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‘You’re Shooting Like Retards’: Rafah recordings reveal IDF’s Hannibal directive in action

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A controversial military investigation is illuminating the deadliest incident of Operation Protective Edge, as well as one of the Israeli army’s most shadowy directives: an order intended to thwart the abduction of IDF soldiers, even at the risk of killing them. Codenamed Hannibal, the protocol was carried out in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on August 1, 2014, a date now known as Black Friday; the resulting artillery barrage and torrent of airstrikes killed 190 Palestinians in two days, according to Gaza human rights groups, after the suspected capture by Hamas fighters of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin. Recordings of the IDF assault, publicized last week, suggest a chaotic and undisciplined outburst of violence: “I repeat, stop the shooting!” the brigade commander yells over the field radio. “You’re shooting like retards. You’ll kill one another. Enough! I already have dead, retards. Wait a minute…”

The heavily edited recordings, obtained by Yoav Zitun of Ynet, were set to dramatic music and “published with permission from the IDF censor.” Chief of Staff Benny Gantz denounced their release — “The army is not a reality TV show…not that I’m hiding anything” — and has reportedly ordered the military police to find those responsible.

According to Ha’aretz military correspondent Amos Harel, the disclosure should be understood in the context of the IDF’s ongoing investigation of possible criminal conduct by officers in Gaza, most notably on Black Friday: “This information was leaked as part of a struggle that has two goals: to restrict the freedom of action of the MAG [Military Advocate General] in the investigation of operational flaws and, as part of an ongoing effort, to save Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati infantry brigade.” Apparently it was anticipated that most Israelis would respond sympathetically to the sounds of soldiers under wartime stress, and indeed “the immediate public reaction was massive support for the commanders and resistance to a criminal investigation,” Harel told me in an email.

On Thursday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon weighed in on the controversy, taking the side of the soldiers:

A great many rumors and statements are circulating, for example about the incident concerning the Givati Brigade on that Friday in Rafah. That incident is not being investigated by the army’s Criminal Investigation Division. It is an operational incident during which decisions of various kinds were made, not something that is investigated with the tools of criminal law. It needs to be probed with the tools of military command so that there may be improvement next time.

According to The Jerusalem Post, “The statement was highly unusual as Magistrate Advocate General Danny Efroni has suggested he is seriously considering a full criminal investigation and Ya’alon’s statement could be seen by some to be undermining Efroni’s independence.” Other politicians have already come out in support of Givati, including cabinet members Moshe Kahlon and Naftali Bennett (considered a likely candidate for defense minister in the next government). “The Givati Brigade soldiers deserve a medal of honor, not a lawyer,” Bennett declared, in keeping with his election slogan, “stop saying sorry.”

Although high esteem for the military is a well-known feature of Israeli society — “The citizens of Israel,” David Shulman has written, “will usually believe anything the army says” — the public reaction Harel describes is remarkable, given the content of the Ynet video. Amid scenes of civilians fleeing for their lives and buildings being instantly demolished by Israeli bombardment, one mention of “light weapons fire” is all the evidence of armed Palestinian resistance; the real threat, as the army lays waste to the area, is friendly fire. “There are (bombs) falling, find out whether it’s ours?” a commander orders, according to the video’s English subtitles. “The bombs are falling very close to us,” someone else says, “can you identify them, over?” There is little doubt as to their provenance: “At the height of the fighting,” the narrator recounts, “the troops are firing hundreds of shells and bombs at suspicious targets at the heart of the built-up area.”

Lieutenant Colonel Eli Gino (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Lieutenant Colonel Eli Gino (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

On top of the evident disproportionality is the recklessness suggested by Lt. Col. Eli Gino’s frantic order to stop “shooting like retards,” for fear that his men would “kill one another.” The same Lt. Col. Gino previously told Ynet, “There was no recklessness and we only attacked suspicious targets. I am proud of my soldiers and their conduct.” This contradiction appears to have attracted no comment, though the Times of Israel complained that “Gino’s commands…lack the sort of calm that the best commanders are able to display amid the bedlam of war,” a serious matter in the middle of a massacre.

Strangest of all is the relative lack of public outcry about the Hannibal directive itself. The order was drafted in 1986, in the wake of the highly controversial Jibril Agreement prisoner exchange, and “took root” from 1987 to 1991, according to Haaretz. Objections from reservists and the public led to its suspension, or at least alteration, around 2002: “‘During an abduction,’ the new order states, ‘the primary mission is to rescue the abducted soldier from his captors.’ The words ‘even at the price of harming or wounding our soldiers’ were deleted.”  After the Gilad Shalit episode, when 1,027 prisoners were freed in 2011 to ransom a soldier held captive for over five years by Hamas in Gaza, Hannibal “was revised and reinstated”. An army investigation had found that, as Shalit was being taken, “permission was issued only for submachine fire” from a nearby tank, “which did not stop the abduction.”

Publicly, the army maintains that the protocol “does not allow for a soldier to be killed in order to prevent his abduction,” as Harel wrote in 2011, reporting remarks by Gantz at a post-Shalit operations forum. But this is a distinction without a difference. Plainly, if it is permissible to endanger a soldier’s life, it is also permissible to kill him. Although the narrator of Ynet’s Black Friday video speaks of Givati commanders “doing everything to find a lead to help find the kidnapped officer,” the subsequent account of the measures they took makes it plain that this was not a conventional rescue operation: “The initial suspicion, the kidnapping tunnel, ends in a mosque. Attack helicopters are bombing suspicious targets, close by the officers who are searching suspicious structures by firing at them.” This is the logic of Hannibal in action: “when you encounter an incident like this,” a company commander identified as Maj. D. told Ynet in September:

“you’d rather have a dead soldier, than have one in Hamas captivity, like a Shalit number two. You’d rather have a body and not a kidnapped soldier. We drilled into the troops many times about the threat of kidnapping and the objective of disrupting it, should it happen — hitting the enemy even at the cost of hitting your friend.”

This officer and others who pronounced their consciences clear in an interview were granted anonymity “as per the IDF’s request, out of concern they would be charged at the ICC [International Criminal Court].”

A photo of Rafah on August 2, 2014 (Photo: AP)

A photo of Rafah on August 2, 2014 (Photo: AP)

It’s perhaps not so surprising, given the nature of nationalism, that massive destruction of Palestinian lives and property should be seen as perfectly compatible with Israel’s image of its army as the world’s most moral. (“Everything I did,” Maj. D. explained, “even if I destroyed structures or hurt Palestinians, was out of confidence in the righteousness of the way, and as is expected of us, as we’ve been taught in the army.”) What’s striking is how Hannibal makes a mockery of even a narrow, tribalistic notion of morality. According to philosophy professor Asa Kasher, who wrote the IDF’s first code of ethics, the Israeli army is superior to other western militaries in its stated commitment to two key values, “the sanctity of human life” and “the purity of arms.” But in practice, as Black Friday showed, the IDF will turn its weapons on its own in order to prevent politically difficult hostage situations, which could require concessions to resistance groups. Death before captivity was the choice made by Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, who drank poison when he was betrayed to the Romans; Israel is willing to impose this preference on its conscripts, in flagrant contravention of the values it preaches.

To prevent the public from having to face reality head-on, an official campaign of obfuscation surrounds the Hannibal directive. Thus Haaretz writer Anshel Pfeffer explains that “the name for this highly controversial and often misunderstood order was, in fact, chosen at random by an IDF computer almost three decades ago.” So no reference was intended to one of the most famous martial suicides of all time, and any historical resonance is mere coincidence. Only slightly less ridiculous is the account given by Asa Kasher, who told an audience at the JCC in Manhattan last month that the whole controversy is the result of confusion:

Now, there is a gross misunderstanding of Hannibal, that most of the soldiers think that they should, uhh, they are, well, they think, unfortunately, that they are under instruction to kill their comrade, in order to avoid the abduction of that soldier. Which is wrong! I mean, the procedure is classified, and most of the people haven’t ever read it…

Pausing and struggling to choose his words, Kasher clarified:

The rules of engagement are that you should try to…bring the soldier back home by shooting at the abductors, okay? But shooting at the abductors risks the soldier, because they are in the vicinity of each other. So you may risk the soldier by trying to shoot the abductors. However, not if the risk to the soldier’s life is of high probability. Needless to say, not intentionally, I mean you cannot throw a grenade towards the three of them, two abductors and the soldier, in order to abort the abduction.

Kasher’s hypothetical example of an action forbidden by IDF rules is precisely what happened as Givati soldiers pursued Goldin and his presumed captors, according to Haaretz: “[deputy company commander Lt.] Eitan and two soldiers entered the tunnel after Col. Ofer Winter…told Eiten to throw a grenade into the shaft before entering.” A jingoistic Jerusalem Post editorial lauding Eitan as a “humble hero” mentions “a stun grenade” instead. In the tunnel, they “found gear belonging to Goldin that suggested he had been mortally wounded.” Nevertheless, the onslaught continued into the next day, when airstrikes reportedly killed dozens of residents, raising the possibility of retribution against Rafah for the Hamas attack. (Col. Winter seemed to confirm this, even as he formally denied it, in an interview with Yediot Ahronot: “Those who kidnap need to know they will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade.”) Even ignoring this detail, the heavy use of artillery, an inherently imprecise weapon, shows Kasher’s distinction to be meaningless. “Probability” has the same function here as “proportionality” in Kasher’s discussion of civilian casualties: it’s a pseudo-technical term for a subjective judgement with no defined standards.

These inconsistencies, and the atrocious civilian death toll, obviously merit the investigation being pursued by Maj. Gen. Efroni. But the significance of such an inquiry shouldn’t be overstated: as Harel points out, Efroni “did not ‘reinvent the wheel’ after Operation Protective Edge”; after the IDF’s 2008-09 rampage in Gaza, his predecessor questioned the then-commander of the Givati brigade “under caution,” but the criminal investigation was terminated without charges. Rather than facilitating real accountability, these investigations serve a prophylactic purpose for Israel. As the New York Times‘s Jodi Rudoren explained in a piece of scaremongering about the Palestinians’ proximity to statehood: “Israel, which has already undertaken 13 criminal investigations of its military’s behavior during this summer’s war with Palestinian militants in the Gaza strip, could also deter the International Criminal Court by proving its own justice system deals seriously with suspected offenders.”

Still, according to Harel, “The General Staff and the field commanders are in an uproar over the 13 investigations… And even if past experience, from the first intifada up to the recent Gaza war, shows that only rarely are indictments handed down against officers for either criminal or disciplinary infractions in battle — no one wants to become the exception to the rule.” Writing for Ynet Opinion, Yossi Yehoshua warns against “turning the commanders into Israel’s bulletproof vest on the legal and diplomatic battlefield… a battalion or brigade commander investigated by military police will not fight with the same sense of sacrifice and dedication in the next war.” Efroni must therefore not repeat the mistake he made during a recent inquiry into sexual harassment in the Givati Brigade, “when he summoned Winter for questioning during an unnecessary investigation.” The repellent reality of how the Hannibal directive has been executed in the field, no matter what is written in the IDF manual, will presumably contribute to the pressure on Efroni to close this matter silently.

Eamon Murphy

Eamon Murphy is a journalist in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @epmurph.

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57 Responses

  1. DaBakr on January 8, 2015, 3:59 pm

    The policy is not analogous to the actual policy of Hannibal even if the name was taken from his military policy-otherwise IDF would all carry cyanide capsules in their field packs. The policy was taken a lot more seriously though after Shalit deal because the number of prisoners released in that deal that went on to commit more murders or plot more militant acts against Israelis was high and a legitimate outcome to consider when deciding how much force to use to avoid capture under fire. It has everything to do with military priority to protect the state under difficult situations and any honest accounting will find wide-spread support for the policy among those it effects the most directly-the IDF soldiers.

    As long as the Hamas is going to fight with keen awareness of how it can and does manipulate the msm to portray their war then the IDF has every responsibility to respond in kind on both the battlefield and the political arena until a final political settlement is reached.

    If the point of the article is to blame Israel for causing more death among Palestinians due to this policy then one might as well blame Hamas for killing more Israelis with rockets who live closer to the southern border or IDF who ventured into urban streets of Gaza and got trapped by soldiers. In other words…there is no point.

    • annie on January 8, 2015, 6:28 pm

      i’m not clear how this video is anything other than a propaganda video for the IOF. just because they say it was leaked doesn’t mean they didn’t intended to get it out to a large audience when they created it. releasing a video w/someone saying, ‘oh my it’s leaked how did that happen’ doesn’t mean it was ‘leaked.’

      and why are we supposed to believe the words we’re hearing are not staged? ‘stop shooting stop shooting’ doesn’t mean anyone actually said that. it’s just provides cover for the guy who said it thereby pushing responsibility down the chain of command. and down the chain of command they say they followed orders. one can be easily create a fake voiceover. the chief of staff denouncing the release — “The army is not a reality TV show…not that I’m hiding anything” could be all staged as part of a publicity ploy.

      If the point of the article is to blame Israel for causing more death among Palestinians due to this policy then one might as well …

      did you read the article or are you just shooting from the hip.

      • DaBakr on January 9, 2015, 1:49 am

        i do think the point is a bit unclear, at least nothing very surprising. and yes-i agree that saying it was leaked does not prove it was not an intentional and approved “leak”

      • annie on January 9, 2015, 2:35 am

        i do think the point is a bit unclear

        i think, like lots of good journalism, the point is simply to lay out the circumstances and evidence. it’s not an op ed.

      • Pixel on January 9, 2015, 3:42 am

        “could be all staged…

        Always a wise first thought.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 9, 2015, 5:41 am

        I also suspect this video was ‘leaked’ in much the same way that Kim Kardashian’s sex tape was ‘leaked’.

      • Mooser on January 9, 2015, 10:45 am

        Gee, it must be awful to be drafted because you are Jewish. Sounds like Czarist Russia or something. Seems to me Israel should be able to get along with an all-volunteer army. Don’t you think so “DaBakr”?

        And besides, an all-volunteer Israeli Army would more democratically represent the Israeli pubic.

  2. Bornajoo on January 8, 2015, 4:45 pm

    Thank you Mr Murphy
    The Hannibal Directive is sick. Further to that your analysis shows that the soldiers in the field had no idea what they were doing. Their actions resulted in a huge devastating loss of life of a massive number of completely innocent people. This was just one of a very large number of war crimes committed by the so called most moral army in the world

    • DaBakr on January 8, 2015, 5:41 pm

      if its such a “sick”policy then explain why the people who support Hamas which include many in the so-called Arab street wait with baited breath and excited anticipation for news that Hamas has captured its next Israeli hostage to use for political gain? Or do you deny that when news of IDF capture hits media there are eruptions of joy in many Arab quarters? I am not blaming the Hamas for trying to use a hostage to extract political and/or criminal prisoners in exchange. I am asking why it is so ‘sick’ for the IDF to have a policy in place that minimizes the overall military and security damage that such a situation can bring about-as became clear after the last Shalit deal.

      While I personally favor no negotiations for terror, ever-that has never been the reality and a position to counteract the damage is absolutely necessary lest the upper hand be given to ones foe. Military decisions cannot be made on purely emotional responses. I suppose from your position-it wouldn’t matter that a 1-for 1000 exchange could cause more death and injury later on to the citizens the battle is being waged for in 1st place since to many here Israel is an ‘illegitimate’ nation. Now-if the exchange rate were closer to 1:1 I might be inclined to start calling a ‘hannibal’ policy ‘sick. but the left wing is usually bleeding itself over somebody else’s pain-and so the crocodile tears for IDF who are very aware of the policy.

      *as for the confusion heard on tape. it is very normal for young soldiers engaged for first time or even experienced. fighting is nothing like what people see in movies. rarely gallant and usually chaotic. heroes emerge but its the exception, not rule.

      • Bornajoo on January 10, 2015, 5:06 am

        The brutal never ending occupation is sick
        Israel’s dehumanisation of the Palestinians is sick
        Israel’s continual theft of Palestinian land is sick along with all of the illegal settlers that end up living on that stolen land
        The daily kidnapping, maiming and murder of Palestinians is sick
        The murderous onslaughts against Gaza, the “mowing of the lawn” against a completely vulnerable and defenceless people is sick
        And when your brave warrior IDF soldiers are there in Gaza, they kill and slaughter with the advantage of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world. And it’s all one huge massacre, one huge criminal act, one huge war crime from start to finish
        And while committing the sick crime you also employ an even sicker policy of the mass killing of anyone and everyone who just happens to be in the immediate area where an Israeli soldier might be captured, regardless of whether they are women or children

        Of course you don’t find any of this sick DaBakr, I wouldn’t expect you to, not even for one single moment.

      • Mooser on January 10, 2015, 6:09 pm

        Bornajoo, as I understand it, you spent many years in Israel, and have family in Israel. You are not moralizing about things you have not seen or experienced.

      • Bornajoo on January 10, 2015, 6:45 pm

        Correct Mooser. And I had a brother who volunteered for the Israeli army in 1981 and ended up invading and slaughtering the Lebanese in 1982. It screwed him up big time. They were still young kids, armed with devastating legal weapons, poisoned with a corrupt ideology, deciding who lives and who dies. And they were sent there for such a “moral” cause.

        I stand by my description of sick

      • Mooser on January 13, 2015, 2:25 pm

        “And I had a brother who volunteered….”

        Yes, it’s not likely I’ll be forgetting your description of that anytime soon, Bornajoo, thanks for it.

        (okay, gonna lighten up now) But as I remember, that had a good ending, eventually, after quite a bit of trouble and unhappiness he dropped Golda Meir for The Girl From Ipanema, and things went well for him?

      • Bornajoo on January 13, 2015, 2:30 pm

        “But as I remember, that had a good ending, eventually, after quite a bit of trouble and unhappiness he dropped Golda Meir for The Girl From Ipanema, and things went well for him?”

        That summary is priceless Mooser! Yep, that’s exactly what happened. He got out and never went back. Things are good for him today.

  3. John Turnbull on January 8, 2015, 4:51 pm

    Firing shells toward an enemy that is holding your soldier follows the same logic as firing shells toward an enemy that is surrounded by non-combattants. In both cases, you’ve accepted that you are further ahead if they’re all dead. The distinction between their dead and ours becomes a matter of arithmetic. You’ve become criminal.

  4. Daniel Rich on January 8, 2015, 5:21 pm

    ” First of all, there are no great religions. They’re all stupid and dangerous. And we should insult them, and we should be able to insult whatever we want. That is what free speech is like.” – Bill Mayhem Maher.

    ‘Judaism su-!’

    ‘You ff-ing marmite antisemite [Arabs/Muslims/Palestinians fully excluded]!’

  5. Daniel Rich on January 8, 2015, 5:24 pm

    Note to editor,

    a) …out of concern they would be changed at the ICC [International Criminal Court].”

    b) …changed = charged

    • annie on January 8, 2015, 6:23 pm

      thanks daniel

    • Kathleen on January 9, 2015, 8:11 am

      Sounds like Kasher would also be a contender for standing trial. Of course along with commander’s, soldiers, and yes Netanyahu. We can dream

  6. a blah chick on January 8, 2015, 5:35 pm

    I think Rania Khalek’s take is a good one: they are putting all this out there to take pressure off the colonels and generals and put it on the privates and junior officers. After all there are cushy jobs in government and the private sector waiting for them.

    A little bit more on the real Hannibal. After his defeat he return to Carthage and attempted to get his nation back on its feet. But the Romans threatened to come after him so he went into exile. For the next twenty years he moved through various Eastern courts, offering advice and occasionally leading their troops. He finally settled in Bithynia, where he succeeded in defeating a Roman ally. That was the last straw. Rome put pressure on the king to turn Hannibal over to them which he agreed to do. But Hannibal discovered the plot and before he could be seized took poison.

    Thus did he cheat his enemies of a final victory.

  7. Citizen on January 8, 2015, 6:17 pm

    “You’re shooting like retards.”
    Commanded by retards? Confused retards.

    • Kay24 on January 9, 2015, 12:32 am

      Yes, those very same retards turned their weapons on the Palestinians. It is frightening to think such criminals are allowed to do so.

  8. American on January 8, 2015, 7:28 pm

    When Col Lang was the pentagon military liaison to the IDF he described the IDF as operating like teenagers on a police style swat team. No military discipline and none of the real combat training of a professional army.

    • a blah chick on January 8, 2015, 8:03 pm

      What do you expect? All they have to do all day is shoot rock throwing teens and beat up grannies.

    • Walid on January 8, 2015, 8:56 pm

      This became obvious in 2006 in Lebanon. They spent more time weeping about something or other than in fighting. Training for the IDF consists mostly of bullying women, children and unarmed men.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 9, 2015, 5:37 am

        In his brilliant book, ”Beware of Small States’, David Hirst says the IDF had to resort to breaking in to grocery shops because ‘start up nation’ didn’t provision their troops adequately. Asad Abu Khalil says local villagers could hear them crying in their tents at night.

        I believe most military analysts – as opposed to embedded journalists – consider the IDF to be vastly overrated. Same goes for Israeli ‘intelligence’, as Robert Baer said, its only outstanding abilities are in PR.

        The IDF is really more of an Apartheid police force than a real army. It’s still dining out on victories won years if not decades before their current grunts were born, and then against fifth rate opponents. It hasn’t won a war in nearly half a century.

      • DaBakr on January 9, 2015, 8:39 am

        right. as evidenced by the massive number of IDF pows captured and large scale invasion into northern Israel by the big strong he-men of hezbollah with their billion dollars worth of Iranian arms. don’t bother giving a summation of the failures of the 2006 skirmish. well known how some units of idf performed poorly.(no operational reports forthcoming from super-secret-men hezbollah-ever-to make judgements. very convenient) but extrapolating from that is sheer exaggeration of the kind you typically accuse IDF of. Its only considered a ‘victory’ by world because hizbollah were not completely destroyed and survived intact. a turning point? yes. but hardly the cowardly defeat your dreaming about. and training for police work in wb is different then battle brigades. nobody enjoys it but it still has to be done. even if we got out of 99% wb tomorrow there would still be 1000s wanting to cross checkpoints into Israel.

        funny how Israelis have little issues admitting that Hezbolla and/or Hamas fighters are/ can be brave and committed but here-its all “IDF crying, all the time, or shooting wildly, sexually harassing everybody. And you cry “hasbara” all the time but can’t admit what you do is hasbara 101. by your take the IDF is the most unsuccessful , cowardly force of soldiers on earth. its an opinion, certainly. The opposite of being “the most moral”. I would say it is neither.

      • annie on January 9, 2015, 3:36 pm

        Its only considered a ‘victory’ by world because hizbollah were not completely destroyed

        really? what about when they targeted that israeli ship live on national tv? that was exciting.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 9, 2015, 3:59 pm

        Actually dabakr, it’s a truism of guerilla warfare that when an extremely well equipped conventional army fails to – as you put it – completely destroy the enemy, that IS considered a victory. Let’s not rewrite history – this was was not intended as a ‘skirmish’ to damage Hizballah. It was intended to annililate them as a fighting force. More than that, it was the first step in going to Tehran by the back door. Remember Condi Rice and her ‘birth pangs of a new Middle East’? Talk about giving the game away. Not smart, especially when your idiotic little plan backfired live on TV.

        Oh, and I don’t think this is simply a case of Hizballah not losing and achieving a moral victory. I think this was a victory, plain and simple. The IDF were shown up for the overrated momma’s boys they are. Similarly, the comically overhyped Israeli intelligence clearly hadn’t got a clue what was about to hit them – quite literally. The carcasses of Israel’s cuddly Merkavas littered Southern Lebanon. The monster expected to be delivered following those ‘birth pangs’ was stillborn.

      • RoHa on January 9, 2015, 9:50 pm

        Two things I recall reading about 2006.
        1. Israeli intelligence was shocked to find copies of their own aerial photos, complete with Hebrew notes, in Hezbollah bunkers.
        2. Belgium looked at the wreckage and cancelled an order for Merkeva tanks

    • John O on January 9, 2015, 4:35 am

      IDF also neatly summed up by the Independent’s distinguished correspondent, Robert Fisk : “an ill-disciplined rabble”. If the video is genuine, then it shows (as the writer says) a panicked and incompetent officer who has lost control of his troops.

      I believe a significant part of the problem of ill-discipline and lack of training is because so much of the IDF budget is taken up with protecting those settlements and generally stomping around the West Bank.

      • Mooser on January 9, 2015, 10:49 am

        Well, you know how an army conscripted on a religious basis is likely to be. Every guy thinks its the other guy who should be taking the chances. Israel should go to an all-volunteer military, like their big buddy, the US.

      • Citizen on January 9, 2015, 1:05 pm

        In the US, the volunteer troops are always getting a smile and a “Thank you for your service.” The troops meet this smile with a smile and often mentally add: ” Because thanks to you, I don’t have to go.”

        After 4 or 5 redeployments I guess that’s to be expected? BTW, most of our US troops come from the rural South and upper Western region. A significant number of them our from military families, each generation serving.

  9. a blah chick on January 8, 2015, 7:59 pm

    If Winter goes down it won’t be for war crimes but for covering up sexual harassment.

    Take it away Times of Israel (12/17/14):

    “The events in question took place within the Tzabar Battalion of the Givati Brigade. In early December…two infantrymen who said that they were each, independently, harassed and sexually assaulted by their direct commanding officer.

    One of the soldiers, identified as A, said he was in shock and “just froze” when the officer assaulted him.

    “He was a character that you look up to like a God,” he said.

    Three months later, he learned that the same sort of thing had happened to his platoon mate, who also was identified as A.

    The soldiers, after deliberation, came forward to the company commander, who expressed shock and said the matter would be taken care of. The company commander pushed the matter up the chain of command, to the battalion commander. “He listened but didn’t really help us,” the blond-haired A said.

    In fact, Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, the commander of the Tsabar Battalion, told the soldiers that the officer would be removed from the army. Col. Winter made a similar pledge, telling the soldiers “I solved the problem for you.”

    Instead, the two were split up and sent to different battalions and the officer remained within the brigade. The deputy company commander allegedly told the soldiers, both of whom were considered distinguished soldiers, that they “shamed him” and that “all [they had done] was cause trouble.”

    The soldiers contemplated suicide. While pulling guard duty opposite Shejaiya after Operation Protective Edge, in an army base near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, they discussed slipping into the Gaza Strip and ending their lives that way. “Maybe we would just disappear, disappear from this world,” they said.”

    Things are bad with the Givati boys. On Richard Silverstein’s website I learned that Hajbi has been arrested and there are allegations of other sexual and financial malfeasance in the unit.

    Stay tuned.

    • Mooser on January 9, 2015, 10:50 am

      Gee, this is really swell! The IDF and US “special forces” have the same training and ideals!

      • a blah chick on January 10, 2015, 10:23 am

        I also learned, over at Richard Siliverstein’s blog, that Hajbi, the officer recently arrested, stayed at a nearby kibbutz during the Gaza war.

        He apparently shared these quarters with a “female subordinate.” (Nudge, nudge, wink wink.)

  10. Nite_Owl on January 9, 2015, 5:38 am

    I wonder if the Hannibal Directive would be applied if the Knesset itself or any members were ever captured? I’d love to hear Netanyahu’s views on that.

  11. Kathleen on January 9, 2015, 8:32 am

    Several mentions of how the Israeli public has supported these war crimes being committed. As a young person I read a fair amount about WWII, specifically the horrific crimes committed against Jews and others in the mass execution of millions. Often would sob uncontrollably reading about and imagining the pain the individuals went through how they had been subjected to outrageous cruelty and then brutally slaughtered. I would sob out of my mind..wondering how the German and Polish public could allow these crimes against humanity to be committed in their midst.

    Now we know the size and scale of the Holocaust is very different from what Israel has and continues to do. But that does not reduce the fact that Palestinians by the thousands (millions are refugees) have been dehumanized, many subjected to persistent patterns of humiliation, imprisonment and thousands have been slaughtered by an out of control state. While the Israeli people stand by many supporting these actions.

    Granted the same goes on here in the states when it comes to the Iraq invasion. Hundreds of thousands have died, been injured, millions displaced and the majority of the American public seem immune to thinking about what has been done in their name.

    Let’s hope, pray, contact our Reps (let them know we are here) that those responsible must be held accountable. Jews and others demanded no less when it came to the Holocaust. Let’s also hope that the international community would demand the same for those who sold the Iraq war to many and resulted in death and destruction.

    Israel and the U.S. should be subject to the same ICC standards that others have been held to.

    • eljay on January 9, 2015, 9:03 am

      >> Kathleen:

      … As a young person I read a fair amount about WWII … I would sob out of my mind..wondering how the German and Polish public could allow these crimes against humanity to be committed in their midst.

      … Palestinians by the thousands (millions are refugees) have been dehumanized, many subjected to persistent patterns of humiliation, imprisonment and thousands have been slaughtered by an out of control state. While the Israeli people stand by many supporting these actions.

      Zio-supremacists are disgusting precisely because they are content to advocate for, support, justify, excuse or commit the sorts of acts of injustice and immorality they would loudly condemn were those same acts being committed against them.

      Zio-supremacists repeatedly make it very clear that no evil is too evil if it furthers the goal of Jewish colonialism and Jewish supremacism in as large as possible a supremacist “Jewish State” in Palestine.

      (To be fair, “liberal Zionists” aren’t quite as bad as their hardier co-collectivists. They prefer a kinder, gentler form of Zio-supremacism.)

      • Whizdom on January 10, 2015, 2:32 pm

        I self declare as a liberal (or progressive) zionist. I support the right of the nation of Israel to exist as per UNGA 181, and as a nation to be unmolested by other nations. I abhor the occupation of the territories and the treatment of of the minorities (including the Mizrachi) within Israel’s jurisdiction, and I see those as the greatest threat to the state and to the vision of Herzl, Judah Magnes and Henrietta Szold. Heck, even Herzl said he envisioned an Israel where an Arab could be prime minister.

        The whole Zionist project has gone horribly sideways and is in danger of imploding unless Israel finds some visionary leadership.

      • Mooser on January 13, 2015, 2:38 pm

        “I self declare as a liberal (or progressive) zionist.”

        I like a guy who sets himself a big challenge! The kind of guy who looks at the thing which couldn’t be done, and says “Maybe I can do that!”

        Yes, sir, a “liberal”, even “progressive” Zionist. That, my friend, is doing it the hard way, but I can only stand back and admire your grit.

      • Whizdom on January 13, 2015, 5:22 pm

        It ain’t easy being green, fer sure. I view Israel’s status as a modern nation state under UNGA 181 and related contemporaneous and subsequent International commitments as settled law, with all the privileges and responsibilities that status entails. Including the Universal Declaration of human rights. And I still support the concept of democratic governance inspired and informed by classic Jewish thought and principles, and one that respects the rights of all her citizens. I even support Israel’s right to establish preferential emigration policies. the first nation founded after the establishment of the UN, sadly it turned out to be the last European colonial experiment.

        That said, it is abundantly clear that this experiment in democracy is going horribly wrong. And time is running out to correct it. Or it will correct itself.

        For the same reason I support the creation of an Arab state, to use the terminology of UNGA 181, and the Algiers Declaration of 1988, with exactly the same rights and privileges as Israel claims, Or Belgium for that matter.

  12. Whizdom on January 9, 2015, 10:46 am

    It boggles the mind that “Stop, you are shooting like retards” could be construed as a defense against criticisms of martial misconduct, and an affirmation of the claim to “purity of arms”.

    So, they killed their abducted POW with a grenade, then proceeded to shell the crap out of Rafah for almost a day in an orgy of frustration and revenge.

    It is the political echelon that should be prosecuted for criminality. The responsibility is theirs.

    • a blah chick on January 10, 2015, 10:27 am

      Is it me or has there been nothing but silence amongst our media elites about this Hannibal directive?

  13. Kathleen on January 9, 2015, 3:46 pm

    Kerry “hell of a pinpoint operation” More evidence of indiscriminate killing.

  14. Jackdaw on January 11, 2015, 10:06 am

    What about the morality of violating a ceasefire by killing and kidnapping soldiers?

    • annie on January 11, 2015, 4:12 pm

      wasn’t the ceasefire already violated by the incursion of israeli soldiers inside of gaza? or in israel does ‘ceasefire’ mean “but free reign allows our troops to roam your neighborhoods?”

      • Jackdaw on January 13, 2015, 3:00 pm

        No. Israel did not violate the ceasefire first.

        And assuming, arguendo, that Israel was not supposed to be in that neighborhood, I see a huge difference in defensively looking for tunnels, and offensively popping out of a tunnel, shooting to death two soldiers and kidnapping another soldier (in the midst of a ceasefire).

        You don’t see the difference, do you Annie?

      • annie on January 13, 2015, 3:26 pm

        you mean this:

        But evidence supporting Obama’s claim of Hamas responsibility has been difficult to come by. Indeed, even the Israeli Army news desk was unable to provide Mondoweiss with a clear narrative or substantial evidence regarding the incident in question. Moreover, accounts published in Arabic by Hamas’s military wing along with details provided by the PLO indicate that the killing of two Israeli soldiers and disappearance of another actually occurred before the ceasefire went into effect — when Israel was assaulting Rafah.

        “Today at 9:30, terrorists executed an attack from which two soldiers were killed and an additional is now missing and therefore he is suspected to have been abducted,” an Israeli army spokesperson told Mondoweiss. The army spokesperson went on to state that Hamas and the army “exchanged shelling,” yet they were unable to provide details on the source of the Palestinian fire. “They used several forms of fire simultaneously,” was all the spokesperson could divulge.

        “I cannot confirm at the moment as we are still looking into it, but it may have been live bullets and a suicide belt,” which killed the soldiers, the army spokesperson said.

        – See more at:

        Tweets from Gaza contradict official US-Israeli claims

        The PLO and Palestinian Authority both insisted to Mondoweiss that Hamas fighters engaged Israeli soldiers inside Gaza well before the ceasefire took effect – and during an Israeli assault on Rafah leading up to the 8 AM ceasefire.

        “They aborted the ceasefire from the beginning,” said Nabil Shaath from the PLO’s Central Committee. A veteran negotiator, Shaath has become the de facto liaison between the PLO and Hamas. He confirmed to Mondoweiss that PA President Mahmoud Abbas received a briefing from Hamas this morning on the incident near Rafah. Shaath’s account reflects details provided directly by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.

        According to Shaath, at after 6 AM, Hamas fighters engaged Israeli forces in Rafah. He maintained that it was then — almost two hours before the ceasefire went into effect — that the two Israeli soldiers were killed and the other went missing.

        – See more at:

      • annie on January 13, 2015, 3:32 pm

        I see a huge difference in defensively looking for tunnels…

        defensively looking for tunnels?

        Shaath’s account was supported by dispatches published before the ceasefire went into effect by the official Twitter account of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing. In a tweet published at 7:34 AM on August 1, the Qassam Brigades stated, “At 7 AM a group [of Hamas fighters] clashed with [Israeli] forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them.”

        In a separate tweet published at 6:22 AM on the say day, the Qassam Brigades declared, “At 6:30 AM, a group of the Qassam infiltrated behind enemy lines at east Rafah and bombed a house that the enemy had taken as a stronghold with a Tandem missile after the enemies bombed the whole area.”

        The following day, Qassam Brigades reiterated its description of the incident in an official statement: “The clashes began at 7.00am, before the proposed truce was in effect, while the enemy launched its attack on civilians at 10.00 am, blatantly violating the truce in aims of finding a missing soldier.”

        Qassam Brigades added that it had “no knowledge regarding the soldier missing in action [Lt. Hadar Goldin] or his location or the circumstances of his disappearance” — a departure from previous instances when it trumpeted claims that it had captured Israeli troops. Despite the denial, Obama demanded that Hamas unconditionally release Goldin.

        The ceasefire was first violated at 8:30 AM, according to Shaath, when the Israeli army destroyed 19 buildings in an operation to demolish tunnels. “Destroying tunnels is destroying houses,” Shaath said, noting that the ceasefire allowed hostile Israeli forces to continue to operate inside the Gaza Strip, making violence almost inevitable. “We do not accept a ceasefire that allows the invader to attack and murder,” he declared.

        destroying 19 buildings in an operation to demolish tunnels is not defensively looking for tunnels.

        – See more at:

        oh whoops! i forgot everything is does is defensive. is that what you meant? the way they slaughter children defensively? in hasbara doublespeak speak i guess that could be considered defensive.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 11, 2015, 4:46 pm

      You don’t ‘kidnap’ a soldier engaging in military activities on your land.

      You capture – or kill – him.

      Perfectly legitimate behaviour during war time.

      • Jackdaw on January 13, 2015, 3:02 pm


        “You don’t ‘kidnap’ a soldier engaging in military activities on your land.”

        “You capture-or kill-him”

        During a ceasefire?

      • annie on January 13, 2015, 3:18 pm

        jack, so what do you think israel would do if they found some militants from gaza on the israel side of the border during a ceasefire?

        wave at them? “hey guys, how’s your break, catchin’ any zzz’s?”

        do tell.

    • epmurph on January 11, 2015, 11:55 pm

      I wrote a section about this question, which I do consider highly important, but there wasn’t room for it. Here is some of what I wanted to say:

      ‘Max Blumenthal has suggested [], based on evidence including testimony from Rafah, that the Hamas attack occurred around 7:30 am, before the start of the ceasefire. But let’s give the IDF the benefit of the doubt and accept the version presented in the Israeli press. (According to Amos Harel and Gili Cohen [], “The official report on the incident appears on computerized operational systems, which would be difficult to falsify due to the many soldiers with access.” This seems slightly credulous, whatever the truth is.) A question arises at once: why were Givati soldiers “out on an offensive patrol” more than one hour into a ceasefire?

      The Times of Israel report [] does not elaborate on this curious detail; in the Israeli context, it hardly requires an explanation. For the IDF has never respected ceasefires. In 1948 Israel broke two UN truces in order to seize the initiative against the Arab forces, and Ben Gurion ordered the army to occupy Eilat in March 1949, after the armistice agreement was signed. (“This was significant for, by seizing Eilat, Israel had driven a wedge between the east and west Arab world,” Ahron Bregman explains, “thus preventing Egypt from having a direct land bridge to Jordan.”) Both the conquest of the Golan Heights in 1967 and the encirclement of the Egyptian 3rd Army in 1973 — pivotal events in Israeli military history — were achieved through ceasefire breaches. Reporting on Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982, longtime Mideast correspondent G. H. Jansen observed that “a striking aspect of Israeli military doctrine exemplified in the Lebanese campaign is the military exploitation of a cease-fire. Israel has done this so often, in every one of its wars, that perhaps one must assume that for the Israeli military ‘cease-fire’ only means ‘no shooting’ and is totally unconnected with any freezing of positions on the ground along a ‘cease-fire’ line” (quoted in Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, p. 219).

      So it was in Gaza last summer. Here is how John Kerry presented the terms of the truce that was to take effect on Black Friday []:

      “This morning, Israel and the Palestinian factions have agreed that they are now prepared to implement a 72-hour unconditional humanitarian cease-fire. So starting later this morning at 8:00 August 1st, the parties are expected to cease all offensive military activities, and neither side will advance beyond its current locations. They will stay where they are in place. Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for those tunnels that are behind its lines, and the Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine, and additional humanitarian assistance, as well as to be able to tend to their wounded, bury their dead, be able to in safe areas travel to their homes, and take advantage of the absence — hopefully, hopefully — of violence for these 72 hours.”

      If Kerry doubted that the violence would indeed come to halt, he had good reason, and himself to blame: allowing Israel to insist on continuing its anti-tunnel operations all but guaranteed that the lull would be extremely short-lived. This wasn’t World War I: destroying tunnels in an urban environment is not the kind of work that will stay contained behind an army’s lines, even if Israel were inclined to take ceasefires seriously. For its part, the leadership of al Qassam Brigades quite reasonably “declared their refusal to tolerate Israeli military maneuvers inside Gaza,” Blumenthal reports. In the event, Givati recon soldiers continued to operate in Rafah, precipitating the encounter that left three of them dead.’

      I would add that the IDF’s totally unrealistic conception of a ceasefire is further illuminated by Ynet’s interview with the Givati commanders:

      “In hindsight, we feel frustrated at the way we handled the ceasefire. The ceasefire should not have applied where troops were still present, but rather only in areas the IDF has already left. This is why the enemy allowed itself to rear its head. Had there not been a ceasefire, Benaya might have received authorization to fire a tank shell at the area the suspect was seen in. When my company identified the suspicious motorcyclist, we asked for authorization to fire at him, but did not receive it.”

  15. mcohen. on January 13, 2015, 5:54 am

    the egyptians have cleared a buffer zone along the border with gaza …..evidently underground bunkers were a problem…… fact building underground bunkers under civilian towns is an old military stratergy.
    a moral dilemna indeed……..just like in the reality tv show

    the wheel has turned,an earthquake,a crow calls,a tower falls

    in memory of those murdered in cold blood in paris

    • Mooser on January 13, 2015, 2:44 pm

      .“.just like in the reality tv show”

      “mcohen”, your ability to bring a fresh and relevant perspective to the discussion is what makes your voice so valuable. “like in the TV reality show”! Yes, it’s always best to reason from first principles, and real-life reality-TV experience.

  16. Whizdom on January 13, 2015, 5:25 pm

    At least the Egyptians have the decency to build their buffer zone on their side of the border.

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