The Israeli government has imposed a gag order on journalists covering the apparent abduction of three Jewish teens in the West Bank last week to keep media from reporting details of its investigation.
The gag order, which we publish below, has prevented media from reporting on an emergency telephone call made by one of the abducted youths. A widespread rumor is that the sound of a shot can be heard on the call. Mondoweiss has talked with one Israeli source who claims to have listened to the recording and confirms gunshots can be heard. This rumor has fed speculation that Israeli authorities believe one or more of the boys is dead– speculation that has appeared in print.
Gag orders are not uncommon, but some in social media have suggested that Israel is maintaining this gag order as a cynical means of prolonging raids on the West Bank that have nothing to do with the missing boys but are intended to break up the new Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas.
This Facebook post from June 19 by Noam Sheizaf, a leading Israeli journalist, says (in translation) that the gag order is being maintained in order to “preserve the local and international legitimacy” for a military policy aimed at Hamas– and as such the gag order is a form of media “manipulation.”
Sheizaf mentioned rumors that the boys are dead; he cited an article by Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel, published Friday, that hinted that the military believes they are dead, because its operation in the West Bank even four days after the apparent abduction had nothing to do with the missing teens.
“Even within the IDF there is support for the claim that expansion of the operation against Hamas harms the main goal of finding the kidnapped teens,” Haaretz summarized Harel’s piece. Harel wrote:
There were moments this week when the goal [of finding the boys] seemed near, but those hopes were dashed. If the kidnapped youths are no longer alive, as has happened in many of the previous kidnappings in the West Bank, completing the intelligence puzzle will be even more difficult.
Harel also cautioned Israelis to limit their “expectations” that the boys were coming home.
Richard Silverstein went further yesterday on his site:
My Israeli source tells me that based on what he’s heard from intelligence sources, the three boys kidnapped last week are likely dead. He rated the possibility at 90%. He tells me that though the Hamas detainees have not revealed any involvement of the movement with the crime, they have told interrogators that militants, since the kidnapping of Nachshon Wachsman, have learned you cannot remain undetected in the West Bank (as opposed to Gaza) with two security services hunting for you. In the Wachsman case, they kept him alive as a bargaining chip, only to have the IDF assault his hiding place in an attempt to free him, and kill him instead in the process. That is why most kidnap victims are killed.
There is a rumor, which Israeli journalists have publicly circulated on social media, that the intelligence services in fact know that they are dead.
Here’s the text of the gag order. It refers to the Hebron police, a branch of Israeli security. The gag order was ordered by an Israeli military officer and is signed by an Israeli judge.
Title: “Request for a closed door hearing and issuing a gag order”
The petitioner is the State of Israel via the Hebron police and the Israeli police
A: I hereby request a closed door hearing and also a request for a gag order in accordance with section 68 and 70 to the court’s law (integrated version. 1984)
B: Following the reasons for the request:
With regard to an incident where it is feared there was a abduction of three Israeli citizens in the Hebron area
C: Given all this, I request that the honorable court orders the assembling of a hearing in closed doors [“in closed doors” is slashed] and also an a gag order that will prohibit the publishing of the following details
[X] All the details of the investigation
[X] All detail that might identify the suspect
[V] The existence of the investigation
[V] The existence of the order
[X] The following details [“the following details” is slashed]
D: The order will stand as long as it has not been annulled or a new order is issued under it, until the date _____________
In order to allow the application of the order I request permission to disseminate the fact of the existence of the gag order to the media if necessary.