≡ Menu

Gil Erdan Leaked Secret Gaza Military Briefing

Gil Erdan

Gil Erdan: leaked top secret military briefing to outflank Bibi’s rightist rivals.

CORRECTION: When I originally wrote this post, my most trusted Israeli source was not accessible.  Several commenters in the thread and others noted that another minister, Gil Erdan, has a name closer to “Iran” than Lieberman’s.  They were indeed correct.  The minister who leaked was Erdan, not Lieberman.  Erdan is a devout Bibi loyalist.  Though I hadn’t known him as a leaker on a par with Lieberman or Bibi himself (the consummate leakers) till now, which was why I erroneously put my money on Lieberman as the source.

Amir Oren wrote a dramatic story in Haaretz in which he used obscure code to make some astonishing claims: He said that a cabinet minister leaked the content of a secret military briefing provided to the Israeli security cabinet about what it would take to reoccupy Gaza.  At that moment IDF losses had risen, Hamas had made significant strides in defending against Israeli invasion and the political opportunists to Bibi’s right were baying for Gazan blood.  Ministers like Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman were practically ridiculing Bibi for going soft on Gaza, for not going “all in” and destroying Hamas once and for all.  The prime minister, always one to calculate all the angles of any particular political plan (and especially sensitive to outflanking his right-wing rivals), asked the IDF to brief the cabinet about what it would take to retake Gaza.

No doubt, just as the military and intelligence echelons didn’t want to attack Iran, they didn’t want to retake Gaza.  They knew it was a swamp and a trap.  So they were only to happy to give such a sobering account of what Israel had in store should it take on such a project.  But, according to Oren’s story, Bibi wasn’t content merely providing this to his ministers.  He wanted the entire nation to know the price that would be paid in blood.

Lieberman putin

Lieberman and his “pal” in the Kremlin

So he engineered a leak.  Of course, Bibi’s fingerprints mustn’t be on the leak, so it came from another minister allied with the PM.  Here’s how Oren described what he calls “the mole:”

One branch of the defense establishment suspects that the mole’s last name rhymes with the name of a certain country with which Netanyahu is obsessed.

This requires some serious sleuthing and riddle-solving.  The country Bibi is “obsessed” with is probably Iran.  Which makes the likely identity of the cabinet minister, Avigdor Lieberman.  If this is true, then it makes him a two-faced liar because it was he who was trying to outdo Bennett in calling for Israel to invade and conquer Gaza.  It also indicates that despite friction between them, that Bibi and Lieberman retain some sense of alliance and common purpose.

It’s also interesting that Oren uses the term “mole” to describe Lieberman.  In a recent post, I noted that he played a key role in negotiating an intelligence collaboration with Russia in which the two countries shared eavesdropping chores against John Kerry.  It seems that Lieberman has excellent skills as an intelligence asset and betrayer of Israeli military secrets (along with the prime minister himself).

Oren notes in his article that one of the benefactors of the cabinet leak was the Hamas military wing which was listening to the TV news report that night and knew from it that Israel would not launch a full-scale invasion of Gaza.  Both Bibi and Lieberman must’ve calculated that avoiding such a quagmire trumped exposing Israel’s military plans to the enemy.

I’m always amused by the security hawks who shrey about whistleblowers like Anat Kamm or Mordecahi Vanunu who expose state secrets.  They damage the security of the state.  They endanger our troops.  They tell the enemy how to outsmart us.  That’s the mantra of the security establishment as it protects its perogatives.  But somehow when the figure doing the leaking is a general or a prime minister, then the state somehow relaxes the rules.

{ 6 comments }

obama,netanyahu,snowdenEvents of the past year or so point increasingly to Israel abandoning, or at least markedly diminishing, its reliance on the U.S. as its sole strategic partner.   Despite a massive investment in diplomacy, public advocacy, and funding that is reinforced by the power of the Israel Lobby in manipulating U.S. policy to favor Israel, the latter is moving toward an expanding alliance with a web of Russian and Middle Eastern autocrats.

The reasons for the souring relationship with the U.S. are clear.  From the beginning of the Obama administration when it failed in its push for settlement freeze, to the most recent failure of John Kerry’s Israel-Palestine peace talks, the handwriting is on the wall.  Bibi and his ideological partners in government detest this administration and the feeling is mutual.  The Israelis see the U.S. as weak and ineffectual.  Unable to stand up to the west’s real enemies: Islamists, whether they be in Lebanon, Iran or Gaza.

That’s why Netanyahu produced a political ad used by the Romney campaign, a development that would’ve been unheard of for previous Israeli prime ministers.  It’s why Bibi’s sugar daddy, Sheldon Adelson, pumped over $100-million into the GOP presidential race (expect double that in the next one).

Now, there are reports that Obama has suspended arms shipments to Israel in light of the massive toll of civilian dead in Gaza.  Hellfire missiles requested by Israel have been withheld for a month.  It is the first time there’s been such an action in the past thirty years.  This after the Israeli did an end-run around the White House and State and simply asked lower-level U.S. officials to release earlier weaponry.

Recently, I reported based on a highly placed Israeli source, that not only was Israel eavesdropping on Secretary of State Kerry’s in-air phone calls, but that Russia was doing so as well.  The project was not one in which the two countries pursued their spying separately.  Indeed, they did so in tandem and shared the harvested intelligence with each other so that Israel would learn what Kerry was saying about the Israel-Palestine peace talks (and how to counter any moves considered detrimental to the Netanyahu government) and Russia gleaned U.S. plans regarding Ukraine.

In that post, I noted that unlike claims of the Israel Lobby to a “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S. based on shared values and such blather, Israel sees nothing but interests.  And as the rightist government in power in Israel gets a hostile reception by this White House, it turns to other powers who are more receptive and conducive to Israel’s right-wing ideology.  Those countries are Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Russia

Israel has at times earlier in its history had a close relationship with the Soviet Union, which was the first country to recognize the new State in 1948.  Russia and its eastern European allies provided a great deal of the weaponry used by the Palmach to defend the new state in the 1948 War.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s the Russians became increasingly allied with the Arab states.  It was during this period (beginning with the 1967 War) that Israel developed its close alliance with the U.S.  These alliances were heavily shaped by Cold War political alignments.

So as Netanyahu and Obama have become mutually disenchanted, Israel naturally turned back to the Russians.  It’s widely reported in the Israeli media that Avigdor Lieberman, a former Soviet émigré, has facilitated much of the warming of the relationship with Russia, including this particular spy deal.  Those inside Israel most opposed to him and his Yisrael Beitenu party have regularly painted him as a Russian asset.  Haaretz has also reported the Mossad has refused to brief Lieberman on certain sensitive subjects which might offer Russia access to Israeli secrets.

Another interesting part of this story is something Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer pointed to in a recent column.  He asked why there have been so few revelations about Israeli intelligence in the Snowden documents as released by Greenwald and others.  Pfeffer suggests that this may be due to Snowden’s refuge in Russia.  His delicate situation there has likely led Snowden’s collaborators to pull punches when it comes to releasing embarrassing information about both Russian and Israel intelligence.  Russia’s budding collaboration with Israel may’ve given the latter protection from the avalanche of leaks that’s have exposed U.S., UK and other intelligence agencies.

Indeed, the source I referred to above has also confirmed that the price for Russian refuge for Snowden has been access to the full trove of his documents.  I realize that Snowden no longer has access to the documents.  But he may’ve given the Russians access at a time when he still did.  At any rate, I have no way of independently verifying this claim by my source is correct.

ofrit idf base

IDF intelligence base, Ofrit, in occupied East Jerusalem

But more importantly, my source says Greenwald cannot publish any sensitive data these documents may contain that would damage the interests of Russia or its allies (which includes Israel).  That further explains why there have so few shocking revelations about one of the most invasive, aggressive security states in the world in the Snowden archive (at least so far).

As an example, I approached Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and another of their colleagues asking if any of the Snowden documents could confirm the existence of a secret NSA data collection center in the IDF base, Ofrit, located in occupied East Jerusalem.  They maintained radio silence.  The State Department at least told me this wasn’t a story they could comment on and that no one else anywhere in the government would either.

I’ve also tried numerous times to address questions to Greenwald and associates about my source’s claims that Snowden’s Russian refuge has shaped the release of documents.  No response there as well.

I am not publishing this in an attempt to diminish the value of Snowden’s whistle-blowing project, nor his courageous efforts to expose NSA overreaching.  But I do think it’s important that we understand all the various influences and factors that may be shaping this amazing story.

Egypt

As the Arab Spring unfolded, the Israeli leadership became frightened of the potential for anti-Israel sentiment arising from the populist movements in countries like Egypt and Tunisia.  Indeed, a mob burned down the Israeli embassy in Cairo, causing a freeze in all Israel-Egypt relations for several months.  So when the Egyptian generals toppled the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, Israel saw an opportunity to resume and even intensify the relationship it formerly had with an authoritarian leader like Hosni Mubarak.  But the new military junta offered an added benefit to Israel.  Unlike Mubarak, who tolerated Hamas, the new Pres. al-Sisi had a visceral hatred of the Brotherhood.  Since Hamas is seen as closely allied with the Brotherhood (especially in the eyes of the generals), there is no love lost between the new Egyptian government and Hamas.  This can be seen in Egypt’s efforts to broker a Gaza ceasefire which have foundered because Hamas sees Egypt as an Israeli ally rather than an honest broker.

But one important factor to note regarding the current Gaza ceasefire and accompanying talks, Netanyahu has bumped the U.S. out of the process and substituted the Egyptians for the Americans.  Despite his hatred for Hamas, al-Sisi is allowing his intelligence chiefs to shepherd the talks.  This is probably due to the perceived benefits it offers the junta in the eyes of Israel.  Doing a ‘mitzvah’ for Bibi will reap rewards for the generals.

Saudi Arabia

Over the past few  years, Israel has built a strong, though tacit alliance with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States.  The unifying principle of this multi-nation pact is a deep mistrust of Iran.  Israel and the Saudis have had repeated secret high level meetings of their respective intelligence chiefs (at least one in Israel).  They’ve jointly threatened the prospect of war against Iran if the U.S. fails to do the job for them.  Israel has also opened a secret military liaison office (reported exclusively in this blog) in the United Arab Emirates.  The goal is to coordinate the campaign to isolate and subvert Iran and its supposed campaign to manufacture WMD.

The Saudis and Israelis have jumped into each others’ arms due to a joint antipathy toward the Obama administration which both see as vacillating and weak in confronting the Shiite menace posed by Iran.

Will these radical shifts in Israel’s strategic alliances help it to achieve its interests? I’d argue that these new alliances are designed to paper over Israel’s real security problems rather than address them.  A malleable anti-Hamas Egypt does little or nothing to resolve the differences Israel has with Hamas.  New alliances with the Sunni Gulf States don’t allow Israel to reach any long-term compromise with Iran.  It only postpones such an outcome indefinitely.  The close relationship with Russia is meant to act as a counter to the U.S. in the same way that Mao turned to Nixon and the U.S., as his former alliance with the Soviet Union fell apart.  But I see no way that Russia can serve the same role in support of Israel that the U.S. has over the past 50 years.

By turning toward dictators like Putin, al-Sisi, and the House of Saud, Israel is betraying what little is left of its own democratic heritage.  It is throwing in its lot with tyrants, racists, and thugs and allowing the world to see that this is what Israel itself represents in its treatment of the Palestinians.  Though the vise-like grip the Lobby has on American Israel-related politics will not allow U.S. governments to entirely abandon Israel, there will be a gradual shift away from the special relationship (see the latest Gallup poll which shows that the youngest cohort polled displayed antipathy toward the Gaza invasion).  At that point, when Israel needs resupply of military weapons for its latest adventure in Gaza or Lebanon, Israel better hope one of its new friends can replace the old U.S. role.  There may come a time (and it can’t come soon enough) when we will no longer be there.

Israel’s increasing willingness to betray the close ties it’s had with the U.S. should give our administration pause in pondering the direction of future relations.  A wise man once said that in politics there are no friends or enemies, only interests.  I would add that there are no shared values, only interests. Israel believes this.  When will we get with the program?

{ 25 comments }

IDF Col. Ofer Winter: Butcher of Khuza’a

What goes around comes around.  The circle of tragedy that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has come full circle in the years between 1948 and 2014.  In the 1948 War, a young soldier who was to become one of the finest Israeli writers of his generation, served in Gaza and witnessed the atrocities of war from there.  Afterward, S. Yizhar (ne Yizhar Smilansky) wrote some of the most searing accounts of the brutality and immorality of Palmach tactics against the native Palestinian population.  One of these was the novella, Hirbet Hiza.  At the heart of this disturbing story is the unjust expulsion of the inhabitants of this Palestinian village from their homes.  For every reader of this story, the accounts of the expulsions and extermination of the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust rung clearly in their minds as a historical precedent.

For those who served in the War and for all Israelis with a moral conscience, the story became a bell-weather.  It was the equivalent of Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage in the context of the American Civil War. Jacqueline Rose has an excellent review here.

In those days, when the Labor Party ruled Israel, a decorated hero and literary lion like Yizhar was welcomed into the political elite.  He ran for Knesset and served several terms.  He also taught at the prestigious Hebrew University.  Today, of course, Yizhar would either have defanged his trenchant observations or he’d be persona non grata.  There is no more tolerance of non-conformity within Israeli arts or society.  You are either a cheerleader or you are in cherem.  Israel has no more room for prophets, whether Biblical or literary.

Before bringing this story up to present day, I want to take a detour to 1982.  In that year, Israel invaded Lebanon and there were many Lebanese villages treated by the IDF the way Hirbet Hiza had been treated.  At the time, I was in graduate school at UC Berkeley enrolled in a PhD program in Comparative Literature.  That was when I first read Yizhar’s powerful story.  It was so riveting that I began translating it into English.  I didn’t even know why I was doing it except that it struck me as a powerful moral indictment of Israeli hubris.  I thought it was critical that this eyewitness testimony be read and known by English speaking readers.

I wrote to Yizhar and he expressed interest in seeing my work.  After I sent it to him, I never heard a reply.  No doubt, my Hebrew translation skills then (hopefully they’ve improved over the years) didn’t do justice to the majesty of his work.  For this reason, I was both wistful and pleased to learn that a fine translation was finally published three decades later.  This book deserves to be in the pantheon of great Hebrew literature and such a translation will help it get even more recognition than it already has.

In recent weeks, both Israelis and foreigners following the Gaza massacre have begun hearing of IDF massacres and mass executions in a Gaza neighborhood called Khuza’a.  Here is Jesse Rosenfeld’s account of one of those incidents, which provides a great deal of circumstantial proof that the IDF was the perpetrator of this mass murder.

Idan Landau, one of Israel’s finest moral and political bloggers writes about the village:

Khuza’a is a village in the southern portion of Gaza, east of Khan Younis, 500 meters from the border.  On the opposite side of the fence is Kibbutz Nir Oz.  In the village are 10,000 residents (some say 14,000) who earn their living primarily from agriculture.

It was.  There was a village.  There were residents.  Now, everything is a shambles.  Courtesy of the IDF.  The State of Israel erased this place off the face of the earth.  Tens, if not hundreds of the residents lie buried underneath the rubble.  This happened less than a month ago, that is, ages ago.  And all within spitting distance of the border.  That is, beyond the mountains of darkness.

Now there is quiet in Khuza’a.  The silence of death.

idf executions in khuza'a

Suspected IDF mass execution in Khuza’a

Here is how Jesse Rosenfeld described the scene based on his eyewitness reporting:

Suddenly journalists and local residents are shouting from a house on the edge of the front. The small family home is still intact but the stench of rotting flesh that comes from inside is overpowering.

A barefoot corpse in camouflaged khakis is being carried into the street, partially wrapped in rug, as I enter the house.  His partly burned and partly decomposing face is unrecognizable as anyone who was ever alive and breathing. Witnesses say there were at least six bodies piled together inside this one tiled room where the air is poisonous with decay.

Blood and blackened remnants are caked on the bathroom floor. The walls have been drenched in blood and they are pocked with scores of bullet holes that look as if they were fired from an automatic weapon at waist level. Some of the bullet holes are in line, as if the gun were sweeping across its targets. There is also soot staining the tiles, suggesting the bodies were burned or there had been a small blast. Several tiles have fallen away from the wall. The house is filled with casings from the bullets used in assault rifles. They are marked on the bottom as “IMI” (Israel Military Industries).

What happened here? It is the kind of place and the kind of incident that may be studied for years. We may hear that…a lone Israeli soldier went mad and started murdering prisoners. It could be that members of an Israeli army unit at the center of the fighting decided to take out their rage on those they captured. There may be many theories. All I can tell you is what I saw and heard at the scene this day.

Twenty-one-year-old Naban Abu Shaar told me he was one of the first to find the bodies. He said they looked as if they were “melted” and piled on top of each other.

“When we entered the bathroom, I found the bodies of people slumped on top of each other in the corner,” he said, staring into the distance as if disconnected from his words.

Naban Abu Shaar told me he was one of the first to find the bodies. He said they looked as if they were “melted” and piled on top of each other.

The owner of the house, Mohammad Abu Al Sharif, said he couldn’t recognize the bodies but believed, because of their clothes, some of the dead may have been from his family. He did not say if any of them were fighters. The house had nine members living in it before Abu Al Sharif, his wife and four daughters escaped Khuzaa 20 days ago. He lost contact with those who stayed, he said.

Who was the overall commander who executed this abomination?  Who was the Butcher of Khuza’a?  His name will be familiar to anyone who’s been reading this blog lately.  And now let it be immortalized forever in the pages of infamy: Col. Ofer Winter.  The same who ordered his soldiers to fight a holy war against the Philistine/Palestinian defiler’s of the Israeli God.  The same one who ordered one of his unit leaders to execute Lt. Hadar Goldin by throwing a hand grenade and firing indiscriminately into the tunnel into which he’d been dragged.  The same one who ordered carpet bombing of Rafah that murdered 150 Palestinians in a matter of hours.  The same one who refused to allow his troops to hear a female Israeli musical performer because Orthodox Jews believe a woman’s voice infatuates men.

Let this man (if he may be graced by that term) be forever known as the Butcher of Khuza’a.  Let his name never be uttered again without it being associated with the word “butcher.”

Now, let’s close that circle we began with Hirbet Hiza in 1948, with the help again of Idan Landau:

Winter’s Khuza’a is S. Yizhar’s Hiza.  65 years separate the two, which are one.  But even 1,000 years can’t close the ethical gap.  Yizhar’s Hiza, which “only” suffered expulsion, rather than mass slaughter [like Khuza'a], stood for years as a remembrance of Israeli shame. In Winter’s Khuza’a, in which tens of innocent civilians were slaughtered in the full light of day, a true divine miracle occurred. No less than this: heavy clouds descended on the soldiers, clouds of His glory, which protected them. This is the new divine splendor of Israel, light years away from the forgotten shame [of Hiza of 1948].

{ 24 comments }

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!

{ 6 comments }

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.

{ 4 comments }
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.

{ 4 comments }

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

{ 5 comments }