Massive 'search for boys' was a charade

July 4, 2014
Sarah Benton

Shlomi Eldar’s forensic examination of the sequence of events in the ‘search’ for the lost boys is followed by a Real News interview with Lia Tarachansky who also says government and media knew the boys were dead during the search but the media were silenced by a gag order.

One of the many Return Our Boys images, this one published in the Times of Israel under the headline “Calling all hearts: Bring Back Our Boys!”, on June 22nd, 10 days after the boys were probably known to be dead.

Was Israeli public misled on abductions?

A full recording of one of the murdered youth’s emergency call to Israeli police has led to speculation that Israeli government leaders believed the students were murdered soon after their kidnapping.

Shlomi Eldar, trans. Sandy Bloom
July 03, 2014

This is how it began: It happened on June 12 at 10:15 p.m., at the hitchhiking station close to the Alon Shvut settlement in Judea and Samaria. Three boys — Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach — got into a Hyundai driven by Marwan Qawasmeh and Amar Abu Aisha, two terrorists from Hebron.

The radio was set to the news channel of Israel’s public radio to deceive the hitchhikers into thinking it was an Israeli car. The voice of Knesset member Shelly Yachimovich was heard on the radio. Later, Yachimovich was to describe that interview, which served as the setting for the horrifying murder of the youths, as a relaxed conversation she held in her yard on a Tel Aviv summer evening.

When the boys realized that the Hyundai passengers were not Jews but terrorists, one of them succeeded in calling the police emergency call center and whispered, “We’ve been kidnapped.” In the recording of that phone call, one of the abductors was heard shouting in Hebrew, “Heads down!” Then there were sounds of shouting, volleys from an automatic weapon and a weak voice sighing “Ai,” of someone who was injured. This was followed by another volley of shots from an automatic weapon, and the boys fell silent. Then the murderers burst out singing.

It was a murder in real-time, horrifying and monstrous. Three Israeli boys who attempted to hitch a ride on their way to their weekend Shabbat at home were murdered in cold blood. And the police had recorded documentation of the murder. Like in the movies.

Examination of the burned Hyundai found near Halhul, north of Hebron, only verified what was already known from listening to the tape. The numerous bloodstains and DNA findings left no room for hope. But Israel’s defense and political systems closed ranks and transmitted one message, loud and clear: The State of Israel is closely tracking the fates of the three missing boys, who were abducted for bargaining purposes to free Palestinian prisoners. Thus, searches are underway to free them.

The border crossing between Israel and Jordan was closed. The official reason: to prevent the terrorists from smuggling the abductees outside Israel’s borders, and even from the Palestinian Authority’s limits.

Military and security pundits were interviewed incessantly on the radio and television stations about possible methods for extricating the abducted boys. Someone mentioned the 1976 Operation Entebbe, others talked about the failed operation to release soldier Nachshon Wachsman in 1994 and the lessons that were learned from that affair. And, of course, soldier Gilad Shalit was mentioned often; his name hovered in the background throughout all the long broadcast hours.

When criticism was voiced regarding the police emergency call center doing nothing when it received the dramatic call from the abducted boys, its focus was mainly on the loss of precious hours. These hours could have been used to track down the kidnappers, pinpoint their escape route in real time and free the boys.

The Israeli public watched television, listened to the radio, read the newspapers and hoped with all its heart that the teenagers would come home soon in a daring rescue operation of the Matkal elite reconnaissance platoon or the Yamam elite counterterrorist unit. After all, Israel has learned from the mistakes made in the attempted rescue of Nachshon Wachsman.

Simultaneously, rumors began to leak on social networks that the bodies of the teens had been uncovered in the territories. In a journalist briefing session, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz adopted a reproachful tone and raised hopes even higher. He said, “Both the army and the Shin Bet are working on making new evaluations of the situation in the recent hours and are involved in many operations designed to ensure the safe return of these boys. Regarding the rumors that have spread — these rumors have no basis and are not reliable.” He didn’t even blink an eye when he said this.

In the complex relationship between the public, the media and the army, credibility is the most important tool required by a spokesman, especially an IDF spokesman. It will take a long, long time until Almoz restores his credibility in the public’s eyes.

And so, from the moment the abduction of the three teens became known, the defense and political-diplomatic apparatuses closed ranks to conceal and deny the truth. At the same time, the “Return Our Boys” operation was launched; its very name shows that the IDF misled the Israeli public into thinking that its soldiers, who were extensively raiding neighborhoods in Hebron, were searching for the abducted youths.

A delegation of European Jewish community leaders holds signs reading ‘Bring back our boys’ at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Photo by Yoel Balinko/ Israeli Jewish Congress

Only those who heard the emergency call recording knew that the best one could hope for was to bring the boys to their final resting places.

Two days after the abduction, Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon continued the same misleading pattern. In a statement to the press, he said, “Our working assumption is that the missing boys are alive, and so long as we don’t know otherwise we will take action to release them.” One can assume that Ya’alon already knew that it would be impossible to release the boys alive, and that the goal of the operation was to search for the bodies and find the abductors.

And it continued. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, a member of the diplomatic-security cabinet who certainly knew the content of the police tape, wrote two days after the kidnapping: “At this point in time, each of us prays in his or her own way, for their return home.”

At that stage, many journalists knew about the content of the recording held by the police. Knesset member Yachimovich said that Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth parliamentary correspondent Akiva Novick had called to ask her if she had been interviewed on the radio on Thursday night at the time the teens were abducted. Thus, she found out that her voice had been heard in the background of the screams of the boys and the volleys of shots.

So, everyone knew, but the kidnapping reality show and the illusion that IDF soldiers were operating to save them, went on and on. Israeli citizens were asked to join a specially penned mass prayer called “Return our Brothers”; rallies and assemblies took place throughout the country, in which thousands participated and were asked to join the prayer.

I could continue and write thousands of words about the false hopes that were planted in the hearts of Israeli citizens who prayed, worried, hoped and truly believed that if Gilad Shalit was imprisoned and kept alive by Hamas for five years, then Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach would also return to their parents’ bosoms.

At the same time, the mothers of the three boys were sent to Geneva to appear before the UN Human Rights Council and bring the abduction of their children to the attention of the international public.

Rachel, Naftali Frenkel’s mother, delivered a speech and turned to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a voice trembling with tears. “Mr. secretary-general, it is wrong to take children, innocent children and use them as tools in any kind of conflict. It is cruel. … Is it not the right of every child to come home safely from school? All we want is for them to be home again, safe and sound in their beds.”

When the boys’ bodies were found and the full recording was revealed to the public, Bat Galim Shaer (Gil-Ad’s mother) said the following: “Defense officials told us that the shots in the recording were blanks, because if they wanted to kill they would shoot directly and not warn them. We heard Gil-Ad shout ‘Ai’ and it sounded like a pinch, not like someone about to be murdered. They told us that evidently they had fired shots outside the windows, and that was the reason that cases were found on the sides of the car. We were really hopeful that they were alive.” If so, then the teen’s parents were also not told the truth.

For 18 days, this docu-reality show continued. The players included the families of the boys, the IDF soldiers mobilized to search for them and millions of extras on the set: the entire Israel public. All these did not know that the gunshot had been fired in the first act, and there was no chance of a happy ending to the play.

The intriguing questions are: Who gave the order to spread the false rumor that the teens were still alive and held for ransom in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners? And what was the reason for this? To cast responsibility on the chairman of the Palestinian Authority? Perhaps due to the firm opposition of the Israeli government to the national unity government formed with Hamas? Or perhaps an unsuccessful attempt to conceal the police failure in the abduction affair? Or maybe to allow the IDF greater elbow-room to operate against Hamas infrastructure?

“It is wrong to take children and use them as tools in any kind of conflict,” said Rachel Frenkel, who didn’t know that she had been used without justification, in a cruel way. And it was all for nonoperational goals that added nothing to the search for finding the bodies and locating the abductors.

An intense wave of hatred for Arabs has flooded Israel’s social networks, including pictures of IDF soldiers holding signs calling for revenge. Those who search for the motive behind this wave must understand that this is the result of the great disappointment that ensued when the seeds of hope planted in every Israeli home were shown to be fallacious.

“We want vengeance” is the name of the second act in the play. Another shot has been fired in this act; the first but evidently not the last.

Israeli Government and Press Knew Teenagers Were Dead for Weeks

Transcript of interview By TRNN producer Anton Woronczuk with Lia Taranchky, who suggests the Israeli government is trying to provoke a third intifada.

From TRNN, The Real News
July 01, 2014

TRNN Middle East Correspondent Lia Tarachansky says Palestinian anger towards the Palestinian Authority has reached unprecedented levels, and that the Israeli government is now trying to instigate a third intifada in order to legitimize military actions in the West Bank and Gaza –

So talk about the latest news that three Israeli teenagers were found dead and what response we’re likely to see from Israel in the next few days.

So two very significant things happened today, the first of which is that the government finally lifted the gag order on the Israeli press to reveal that the teenagers that they’ve been reporting for the last two weeks were kidnapped were actually dead. This is something the government started leaking to the press almost immediately after the operation began on the third day, but forbade the Israeli press from publishing it. Of course, without them publishing it, the foreign press couldn’t confirm it.

The second thing that happened today that was very important is that while all the turmoil was going on with the bodies of the three teenagers, which the government claims were found today–and, of course, the two weeks of bombardment of the Gaza Strip–the Israeli parliament passed a law today that would further entrench the Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, making the division of Jerusalem in any future two-state agreement impossible.

Okay. And in regards to the Israeli teams, has anyone thus far claimed responsibility?

No, no one has claimed responsibility. From the beginning no one has claimed responsibility. Meanwhile, the Israeli government, and especially the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have insisted that it’s actually the fault of Hamas. Now, this is very important, ’cause it every single point where he appeared to the press and in public spheres, he insisted almost in the same sentence that while the teenagers were indeed kidnapped, maintaining the line, they were kidnapped by Hamas.

Meanwhile, when we compare this to every other incident that I’ve at least covered in my five years here and speaking to many veteran journalists, if the government actually has evidence that if they want to push forward live [sic], they almost immediately after the incident release the evidence. Oftentimes the evidence, you know, is not truthful–and we at The Real News have often proven that–but still they immediately after a claim release the evidence. Here they didn’t release the evidence, not immediately, not after, and not even now.

Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister continued to say that this is the fault of Hamas. Now, Hamas itself as a party didn’t take responsibility for this. Not one of the many branches of Hamas, including the militant branches of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, didn’t take responsibility for it. Neither did the usual suspects, the Wahhabis and the Islamic Jihad. Nor did the Fatah’s militant wing, al-Aqsa. So, as far as we know, none of the militant groups of the Palestinians have taken responsibility for it.

But the Hamas party refused to condemn it. In fact, they’ve actually said that whoever did this, you know, should be celebrated, which is what we would expect from a party that never gave up armed struggle.

Fatah, on the other hand, the Palestinian party that’s in charge of Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the kidnapping almost on the second day since the–after the incident, but failed to condemn the Israeli government and the Israeli military’s numerous attacks on the Hamas party, including the arrest of more than 500 people in the last two weeks, the breaking into of 2,100 homes, the destruction of many of those homes, and the issue when you have more than 100 administrative detention orders to Hamas members.

Now, today the Israeli prime minister issued the following statement in the press:

Immediately after the abduction, we said that Hamas was responsible. I think that it is now clear to everyone upon what we based ourselves. Abu Mazen [Mahmud Abbas] says that he opposes abductions; he says that he wants to proceed on the path to peace. If he stands by what he says, there is only one way to advance peace – and that is to tear up his agreement with Hamas.

And this exactly is what this whole operation is about. The unity between Fatah and Hamas brought the latest in a series of political embarrassments to the Israeli prime minister, and he was adamant to break the unity between the two rivaling Palestinian political parties. Now it looks like the rage on the streets, on the Palestinian streets in the West Bank, as we’ve covered last week, has turned against the PA, and the Israeli government and the Israeli military at the same time have been crippling the Hamas party. So we’re seeing here both externally and internally a rift between the two parties, which will likely lead to the end of the unity.

Okay. And just to remind our viewers, like, how have Palestinians been responding to the way the Palestinian Authority handled the crisis, considering the weeks of raids that the IDF conducted throughout the West Bank?

Yeah. So, yesterday, a former minister of the Palestinian Authority had stones and shoes thrown at him at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. We’ve seen the protests on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza against the way the Palestinian Authority has handled this situation. And as we reported last week, in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, one group–the al-Aqsa Brigade, most likely–has actually opened fire on a PA security chief. And everyone I’ve been speaking to in my time in the West Bank says that the rage against the Palestinian Authority has really reached unprecedented levels.

Okay. And do you think that Israel’s going to intensify its military actions in Gaza?

We’ll see. I just want to remind our audience that the rage is actually about the PA’s coordination with the Israeli army. So all the while, while the Israeli army has been breaking into hundreds and thousands of homes, most of whom belong to Hamas Party members, but also many others–. For example, in the refugee camps around Nablus, anyone who spends any time in Israeli jails, which is 40 percent of the Palestinian males, for any reason at all had their house broken into, oftentimes they were beaten with for no reason, sometimes beaten into a critical condition. And they just went door to door to door to anybody who’s ever spent the time in jail.

And all this time, the Palestinian Authority–of course, from pressure from the United States–has been coordinating with the Israeli has been coordinating with the Israeli army. And this is one of the main reasons why there’s a lot of rage against that. Now, another very key curious thing about this whole incident is if indeed the teenagers were kidnapped and killed or killed while trying [not] to get kidnapped, why is the Israeli government bombarding Gaza for the last two weeks? Yesterday they killed a senior official in the Hamas Party, and as a result, for the first time since November 2012, since the last war we had here, the Hamas Party launched a rocket against southern Israel.

So we’re seeing here that there’s a very intentional campaign of agitation. There was one soldier who leaked to the Orthodox paper Behadrey Haredim that there was actually snipers in the Jenin refugee camp who were trying to shoot people to instigate stone throws. So we’re seeing that the government is intentionally trying to instigate a third intifada, which will then legitimate a very wide violent campaign against the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Okay. Lia Tarachansky, coming to us from Jaffa, Israel.Thanks for that update.

Lia Tarachanskyis an Israeli-Canadian journalist with The Real News Network covering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Born in the Soviet Union, Tarachansky grew up in a settlement in the occupied West Bank. She is currently working on her first documentary, Seven Deadly Myths, about the 1948 ethnic cleansing and its denial in Israeli society. Before Israel/oPt, Tarachansky was based with The Real News in Toronto, Canada and Washington D.C.

Notes and links

Israeli security likely to know 3 Israeli boys are dead: Palestinian-busting goes on regardless, Richard Silverstein on June 21st. The rumour the boys had already been killed was, he said, widely circulated but never published.

See also in same posting, +972 article

‘Parts of West Bank operation were planned ahead of time’

IDF officer admits Operation Brother’s Keeper has little to do with returning the kidnapped teenagers.

By Yael Marom, +972
June 19, 2014

Parts of Operation Brother’s Keeper were planned in advance and are being implemented with no connection to their stated purpose – the return of the three kidnapped Israelis teenagers – according to an IDF officer in Jenin. The officer, who spoke to the ultra-Orthodox news outlet “Hadrei Hadarim,” (Hebrew) said that the army has been preparing for an operation in the city due to the arming of residents there.

Hebron, West Bank, 17.6.2014

According to Hadrei Hadarim, the officer stated that the army is intentionally trying to agitate the population in order to provoke stone throwers, which will allow Israeli snipers to kill them. “There was a group of snipers on the roof – an entire unit that moves on the outskirts of Jenin in order to make noise and raise tensions,” he said. “This was actually the true goal: to provoke them into causing disorder, and then put down those causing the disorder.”

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