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Hannibal is an IDF ‘Putsch’ Against the State

Tonight will be the third critical Haaretz article about the Hannibal Directive which the paper hasn’t chosen to translate and publish in its English edition.  One has to wonder why there’s been relatively little critical of this semi-secret, immoral military regulation in Haaretz’s English edition.  I’m guessing the powers that be don’t want the English-speaking Diaspora audience to have to deal with the moral embarrassment it represents.

Uri Misgav published (Hebrew) a powerful denunciation of Hannibal in yesterday’s Haaretz.  I translated a significant portion of it below.  It begins with the columnist’s critique of the Israeli media campaign which has turned deputy commander “Eitan,” the soldier who rushed into the tunnel into which Hadar Goldin had been dragged by his captors (after being commanded to explode a hand grenade before entering):

Thousands of words which Deputy Eitan dispensed to the Israeli public enable us to understand fully the horror embodied in what ‘s called in the IDF, the Hannibal Directive.  About how radically it’s changed operationally over time.  How it was implemented in Rafah and what’s the significance of its use.  It wasn’t the first time it was used by the IDF.  Not in general and not even in the specific case of Operation Protective Edge.  According to military reports, before the Rafah incident there were between one and three “minor Hannibals.”  But the Rafah Hannibal was the real thing.  They talk about it a great deal, though it seems to me that they’re not seeing the trees for the full, monstrous forest it is…

The Hannibal Directive was developed to sabotage “kidnappings” in the course of battle with Hezbollah…Even the use of the term “kidnapping” is a bit misleading.  We’re really  talking about being taken captive.  Hamas fighters arrested by the IDF are not considered kidnapped.

Whatever the term, Hannibal was devised to respond to a weakness the security apparatus identified within Israeli society at the political level: the sensitivity to the fate of the captives and the missing and even the bodies of the fallen, and the prisoner exchanges which occurred due to this sensitivity.

In reality we’re talking about a mini-putsch.  The army doesn’t trust the State to know what’s the correct thing to do in the case of a captive soldier.  So it [the army] sabotages the very possibility of this happening.

The directive is purposely vaguely defined.  But everyone who’s served in the field in the past twenty years understands what it means:  in order to stop a kidnapping a massive effort must be made, up to and including endangering the life of the captive.  It’s essential above all that he not fall into captivity because then there would be a need to redeem him, God forbid.

The way Hannibal was used in Operation Protective Edge has exposed this picture in all its fulness.  They took a regulation developed for the purpose of a potential pursuit in southern Lebanon (a mountainous, stony, thinly inhabited with the exception of a few villages and small towns) and transferred it to the most densely populated city in the world…

hAnnibal cannibalEven before Rafah, the evidence in the field was clear: Hannibal was meant to take down the captor and the captive; to kill them.  The chance to free someone, tiny to begin with, became a dead letter.  Firing and aerial bombardment and artillery barrages are meant to kill.  In other words, the captive becomes, at the moment the directive is invoked, a dead man.  For all intents and purposes, he is considered part of the cell that captured him.  There is no difference.  In practice, he becomes a terrorist, a Hamasnik.  After he dies it will be possible to praise and eulogize and sanctify him (as Goldin has been).  But first you must ensure he’s dead.

We must pay attention to the insane transformation that’s occurred.  If the IDF once prided itself upon its ethos of not leaving any man behind on the field of battle, even if he was held captive, today it does everything possible to eliminate him.  This isn’t Hannibalism. This is cannibalism.  An army prepared to kill its own.

There have been armies in the past that expected that their troops not fall captive.  To perform hara kiri or to shoot themselves with a bullet to the brain.  But here we’ve taken a step forward: we don’t even give the captive the option [of taking his own life].  We decide for him.

Every Hebrew mother must understand which this means.  Her son will be a hero in Israel when he goes to fight in Gaza.  They’ll embrace him, they’ll sing songs about him, they’ll send him care packages.  But if he has the bad luck to fall captive, they’ll kill him.

THe army is not a democratic body.  Israel too is increasingly shaking off its democratic identity, but in this case it may be worth making the parents sign a form at the induction center; to ask them in the event that their son falls captive, God forbid, would they be interested in the IDF doing eveyrthing possible to eliminate him and prevent an embarrassing prisoner exchange–despite everything they’d prefer he remain alive in Hamas’ hands, if there was a chance to return him home one day…It may even be necessary to ask the fresh recruits if Hannibal is acceptable to them, or perhaps to clarify to them its actual meaning.

For anyone who thinks what’s written here is exagerrated or extreme, let’s return for a moment to the interviews of Deputy Eitan.  According to his account, when he understood Goldin was in the hands of the Hamas cell…he took his unit and decided to pursue it into the tunnel.  He himself attests that he didn’t know at that moment whether Goldin was dead or alive.  He also understood at that time that he was violating clear orders and endangering himself and his troops.  He was so anxious about a soldier being captive, and preventing such a catastrophe, that he took a considered gamble that he might increase the number of captives or dead.

He began by entering with a drawn pistol and afterward was accompanied by his soldiers.  He and his troops laid down indiscriminate fire into the tunnel.  “This is why I joined up, this is why they made me an officer.  I lead the kid next to me.  We proceed and I give permission to open fire with my authorization.  When asked about the chance that the firing would hit Goldin, he answered: “That may be.  But we don’t deliberate.  I never gave an order to fire.  I told him [the subordinate] you identify [the target] and open fire.  Even if it meant killing Hadar…that’s what happens despite our sorrow [about it], it’s preferable [to the alternative].

Explicit words. “Despite our sorrow,” it’s preferable that IDF soldier Hadar Goldin be injured or dead rather than held captive.  This is the Hannibal Directive in all its glory.  In a single sentence.

On a related subject, though IDF “ethicist” seems a supporter of Hannibal, there are religious figures deeply troubled (Hebrew) by its implications.  In fact, two rabbis have written a halachic tract, Jewish Military Ethics, in which they’ve called the directive unethical.  NRG (formerly Maariv, but now the website of the Adelson-owned Makor Rishon), even says:

…The directive is opposed to Jewish ethics and presents very grave moral problems.

Despite the fact that killing an IDF soldier may prevent a future prisoner exchange that may free Palestinian prisoners who may kill Israelis after their release:

It is deeply problematic ethically to take upon ourselves to decision of who may live and who may die.  Recent Jewish history [presumably referring to the Holocaust] proves that there is no benefit to such conduct…

The regulation that it’s permissible to intentionally harm a soldier in order to prevent his falling into captivity is deeply damages the ethical value of mutual responsibility, including comradeship and cohesion of the military unit.  Because if there is a directive to intentionally harm one’s own comrade in arms unit cohesion cannot be preserved.  It turns the men [in the unit] into potential enemies…

The “kidnapped” soldier does not endanger the security of the State due to the price that will be paid for his return because the State isn’t forced to accept this price.  If it does decide to pay it, it isn’t the captive who’s made this decision.

I’ll take the wisdom of these rabbis over a thousand Asa Kashers!

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israeli peace rally cancelled

Israeli left cancels anti-war rally at behest of police

Yesterday, a united Israeli left was supposed to hold a major anti-war rally under the banner of “Changing the Direction Toward Peace: No to the Way of War, a Political Solution is Necessary.”  Among the participants were Peace Now, Meretz, Hadash and other liberal-left groups and parties. But a funny thing happened.  Tel Aviv police told the event organizers that the Home Front Command had forbidden gatherings in the city of greater than a thousand people.  This was supposedly to protect Tel Avivans from being struck by Hamas rockets.  On the strength of this refusal, the political parties decided to postpone the rally.

shimri segal meretz attack on peace activists

Shimri Segal’s attack on Tel Aviv peace protesters

Haggai Matar notes in his article for Mekomit that there were many other events last night in Tel Aviv that attracted even greater crowds than the thousands expected at the peace rally.  Yet somehow they weren’t cancelled as well.  A curious case of selective use of police power to repress inconvenient political expression.

This dysfunction and lack of will is emblematic of the sickness in the soul of the Israeli soft left.  It doesn’t know what it wants, doesn’t know how to get there, and caves at the first sign of rightist opposition.

shimri segal

Shimri Segal

But there were 500 hearty souls who would not be deterred by the refusal of the police.  They marched anyway.  They did so peaceably and wonder of wonders–the police didn’t interfere!  Imagine if the organizers of the original event had stood their ground.  What might have happened then?  Imagine displaying a left that couldn’t be cowed by the security apparatus?

But Shimri Segal, a Knesset aide to Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, published a curious diatribe on his Facebook account (since removed but saved for posterity here) which blamed the protesters who demonstrated last night for promoting “violence” instead of peace:

The peace rally which had been planned was postponed.  In its place, people came to the Square supporting armed struggle.

I’ve never understood people who think that violence can solve violence [sic].  I don’t understand it when I see it from the talking heads in TV studios nor when I hear [it from] radicals at a rally in the Square.

We will fill the Square soon with cries for solidarity, opposition to violence, and a demand for peace.

Watch the video and tell me where you see violence.  What disturbed Segal no doubt was the slogan and placards at the rally which called for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel (“U.S. Arms, Israel Kills”) and an end to the Gaza siege.  No doubt cutting off U.S. military aid to Israel could tar the soft left with the brush of being anti-Israel.  So in that sense, cutting off arms to Israel might not allow Israel to ‘defend’ itself (or drop bombs on Gazan babies, depending on your view of the matter).  So you could make an argument (a rather feeble one) that U.S. arms prevent violence against Israel.

Another factor that likely disturbs Segal is that a real left ignored the warning and threats of the security forces and took a brave stance that made freedom of speech a meaningful value in the Israeli context.  The left of political parties, beholden to their sinecures in Knesset, bowed and scraped before the powerful and the police.

After attempting to contact Nitzan Horowitz in several different ways to ask for his comment on his aide’s remarks, instead he forwarded my e mail to Segal, who replied:

I didnt blame Israeli peace activists for promoting violence in Gaza. What i did write, I wrote as a private person.

So the opening remarks in the FB post announcing postponement of the Meretz rally were official.  But the words following in the next paragraph which condemned the “radical” left for fomenting violence were not official.  Are you following?

H/t to Talkaholic.

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samson toppling temple

Samson and Ofer Winter toppling the “gates of Gaza.”

I’ve recounted in several posts here, the exploits of IDF Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Brigade.  In army lore, he should go down as “Samson, slayer of Philistines,” because he wrote publicly and acted militarily as if he was re-enacting the Samson story and inflicting Biblical vengeance on the latter-day enemies of the people of Israel.

The mythical-historical Samson was a Nazirite (a Joan of Arc-figure endowed with mythical powers) enslaved by the Philistines after Delilah cut his hair and drained his strength.  As any Hebrew or Sunday school child knows, Samson, who’d also been blinded by his captors, waited for the moment when the Philistines held a banquet at which they featured him as the entertaining clown of the evening.  It was at that moment, as they ridiculed him, when Samson regained his strength and toppled the pillars of the pagan temple, taking his enemies down with him.

This is the sort of latter-day Jewish heroism Winter was summoning in the Order of Battle he published just before the ground invasion began.  In a holy war, there is no morality.  Morality is a secular concept.  In such a war, there is only the Lord and His commands, which follow their own sacred code.

That’s why Winter could call on his troops to kill Lt. Hadar Goldin when they couldn’t prevent his capture.  The Hannibal Directive, despite gussying it up in the moral philosophical precepts of Asa Kasher, is a directive to kill captive soldiers so that they won’t hold the entire nation ransom if they’re held hostage by the enemy.

In response to Goldin’s capture, Winter unleashed the hell-hounds of war on the people of Rafah.  Winter is a genuine IDF war criminal.

This riveting Haaretz article by Yagil Levy (not yet translated into English), recounts some of his barbaric military acts following that.  Keep in mind as you read it that “Palestinian” and “Philistine” are almost interchangeable in Hebrew, and settler religious ultra-nationalists deliberately invoke the Bibilical term to conjure Palestinians as latter-day enemies of the nation of Israel:

Givati Brigade Battles Philistines 

The order of battle which the Givati Commander Ofer Winter published at the beginning of Operation Protective Edge aroused a public furor.  There were those who claimed that it should be impossible for someone who represented the battle in Gaza as a religious war–which declared the enemy to be “defamers, abusers and defilers of the God of Israel’s battle campaigns”–to continue in his military position.

…It’s important to remember, in any event, that we’re not speaking of a document having only abstract religious significance.  The perspective of religious war [in the Order of Battle by Winter] guided the Givati brigade on a tactical [practical] level as well.

During battleground tours with journalists of Hirbet Ahza’a [more properly, Khuza'a], hundreds of meters into the depths of Gaza, Winter pointed to a mosque destroyed by an air attack.  The mosque had been destroyed by the directive of Winter in order to neutralize fire that came from it, after Winter rejected the possibility of attacking it with a [less damaging] ground missile rather than an air-to-ground missile.

“Did you see it [the mosque]?” asked Winter pointing to the mosque.  “This was once a mosque.”  He said this giddily, without any hint of guilt, sorrow or apology as he strode through the ruins of the village, whose 13,000 residents were expelled according to the army’s [Winter's] orders.  He continued, saying with pride…: “When I said to you Ahza’a [Khuza'a] once looked different, I was referring to this [the mosque].”

In conversation with another reporter, Winter was proud of the steps he took to protect the lives of his soldiers: a shell or a missile hit every house before his soldiers entered.  These things weren’t presented as part of a unified or obligatory military policy because, by comparison, Winter described incidents in which another unit lost three soldiers entering a booby-trapped house.

The height of this can be seen in his activation of the Hannibal Directive after the “kidnapping” [sic] of Hadar Goldin in Rafah.  According to reports, a massive amount of fire was mounted by the IDF, which deviated from any measure of proportionality–to use military terms–to stop the “kidnapping.”  So they fired directly on homes and killed 150 Palestinians, most of them civilians.  This time no warning was offered to enable anyone to flee.

War crimes are not deterred by religious doctrine.  Rather, the barriers to carrying them out are even easier to overcome, when the battle is seen as a religious war, conducted by someone who believes he kills an enemy which “defiles the name of God.”  And that the command to inherit the land obligates an uncompromising war against the descendants of the Philistines [Palestinians], as Winter’s teacher, Rabbi Eli Sadan, director of the B’nei David pre-army academy, preached in the midst of Operation Protective Edge.  The mission was, according to Sadan, to topple the “gates of Gaza,” like the feat of Samson, which would pave the way to realize Sadan’s ideal, the founding of a Davidic kingdom in Hebron.  After founding such a kingdom “you would not find any more Philistines,” said the Rabbi.  Therefore, for Winter and Sadan, the battle in Gaza isn’t one after which one reaches a compromise, but rather a part of a religious war which must not be ended before decisive victory.

The religious perspective of the Commander attests to a military doctrine that deviates from the official ethical norms of the army.  This “ethics” is developed from the inspiration of pre-army education, which this commander received at the academy which functions under state authority.  The boundary which prohibits expression of such a perspective, and in essence their realization in the field, should have been demarcated by Winter’s commanders.  But they failed in this and instead fully legitimized his actions.  Offering anew the demarcation of such a boundary is critical for the recovery of battle ethics and in order to guarantee that the army realizes a mission identified by the political echelon, in whose name soldiers are ordered to sacrifice their lives.  A mission whose purpose is entirely different than founding a Davidic kingdom in Hebron.

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givati command levels
Satire from today’s Haaretz concerning the Commander of the Givati Brigade, Col. Ofer Winter.  Note which command level is ranked lowest of the five:

The five command levels for the [IDF] Givati Brigade:

1. the Lord of Hosts

2. Deputy Lord of Hosts

3.  Prophets of Israel

4. IDF Chief Rabbi

5. [IDF] Chief of Staff

Of course, what’s even more ironic about this is that this is not just the command level for one IDF brigade, it’s the command level for the entire army and possibly the entire country, which is rapidly turning into a Jewish political-theocracy.

H/t Iftach Shavit

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ofer winter idf war criminal

Col. Winter’s genocidal battle plan for Operation Protective Edge

After Operation Cast Lead, peace activists prepared a list of 200 IDF officers who played major roles in the sowing the killing fields of Gaza with blood.  I’m hoping someone is right now preparing a similar list for Operation Protective Edge.  The level of mass mayhem in it far exceeds that of the prior campaign.  More dead, more injured, more orphans, more devastation.

Remember this name in particular: Ofer Winter.  He’s the poster boy of IDF war criminals.  He was also high on the list of those accused of similar acts during Cast Lead.  It was he who wrote the genocidal battle plan announced to his troops in the accompanying image:

History has chosen for us to be the bayonet point of battle against the Gazan terrorist enemy which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s military campaigns…

God, the Lord of Israel, make our path successful, as we are about to fight for Your People, Israel, against an enemy who defames your name. In the name of the IDF fighters…make the phrase “For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” come true, and we shall answer: Amen.

ofer winter

Col. Ofer Winter, author of Rafah massacre

Lest you think I overstated the term “genocidal” above, anyone who knows their Bible will recognize this language.  It is the language used to describe those tribes which the Israelites wiped out in their campaign to capture the land of Israel and populate it with their offspring.  Tribes like the Amalekites, Moabites, Jebusites and others were all exterminated in battles in which the ancient Jews followed what they perceived as God’s will in taking over the land.

Winter’s Givati brigade played a key role in the slaughter in Rafah (English edition) in the last week of the war in which 160 Palestinians were killed by vengeful IDF forces seeking vengeance after a Hamas attack that killed an IDF major, sergeant and captured Lt. Hadar Goldin.

These troops were member of Givati.  So when the deputy commander named Eitan came on the scene of that attack he begged Col. Winter to allow him to pursue the Palestinian fighters who’d taken Goldin into the tunnel in which they’d fled.

Winter permitted him to do so only after exploding a grenade in the tunnel, which would’ve killed Goldin and his captors if they were still there.

Then Winter and the rest of the IDF proceeded to rampage through Gaza both from air and land.  They annihilated any vehicle approaching the hospital in Rafah in case Goldin was being brought for treatment.  The attack was relentless and unlike any other previous one in this horrific war.  Heavy artillery, air bombardment, striking anything that moved (as Zvi Bar’el wrote in the column I translated yesterday).

Here is how Haaretz characterized Winter’s “on the ground” interpretation of Hannibal:

The Givati command headquarters…used the Hannibal procedure to find Goldin. They did so without the immediate authorization of the Gaza Division and Southern Command.

This was the most aggressive action of its type ever carried out by the IDF, military sources said. In addition to the use of special forces, an armored column moved quickly about one kilometer into Rafah’s built-up area…Israeli air support was also called in.

This procedure takes a risk with the life of a captured soldier to stop the abduction. But officers in the General Staff said this week the procedure does not permit the killing of a captured soldier to thwart the abduction. Still, some soldiers and junior officers might believe the killing of the abductee is preferable to an abduction.

Let’s again be clear in ways that few other Israeli or foreign journalists are willing to be.  This was not an attempt to save Goldin or free him.  It was an attempt to kill him.  It was also an attempt to kill his captors and show Hamas that this will be the fate of anyone who attempts to capture an Israeli soldier.  But this is a lesson that Hamas refuses to learn, because it is motivated by the same stubborn, zealous nationalism that impels the IDF.  Hamas is willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of its nation including the lives of its fighters.  And taking an IDF soldier hostage advances the struggle for Palestine.  So it is a chance not only worth taking as far as they are concerned, but even a desired and noble sacrifice if one were to lose one’s life in taking it.

There is also another aspect of the Rafah slaughter that must be considered when weighing charges of war crimes.  Besides killing Goldin under the execrable Hannibal Directive, this day that Haaretz reporters are now calling Black Friday was one of mass vengeance against not just those who killed the two soldiers, but also against everyone, including civilians, in the area from which the attackers came.  This was not just collective punishment, an act clearly prohibited under the laws of war, it was collective murder.

So Col. Winter, you’ve earned your number 1 spot in the new Dirty 200 list of IDF war criminals.

On a related matter, the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire has now ended.  In talks in Cairo, Egypt and Israel offered no flexibility regarding Israeli demands to lift the illegal siege of Gaza.  Therefore, as expected, the ceasefire appears to have failed.  Rockets have begun to fly from Gaza into Israel.  The latter has announced Hamas has rejected the ceasefire attempting to pin the blame on it for a resumption of hostilities, while omitting Israel’s intransigence as the leading factor in the failure of the talks.

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A Nightmare Called Hannibal

Despite the pall of military censorship, the Israel and foreign media are beginning, tentatively to air the problematic moral issues about the Hannibal Directive and how it was implemented during the Gaza war.  To be clear, there has been a lot of smoke and hokum written on the subject as well.  And that even is the preponderance of what is published.  But there have been two noteworthy stories written, one by Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz (Hebrew) and one by Ruth Margalit in The New Yorker.  Far the most important is Bar’el’s, but Haaretz hasn’t yet translated it into English.  Since I don’t know whether it will or not, I’m going to translate the most critical passages below.

But before I do, I wanted to point to Israeli reporting on Hannibal and the Hadar Goldin killing in particular, to illustrate Israel’s schizophrenic nature around this subject.  A Ynet article describes (Hebrew) the “heroics” of Deputy Commander “Eitan,” who demanded of his superiors permission to pursue Goldin and his captors into the tunnel in which they had disappeared.  The officer had to climb up the ranks of his commanding officers till he finally reached one who approved of his hot pursuit.  But the commander told him that before he entered the tunnel he had to throw a grenade into it.

Compare this to this subtitle of the story:

Deputy [Commander] Who Went into Tunnel to Save Goldin

You simply don’t throw hand grenades into tunnels into which your own comrade has just disappeared if you wish to save him.  Another ghoulish aspect of this report is that it features video of Eitan visiting the bereaved Goldin family, where he’s welcomed with open arms.  They truly believe Eitan valiantly tried to save their son when instead he tried to kill him (and perhaps did).  There is a secret, unconscious code (something like Hannibal itself), which allows everyone to pretend Goldin died a hero and that his comrades did everything possible to save him, when the opposite is the case.

hannibal directive hadar goldin

Ambulances of the sort destroyed in an attempt to kill IDF Lt. Hadar Goldin  (Saleh Hijazi)

Here is Zvi Bar’el’s Haaretz column:

A Nightmare Called Hannibal

Twice we heard sighs of relief from one end of the country to another.  Once when the army confirmed the death of Oron Shaul and a second, when it announced that Hadar Goldin had died.  It even seemed that a note of triumph accompanied that sigh: Hamas hadn’t succeeded in kidnapping our soldiers and the country had averted a double trauma.

Who could stand the drafting of thousands of citizen do-gooders to gather at intersections with placards calling for “the return home of the soldiers?”  Who has the patience of these parents, who immediately begin to run to European capitals in order to seek support and pressure Hamas?  Who has the resources required to conduct negotiations with German, British or Qatari mediators in order to get a bit of information on the kidnap victims?  Not to speak of the political pressure, the empty declarations of MKs concerning the “strategic threat” posed by freeing [Palestinian] prisoners in return for [Israeli] hostages.  In short,  give us those dead bodies and we’ll be satisfied.  War, death, funerals, a clean shiva, all of which satisfy.  [They offer] formal recognition of our bereavement.  This is the desired order of things.

A hostage shatters the picture of victory, the narrative of complete success.  A captive is a national fashlah [mishap].

But there is a cure:  the army pharmacy invented the Hannibal Directive.  A perverted, satanic product which, in common parlance, we may describe as: “let the world go to hell and the kidnap victim too, as long as we’re not shamed.”  The practical ramification of the expression is artillery bombardments, aerial bombardment, and destruction of all that moves in the vicinity of the kidnapping, in order to prevent the kidnappers from fleeing.  Let a hundred die, even a thousand, let hundreds of homes be turned into dust, let children be made orphans and women in labor roll in their own blood, just so that the kidnappers and perhaps the kidnap victim himself should die.

“You must act, to the extent possible, to stop the kidnapping, including laying down fire, but not in a manner which causes a high likelihood of death to the kidnap victim.  This is due to an understanding that the value of the life of the kidnap victim is greater than the price of the kidnapping [ransom],” clarifies Prof. Asa Kasher, who wrote the IDF’s ethical code.

How do you define “a high likelihood?”  How many residents may you kill and how many homes destroy in order to prevent a kidnapping?  Is 100 Palestinians acceptable?  Maybe 150?  100 homes is in the realm of what’s acceptable?  It goes without saying that the lives of Palestinians aren’t worth much to begin with, their homes worth even less.

But where did that shrug of the shoulders that was seen among IDF spokespersons and politicians of several days past go, when they troubled themselves to explain that falling captive, just like the death or wounding of a soldier, was an inseparable part of war?  If falling captive is so “natural” why do we need to make worlds quake [when it happens to us]?  Even when a soldier is killed, the IDF doesn’t purposely destroy a school or clinic.  At least this is what we would hope.  So why for the sake of a captive does the IDF ignite a a spewing volcano which is likely to pour boiling lava also on the kidnap victim himself?

There is no intent to save [the soldier] in the Hannibal Directive, and certain no ethics or essential [moral] value.  The falling of a person into captivity obligates that we do everything to free him…from captivity, not from life itself.  Yes, it is permitted, even criticial to conduct negotiations to free him, to exchange him for prisoners or to pay ransom if that’s what is necessary.  Nations no less ethical than Israel have done so and continue to do so.

The bluff that we don’t conduct negotiations with terrorists has been exposed for some time.  Even now Israel conducts talks with Hamas, with which it signed a ceasefire in 2012.  Are ceasefire talks more moral than talks over returning a captive?  All the argument for and against exchanging prisoners have been exhausted in the case of Gilad Shalit and his predecessors.  In the end, freeing them was considered, in effect, the most humane and ethical act the country could do on behalf of its soldiers.  The Hannibal Directive contradicts in an absolute manner this approach.  It must be repudiated immediately.

As for Margalit’s article, it is generally quite good.  But I take strong issue with this statement:

To be clear, there is no evidence that Goldin was killed by friendly fire. 

There are heaping mounds of evidence that Goldin was killed by his own comrades.  I’ve reported here that members of his unit wounded him as he was being carried away.  You’ve read above that another soldier threw a grenade into a tunnel into which he’d been carried.  Every ambulance or vehicle approaching the hospital where he might be taken for treatment was annihilated by IDF fire.  How much evidence do you need to say that it’s highly likely Goldin (as well as Guy Levy) was killed by his own?

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Yesterday, I called the State Department press office to ask for comment on my report that not only Israel, but Russia as well are intercepting John Kerry’s in flight telephone calls in order to learn the internal positions of the U.S. government on matters of concern to them like Palestine peace talks and the Ukraine, respectively.

I’d tweeted to the AP’s State Department reporter, Matt Lee, earlier asking if he’d consider asking such a question at the weekly Monday press conference.  His question (I presume it was Matt’s though the transcript doesn’t identify the reporter by name) only asked about the Israeli spying, but not the Russian.  Here is how the transcript reads:

QUESTION:  And one final on this.  Has Secretary Kerry communicated these concerns to Prime Minister Netanyahu since this latest attack?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he spoke with him briefly yesterday morning, and their phone call was cut off.  I think there was some communications issue.  But he has raised the – our concern about civilian casualties in the past, and certainly that’s consistent but not this specific –

QUESTION:Did he raise the questions about Israeli spying, for lack of a better word, on his telephone calls?

MS. PSAKI:There’s just nothing more I have to read out from the call.

Here is the response I received to my own query from the State Department:

Here is the response given at State Department Daily Press Briefing on August 4, 2014 by Spokesperson Jen Psaki [a reference to the above passage]. Nothing more to add.

So when given a chance to deny the truth of the report, State punted.

I also found Psaki’s revelation that Kerry’s phone call with Netanyah was “cut off” by “some communications issue” to be tantalizing.  Keep in mind that relations now between the U.S. and Israel are at about their lowest ebb since the first George Bush cut off aid in 1991.  Israel had rejected a U.S.-UN brokered ceasefire prominently announced by Kerry about a week earlier and pursued the war killing several hundred more Palestinians in the interim.

One can imagine that the phone call between Kerry and Netanyahu can’t have been a happy one, since Kerry was clearly complaining about Israel killing Palestinian civilians.  One may also imagine that Netanyahu hung up on Kerry in anger, though I haven’t been able to confirm this through my own sources.

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