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Hannibal Directive Focus of War Crimes Inquiry

rafah destruction

IDF Col. Ofer Winter’s approach to Rafah: apres moi, le deluge.

The Israeli attorney general and military prosecutor have begun investigations of numerous incidents during Operation Protective Edge which may reach to the level of war crimes :

While fighting still raged, the government and IDF appointed special investigative staff to inquire into tens of incidents, among them invocation of the Hannibal Directive in Rafah, out of fear of claims by the UN [Human Rights panel] and human rights groups alleging war crimes.

During Hannibal, the IDF lays down immense destructive firepower to either kill captured Israeli soldiers (or frustrate their capture, depending on your viewpoint).  As a result of this indiscriminate slaughter of enemy combatants and civilians, hundreds of Gazans were killed during the war.  During the most infamous invocation of Hannibal, 160-190 were killed and large swaths of the Rafah neighborhood were totally obliterated (as was Shujaia before that).  Human rights NGOs have filed protests against these military operations and characterized them as prospective war crimes violations.

One of the most notorious of the Hannibal commanders (there were at least two other invocations of the directive during the war) was Col. Ofer Winter, leader of the Givati brigade, which lost three soldiers in an ambush.  During it, at least one of them being captured (or perhaps just his corpse) by Hamas.  All three were killed, at least one and perhaps all as a result of IDF fire.  Now, Israel is investigating Winter’s profligacy both in killing Palestinian civilians and his own troops through this procedure.

Lest any reader develop any sense of satisfaction from this news, you needn’t feel any sense of relief that Israel is concerned about following the international laws of war.  In fact, these so-called investigation are a means of circumventing international law.  Those who know something about the subject will remember that its premise is that countries themselves would have the obligation to investigate their own war crimes charges.  Only if countries refused to investigate or charge violators, would the suspect events come under the jurisdiction of international criminal tribunals.  So if Israel goes through the motions of mounting an investigation, it believes it will have satisfied the provisions of the law while avoiding any serious charges.

In line with this, the IDF chief of staff appointed the commander of the northern front, Noam Tibon, to head the panel.  This is something like appointing Lt. Gen. Curtis LeMay to investigate the firebombing of Dresden as a war crime.  Benny Gantz established the panel from the first moment of the war, indicating that he expected that the IDF’s war fighting strategy would draw international condemnation.  This is yet another indication that the wholesale slaughter and destruction of entire civilian neighborhoods was no accident, but pre-planned.  Not perhaps in all its particulars, but in the overall take-no-prisoners scorched earth strategy that was implemented on the ground.

Don’t be fooled by seemingly balanced statements like this one:

“Even now, it’s fair to say that the deliberations will not be simple.  But the IDF has been prepared for this for some time…

IDF soldiers were forced to operate in problematic situations and not only regarding terrorists [presumably a reference to the killings of civilians].  They fought under very complex conditions. Terror didn’t just hide within a civilian population, it [“terror”] used it against the army [IDF].  Soldiers face complex situations.

…Yet another source involved in military investigations indicated that there was room for self-criticism, but that often the charges involved little more than a  carefully orchestrated campaign of incitement…Some of the claims have already been negated and found baseless and are related to standard attempts at de-legitimization of Israel.

The source emphasized that thousands of targets had already been vetted and approved by intelligence and military legal officials before the war and deemed appropriate.  The IDF adopted a wide range of measures to avoid harming civilians.  including putting itself in situations which endangered our forces.

Military sources said that justice officials were reluctant to approve, both before and during the fighting, a whole range of operations which the IDF carried out…There’s conflict between the military legal officials and the justice ministry concerning certain operations during Operation Protective Edge.  This has happened before during previous military campaigns.  And the IDF is prepared to explain its position [regarding suspected war crimes].

If you study the tea leaves in this statement, clearly the IDF is preparing to face criticism both from the international community and within the civilian justice ministry of its aggression and slaughter of civilian populations.  It is prepared to combat these charges by mounting a robust defense that includes a fixed investigation whose result is known even before it begins.

In a further indication that the fix is in, the article indicates that Tibon has already met with Winter, something that seems strange before the panel has even begun taking testimony.  It strikes me as preparing the potential witness so that he gives testimony that is most favorable to himself and the IDF.

In this AP story, the IDF continues the lies regarding the Rafah massacre:

It denied firing into a densely populated area without regard for civilians, saying precise airstrikes hit targets linked to militants and artillery — though inherently inaccurate — was only aimed at open fields.

Here the IDF takes us all to be fools.  Media reports have previously indicated that the IDF fired at any vehicle that approached the neighborhood’s hospital hoping to kill both the captured IDF soldier and anyone accompanying him.  You don’t kill 160 civilians in a matter of hours through “precise airstrikes” and artillery firing at “open fields.”

I find the AP account of the Rafah Hannibal operation to be deeply problematic since it accepts the Israeli premise that it is meant to free the soldier from captivity.  You’ll see from the army’s own account of the firepower mustered that it couldn’t possibly have intended to free anything.  Rather, the goal was annihilation–of Goldin, the cell that captured him, and the remaining civilian population of Rafah:

Over the next eight hours, soldiers fired about 500 artillery shells, he said. The military said it also launched about 100 airstrikes against targets in Rafah…

The priority was to rescue Goldin.

“That’s why we used all this force,” Winter told the newspaper. “Those who kidnap need to know they will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade.”

Examine that last paragraph again.  Winter does not say anything about rescuing Goldin.  He talks about making the “kidnappers” pay a price.  In other words, by killing the captured solider, Hamas would presumably lose the bargaining chip it had gained.  Of course, when he says it was “not revenge,” he means precisely the opposite, since he didn’t care a whit about civilian casualties in mounting this onslaught.

Returning to the IDF PR offensive: its fool’s errand continues here with the perfuctory–“we’re sorry, but not really:”

“If we accidentally or mistakenly targeted a civilian situation, it was a mistake, and we are very sorry about that,” an officer from the army’s Southern Command said…

I’d guess that when nations first wrote the protocol for the International Criminal Court they hadn’t banked on a country like Israel which would violate the provisions of the law with impunity, all the while maintaining a straight face about respecting it.  It’s no accident that Israel become an exemplar of the Yiddish term, chutzpah.

Finally, throughout this ghastly war I’ve harped on the Hannibal Directive as one of the most troubling of IDF procedures because it is largely secret, undebated, misunderstood (deliberately so), and led to so much carnage.  Now, we see that Hannibal could become a focus for war crimes charges against the IDF and those who commanded it (including the civilian echelon).  And justly so.  Hannibal is anti-democratic, immoral, and an outrage.  Those like Prof. Asa Kasher who render such immorality kosher (even in a comment thread here), are shameful apologists for IDF criminality.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • walter benjamin September 2, 2014, 12:46 AM

    you should obviously know that חוצפה is Hebrew and not Yiddish.

    • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2014, 11:48 AM

      @ so-called walter benjamin: So your argument is that chutzpah does not exist as a word in Yiddish?

      • walter benjamin September 2, 2014, 1:17 PM

        it exists in Yiddish but is Hebrew like many other words in Yiddish. my point is/was that you ‘require’ exactitude and don’t practice what you preach as minute a point it may be.

        but after reading many of your posts IMO you do have an agenda and a definite problem with being Jewish as manifested in your blatant anti-Israel posts/rants.
        anybody with a knowledge of Israel knows what going back to the ’67 borders would be and the proximity of the WB to vital Israeli infrastructures.
        so the only logical conclusion I can come to is that you would like to see the demise of the country.
        personally I would be willing to live with Arabs but if you look at any of their countries there exists no order but only fanaticism and the pronounced will to destroy, kill and drive out the Jews from Israel & that is aside from the fact that they cannot even get along among themselves.
        Their culture in non-integrable.
        The Qur’an is chronologically a mess and largely plagiarized from Jewish sources.
        I read and write Arabic so I do know what I am talking about but I do not speak Yiddish but know only a less than usable knowledge of it.

        • Richard Silverstein September 4, 2014, 10:26 PM

          This is a major comment rule violation for deliberately misconstruing my views about Israel. You have been moderated and now the next step is banning.

          • dubinsky July 8, 2015, 8:19 PM

            what makes you claim “deliberate ” misconstruction?

          • Richard Silverstein July 8, 2015, 8:43 PM

            Dubinsky: Any relation to David Dubinsky?

      • Elisabeth September 2, 2014, 1:36 PM

        It even exists in Dutch (‘gostpe’) just as many other words from Jiddish, especially in the dialect of Amsterdam, such as ‘mazzel’ (luck), ‘ponem’ (face), ‘jatten’ (steal, from ‘jat’ hand), schlemiel (loser), ‘jajem’ (gin), ‘ sjoege’ (knowledge), ‘gabber’ (mate, friend), ‘gajes’ (scum, criminals, from goyim), ‘bajes’ (prison, from house), gappen (steal), mesjogge (crazy), smoes (fake excuse), ‘lef’ (bravery), ‘lefgoser’ (someone trying to come accross as brave) etc. I grew up in Amsterdam and only later found out that many of the local words were from Jiddish.

  • All rather pointless September 2, 2014, 3:50 AM

    It is important to remember that the (alleged) war crimes were committed by the IDF in the occupied Palestinian territories, not “in Israel”.

    So as far as the Rome Statute is concerned what matters is whether (or in this case, not) the Palestinian authorities are in a position to investigate and prosecute.

    In this case the answer is unambiguous: the Palestinians are utterly incapable of bringing any Israeli to justice for crimes committed by the IDF as it rampaged through Gaza.

    So all that matters is whether (or not) the Palestinians accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, and if they do then any shouts from Israel that “Hey! We’re already looking into this!” is irrelevant.

    It. Simply. Does. Not. Matter.

    • Donald September 2, 2014, 1:07 PM

      I hope you’re right, but when the issue of the US joining the ICC was debated during the Clinton Administration, the people against it said that Americans could be railroaded in an international court and the “liberals” who favored joining the ICC responded by saying that the court systems of the countries involved would be given precedence–in other words, since the US has a functioning court system, our war criminals would be tried in our courts. Obviously that wasn’t going to work–high ranking US officials are never going to be tried in American courts for war crimes, but that was the argument. Here’s a column from that era–

      link to December 12 2000 column in NYT

      Now you might be right, but the Americans back then seemed to be saying that American war criminals would be tried in American courts and they weren’t talking about crimes committed on American soil. So the Israelis might be operating on the same assumption. They can be sure the US government will take their side.

      • All Rather Pointless September 2, 2014, 3:10 PM

        Donald, consider this: a GI commits a war crime in…. Oompaloompaland.

        Q: Can that GI be tried before a US military court?
        A: Yes, of course he can.

        Q: Does that mean the Oompaloompas can’t put that GI on trial?
        A: No, it doesn’t. Oompaloompa Law ™ is not subordinate to the US military justice system.

        Q: So what was that NYTimes article on about?
        A: It’s code for: If We Don’t Sign That Treaty Then We Can Do What We Always Do, Which Is To Ignore The Objections Of The Oompaloompas Of This World.

        Q: Is that true?
        A: No, not really; the Oompaloompahs are perfectly entitled to take the case to the ICC regardless of what a US military court does/doesn’t rule.

        The reason the USA thinks otherwise has nothing to do with “law” and everything to do with “power politics” i.e. the USA really does believe that it is “exceptional” and “indispensable”, and so it can’t even begin to comprehend the notion that ANY puissant little country would have the balls to put a GI on trial.

        • Arie Brand September 2, 2014, 4:13 PM

          The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, declared recently in the Guardian that, although her predecessor had stated that he couldn’t decide whether Palestine had the status to join the Rome statute, the situation had changed since Palestine had obtained non-member observer status at the UN in November 2012.. So she was waiting for an approach by Palestine to join the Rome statute.

          However one of the main legal advisers of the Palestinians, Professor Francis Boyle, now (or at any case a month ago) says that the Palestinians shouldn’t do that because there is no hope for them at the ICC. Instead sympathetic nation states should start proceedings against Israel for genocide at the World Court . His statement is worth quoting in full. I must confess that I don’t understand why he expects a sort of legal trap at the ICC. “She” (prosecutor Fatou Bensouda)” will decapitate the entire Palestinian political leadership.The Palestinians will be back where they were before the founding of the PLO in 1964.”

          “Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law and The Tamil Genocide by Sri Lanka. He said today: “The ICC has shown that the hope that many of us had for it was not deserved, it’s been a tool of the pro-Israeli Western powers. Under no circumstances must the Palestinians accede to the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court. ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is ‘Black Skin, White Masks’ a la Frantz Fanon. She will decapitate the entire Palestinian political leadership. The Palestinians will be back to where they were before the founding of the PLO in 1964.”
          Instead, Boyle recommends that nations that are signatory to the Genocide Convention invoke it against Israel at the World Court. Numerous world leaders, including the presidents of Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Iran have referred to Israel’s actions as genocidal.

          Says Boyle: “An appropriate legal remedy is to apply the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide against Israel at the World Court. Palestinians have been victims of genocide by that treaty’s definition. In 1993 I won two World Court Orders on the basis of the 1948 Genocide Convention that were overwhelmingly in favor of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina against Yugoslavia to cease and desist from committing all acts of genocide against the Bosnians in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention. I won the first emergency order in three weeks.
          “In the event the United States were to exercise a veto at the Security Council against the enforcement of this World Court Cease-and-Desist Order against Israel, you can then invoke the General Assembly’s Uniting for Peace Resolution of 1950 in order to have the World Court Order turned over to the United Nations General Assembly for enforcement measures against Israel.”


  • Arie Brand September 2, 2014, 4:58 AM

    The positive outcome of this slaughter might be a further decline in Israel’s international prestige and the increasing hostility among those who were once its friends. I think the acceleration of this decline already started after the operation Cast Lead, and what has since become known of Israel’s vindictive closure of the Gaza strip has helped matters along.

    The evidence here is thus far only anecdotal but, nevertheless, pretty persuasive. To stick to a few Australian examples: I already mentioned the case of the former conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. A few years ago, Isi Leibler, an erstwhile Australian Jewish leader then resident in Jerusalem, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald:
    “Israel loses an old friend in Fraser and we long for his return

    I retain fond memories of my genuinely warm association with Malcolm Fraser when he was prime minister and I headed the Australian Jewish community. Our relationship was based on shared values and my appreciation for his inestimable assistance on behalf of Soviet Jewry, ensuring that, while I was in Moscow, the Australian embassy provided support for my efforts on behalf of Jewish dissidents.
    I also recollect that in those days he was enthralled with Israel and he would spend hours discussing and enthusiastically lauding the achievements of the Jewish state.”
    In explaining this for him strange change in Fraser’s attitude Leibler totally fails to see the connection with an increasing knowledge about Israel’s crimes. Instead he jumps half seriously to a mythical explanation:
    “In Jewish mystical folklore we relate to a dybbuk – a malevolent spirit capable of dramatically transforming a person’s entire outlook. I am tempted to attribute Malcolm Fraser’s dramatic reversal of attitude to a dybbuk.”
    We see a similar change in Bob Carr, Foreign Minister in the last administration and who was once, for years, President of Labor Friends of Israel. Carr has also pointed out that in his book My Reading Life he called the work by the Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi “If This is a Man” the most important book of the last one hundred years. However these sympathies didn’t prevent him from seeing, when he was in office, that Australian Middle East policymaking had been subcontracted out to the powerful and wealthy pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne.
    “Our stance on the Middle East is shameful” he wrote in his published Diary of a Foreign Minister in Nov.2012, “in lock-step with the Likud, designed to feed the worst instincts of Israel and encourage it to self-destruct, placing us with the Marshall ­Islands and Canada and rejecting the entire Arab world and the Palestinians.”
    Mark Leibler, Isi’s brother, and a present day leader among Australian Jewry, could, in reaction, only come up with the inane suggestion that Carr had put these critical words in to enhance the sale of his book.
    I have no doubt that these examples of a thorough change in attitude can be multiplied with many more. The question is when there will be enough “critical mass” among these “converts” to bring about a radical change in policy.

    • Manifest September 2, 2014, 2:44 PM

      Yes Malcolm Fraser has gone from being a sneaky politician to a great human being. Unfortunately, as you said, Arie, both major parties in Australia have been bought by the Likudniks, and so also has the ABC. Julia Gillard was awarded the Jerusalem Prize as payback almost immediately after leaving office. Her coup against Rudd was around the time he was making noises about an independent line on the Middle East. He seems to have sold out during his second brief term as PM.

  • ad balster September 2, 2014, 7:43 PM

    “I grew up in Amsterdam and only later found out that many of the local words were from Jiddish.”
    I too grew up in Amsterdam but those words spoke were basically uttered by people living in the Jordaan. Though central in Amsterdam it was mainly inhabited by those of the lower social class. Most of us, as children, would have got a hit on the ear from our mothers if we uttered some of those words.

    It was commonly know as ‘plaat Amsterdams’ i.e., low Amsterdams.

    • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2014, 11:11 PM

      @ ad balster: As in most societies there is an fascinating intercourse between high and low culture. So I wouldn’t look down on the speech or people who lived in so-called “low” communities. They provide extraordinary vitality to the rest of the culture and nation in the same way African-Americans have done in this country.

      BTW, there is an amazing medieval (or perhaps later) dictionary of thieves’ jargon (can’t remember where I read about this but perhaps a reader will know the source about which I’m writing) which contains a huge amount of Yiddish because contrary to popular belief, Jews were common in such company once upon a time. I suppose with reprobates like Sheldon Adelson, we still are!

  • David September 2, 2014, 7:58 PM

    Hannibal allows the state to dispense with an individual citizen without due process or cause. The soldier is honored as long as he has utility. When he becomes an expense, a dis-utility to the state, he can be offed. In the US, NDAA gave the government the power to incarcerate any American without due process for an indeterminate period of time and, by extension, to execute any American as the President sees fit, without due process. Of course, Obama was quick to comment that he wouldn’t abuse such power but I’m not comforted. The fascist state is real and alive here and now. These are the values the US shares with Likud Israel, a boot stepping on a human face…. The enemy is everywhere all the time.

  • Arie Brand September 2, 2014, 8:56 PM

    Elizabeth, this is a nice topic. Amsterdam has and had of course the largest Jewish population in the Netherlands. Around 1940 10 % of the population of Amsterdam was Jewish. So the linguistic influence of Jiddish was mainly felt there. Nevertheless the words you mentioned, and quite a few more, were also fairly generally used where I grew up, in the vicinity of Rotterdam. So it is possible that they were first used in Amsterdam (the very nickname of Amsterdam, Mokum, is, as you know, of Hebrew/Jiddisch origin) but then got to the rest of the country. Some of these words, especially “gotspe”, are indispensable because they have no real equivalent in “dutch Dutch” (a nice example of a “gotspe” is that of the fellow who is on trial for the murder of his parents and then pleads the fact that he is an orphan as a mitigating circumstance).

    Here are a few more examples: afgepeigerd (dead-tired), bolleboos (an intelligent/capable person), daar ga je (Cheers! prosit – from Jiddish “lechajjem”), dalles (poverty), gannef (thief), geinig (funny), geintje (something funny), gesjochten (impoverished), geteisem (punks, bad people), gis (clever, shrewd), goochem (clever, shrewd), heibel (trouble, commotion), heitje (a quarter), hoteldebotel (confused), joetje (ten guilders), jofel (good, nice), kapoerem (broken, not functioning), kapsones (“airs”, cockiness), kassiewijle (dead, gone), kinnesinne (envy, jealousy), klabak (copper, police man), koter (child), meier (100 guilders), lou loene (no result), miesgasser or miesgast (unpleasant person), miesmacher (a spoiler), ongein (a nuisance), penose (the criminal world), pleite (gone, disappeared), poen(money), rachmones (pity), ramsj (overstock sale), schorem (bad people), sjofel (looking poor), smeris (copper, policeman), sores (trouble, worries), stennis (ado), stiekem (hidden, secretly), tof (“cool”, likeable).

    I think that some of these words are pretty indispensable such as the terms of disapproval (schorem, geteisem, the dutch Dutch equivalents have no real “pith” though the word “tuig” doesn’t do too bad a job – then further kapsones – to be judged a “kapsones lijer” says Carmiggelt is as much as a “death verdict” in Amsterdam).

    • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2014, 9:59 PM

      @ Arie Brand: we should thank fake-Walter Benjamin for his carping comment on chutzpah which provoked this delightful side bar. Thanks for the lesson in Dutch Yiddish vocabulary. BTW, “makom” means “place” in Hebrew & Yiddish, in this sense probably “THE Place.”

    • Elisabeth September 2, 2014, 11:40 PM

      Thanks Arie! I had no idea all these words were also from Jiddish. What about ‘kanen’ (to eat) as in “Heb je nog wat te kanen?” I noticed people who are not from Amsterdam do not know this word. Could it be from Jiddish too?

      • arie brand September 3, 2014, 2:30 AM

        I know the word though I have only heard it very rarely but I don’t believe it has a Yiddish origin. However a word that does have that origin and that was lacking on my list was chosen by the readers of the daily “Het Parool;” as “Mokum’s most beautiful word: achenebbisj (in the spelling van the Van Dale though people have argued that the Yiddish spelling should be aggenebbisj). As you know the word covers a lot of nuances: something messy, of poor quality but presented as something better than it is, somewhat dirty but also with the idea that it could be better if some attention was given to it.

        • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2014, 9:39 AM

          The word “nebbish” in Yiddish refers to a person who is unfortunate and unimpressive. Someone shy & pitiable. “Achen” sounds like a Germanic or Dutch prefix.

          • Elisabeth September 3, 2014, 11:32 AM

            Yes, ‘ach!’ in Dutch means something like ‘alas!’, or ‘how pitiful!’, but in German also, and as Jiddish is a German dialect (with lots of Hebrew thrown in) it is probably directly from Jiddish.
            It is sad that the words still live on (when I looked at the list I realized that so many of the examples that especially Arie gave are really mainstream and not limited to Amsterdam ) while the people who contributed the words have perished.
            When my kids were still toddlers I used to call them ‘geinponempje’ when they were looking especially funny and cute, which (if you try to analyze it) is actually gein ‘funny’ + ponem ‘face’ + a Dutch diminutive suffix ‘-pje’, so ‘little funny face’. What a mixture!

  • Oui September 6, 2014, 12:59 PM

    Zie Amsterdam’s dialect.

    Yiddish Theatre

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