This week brought a strange confluence of events after the IDF assassinated senior Islamic Jihad (IJ) commander, Bahaa Abu al-Ata. In doing so, Israel violated a ceasefire it had signed after the last battering of Gaza in Operation Protective Edge. In response, the Palestinian militant group rained 450 missiles on southern Israel leading to extensive property damage and 35 injuries. 34 Palestinians died as well in the IDF counterstrikes.
Just before a renewed ceasefire went into effect, the IDF attacked a structure that was listed as a potential “look-out” for Islamic Jihad. In reality, it was a tin shack used by a family of eight as their ramshackle home. The family was extremely poor and eeked out a living herding sheep. Two adults and five children died during the assault. All that was left of the shack was a hole in the ground strewn with a mattress, boxspring, embroidered pillows, and a few tattered momentos. Within hours, Palestinians raised a hue and cry over the murder of the civilians, while an IDF spokesperson claimed the family’s father, Rasmi Abu Malhous, was an IJ rocket brigade commander.
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) November 14, 2019
This claim was false. An IDF source even admitted there was no such fighter in IJ’s ranks. Later, it turned out that the IDF spokesperson had relied on information gleaned from an Israeli Telegram chat group.
My own Israeli security source indicates the attack resulted from erroneous targeting information provided by the Shabak. He refused to elaborate further. This AP report clarifies some of the confusion:
In the case of Thursday’s airstrike in Deir el-Balah, neighbors said an Islamic Jihad commander lived in the home that was destroyed. However, the commander wasn’t home and had apparently gone into hiding.
Instead, his brother, Rasmi Abu Malhous was killed, along with both of their wives and five children under the age of 13. They including his 7-year-old son and two nephews, ages 2 and 3.
The neighbors, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want to anger the family, said Rasmi Abu Malhous, 45, was not involved in any militant activity.
Given what my source offered above, I’m guessing that Shabak had identified the shack as the commander’s home and intended to assassinate him. He went into hiding, which Israeli agents did not know. Perhaps they confused the two brothers and thought that Rasmi, who was in the home, was his militant brother. What is truly disturbing is that either Shabak knew his entire family was at home and bombed it knowing it would kill all of them; or it didn’t know the entire family was in the shack and bombed it in ignorance of this critical piece of information. Whatever happened, this was clearly a huge intelligence fashla. Undoubtedly, there will be a sham investigation and errors will not be learned. Only if the ICC truly does open an investigation of this incident, which is entirely unlikely, will Israel be more transparent about the mess it created here.
After repeated Israeli reports debunking the IDF claims, the military still refuses to concede it published false information:
An initial review showed that the information regarding his identity is not certain. The subject of his identity, as well as the harm caused to civilians by the strike, is being further reviewed.”
There is a difference between a claim being bogus and “not certain.” Conricus’ claim is absolutely false. Further, when you murder five children sleeping in a tin shack that goes far beyond “harm.” It becomes cold-blooded murder and a war crime.
There was another claim about the murdered family–that the intended victim wasn’t Rasmi Abu Malhous, but his brother who was a rocket brigade commander. Supposedly the brother wasn’t at home at the time of the attack.
There is a clear purpose to all these claims and counter-claims: to sow confusion. The more doubt Israel can instill regarding the facts of the case, the less the opprobrium of the world will be. Instead of a unified voice demanding justice there will be dual narratives and no one will be sure of what really happened. This is a form of disinformation originally devised by the Soviet Union, but honed to perfection by Israel in its ongoing war against Palestine and reality.
You can see the impact in the UPI article and false photo caption displayed above.
As if to make matters far worse, IDF spokes-liar Jonathan Conricus made this claim:
“Our operations against the Islamic Jihad were very accurate, very deliberate, based on the highest level of intelligence that we have…One of the key considerations was and remains to limit to the greatest extent possible collateral damage and the effect on noncombatants.”
They were so “accurate” that half of the 50 Palestinians killed were civilians. And even if there was an ounce of truth in anything in that passage (there isn’t) it would not excuse the fact that you may not justify making war on a captive population by claiming that you are trying not to kill civilians. You are killing them and evidence shows you continue to do so. So stop killing them. Period.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the IDF bogus report is that it refuses to concede the error made in relying on hearsay and social media speculation.
Indeed, knowing what we do about the deliberate misuse of these platforms by bad actors, it’s entirely possible that the IDF itself or a government agency like the Strategic Affairs ministry, planted the information on social media so its own officers could exploit it to deflect from the international outrage over the killings.
Israeli Lawfare: Tortured Claim That Pro-Palestine NGO Funds Terror
This week brought another strange development, this one in U.S. federal court, where the Israeli parent organization (KKL) of the Jewish National Fund announced that it was suing the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights for its alleged financial support for terrorist attacks from Gaza targeting Israel. None of the reports in Israeli and U.S. right-wing media offer any proof for the claims, because there is none.
Tablet Magazine has outlined the tortured claim in 2018 thus:
The US Campaign…is the fiscal sponsor of a group called the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the main West Bank and Gaza-based cohort advocating for sanctions against Israel. The BNC was created in 2007 in Ramallah with the intention of serving as the Palestinian arm of the international BDS campaign…One of the group’s members is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, commonly known as PNIF. Among PNIF’s members are five different groups designated by the US as terrorist organizations, including Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Popular Front – General Command (PFLP-GC), the Palestine Liberation Front, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
So follow this argument: because USCPR accepts tax-deductible donations (i.e. fiscal sponsorship) on behalf of BNC; and because BNC is itself an umbrella group including the Council of National and Islamic Forces; which itself includes several Palestinian political (ie. “terror) groups…ergo, USCPR funds the incendiary balloons floating into southern Israel which have burned many acres of farm fields. You follow? This is the genealogical equivalent of saying I’m a gangster because my father’s uncle had a second cousin whose wife was distantly related to John Dillinger.
It’s no accident that this cockamamie theory was first offered in Tablet, the home of New York faux-hipster Likudism. The charge is first planted in a semi-respectable media outlet. Then the effort is made to plant the hoax even deeper by bringing a lawsuit regurgitating the same nonsense, but with a slight flourish (i.e. that USCPR is directly responsible for Palestinian arson attacks on Israeli farm fields).
There is another hidden factor motivating JNF: the BDS movement launched an international campaign targeting JNF as an instrument of Israel apartheid. The NGO’s control over Israeli land and its refusal to permit non-Jews to settle on much of it, is a vital component of the Israeli system of control and degradation of its Palestinian minority. The campaign must be hurting, because otherwise JNF wouldn’t have foisted this lame-brained lawsuit on the U.S. legal system.
This lawsuit stinks of Gilad Erdan’s Strategic Affairs ministry. It is the body tasked with implementing an international “civil assassination” campaign against BDS and other forms of “delegitimization.” Erdan has himself boasted that the government will partner with private foreign pro-Israel donors and NGOs in order to sabotage the work of pro-Palestinian groups supporting BDS.
My strong suspicion is that the ministry itself is either funding the lawsuit on behalf of the JNF or playing some other instrumental role. This is precisely the same thing that happened with StandWithUs sued the Olympia Food Coop here in the Pacific Northwest. Then deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, conceded in an Israeli TV interview that his ministry had initiated and financially supported the lawsuit, which lasted for years and resulted in repeated defeats by the plaintiffs.
Yet another aspect of the outrageousness of this lawsuit is it represents intervention by Israel in U.S. domestic politics. Foreign countries and their representatives (like JNF-KKL) have no right to attack U.S. NGOs through the U. S. legal system. Can any Israeli imagine a U.S. NGO acting on behalf of the U.S. government and suing an Israeli NGO claiming it funds acts of terror on U.S. soil? The mere thought of this is ridiculous.
The JNF lawsuit appears to be an escalation in the use of lawfare, the deceitful use of legal processes to impede and degrade the work of pro-Palestine groups. Up to now, pro-Israel legal outfits like Shurat HaDin have sued Arab institutions, banks and nations on behalf of purported Israeli terror victims. But I’m not aware of any such lawsuits against U.S.-based pro-Palestinian groups. We now face the prospect of U.S. courts being inundated with fraudulent lawsuits meant to bankrupt these NGOs, while tying up millions of dollars worth of time and facilities of federal courts and judicial personnel.
It is no surprise that the lawyer representing JNF is the suit is Yifa Segal, a veteran pro-Israel operative who worked at one time for Shurat Ha-Din. Currently, she is the director of the International Legal Forum. Her bio proclaims it is:
A…proactive legal hub dedicated to the global cooperation between lawyers, organizations and activists…providing them with the knowledge, strategic planning, research and international network needed in order to effectively fight against radical ideologies, terror and the BDS movement.
She has also spoken at the Israeli American Council’s national conference, a group heavily funded by Sheldon Adelson and run by David Brog, the former head of Christians United for Israel.
Unfortunately, there is no federal anti-SLAPP statute which would wipe out these cases before they even proceeded to trial. Watch this John Oliver segment to learn what the statute is and why we need one.