time, coming in at 60 pages and is mostly a series of Powerpoint slides.  Presumably, he can tote them around to his Lobby clients’ various board rooms and set up the slide projector and fire away at the enemies of Zion everywhere.

What continues to fascinate about Luntz’s approach is that it is almost totally devoid of facts or evidence.  The PR maven specializes in sentiment and emotion.  He focuses on what people believe, and changing it to what he wants them to believe, if the two diverge.

Reading this document was a little like listening to a soft rock radio station.  It played the sentimental favorites you remember from a more innocent time.  Nothing was terribly threatening or overly excited.  It seemed designed to lull you into a state of nostalgic contentment with tunes and slogans past.

The opening slide is most instructive, containing what might be the motto of the whole enterprise:

You decide which facts matter.

Just as Humpty-Dumpty said, a word meant precisely what he wanted it to mean, nothing more, nothing less; so Luntz opens his discourse with an invitation to cherry-pick reality.  And Luntz is using the word “facts” loosely since there are almost none in the document.

He offers an “alarm-bell” poll statistic which is indeed interesting: when offered a choice among supporting Israel, Palestine or remaining neutral, 54% of all those polled supported Israel while 38% were neutral.  But among those of college age only 36% favored Israel while 49% were neutral.  Though Luntz’s evaluation, calling it a “disaster among college kids,” is a bit histrionic, he’s not entirely wrong.  Israel’s reputation and perhaps future among the American public is on a downhill trajectory.  The younger generation doesn’t buy the romantic-nostalgic narrative that worked so well among the old.

While strong majorities of those polled overall described Israel as “democratic,” “civilized” and “peaceful,” among the young those numbers were much lower. The lowest youth polling figure, 31%, said Israel wants peace with its neighbors.

A large portion of the handbook is a sales-marketing tool directing not only which arguments to use (and which to shun), but which words and concepts to use in discussion with Israel’s critics.  This is political rhetoric brought to the field of battle just like armaments used by the IDF in actual war.

It’s light on analysis and heavy on peppy catch phrases like:

We use rockets to protect children and they use children to protect rockets.

In this mendacious slogan, there’s no acknowledgement that Palestinian rockets didn’t kill any Israeli children and hardly any Israeli adults, while Israeli rockets killed 500 Gazan children.

Luntz’s polling must be showing that the human shield meme resonates among his Zio-focus groups.  Which is terribly odd because while I hear the argument among pro-Israel social media advocates, it’s so easily disproven that they withdraw the claim as soon it’s refuted.  Again, the notion of human shields is one of those sentiment-motivated concepts that isn’t quantifiable or even provable.  It just sounds good.

Luntz milks the false sincerity of what those of us who spend time on political sites would call the “concern troll.:

I do not blame the people of Gaza for feelings of grief, anger, and desperation. I blame the Hamas leadership who sow the seeds of hate and tell innocent civilians to live as human shields while hiding in five star Qatari hotels thousands of miles away.

Or this:

All lives matter…Palestinian lives…Israeli lives…every life matters.

The picture accompanying this slide of course shows mourning Israelis.  No mourning Palestinians.  Surprise, surprise.

The above passage continues:

We need more conversations, not less … more listening, not less.

Children should be taught to live, not to die.

Let’s make this the last generation to experience war

Again, more sloganeering.  Hamas’ leaders were in Gaza and suffered along with civilians there.  Khaled Meshal does live in Doha because after an Israeli assassination attempt, he’s not safe in Gaza or any country in which Israel might be able to strike him.

It’s interesting that while Luntz’s “21 Phrases for the 21st Century” speak derisively of Palestinian society as a “culture of hatred” and “radical Muslim Jihadism,” he insists that Palestinians should offer Israel “mutual understanding/respect.”  That Palestinians should choose “conversation and cooperation,” “making progress” and “a future without violence.”  Again, there’s no recognition not just that Israel has offered far more violence than Palestinians, but that Luntz’s own slogans deny Palestinians the very respect he says Israel deserves.

Despite the fact that the United Nations denied Gaza militants the use of their facilities to launch attacks against Israeli forces (there were a very few instances in which unoccupied schools, which the UN could not monitor due to intense fighting, were used briefly), Luntz continues the false claim here:

Schools are for students to learn, not for terrorists to launch weapons.
Children are our hope, not our human shields.

luntz arabophobe map

Frank Luntz’s Arabophobic world view

No acknowledgement that in pre-state Israel, Jewish militants used civilian facilities including synagogues and schools to hide weapons.  With one of the most powerful armies in the world, Israel now maintains vast armories and bases to store its weapons.  It doesn’t need schools to do so.  But if the tables were turned, you can be damn sure Israelis would use any facility they could get their hands on to store such munitions.

The handbook features an ominous Arabophobic map in Islamist green which features the hostile “neighborhood” in which Israel lives.  The latter is a tiny endangered red spot amidst a sea of green.

In another interesting poll result, most respondents had a highly negative view of the word “Zionist,” with students polling even more unfavorably.  When offered the words “Israel,” “Jewish homeland,” “Jewish nation,” overall reactions were favorable to the terms.  But among students none offered a majority response that was favorable.

Clearly, a major goal of the project was to offer student activists and their adult handlers short, snappy, pithy pro-Israel pitches to bolster campus activism.  The horror-show video produced by Luntz and displayed above, covers ground not mentioned explicitly in the new handbook.  It offers heartfelt stories of purported anti-Semitism on campus.  Anti-Semitism is the fire and Frank Luntz is the fireman.  Show him the money and he’ll show you how to put the fire out.  That seems to be the message.

Here are some of the catch phrases offered under the Luntzian Words That Work:

Don’t say Israel is “willing” or “open” to negotiations. That’s way too passive. “Israel is eager to negotiate…”

Here’s a glaring lie offered under “Words to Use:”

Israel offered 97 percent of the disputed territories to the Palestinians and the recognition of a Palestinian state in return for two common sense conditions: recognition of the Jewish state and Israel’s right to exist. The Palestinians have refused

Note that Israeli maximalism (“recognition of the Jewish state”) is portrayed as a “common sense condition.”  Common sense for whom, one might ask?

Here’s another sentimental whopper which falsifies Jewish history:

Everyone deserves to call somewhere home. For Jews that were forcibly scattered across the globe again and again for centuries, that home has always been Jerusalem and the land around it. For more than two thousand years and right up to today, the religious, cultural and historic home for Jewish people has been Israel.

Actually, “for centuries” the actual, physical home of almost all Jews was not “Jerusalem and the land around it” but the Diaspora, where for much of this period we fared reasonably well and continue to do so now.  Yearning for Jerusalem has been inscribed in prayers recited during this period, but until the last century, very few Jews set out to realize the aspirations expressed in these prayers.

Luntz is partial to flourishes of trumpets as in this “clear call to action:”

Describe the GLOBAL threat of terrorism and the consequences of inaction. “We stand against terrorism everywhere and every time. That’s why we stand with Israel”

The implicit message here is that only Palestinians and Arabs can be terrorists.  Preferably, mixing them up with other Arab/Muslim terrorists like Al Qaeda and ISIS, through use of shibboleths like “global terrorism.”

Given that the hasbara project was initiated to rebut the bloody nose Israel suffered during the Gaza war, there is much that smears Hamas:

Point out the specific differences between Israel and Hamas.
Discrimination against women
Explicit laws against homosexuality
No religious freedom
No political tolerance
No justice or rule of law

One may easily throw each of these claims back against Israel itself and note that major pockets of Israeli society discriminate against women and denounce homosexuality.  Recent events have shown there is no religious freedom in Israel unless you confine the claim to Jews.  Israeli Muslims face tremendous restrictions on their worship, and their mosques and cemeteries are under regular assault by settler price taggers.  Israel offers very little tolerance of views outside the right-wing national political consensus.  Those on the left face physical assault, arrest and general repression.  The rule of law doesn’t exist in Israel for security offenses, whether you’re Jewish or Palestinian.

Luntz’s slogans are meant for those who have only superficial knowledge of both Palestinian and Israeli society.  In that sense, the Lobby’s favorite brand manager offers little more than pablum to his clients and those indoctrinated by his small ideas.  I’ve written before here about the closing of the American Jewish mind on questions like Israel.  The handbook is a perfect example of this.

gaza women

Women sans scarves at a riding school just outside Gaza City

He continues the anti-Muslim onslaught in this slide:

Under a Hamas-ruled Gaza, all women are forced to wear the head-scarfs, churches are destroyed, and homosexuals are put to death. Hamas has assassinated hundreds of opponents in its effort to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state.

arab head scarf

Grieving Palestinian woman wearing a head scarf. What oppresses her more? Israel’s killing of her son or her head scarf??

Here Luntz neglects to acknowledge that women throughout the Arab world wear head-scarfs.  The wearing of a head-scarf is not an oppressive act.  Not to mention that some women in Gaza do not wear head scarves as the photo proves.

Though there have been a few random acts of violence against Christians in Gaza, Hamas has not permitted the level of anti-Christian intolerance rampant in Pakistan or Iraq.  Islam, like many traditional religions frowns on homosexuality.  But homosexuals are not “put to death” there.  Nor has Hamas “assassinated hundreds of opponents.”  It has executed those it deems Israeli spies and in 2006, after Fatah launched an armed putsch against it, Hamas retaliated with violence against Fatah operatives. Operatives were killed on both sides. The Bush administration and Netanyahu government both supported the coup attempt.

Need we remind the great Luntz that in pre-state Israel, David Ben Gurion used violence to put down a threat to the military supermacy of the Palmach in the Alta Lena affair, which killed many Lehi fighters.  But why spoil this with facts??

Onward in the slideshow to “discuss” BDS.  Luntz ostensibly favors a soft approach in expressing his oppostion.  The words he uses are mild, soothing, irreproachable:

“Conversation & cooperation”

“Diplomacy & discussion”

It MUST be a HUMAN, EMOTIONAL, and HEART-FELT approach

How can you argue with this, except when you realize that the Jewish community itself has reacted to BDS with precisely the opposite approach.  Hillels, Jewish community centers and federations have demonized the movement and prohibited it from their premises.  “Discussion?” “Conversation?”  Where?  Perhaps on the campuses where Luntz is trying to fight this scourge.  But not in the Jewish community itself.  To which I reply, stop being hypocrites.  If you want to be credible as a campus opponents of BDS you must allow free discussion of the issue in your own communal institutions.

Luntz argues in the final line from this passage for a “human, emotional” rebuttal to BDS.  In other words, use a heart-felt Jewish affirmation of Israel to overwhelm any possible rational discussion of the issues.  Overwhelm opponents with tears and fears so facts or reason get shoved aside. This is the strategy pro-Israel student groups are using to fight campus BDS resolutions. Though it sometimes works, it often fails, as shown by the many campuses which have endorsed BDS.

Here’s more on how to fight BDS:

BDS fails to recognize that the path to peace is paved with diplomacy, discussion and cooperation, not isolation or continued conflict.

If this passage is correct, then Israel has been chief violator of the protocol prescribed by Luntz.  The only “diplomacy” Israel tried is a failed peace neogtiation in which it offered Palestinians nothing of value.  Israel has offered no “cooperation” with either Palestinians or even Americans, for that matter.  Its government has contented itself with apartheid, absolute separation between Israelis and Palestinians.  There are walls, segregated roads, and harsh punishments including possible death for Palestinians who violate the rules.  Israeli extremists, whose political allies run the government, offer repeated vicious acts of racist violence.  Where is “cooperation?”

The document spends a lot of time arguing with the straw-man that is the Hamas Charter.  The latter was written by an anonymous scribe in 1988 and never been embraced as an operational document.  It’s not a constitution, not even a mission statement.  No laws have ever been made following its precepts.

The U.S. Institute for Peace wrote in a 2009 report:

“Although peaceful coexistence between Israel and Hamas is clearly not possible under the formulations that comprise Hamas’s 1988 charter, Hamas has, in practice, moved well beyond its charter. Indeed, Hamas has been carefully and consciously adjusting its political program for years and has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to begin a process of coexisting with Israel. [And,] As evidenced by numerous statements, Hamas is not hostile to Jews because of religion. Rather, Hamas’s view toward Israel is based on a fundamental belief that Israel has occupied land that is inherently Palestinian and Islamic.”

Conversely, the humanistic values of the Israeli Declaration of Independence have never been realized.  But Israel advocates do not throw this in Israel’s face. Why no mention of an Israeli founding statement to which Israelis only pay lip service?  Instead, they hypocritically focus on a document no Palestinian or Hamas follower knows or cares about.

In other words, Luntz is grasping at straws, desperate to dredge up dirt on Hamas that will somehow change the subject from Israel’s mass murder during the Gaza war.  If it takes a 30 year-old document only David Horowitz, Frank Luntz and a few other Islamophobes know by heart, then so be it.

Here’s some more Hamas bashing based on false premises:

The Palestinian government uses its billions of dollars in global aid NOT for schools, playgrounds and hospitals, but for terror tunnels, bullets and bombs.

Note the use of “Palestinian government” rather than “Hamas.” First, the PA, which Luntz is attempting to include in this smear, does not engage in terror.  But even if this passage was addressed directly at Hamas, it would be wrong.

“Terror tunnels” are a hasbara branding effort to describe what are defensive tunnels inside Gaza, used with only a few exceptions to defend territory Israel invaded.  Those bullets and bombs mentioned are also used to defend Palestinians.  Anyone wishing to attack Hamas’ use of rockets against Israel must take into account the reason for the rocket attacks: Israel conducted massive pogroms on the West Bank after three teenagers were kidnapped and murdered there.  The rockets were a direct response to Israel’s acts of collective punishment and terror (seven Palestinians were killed during these pogroms and 500 were arrested).

Further, the only reason Gaza needs all that international aid is because of Israel’s illegal siege against 1.8-million Gazans.  Absent the siege, Gaza would have a thriving economy, tax collection and revenue enabling the building and maintenance of communal infrastructure.  Gaza could be a normal place.  The fact that it isn’t is Israel’s fault entirely.

Here is more glibness:

No child should have to experience the horror of a bomb shelter. No child should have to run for their life because of missiles and rockets fired on its people. None of this needs to be happening. We have done everything possible to avoid hurting Palestinian children. Hamas has done everything possible to put Palestinian children in harms way. This madness has to stop.

In Luntzworld, only Jewish children suffer; the suffering caused by Palestinian madmen.  If Palestinian children suffer, it is because of those same Palestinian extremists who force Israel to kill them.  No Israeli wants to kill anyone.  “We” have no choice.  It’s kill or be killed, and who can fault Israelis for choosing the former rather than the latter?

The “madness” may have to stop, but refusing to acknowledge the Israeli responsibility for it is only one of the many trespasses of this project against decency and truth.

Next, the slideshow touts Israel’s vaunted dedication to ethics in defense of the nation:

Nobody wants to harm the Palestinian people. They are Israel’s neighbors. They deserve better.

Israel has to remove the missiles that are being fired at her people. When those missiles are placed near schools or other civilian areas, Israel sends warnings 30 minutes in advance, telling them to get out of the way. Why? Israel wants the Palestinian people to be safe.  But Hamas tells them to stay.

Again, “we” Israelis don’t want to kill Palestinians.  If not for those nasty Hamasniks we could all be friends and love one another.  There is a notion that Israel only attacks Gaza to root out rockets killing Israelis.  No discussion of the Dresden-like immolation of entire Gaza neighborhoods in retaliation for ambushes that killed Israeli soldiers inside Gaza.  No explanation why, if the IDF solely wants to stop rockets, it’s necessary to kill 1,800 civilians including 500 children.  Were they all lying on top of rocket launchers when they were killed?

Hamas never told any civilians to defy Israeli orders to evacuate.  In fact, if civilians did as they were directed by Israel they had no refuge to which to flee.  They had no guarantee that in the open streets they would be safe.  In fact, they knew that the UN schools to which tens of thousands did flee, were themselves military targets in which massacres occurred.  Many preferred staying in their homes where they might die to fleeing to an unknown future.

In other words, what Luntz offers is an moral swamp of rhetoric that conceals, rather than reveals the truth.  Here’s more miasma:

Hamas deliberately places its rockets in and among schools, mosques, and other civilian areas. Israel puts its military weapons far away from civilian areas.

Not exactly.  IDF headquarters, the Kirya, is in the heart of Tel Aviv.  If an enemy attacks the Kirya, they will endanger hundreds of thousands of civilians living in its vicinity.  Is Israel a cynical monster for placing its own citizens in such danger?  As for Hamas’ siting of its weapons in civilian zones, I’m certain if Hamas had as much territory under its control as Israel did, it too would create military bases away from civilian areas and fortify them as Israel does.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t have that luxury.

Who are the warmongers? Hamas of course:

The Palestinian People Are The Victims

Who has the most to gain from peace? The Palestinian people.
And yet Hamas continues to wage war.
Peace cannot be achieved as long as Hamas is committed to war.

Actually, every Israeli attack against Gaza has been an offensive one.  No Hamas battalions ever crossed into Israel to attack civilian communities.  Hamas doesn’t threaten Israel existentially.  When Israel attacks and invades Gaza it is a war of choice.  A war of aggression.  Israel is the warmonger, not Hamas.

In the following statement, Luntz offers blatant lies:

Hamas has abused hundreds of millions of dollars donated for humanitarian aid, some of it American tax dollars, to build these terror tunnels. For the cost of one tunnel, they could have built one hospital. If there is a humanitarian crisis, why does Hamas spend its money on bullets and bombs?

There is absolutely no support for this claim.  In fact, U.S. law prohibits any aid to any Palestinian entity associated with Hamas.  If there are any tax dollars supporting Gaza they are violating U.S. law.  As for the claim that our tax dollars supporting building tunnels, this is an even more atrocious, shameful lie.

This portion of the Powerpoint whitewashes Israel’s illegal settlements:

If West Bank settlements were the real obstacle to peace we would have had peace long ago. The real obstacle is Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state within any borders, as reflected in Palestinian leaders’ statements and in Palestinian media. The controversy about settlements is a symptom, not a cause, of the conflict, which is rooted in Palestinian rejectionism.

The first sentence above is incoherent nonsense, a failure of logic.  The claims about Israel as a Jewish state are also non-starters since Israelis themselves do not share a consensus on the question.  Secular Israelis understand that if Israel is a Jewish state it very likely will be a theocratic state in which religion dominates all spheres, especially the political.  That isn’t something these non-religious Israelis welcome, as shown by the fact that Justice minister Tzipi Livni has shelved a Knesset bill that would’ve incorporated into the Basic Law the precept of the State being Jewish.  Other Israelis also recognize that such designation of Judaic supremacy disenfranchises non-Jewish citizens, who are 20% of the population.

Not to mention that the “Jewish state” demand is illogical on its face.  How many western states define a single religion as a foundational principle?  Shall the U.S. demand all others recognize us as a Christian nation?  Would the Palestinians have the right to demand that Israel recognize Palestine as a Muslim state?  Why would even Hamas make such a demand?  If it wanted an Islamic state it would create one.  Why would it need Israel’s permission or approbation?  The entire notion is absurd.

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Israel and ‘Criminals’ Who Run the Asylum

Soldier at right in screenshot from this CNN video is aiming his rifle, which killed second Palestinian victim

Soldier at right in screenshot from this CNN video is aiming his rifle, about to kill second Palestinian victim

In this CNN video of the murder of two Palestinian boys at a Nakba Day protest outside Ofer Prison, it clearly shows a Border Police unit and an unidentified gunman firing at the Palestinians as the camera swivels to show the mortally wounded boy on the street. It’s incontrovertible that the shooter pictured is the killer. The video also shows a Magav commander removing the weapon from the hands of the soldier.  Though I’m no expert on Israeli uniforms, the shooter appears to be wearing a green uniform which matches those of the IDF.  He’s also wearing a helmet nothing like those worn by the Border Police, but more like those worn by the IDF.  The others with him appear to be wearing the black uniform of the Border Police.  That means that while a Border Police officer may’ve killed one of the youths at a different time, an IDF soldier likely killed the other.

There were reports at the time that an IDF videographer had taken a weapon and was firing it.  The individual firing the rifle in the screenshot and video is the one in question.  Why he would’ve been with the Magav unit, rather than the IDF unit to which he was assigned, I can’t explain.  In other words, this is either a frame-up or whitewash.  Either the wrong man’s been arrested or they’ve only arrested one of the killers.  Nor have they explained how a Border Police commander allowed unauthorized personnel to be firing weapons with live ammunition.

border police facebook supports

Israeli ‘enforcer’ uses weapons and grenades to spell out his support for Border Police shooter

Facebook: We are all Magavniks!

Israeli supporters of the unnamed Border Police officer charged with murdering two Palestinian youth and then lying about it have created a Facebook page, We’re All with the Magavnik!  “Magavnik” is an acronym for the Border Police and denotes a member of the unit.  It has nearly 24,000 Likes.  The timeline is filled with photo-shrines to the accused killer featuring personal weapons and grenades spelling out the Hebrew words.  There are also human backs (the literal Hebrew phrase “give a back to” means “lend a hand to”) festooned with messages of support along with dogs, babies, children, masked and unmasked soldiers, all decrying the country’s leaders who’ve allowed this fine specimen of Israeli manhood to be thrown to the dogs.

facebook border police

“‘Give a hand’ to the Border Police!”

Among the false claims made by the administrator of the Facebook page is that the incident in which the Palestinian boys were murdered was an “act of terror.”  The victims were not armed and weren’t even throwing stones at the soldiers.  They were also shot in the back and posed no threat to the Israelis.

Another posting is reputed to be written by a “close relative” of the accused:

…[My words] come from a many-years long, close relationship with the lad-fighter-Magavnik arrested in the name of the State of Israel, the same State he defended bodily, along with the people who dwell in Zion.  A fighter who dedicated his soul with endless love and devotion in defense of his homeland.  I attest on his behalf with the strength of a thousand witnesses to his being a valiant youth with the highest values and ethics, who respects all human beings because he too is a human being.

Your weekend rest [on Shabbat] is in your warm home, while this fighter’s is in a cold cell where he is imprisoned, alone and abandoned.  “Murderer” they call him.  Be ashamed!  Any connection between the word “murder” and this fighter is completely delusional.

In the name of mothers everywhere, I apologize that you are imprisoned at this time.  I apologize that you’ve been betrayed [by your leaders who arrested you].

We’re with you all the way!

The rhetoric and style of this address mirrors arguments offered by settler apologists who defended Yigal Amir and begged the nation for his release.  The words offer readers a sense of guilt and shame that a hero fighting desperately to defend them should be treated as such a vile criminal.  I can’t imagine another western country in which such rhetoric would resonate.  Here in the U.S., there are certainly police officers who would speak this way about someone like Darrel Wilson, the Ferguson killer.  There are soldiers who might defend one of their own who went on a rampage and killed 15 Iraqi civilians.  But I doubt they would organize a Facebook page in his defense with the equivalent of 1-million Likes (our population is approximately fifty times that of Israel).

That’s why I titled this post the “criminals are running the asylum.”  Israelis who’ve lent their support to these killers are essentially supporting his crimes.  They’re saying that murder committed in defense of the homeland isn’t a crime, but rather an act of valor.  This is nationalism turned into a criminal enterprise.

The leaders being pilloried by these protesters have reacted with mock anger saying that such public expressions of support amount to “digital insurrection.”  But this is mock indignation.  The officials themselves agree with those attacking them.  They’ve arrested the shooter probably with the intent either of allowing the charges eventually to be dropped or for him to receive a slap on the wrist (something like a 30 day prison sentence).

What interests me is what this says about contemporary Israel: only a criminal state mounts such vehement support for the criminals in its midst.  While the world reacts with revulsion at the murder and bloodlust which characterizes the Border Police (always known as one of the most brutal of Israeli security units), Israel views it as heroic.  There couldn’t be a greater disconnect between national illusion and reality.

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Israel and a Tale of Two Campuses

University of Illinois Israel-Palestine lecture series

University of Illinois Israel-Palestine lecture series

Tonight, I want to present a portrait of two Israel studies programs on two different campuses to show one that largely honors the traditions of fair, open academic discourse and another that flagrantly violates them.  The two campuses are the University of Illinois (UI) and Brandeis University.  Given recent headlines you might think the institution violating academic standards was UI.  The Native American Studies program at the Champaign-Urbana campus hired Steven Salaita, then the Chancellor fired him after personal pressure was mounted by pro-Israel alumni.

But there was another interesting development at the University’s flagship campus during this period.  The Jewish studies program voted overwhelmingly to criticize the campus leadership and defend Salaita’s hiring.  The Jewish studies program at the Chicago campus hasn’t been sitting on its laurels either.  It’s doing what a good academic program is supposed to do in challenging intellectual constructs.  It’s delving into the contentious issues around Israel and our relationship to it.

UIC hosting a lecture series entitled, Thinking Out of the Box on Israel-Palestine.  The speakers cross a rather diverse spectrum academically and politically, which is as it should be.  They include on the left, Charles Manekin, Antony Lerman and Sayed Kashua and on the liberal Zionist side Peter Beinart, Mira Sucharov and Hussein Ibish.

Of course, I have some important criticisms of the panels and the overall conception of the series.  While it claims to include Palestine, the main speaker addressing the issue, Hussein Ibish, is a conservative Lebanese-American working for a discredited DC think tank.  On the panel which asks whether liberal Zionism is dead, there are two participants who are liberal Zionists and heartily reject the claim, and only one speaker who endorses it.

There are no panels that address, even indirectly, the Salaita controversy.  I’m certain this was a deliberate choice by organizers who wanted to steer clear of this mine field.  But as a result, they’ve attenuated their program by refusing to address the elephant in the room.  Additionally, there are no programs dealing with BDS, which is one of the most important current issues in this international debate, only made more prominent with each new Israeli attack on Palestine and Palestinians.

Only one speaker, Gershon Baskin, will address Gaza and he is an Israeli with strongly hostile views of Hamas, despite the fact that he negotiated the Shalit prisoner exchange.  This program desperately needs more participation by Palestinians.  You can’t have the word “Palestine” in your title and have eight Jewish speakers and only two Arab (one of whom is Israeli-Palestinian).

Despite these criticisms, this is a program that for a Jewish studies program, representing a liberal Zionist ethos, addresses important, controversial issues in a relatively balanced manner.

Not so, Brandeis University.  Its Schusterman Center for Israel Studies is hosting a boilerplate pro-Israel “teach-in” on the Gaza war and BDS, A Teach-In on the Gaza Conflict and BDS Movement.  For those who may not know, the Schusterman family offers tens of millions to fund Israel studies programs, Aipac campus organizing, and other forms of pro-Israel boosterism on college campuses.  Though its academic giving offers a veneer of academic legitimacy, it is clearly part and parcel of the campus war being waged by the Israel Lobby on college campuses.

The pro-Israel bona fides of the speakers are a case in point.  The coordinator of the event is Schusterman Center chair, Ilan Troen.  Troen sees fighting BDS as part of his academic mission.  His talk will document the anti-Israelism among academics who support BDS through their academic associations.  Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a decidedly rightist campus advocacy group, features this talk he delivered at an unofficial rump session of the MLA conference, at which BDS was debated.

Others participating include Len Saxe, who runs the Steinhardt Center on campus.  Much of his research, funded by pro-Israel neocon hedge fund manager, Michael Steinhardt, is designed to offer a patina of academic respect to the Birthright Program.  Steinhardt co-founded it with Las Vegas gambling oligarch, Sheldon Adelson.  Saxe’s “research” invariably finds long-lasting pro-Israel impact on the Jewish identities of Birthright participants.  Other speakers are Cary Nelson, the leading American academic fighting against BDS on college campuses (who sits on the University of Illinois faculty, by the way).

The campus Hillel director, Rabbi Elyse Winick will also speak on Understanding the Role of the Media During the Gaza Conflict.  A website designed to fight BDS on campus featured an anti-BDS statement by mainstream American Jewish leaders that she signed.  Given that she’s led Birthright tours, it’s safe to say that her critique of the media regarding the Gaza war will not include any claims of favoritism toward Israel.

The teach-in will conclude with a talk by Schusterman assistant director, Rachel Fish.  She contributed to a Tablet Magazine roundtable discussing ways to rebut “anti-Israel” rhetoric during campus Apartheid Week.  Her contribution was called, Expose Biased Professors and the Influence of Petrodollars.  She worked for the notoriously Islamophobic David Project from 2003-2009.  ‘Nuf said on that score.

Another major speaker at the Brandeis event will be Donna Divine, who teaches at Smith College.  She is on the board of directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and contributed to Cary Nelson’s anti-BDS screed, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.  She documents her anti-Islam views via a paper she uploaded to her Academia.edu account a paper entitled, Victory for Hamas, Defeat for Middle East.  A California pro-Israel campus blogger had this headline for a post about a SPCME event at which Divine spoke at UCSD,  Renowned Middle East Scholars Bring Pro-Israel Message to UCSD.

Campus debate on the issues raised by the Brandeis event are critical.  But not the in the fashion adopted by the Schusterman Center.  BDS is not demonic.  It doesn’t carry the plague.  It is a serious issue that deserves discussion and debate.  You wouldn’t know that from the hysterical way in which programs like this address it.

Given that the president of Brandeis is on first name basis with Charles Jacobs and would take his marching orders from him if it were possible to do so without public exposure and embarrassment.  And given that the chair of the school’s board of trustees made very clear that Brandeis is a pro-Israel campus, including in its academic departments; it’s not surprising that Brandeis is an center of pro-Israel militancy.

There is no diversity on this panel.  There are no Palestinian speakers.  Since the teach-in deals with Gaza, one might expect at least one speaker who knows the place or has has done research there.  As for BDS, I don’t expect fairness or balance.  But to only invite speakers who publicly detest BDS?  Really?

I should note that the entire subject of how Israel is addressed on campuses is part of a broad, aggressive campaign by the Israel Lobby and funded by outfits like Schusterman.  Another battle in this war is taking place at UCLA, where pro-Israel activists have attacked the renowned von Grunebaum Center for Near East Studies.  Juan Cole today published this rejoinder by the Center to its critics, who’ve called the latter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.  Liberal Jewish professors have come to the Center’s defense as well.

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Shin Bet Committing Organizational Suicide

yoram cohen

Yoram Cohen’s major miscalculation cost himself and his agency credibility and capital

The latest developments in the operatic struggle between the two Israeli military-intelligence giants, the IDF and Shin Bet, has taken further twists and turns in the past 24 hours.  Bibiton (aka Yisrael HaYom), which has the ear of the prime minister and perhaps even his writing hand, writes (Hebrew) today that Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen, should resign immediately.  He has, in its view, embarrassed not just himself and his agency but the nation, with his unseemly assault on the Israeli army.  The reporter says Cohen has “lost the trust of his bosses” in the Knesset, cabinet, and even in the prime minister’s office.

Though at the same time, he suggests that Cohen should learn the motto of his agency and protect while being unseen.  So whether Cohen’s job is really in jeopardy is an open question.

But what is unprecedented is open warfare with blood running down the streets from this mortal combat between the two Israeli security monoliths.  Conflict has always existed among these entities, sometimes even bursting forth into public view.  But never in such a bold, brash fashion, using Israel’s most popular TV news magazine program to advance the agenda of the attacking party.

There once was a time in Israel when these battles were fought in cabinet rooms or in IDF headquarters.  The struggle was always to advance the nation’s security and interests despite the war of wills among individuals.  But in the age we now live in, generals and spy chiefs mobilize the media to sell themselves and their agenda.  It’s become an age of personality and selling, rather than values.  Yet another indication of the decline of the Israeli state.

Cohen has shot himself not just in the foot, but in a much more sensitive spot given this humble-pie eating statement Netanyahu forced him to release, which contained this lie:

It’s appropriate to stress that at no point did Shin Bet members claim, including those interviewed for [the Channel 2 Uvda] program, that Shin Bet passed on a warning of a war with Hamas in July.

In a letter to Shabak veterans, Cohen returned to the warpath with this unyielding statement:

We stand behind everything said on the [TV] program by our people.  These things [they said] are absolutely accurate and reflect reality and the full chain of events. All the information offered by our people on the show was truthful and supported by hard evidence.  We stand behind its [the program’s] integrity and our own authenticity and true professionalism.

In the blatant contradiction between these two passages, it’s hard to see how Cohen will be able to climb down from the tenuous position in which he’s placed himself and the Shabak.

Israel’s most popular media commentator, Nahum Barnea, has entered the field as well against the Shabak.  He takes on one specific portion of the Uvdah program which featured a Shin Bet agent with the code name “Shiran.”  To bolster the claim that the agency warned the IDF of Hamas’ intent to use tunnels to burrow into Israel, she tells the interviewer of an attack during Operation Protective Edge.  In it, militants used a tunnel to penetrate Israeli territory.  But Shiran claims the tunnel led directly to a border moshav called N’tiv Ha’Asarah and the attack was intended to kill civilian residents.

That’s news, Barnea says, to the moshav, which says there never was such a tunnel in their midst.  In fact, the tunnel in question did enter Israeli territory, but never threatened any civilian target.  Rather (though Barnea doesn’t say this explicitly), it was intended to attack a military target. This further bolsters the important note that during Protective Edge, while Israel was killing 1,800 Gaza civilians, Hamas made a point of refusing to use its tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.  When its fighters had opportunities to attack civilians, they jeopardized themselves by waiting for a military target to attack.

I am by no means arguing that Hamas was an angel in this conflict.  After all, it did fire missiles into Israel which killed five civilians.  But compared to Israel’s behavior, Hamas’ was relatively benign.  It largely defended its own territory.  And contrary to the Shabak claims in Uvdah, it rarely tried to “take the fight to the enemy” and never attempted to conquer Israeli territory.

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IDF, Shin Bet in Mortal Death Spiral Over Gaza War Claims


If you’ve watched animated super-hero series or read comic books (as a father of 10 year old twins, that’s part of my job), you’ve seen those scenes where the hero and villain lock arms in mortal combat with their bodies spiraling through the universe.  Planets explode as they tumble through space in what appears to be a death spiral.

Something like that it happening in Israel as I write this.  Except that the two combatants are both villains.  There is no hero in this one, which involves the two super-villains of the Israeli security apparatus: the IDF and Shin Bet.

uvdah screenshot hamas war

Alleged Hamas secret communication: “The goal of the coming war is to conquer towns. It will be a war of liberation.”

A few days ago, Uvdah began its new TV season with a blockbuster segment (apologies that almost all the material linked in this post is in Hebrew).  Though the episode dealt with the entire Gaza war, the “money segment” featured charges by high-level Shin Bet officials that last winter the agency had forwarded to the army actionable intelligence from the field allegedly documenting Hamas plans to open a summer war against Israel.  The Islamist military wing planned a surprise attack set for summer.  It would take the war to the enemy, overwhelm border defenses, and invade Israel.  It was to be a “war of liberation.”  The goal was to conquer and hold Israeli territory.  The use of the Hebrew term “war of liberation” (milhemet shichrur) is ironic since the 1948 War is often described using the same term.  Such a troubling irony (that Hamas allegedly planned to wage its own war of liberation in which Israel would be the territory liberated) would not be lost on the average Uvdah viewer.

When an Israeli friend first sent me the Uvdah show and I read about it it sounded like a bad made-for-TV movie.  Granted some delusional Hamas official might perhaps believe such nonsense (though Hamas strikes me as far more pragmatic than many Israeli security officials), but that the Shin Bet would do so and pass it on to other agencies as a serious security threat seemed to me beyond ludicrous.  For me, it’s something like the 9/11 conspiracy theorists who tell tales of dancing Mossad agents after the fall of the Twin Towers.

One of the more glaring contradictions between the Shabak’s claim of Hamas’ strategic goals and the methods the latter actually used during the war is that Hamas’ penetration of the Israeli border never involved attacking civilians or even taking over communities.  In fact, in several instances its forces could have attacked civilians but deliberately endangered themselves by waiting for a military target.  Hamas only sought to capture soldiers in order to exchange them for its own prisoners.

Given the media glare of Israel’s foremost news magazine opening its season with this blockbuster, it’s become a Battle of the Titans.  The IDF top brass has reacted with apoplectic fury to the charges.  Despite strong efforts by the prime minister himself to calm passions and remind the army and Shabak that they were supposed to be on the same side, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz made public an unprecedented letter addressed to Netanyahu.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a high-level military official wash so much dirty laundry in public.  This is the first time the letter has been published in English:

In the TV show, Uvdah, Shabak sources crossed every moral and ethical red line.  It was a deep expression of an inter-agency lack of collegiality.  The program offered prejudicial information creating the misimpression that the Shin Bet was the sole intelligence unit for Gaza which performed its work faithfully, while AMAN, the IDF and the political echelon froze.

I strongly maintain that Shabak did not convey any warning about Hamas’ intent to wage a preemptive July war.  Never at any meeting I attended was the subject of such a war or potential [Hamas] operation raised; nor was it raised at the military or political level.

Shabak’s collaboration with the TV show glorifies it by defaming the political echelon in a way that is a moral-ethical breach.  The IDF is stigmatized as a group which refused to act upon urgent intelligence brought to it by the Shabak.  This is my strongest protest against such an act.  Such a media stunt should be investigated fully.

I am pained by this.  I never dreamed we would get to such a point.  From my perspective, exposure of intelligence in the possession of the agency’s staff and field methods used is unprecedented and dangerous.  Nor is it clear who approved such scandalous revelations.

Cabinet ministers too fumed at Yoram Cohen’s claim just after the war ended that he warned them in April about impending war.

The IDF does agree that there were reports of Hamas tunnel networks intended to cross the border into Israel in order to capture IDF soldiers and hold them ransom.  The IDF also says that it sprang into action seeking to uncover the tunnels and frustrate any cross border raid.

Ultimately, they failed and there was one Hamas raid, not as the Shabak claimed targeting Israeli civilians, but rather IDF soldiers.  Five soldiers stationed at an observation post guarding a border kibbutz were killed in that incident.  Though the program does not mention it, this was one of at least three instances in which the Hannibal Directive was invoked and an IDF soldier was likely killed by his own, perhaps deliberately so.

The TV news show documents another major operational failure of the military-intelligence apparatus during the war.  The Shabak allegedly had pinpointed the location of Mohammed Deif who, according to it, was the mastermind behind Hamas’ war plans.  He, in the minds of intelligence officials, was the dark prince of Hamas.  The target who’d escaped multiple assassination attempts.  A man living “in the shadows,” as a Shabak official says during the show.

An elaborate operation was planned to kill him involving joint efforts of the Israeli air force and Shin Bet.  Approval was given by the prime minister.  The F-16 took off, reached the target dropped its bombs and…two of them failed to explode.  Precisely the ones which were supposed to destroy the portion of the house in which they believed Deir was located.  Despite high level Israeli claims that it killed Deif, it appears they failed.  All Dayan would say during the show was “it appears there is a chance he remains alive.”  I know and any reasonably person who follows Israeli intelligence matters knows that if he were dead, they would be celebrating on camera, and not being careful and judicious in their comments.

The operational failure of the mission is mentioned but not questioned.  It’s as if it’s a matter of course that two missiles of four can fail in such an operation.  No one is blamed.  This again is typical of Israeli credulousness in the face of the national security megalith.

At no point during the Uvdah reporting on the failed assassination attempt, did anyone on camera or off note that Deif’s wife and 8 month-old son were killed in this attack along with other members of the Dalou family which owned the house.  There is no acknowledgement of civilian slaughter.  This is an example of shameful journalism.  But unfortunately reporting that characterizes the moral obtuseness of even the best of Israeli journalists (and Dayan is one of the better ones, if not among the best).

If you watch this show carefully, you won’t see a record of Shin Bet glory.  You will actually see the recounting of a series of failures of the entire security apparatus painted to look like successes.  But you wouldn’t know that from reading Ilana Dayan’s narration or the dialogue of any of the sources interviewed.  You have to read between the lines and know what they’re leaving out.

This edition of Uvdah was a love letter to Shabak.  It allowed the agency to whitewash every failure.  It allowed it to showcase a young female analyst who recounted the telephone calls she made to Gaza homeowners telling them to abandon their homes before Israel destroyed them.  She even says the Arabic words she used to warn them.  It makes the Shabak to be noble and thoughtful.  All the while you listen you know this is theater.  Theater that the average Israel views with satisfaction knowing those responsible for keeping him safe and secure are humane and decent.  They care about Gazan lives even though Gazans mean us nothing but evil, etc.

When I consulted an Israeli with some knowledge of these issues, why the Shin Bet would spin such unbelievable tales of Hamas plans to overrun Israeli defenses and take over Israeli towns, he said that the Israeli domestic security agency has felt very much sidelined by the war.  It felt that the IDF’s AMAN intelligence unit took credit for the so-called successes of Protective Edge, leaving the Shin Bet out in the cold.  Uvdah presented an opportunity for it to argue for its continued relevance.

But frankly, if this is the way Yoram Cohen is going to maintain his status as top dog in the intelligence hierarchy, he’s walked out on a branch after it’s been half sawed off.  I think a performance like this can only embarrass not just the Shabak, but the entire national security apparatus.  It looks like the two super-heroes of Israeli society are battling to the death to determine who’s the biggest, meanest and best of the lot.  How much rope does Cohen think the Israeli population will give him to do such things?

Perhaps the worst aspect of this program was that it once again encouraged Israelis to forget what really happened last summer and who really started the war.  Hamas did not initiate this war no matter what the Shabak says.  Israel initiated the war, as I’ve written here many times, with a massive West Bank pogrom.  Do not allow anyone, least of all one of Israel’s better TV news magazines to tell you otherwise.

News just broke that the Shin Bet has released a statement in which it falsely claims that it’s personnel never told Uvdah that it knew of plans by Hamas to wage a July war.  Anyone watching the show heard the agency’s officials say precisely that.  But what’s interesting about the “walk-back” is that Yossi Melman tweets that the publication of the statement was demanded by Bibi Netanyahu himself.

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