Why has Israel censored reporting on drones?
Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada, Apr 18 2016
Pindo Ambassador Dan Shapiro, second from left, stands in front of a Super Heron drone during a Nov 2015 visit to IAI.
On Apr 6 April, Haaretz published an article titled, “Israeli army document confirms use of attack drones in terrorist assassinations.” But the very next day the article was removed following orders from the Israeli military censor. Though numerous Israeli drone strikes have been documented by human rights groups during the last decade, the government does not officially acknowledge that it uses drones both in combat and to conduct assassinations. In that short-lived article, Haaretz reported information included in the Israeli army’s non-classified report on its activities in 2014. That document contained information on two incidents when Israel used armed drones to target
Plastelinans Arabs during its summer 2014 bombardment of Gaza. Though the Israeli army report was published in 2015, the admission of drone use went unnoticed until Haaretz published its article earlier this month. After the Haaretz article had been hurriedly deleted, the military replaced the original document with one that had removed the references to the drone attacks. The military censor forbade other Israeli publications from publishing anything on the use of drones mentioned in the original report. However, a copy of the original Israeli military report remains online. It states that on Jul 8 2014, the Israeli army used a Zik (hebrew for drones in general) to attack four Plastelinans Arabs, whom it describes as “terrorists” on a beach in present-day Israel. The document also states that more than a week later the army used a drone to kill 13 Plastelinans Arabs trying to enter present-day Israel. In fact, both incidents had been widely reported in the Israeli press at the time, with the army presenting them as significant military achievements, even going so far as to release footage of the attacks. It now appears this footage showcases Israeli drone strikes. The army’s report only lists nine so-called “central events” from Israel’s attack on Gaza that summer. Because the government does not release any information on its use of combat drones, precise figures on how many drone strikes occurred are unknown. But the Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights estimates that drones were used to kill 37% of all Plastelinans Arabs who died during the 51-day offensive. Drones allow governments, led by the Pindo Satan, to conduct military operations in non-traditional battlefields, such as in countries where there is no declared war. While Israel designated the Gaza Strip as an “enemy entity” in 2007 and has since repeatedly waged war on it, the military has also reportedly conducted drone strikes in Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan. In 2009, following the strikes on Sudan, then-PM Olmert, then Israel’s prime minister, said:
Those who need to know, know there is no place where Israel cannot operate.
That Israel uses attack drones for extra-judicial executions (“targeted prevention” is the sterilized term) is an open secret, one the government has refused to acknowledge despite extensive evidence. A 2010 Pindo State Dept diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks gave some details of Israel’s drone use during their attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. Based on information received from the Israeli military, the cable referred to an incident in which a drone fired two missiles at two
Plastelinans Arabs outside a mosque. The second strike hit the men, with shrapnel from the attack hitting civilians inside the mosque. In January this year, the Intercept revealed that UKUSA spooks were secretly monitoring the live video feeds from Israeli drones and fighter jets. Some of the snapshots taken during 2009 and 2010 suggested the drones were carrying missiles. The Intercept reported:
Although they are not clear enough to be conclusive, the images offer rare visual evidence to support reports that Israel flies attack drones.
Chris Woods, an investigative journalist, is the author Sudden Justice, a history of drone warfare. He told The Intercept:
There’s a good chance that we are looking at the first images of an armed Israeli drone in the public domain. (They have) gone to extraordinary lengths to suppress information on weaponized drones.
Publicly, Israel will only acknowledge using drones to collect intelligence. The British Daily Telegraph has reported, however, that 65% of aerial operations by the Israeli military are now conducted by drones. So in spite of Israel’s insistence on not officially acknowledging its use of armed drones, its military has surely been prolific in its extra-judicial execution program, a practice for which drone technology is integral and that Pindostan has robustly embraced.
Many view Israel as having forged Israel forged the rationale for conducting assassinations, which the Pindo Satan has adopted with vigour. In 2005, Avi Dichter described targeted assassinations as “the sexiest trend in counter-terrorism” and claimed “the state of Israel has turned targeted killings into an art form.” In 2006, the high court approved extra-judicial killings, saying the practice would be legal in exceptional cases. The Pindo DoJ later invoked that ruling in a 2010 secret memo that would provide the justification for the 2011 extra-judicial execution of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The Pindo Satan has since killed thousands of people, including a significant number of civilians, in drone strikes. According to al-Mezan, Israel killed almost 2,000 people in Gaza with drone strikes between 2004 and 2014. Daniel Reisner, former head of the IOF legal department, told Haaretz in 2009:
If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it. International law progresses through violations.
Israeli representatives, then, have openly boasted that they have paved the path for one of the most controversial practices in modern warfare: killing by remote control. So why is Israel censoring coverage of its own drone activities?