Above is my latest appearance on Tzinor Layla (starting at around 2:30) in which I discuss the crash of the drone inside Israel two days ago.
I’ve spent the past day or so trying to make sense of the duelling stories of the crash. My Israeli source said that the unmanned aircraft was foreign, likely flown by Hezbollah with Iranian technical assistance from southern Lebanon. Shortly after I posted, the IAF released its version saying its own drone crashed while testing advanced sensors installed on its wing. Supposedly, the wing separated from the drone, and images of a severed wing were displayed in the media. Eyewitnesses were interviewed who claim to have seen the drone on fire before it crashed, though it’s not clear where they were physically located. Though the body of the drone was not pictured, it reportedly crashed into an air base (though the name wasn’t specified). My source claimed the booby trapped drone crashed and exploded at the top secret Sdot Micha missile base. The IAF claimed the drone crashed while making an approach to the Tel Nof base.
I have approached journalists in Lebanon and Iran to confirm or rebut the report. In Lebanon, a source close to Hezbollah poured cold water on the story. I am still attempting to find out if Iranian officials wish to comment it.
For those who reject my story, let’s examine the IAF story. They claim that Israel’s most advanced drone, testing highly sophisticated new sensor systems simply lost its wing due to equipment and human error. Either this is a colossal episode of incompetence or the story doesn’t hold water. They showed a wing in an orange orchard and nothing else. I could not see any damage to the wing indicating it had dropped off a drone in flight and crashed. They offered no military or drone experts to verify what was shown in the footage. I would wonder why military and police personnel at the site would allow photography and video filming of some of Israel’s most advanced new technology. Even if they couldn’t prevent such filming they could easily impose military censorship on reporting the story. They didn’t. This is contrary to the absolute secrecy Israel imposes on its military technology.
So continuing with this line of thought, if Israel did lose one of its most advanced drones it is a major setback in this program. As news reports make clear, this drone is one that can reach Iran and would be used for multiple critical aerial tasks during an Israeli air assault on Iran. The fact that it crashed on a test flight only a few miles from its base, when Israel is known to be preparing for a possible strike against Iran, is a major failure. So again, even if you discount my version of events, the IAF has not presented a credible version either. Anyone who seeks to discredit the Hezbollah angle of this story should present a credible alternative. I have heard none from the other side.
The usual suspects on the right and left have criticized the story I reported. None of them very carefully read, understood or reported what I actually wrote. Dimi Reider, who prides himself on being a careful, sober journalist argued erroneously that I claimed the drone flew 1,000 miles from Iran to Israel, when in fact I argued just the opposite, saying it likely could not fly that far and originated in southern Lebanon. Reider also believed I was being “played” by Israeli sources seeking war against Iran. In fact, my source opposes war against Iran. All of which proves that someone who prides himself on precision can be guilty of the same errors of which he accuses me.
Dapha Baram, writing at the world news agency GRN, pointed with pride to the reasons why her news agency could not publish my reports because they fall below its standards of “journalist ethics.” She failed to understand that my decision to report or not report a story has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with other factors including my physical distance from the story and sources I’m reporting, the vagaries of the Israeli national security state which intimidate the free flow of military information to journalists, and my role as an anti-war activist coinciding with my role as a blogger. In fact, the very reason why Israeli security issues are so thinly reported inside and outside Israel is that the system prevents mainstream journalists from doing this.
None of this means I can knowingly report stories that are false (nor would I ever do so). On the other hand, I am reporting stories that aren’t (and usually can’t be) corroborated by second or third independent sources. That in turn means that the mainstream media is too conservative and cautious to publish my original reporting. This may save them from reporting a story that turns out to be criticized or unsubstantiated; but it also causes them to lose out when I report major stories embarrassing to the Israeli military-intelligence community. That’s why you’ll never see Reider or GRN breaking the story of Anat Kamm, Dirar Abusisi, Ameer Makhoul, the Eilat terror attacks, or Shamai Leibowitz.
My critics fundamentally misunderstand what I do. My primary job isn’t to be an oracular James Reston or Walter Cronkite and only report what is scientifically, verifiably true and be right 100% of the time. My primary job is to be right as often as I can while staying true to the reasons I write this blog in the first place: to promote transparency in Israeli military-intelligence matters, Israeli democracy, and to oppose military adventurism. This is a tightrope act, one that is difficult to negotiate since there are so many unknowns, so much concealed information.
The goal of the national security state is to render its affairs as opaque as possible. It is to shut off information to journalists, bloggers and even its own citizens. That’s why it’s sometimes so damn hard to know if you got it right. But if anyone thinks I’m going to be deterred by the fact that every once in a while the I’s aren’t dotted or the T’s aren’t crossed or that even, God forbid, my source may get it wrong (which I do not concede in this instance), they’re sorely mistaken. I’ll accept the brickbats of Dimi Reider, Dapna Baram and others for the sake of the greater good of exposing the dangers a rampant Israel may pose to the region and the world.