There isn’t much that shocks me about the callous hypocrisy of the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus. But this is right up there: three and a half years ago Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s elite special forces unit, infiltrated a squad into Gaza. Their ultimate goal was to plant advanced listening devices permitting the IDF to intercept the internal communications Gaza militants. The cover they used during their mission was especially cynical and callous: they assumed the identity of a real NGO to bring wheelchairs to children who’d been paralyzed by Israeli attacks. This permitted them to travel around the enclave without suspicion as they delivered their equipment for the benefit of wounded children.
On the fateful night, the unit was traveling in a vehicle and it was stopped at a checkpoint by a Hamas squad. The leader of the squad became suspicious that the IDF commandos were not speaking in the Gaza Arabic dialect. They also traveled in a vehicle with women, something not done in Gaza. When he ordered the disguised Israelis out of the van an argument ensued. Another soldier, a Lt. Col, rushed out of the vehicle and mowed down 8 of the Hamas fighters. In the process, he also fatally wounded his commander, Lt. Col. Mahmoud Kheireddine along with several of the other Israeli commandos standing with him. For this fashlah, the shooter was later awarded a commendation.
The unit then fled in their vehicle. But not before retrieving the dead body of the commander, so Hamas could not use it as a bargaining chip in exchange for prisoners held in Israeli jails. They Israelis had moments to spare before Hamas raised the alarm. The commandos radioed a desperate call for help. A helicopter landed inside Gaza and picked them up and returned them safely.
This mission was an utter disaster. Mistake after mistake piled high, almost leading to the capture of some of Israel’s most elite commandos. This would have been a huge coup for Hamas. The operation was one of the worst military failures perhaps in decades. Hence the censorship of much of the story till now. You see, Israeli military censorship has nothing to do with its purported mission: to protect the security of the state. Rather, it protects the reputation of generals, suppresses bad press, and thus ensures fat budgets.
After the mission, Hamas went to extraordinary lengths to expose the innards of the operation. It found the surveillance equipment the unit intended to plant in Gaza. It retrieved CCTV tape of the individual officers and created a Wanted poster featuring their code names and pictures. It also released a video of the firefight to highlight the bravery of their men that night. The IDF assumed it was operating under a veil of secrecy and that it had infiltrated Gaza leaving no fingerprints. But its presumption was ill-considered. It left an unintended trail which exposed the abject failure of the mission.
I published the Wanted post here and in my Facebook timeline. The social media platform censored it, claiming it endangered those pictured. Oh the irony: these soldiers invaded Gaza and killed 20 Hamas fighters. Now, they needed protection because exposing their images might endanger them.
Israeli media falsely claims there are reporting Kheireddine’s identity for the first time
Contrary to Israeli media reports, they are not the first to report Kheireddine’s identity. I was. I did so shortly after the first report on the mission came out. I reported his name, rank, home village, and his Druze ancestry, all of which was prohibited by the military censor. I also reported that he’d applied for a building permit in his village and been rejected by Israeli authorities:
[Kheireddine’s] father excoriated housing minister Yoav Galant, himself a former high-ranking IDF general, for refusing to grant his dead son a building permit. He said: “”My son gave you his life, but you were too miserly to give him a building permit!”
This little bit you wouldn’t find reported then, and in all the accolades now heaped on him, you won’t hear this shameful episode mentioned either.
Instead, you only hear of the hero who sacrificed his life for his comrades and his nation. You’ll only hear about his doting mother and father, his loving wife and their two children. You’ll only hear about how he determined from a young age that though he was an “Arab” Israeli, he would serve his nation. You’ll hear about how he rose through the ranks, till he was promoted to deputy commander of the IDF’s most elite unit, Sayeret Matkal.
You won’t hear about the botched mission. You won’t hear about the catastrophic loss of the Kheireddine’s life by a bullet from his own comrades. You won’t hear any criticism about the humanitarian aid cover chosen for the operation, which aroused suspicion of all humanitarian NGOs there. This may have been part of the consideration, because Israel is constantly at war with such organizations, which engender sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza. It regularly arrests aid workers, charging them falsely with working on behalf of terror groups. It even labels the humanitarian relief organizations as terrorists themselves.
Perhaps the most important question is: why now? Nearly four years have passed. Until now the incident was under strict censorship. Clearly, the IDF did not want Israelis or Hamas to know the extent of this disastrous mission. What has changed?
In what context has this latest announcement unfolded? The IDF murdered a beloved Palestinian journalist. The world is demanding an independent investigation of her murder. Israel fears such an investigation because it will expose this act as a war crime.
Yesterday’s funeral for Shireen Abu Aqleh was marred by Border Police assaulting the mourners, causing them nearly to drop the casket to the ground. The world has seen the images of this thuggery, this police riot, and is disgusted. The average Israeli isn’t terribly concerned. They could care less about Palestinians, whether alive or dead. There are some who possess a conscience, who are troubled by this series of heinous acts. But they are in the minority.
Nonetheless, the IDF is desperate to counter the prevailing narrative that it kills Palestinians with cold-blooded impunity. What better way to do it than to trot out Kheireddine and highlight his heroism. He is the Israeli ‘Arab,’ loyal to his country, who gave his life for it. He is the opposite of Abu Aqleh, a Palestinian hated by the IDF for her almost daily critical reports documenting the injustices and crimes of Occupation.
Now the IDF can hold up the picture of an ‘Arab’ hero to counter the thousands of images of the Palestinian martyr, Abu Aqleh. For Israel, this is a war of dueling narratives. It is not above trotting out the dead to bolster the cause.
Social Media Censorship Protects Israeli Crimes
Just as the Israeli military censor protected the IDF from exposing its disastrous Gaza mission, so social media platforms perform the same role in suppressing content that exposes its crimes.
A Twitter user published a graphic image of the deceased Al Jazeera journalist as the Statue of Liberty. Instead of the torch held in the upraised hand of Lady Liberty, she holds an Al Jazeera microphone. And instead of the book marked “July 4 1776” which she holds in her other hand, Abu Aqleh holds a map of Palestine. It is a powerful, poignant image. Which is why the hasbara warriors went to work reporting it. As a result, Twitter determined the image did not “promote healthy conversation. It “disabled most of the ways to engage with the tweet.” Presumably, anything offensive to Brand Israel is now abusive, dangerous or unhealthy for users.
Not to be outdone in the censorship competition, when I tried to upload a link to my Facebook timeline of a post about Abu Aqleh’s murder, my social media publisher told me the image of her funeral procession accompanying the post would not be uploaded because it had been reported for abuse. The post on my timeline has a link to my post and the spot where the image preview should be is blank. So what did I do? I uploaded the same image as my Facebook banner photo, where it will be seen by even more people.
When censorship doesn’t work on social media, they go on the direct attack. After publishing yesterday’s post in which I called Israel a police state, Israelis tweeted that I was “the son of a whore,” “subhuman,” and “a pile of shit.” I guess the truth stings like a scorpion. My reply to them: I’m proud of your hate. It only makes me stronger. The pro-Israel social media warriors are desperately holding back the ugly reality of Israeli terror, apartheid and genocide. They are like the Dutch boy holding his finger in the dyke. How long can he keep back the ocean floodwaters?