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Israeli deceptions revealed in story of ‘kidnapped’ soldier

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(Image: YouTube)

(Image: YouTube)

A single incident over the weekend – the reported capture by Hamas on Friday of an Israeli soldier through a tunnel – illustrated in stark fashion the layers of deception Israel has successfully cast over its attack on Gaza.

On Sunday, as the army indicated it would start limited withdrawals, Israel claimed Hadar Goldin was dead, possibly buried in a collapsed tunnel as Israel bombarded the area in which he was seized. His family said he was being left behind.

Israeli officials or media did not view Hamas’ operation dispassionately. Goldin was not “captured” but “kidnapped” – as though he was an innocent seized by opportunistic criminals.

As occurs so often, many western journalists followed Israel’s lead. The London Times’ front page blared: “Kidnapped in Gaza”, while the Boston Globe called him the “abducted Israeli soldier”.

From western reactions, it was also clear the soldier’s capture was considered more significant news than any of the massacres of Palestinian civilians over the past weeks.

Israel’s cynical calculus – that one soldier is more valuable than large numbers of dead Palestinian civilians – was echoed in the diplomatic and editorial corridors of Washington, London and Paris.

Misleading too was the general agreement that, in attacking a group of soldiers in Rafah and seizing Goldin, Hamas had violated the first moments of a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire.

The Washington Post reported on the circumstances as a Hamas suicide bomber emerged from a tunnel to explode his vest, killing two soldiers, and Goldin was pulled into the shaft. “On Friday morning, Israeli troops were in the southern Gaza Strip preparing to destroy a Hamas tunnel, said Israeli military officials. Suddenly, Palestinian militants emerged from a shaft.”

CBS reporter Charlie D’Agata parroted the same Israeli briefings, also inadvertently exposing the central deceit. The soldier was “suspected of being kidnapped during an operation to clear tunnels – crucially, [officials] say, this happened after the ceasefire was supposed to take place.”

So if a ceasefire was in place, what were Goldin and his comrades doing detonating tunnels, tunnels in which Israel says Hamas is hiding? Were Hamas fighters supposed to simply wait to be entombed in their bunkers during the pause in hostilities? Or was Israel the one violating the ceasefire?

And then there was the explosion of military fury as Israel realised its soldier was missing. Israeli correspondents have admitted that the notorious “Hannibal procedure” was invoked: the use of all means to stop a soldier being taken alive, including killing him. The rationale is to prevent the enemy gaining a psychological advantage in negotiations.

The unleashing of massive firepower appeared designed to ensure Goldin and his captors never made it out of their tunnel, but in the process Israel killed dozens of Palestinians.

It was another illustration of Israel’s absolute disregard for the safety of civilians. At least three-quarters of the more than 1,700 Palestinians killed so far are non-combatants, while almost all Israeli casualties have been soldiers. This has been a pattern in all Israel’s recent confrontations.

Israel’s official justifications for taking the fight into Gaza have been layered with deceit too.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that Israel was dragged into a war of necessity. Barack Obama echoed him: Israel had a right to defend itself from a barrage of rockets fired out of Gaza. Later the pretext became Israel’s need to destroy the “terror tunnels”.

The logic is deeply flawed. Israel is occupying and besieging Gaza, conferring on its inhabitants a right under international law to fight for their freedom. How does the oppressor, the lawbreaker have a right to self-defence? If Israel objects to being scratched and bruised, it should stop choking its victim.

The degree to which Israel’s narrative of “self-defence” has come to dominate news coverage and diplomatic statements was revealed in a CNN interview. Anchor Carol Costello asked a baffled interviewee in all seriousness: “Why doesn’t Hamas just show Israel where these tunnels are?”

Equally significantly, Israel has obscured the truth that it picked this particular round of its ongoing confrontation with Hamas – and did so entirely cynically.

A BBC reporter recently confirmed with an Israeli police spokesman a rumour that had been circulating among military correspondents for weeks. The group behind the abduction in June of three Israeli teens in the West Bank – the trigger for Israel’s campaign against Hamas – was a lone cell, acting on its own.

Claiming precisely the opposite – that he had cast-iron proof Hamas was responsible – Netanyahu gave the army free rein to arrest hundreds of Hamas members and smash the organisation’s institutions in the West Bank.

The crackdown created the necessary provocation: Hamas allowed Gaza’s factions to start firing limited numbers of rockets. Analyst Nathan Thrall noted recently that Hamas had impressed the Israeli army until that point by enforcing the ceasefire agreed with Israel 18 months earlier, even though Israel violated the terms by maintaining Gaza’s siege.

Now the rockets gave Netanyahu an excuse to strike.

So what was his real reason for going into Gaza? What were these many deceptions designed to hide?

It seems Netanyahu wanted to end a strategic threat: not Hamas rockets or tunnels, but the establishment of a unity government between Hamas and its long-time rivals Fatah. Palestinian unity risked reviving pressure on him to negotiate, or face a renewed and more credible Palestinian campaign for statehood at the United Nations.

But Hamas’ unexpectedly impressive martial display against Israel – killing dozens of soldiers, firing long-range rockets into Israel throughout, closing briefly the sole international airport, launching attacks into Israeli territory, and causing a loss to the economy estimated so far at more than $4bn  – may have changed the calculus again.

For the moment, Netanyahu seems to prefer to pull back Israeli soldiers rather than be forced under international pressure to negotiate with Hamas. He knows that its key demand will be that Israel end the siege.

But in the longer term, Netanyahu may need Palestinian unity, at least on his terms, to undermine Hamas’ gains.

As Israel began its attack on Gaza, Netanyahu turned his attention to the West Bank. He warned that there could never be “any agreement in which we relinquish security control” over it for fear that, given the West Bank’s larger size, Israel might “create another 20 Gazas”.

He was ruling out any hope of Palestinian statehood. A “demilitarised” entity, heavily circumscribed and absolutely dependent on Israel and the US, seems to be all that Israel will ever put on the table.

Allowing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah into Gaza could justify loosening the siege. But only as long as Abbas agrees to remove Hamas’ military infrastructure and export to the coastal enclave the model he has established in the West Bank – of endless accommodation to Israeli and US dictates.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook
About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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26 Responses

  1. Donald
    Donald on August 4, 2014, 9:39 am

    “So if a ceasefire was in place, what were Goldin and his comrades doing detonating tunnels, tunnels in which Israel says Hamas is hiding? Were Hamas fighters supposed to simply wait to be entombed in their bunkers during the pause in hostilities? ”

    That’s the crucial point. How do you destroy the position of the enemy during a ceasefire? The literal position, the place where his soldiers are actually located. I suppose some polite words along the lines of “Would you mind stepping over there while blow up this tunnel you’re positioned in? Thank you. Are there any crucial pieces of military apparatus belonging to us that you’d like to destroy while you wait? There are some lovely artillery pieces in that direction and if you are really willing to take a long trek, some American-supplied F-16’s on Israeli airbases. Or perhaps you’d like to kill some of our soldiers and attempt to take one prisoner. Your choice.”

    The whole idea has great potential for a Monty Python sketch on what an Israeli ceasefire looks like. Would even be funny if the Israelis weren’t posturing as the hurt innocent truth tellers while they kill civilians.

    • traintosiberia
      traintosiberia on August 4, 2014, 2:19 pm

      Israel said that soldier was kidnapped during the combat.
      So what ceasefire Israel or media is talking about? Unless they meant that ceasefire meant cessation on hostilities on the Palestininian side and continued activities on Israeli side. It spends comical and farcical to suggest it but the wider western media have been accepting a view like this for decades
      Look at the 4 or5 airspace violations of the neighboring countries ( Lebsnon and Syria) by Israrl this year alone . Think of the blockade which is an act of war that’s been there for 8 yrs now . Accepting the weakness or inability to respond does not endow Istarl with base of legality or morality for its actions. Responding to the provocations are the legitimate choice .

  2. John O
    John O on August 4, 2014, 9:48 am

    I wonder what the psychological effect of the “Hannibal procedure” must be on Israeli soldiers. It seems to promote the idea that being captured is a fate worse than death. It would go a long way to explaining the indiscriminate use of overwhelming firepower, and the relative rarity of firefights (in which the Israeli troops often seem to get badly mauled).

    • Tuyzentfloot
      Tuyzentfloot on August 4, 2014, 10:29 am

      I wonder what the psychological effect of the “Hannibal procedure” must be on Israeli soldiers.

      There a lack of clarity to what extent soldiers know about Hannibal. Is it just the higher echelons who are aware (need to know) or has everyone in combat been briefed.
      I think it’s well possible that soldiers have been briefed in an offhand euphemistic way and don’t give much thought to the idea. That doesn’t mean the higher echelons don’t worry about it getting out. There was a conflict between IDF censors and the NYTimes , possibly about Hannibal.

      “In the event that you get kidnapped we will do everything in our power to stop the terrorists. We will also not give up when the terrorists try to use you as human shields. the terrorists should know that this will not help them. I will be very honest with you : if you get kidnapped there is a risk that you get killed. But we think that overall it is safer because it will discourage the terrorists from even trying.”

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick on August 4, 2014, 10:30 am

      “It seems to promote the idea that being captured is a fate worse than death.”

      AKA Death before dishonor!

    • marc b.
      marc b. on August 4, 2014, 12:12 pm

      this ‘hannibal’ procedure or directive or whatever they call it provides some important insight into the Israeli psyche. (supposedly the selection of the name ‘hannibal’ was arbitrary, but I find that unlikely.) it completely unmasks the fragility of Israeli Zionists, who take for granted the toughness of their character, as they confuse the willingness to use violence with strength and resilience. cheering on the mass slaughter of civilians, then suffering a national nervous breakdown in the event that an Israeli soldier is captured. they’d rather kill their own than have to face up to a negotiation in which their opponent has any leverage, or acknowledge the fighting prowess of the enemy. when they talk about the peace process being frozen in formaldehyde, what’s really been retarded is their emotional and intellectual development.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius on August 4, 2014, 12:26 pm

      I think there’s a huge amount of atavistic tribalism here.

      It’s one thing for a soldier to be killed ‘on the battlefield’ – that’s over and done with, and you can say he died a heroic death fighting terrorists etc. But for a precious Israeli to be actually in the custody of one of THEM – and for Israelis to be reminded of this every day – is intolerable. How dare THEY take one of OUR boys? This is the case even – no especially – if the captive is treated reasonably, as was the case with Shalit.

      Hence the ‘Hannibal procedure’. Death is better than having to negotiate with the low life Arabs.

      • Xpat
        Xpat on August 4, 2014, 6:52 pm

        I think the degree to which regular Israelis don’t acknowledge the awful Hannibal directive is an insight into what the human mind will refuse to believe in order to avoid dealing with the consequences. Parents of soldiers and soldiers must deny the existence of the Hannibal directive or otherwise submerge it underneath their consciousness. If they would take its existence on, they would go crazy or catch the first plane out. Much better to dodge one more piece of reality.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24 on August 4, 2014, 9:59 am

    Israel is led by one of the biggest prevaricators on the world’s stage. He was called a liar by Sarkozy (and sort of agreed to by Obama), and we have seen time and time again this dangerous man hold up cartoon bombs, pound his chest in vain, and make mountains of molehills. Most of the world by now know this fact. I have come to a point that I NEVER believe a word coming out of this terror state. Their standards of being credible is in the pits, and their paid for hasbara lies like low life criminals. Perhaps we should take the opposite stance of any situation narrated by these liars, as the most possible scenario.
    They lied about the 3 kids being killed to start this massacre, and they keep lying to keep the slaughter going.
    As for the US, it suits them fine to pretend they believe Israeli hasbara, to justify the fact that we keep arming them

    Obama was disgraceful when he condemned the other side as barbaric and ran with the Israeli lies without any proof.

    • Mooser
      Mooser on August 4, 2014, 9:44 pm

      “They lied about the 3 kids being killed to start this massacre, and they keep lying to keep the slaughter going.”

      That last one, about the soldier being captured, and then bombing killing fifty or so Palestinians, and then whoops, there was no captured Israeli soldier, that one really did something to me. I thought I was pretty cynical about the whole thing, but Israeli actions during “Protective Edge” shocked me deeply.

  4. amigo
    amigo on August 4, 2014, 10:10 am

    There are few options left to destroy Zionism .Clearly a military option is out.

    So BDS must be strengthened and spread globally.Israel,s actions have given much impetus to that campaign. Israel has no weapons in it,s arsenal to combat BDS , but will have to sit and take it in the pocket as illegal goods exports diminish and those who produce this contraband close shop and leave for greener fields.

    Abbas needs to go to the ICC and put Israe,ls criminals on notice that their crimes will have consequences.Their travel plans will also be curtailed .

    Lastly, the Palestinians should hand the keys back to Israel and let them pay for “Their” occupation.The next step would see the Palestinians calling for ,1S,1P,1V.

    The days for talking are long since over and it is time to challenge the international community to support the Palestinian demand for Equal Rights and Justice.

    • Kay24
      Kay24 on August 4, 2014, 10:27 am

      BDS plus the world must stop encouraging the brutal occupier by refusing to keep arming it (of course the US will never do the right thing here), I am linking an article that our friend just linked earlier. It is in the “review” stage, and may not go anywhere. All it takes is Tel Aviv to holler and intimidate, and the UK will turn to jelly.

      • amigo
        amigo on August 4, 2014, 10:46 am

        Kay 24,

        “The contracts – mostly for cryptographic software and military communications, but also weapon parts – will be individually examined to ensure they are not being used for internal repression or the provocation of conflict.” gaurdian.

        It doesn,t matter if it software or hardware .It is all part of the arsenal that drives this slaughter.

        The person who supply’s security details to bank robbers is just as guilty as those who carry out the actual ,crime.

        In any case, this is all bluster and nothing will change after the “dust ” blows away.

        Israel will be back again and sooner than the usual bi annual “Lawn mowing “.

      • just
        just on August 4, 2014, 12:18 pm

        Front paged at Haaretz:

        “U.K. reviewing arms exports to Israel over Gaza conflict
        Move similar to partial arms embargo undertaken by U.K. following Cast Lead, first reported in Haaretz; Gov’t-approved U.K. contracts – which include body armor, drone components, and missile parts – are worth over $13 billion.”

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on August 4, 2014, 12:26 pm

        Thanks just. At least in the UK there is a fraction of leaders who try to do the right thing, and make an effort to make things right. We have absolutely no hope that there will be ONE honest and sincere American leader who will even try. It is alway Israel’s way or the highway over here.

        It would be even symbolic if there is a move in that direction. We can only hope other nations will lead the way.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer on August 4, 2014, 2:46 pm

        Well… It is possible they will do the right thing but it’s actually seen as a cheap political ploy by him to make it appear he is doing something. He is a member of the Friends of Israel and, refused to back Moon in calling the recent attack criminal/illegal. Preferring to leave legal issues to lawyers.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976 on August 4, 2014, 4:04 pm

        The efforts of British leaders are pretty feeble, though even Philip Hammond, the right-wing Defence Secretary, is clearly uneasy with what is going on. But those ‘Friends of Israel’ organisations, which exist in all our major parties, are powerful and dangerous. The Council of Christians and Jews all but silences our established Church.

    • traintosiberia
      traintosiberia on August 4, 2014, 2:21 pm

      Israeli leaders will flee like rat when the ship sinks . It will implode from within in this century . It will happen earlier if mighty US finds himself the way UK found itself in 1946 : broke and pathetically proud .

  5. Kay24
    Kay24 on August 4, 2014, 10:40 am

    CNN: IDF confirm bombing refugee camp. Many children are casualties.
    Now they are not even remorseful, but show their indifference. They keep slaughtering civilians with impunity.
    Hey America, want to give them more ammo? Might as well let them bomb Gaza to the stone age and let’s gift these terrorists with more ammo to do it.
    Perhaps the slaves from congress now visiting their motherland on their annual pilgrimage, will come back with more koolaid for their fellow slaves.

  6. just
    just on August 4, 2014, 10:41 am

    IDF confirms strike on Gaza Shati refugee camp– says they were targeting “terrorists” (CNN)

    same old Israeli ‘ceasefire’.

  7. a blah chick
    a blah chick on August 4, 2014, 10:54 am

    Does anyone remember Israel’s stated goals when they started this turkey shoot? I recall how they were going to go in and neutralize Hamas and stop the missiles and find the tunnels and this: reoccupy and divide Gaza into three cantons.

    Aside from a massive death toll have they accomplished ANY of their stated goals in this war?

  8. michelle
    michelle on August 4, 2014, 12:32 pm

    a rose by any other name …
    suicide bomber = “Hannibal procedure” was invoked: the use of all means to stop a soldier being taken alive, including killing him.
    all Israel ‘soldiers’ (if one can call what they’re doing conduct befiting a soldier)
    are no more than suicide bombers
    more like brainwashed children (hitlers youth) raised on and spoon fed hate
    pawns sent to kill before they have the experience to think for themselves
    G-d Bless

  9. W.Jones
    W.Jones on August 4, 2014, 2:15 pm

    They often use deceptions, which makes it harder to know when another story is correct. Take for example this story from the Washington Post about an alleged Israeli-built compound underneath Shifa hospital that is an alleged Hamas Headquarters:
    What do you think?

  10. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on August 4, 2014, 2:32 pm

    Looking at that photo of Netanyahu, the deadly serious look on his face leads me to suspect that is wearing his one black leather glove.

    • Ron Edwards
      Ron Edwards on August 5, 2014, 1:02 pm

      He’ll never manage the Sharon-look: that perfect blend of dull psychopathy, pure lethality, and forward motion. Sharon lived in the moment, the now, of non-reflective domination, what’s inaccurately called “apish.” He always seemed poised to tear into the nearest human who dared contradict him with his teeth, if he were blocked from turning masses of humans into pools of blood with jets or troops.

      Bibi is nothing in comparison. He always looks as if he’s about to dodge a sudden blow, and his bravado seems fueled by an stunned awareness that somehow he’s gotten away with it so far. I have no doubt he’d collapse like a ruptured balloon at the first pushback with any substance, and although all that’d do is reconfigure the current oligarchy of psychopaths in the Israeli cabinet, I’d still dearly love to be there for it.

  11. Tuyzentfloot
    Tuyzentfloot on August 5, 2014, 9:39 am

    Corollary to the Hannibal directive: all IDF soldiers are required to wear suicide belts, just in case they fall in enemy hands. Remote controlled too, just to make absolutely sure.

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