what are bff? best friends forever

More insultingly stupid propaganda for Israel in the NYT:
Investigation unearths documents showing that USrael are BFF

Phil Weiss, Donald Johnson, Mondoweiss, Sep 16 2016

IMG_0693.jpgJodi Rudoren (Photo: Fred Conrad/NYT)

Today the NYT published a pro-Israel promotion by the reliable Jodi Rudoren. The article is about an early draft of the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948 by a Ukrainian-born lawyer who cribbed the Pindosi Declaration of Independence. The headline of the piece is “What’s Hebrew for ‘When in the Course of Human Events’?” Rudoren begins her story like this:

USraeli boxtops often speak of the two countries’ shared values. It turns out that early drafts of the Jewish state’s founding document borrowed liberally from the Pindostani Declaration of Independence.

There is no news hook, beside the fact that an Israeli auction house wanted to sell the early draft last year but was prevented by a court from doing so. As Donald Johnson wrote to the public editor today:

I know what the justification for this story would be. It’s a minor piece of news about history. But the hook is the claim referenced in the first sentence, that USrael share values. But it’s a truism that early Pindostan was a society whose leaders believed in democracy while holding an almost messianic belief in the right of white men to take the land from Native Americans. And a very similar belief was held by Israelis, who had to get rid of enough Palestinians in order to establish a majority Jewish state. And this belief is still held. I know that politicians gloss over this as a matter of course, but for a newspaper to do this without so much as a glancing reference to what “shared values” they actually had in common is inexcusable. The NYT would never do this in another situation. The founders of the confederacy also shared values with Jefferson. The Boers resembled early Pindosi pioneers. It’s because this is Israel that the ugly aspect of the shared values goes unmentioned and one has this cutesy story about a very minor bit of feel-good historical trivia.

There is no place for comments on this insultingly stupid bit of propaganda. Today Haaretz offers a very different foundational narrative. Here it is:

Israeli Soldiers Murdered Dozens of Captives During One of the Wars the IDF Fought in the First Decades of Israel’s Existence. According to testimony obtained by Haaretz, captives were ordered to line up and turn around, before they were shot in the back. The officer who gave the order to kill the prisoners was tried, but got off with a ridiculously light sentence. His commander was promoted to an extremely senior post and the entire affair was hushed up.

IDF Commander Nominated to be Chief of Staff Tolerated 1967 War Crimes
Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, Sep 16 2016

gavish_1967

Aluf Benn published a report (English) in today’s Haaretz which, though it dealt with events of fifty years ago, was nevertheless heavily censored. As usual, I’m here to tell you what the censor excised, and it was a ton! In all three of Israel’s major wars between 1948-1967 there are documented reports of potential war crimes in which IDF units murdered Egyptian POWs. In 1956 alone, up to 2,000 were reported killed by a single Israeli unit commanded by “Stinking Rafi” Eitan, who once said after Israel finished settling the Territories there would be nothing left for the Palestinians to do but scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle. Imagine what his childhood was like! There are so many reports that it’s sometimes difficult to keep incidents apart. Here’s another from 1967. For example, there were POW massacres at one place (Ras al-Sudr) in both 1956 and 1967. In some instances, commanders were either so proud of their actions or so indignant at criticism that they boasted at what they did. Others, like former IDF Gen Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who died last week, claimed those massacred by troops under his command weren’t Egyptian, but Palestinian fedayeen, and that they weren’t POWs, but rather were retreating without having surrendered. Still, Fuad’s slaughter of 250 enemy retreating enemy troops sounds more like an outright massacre than a legitimate military engagement. In Tom Segev’s definitive work on the 1967 war he says that IOF witnessed “tens of thousands” of Egyptian soldiers wandering the desert dying of thirst and hunger, or being hunted by special IOF units whose mission was to kill such soldiers when they found them (p 374). Between deliberate murder and dying of thirst, it seems the number of dead might reach such a large number.

Israel’s systematic execution of thousands of Egyptian soldiers during the wars of 1948, 1956 and 1967 aroused a sense of outrage in the Egyptian military. So when it had a chance to exact revenge in 1973, when it routed the IDF in the initial stages of that war, the Egyptians too killed Israeli captives. Though a Channel 10 TV documentary says the number was “dozens, if not hundreds,” Amir Oren reports in Haaretz that a total of 86 captives were killed in 1973, half in the Golan and half in the Sinai. One thing Israel refuses to recognize in these matters is that what goes around comes around. The Israeli attitude is that we will always be on the winning side, so whatever we do to our enemies will never be done to us.  And if God forbid, Israel ever is on the losing side it screams a blue streak about the bloodthirsty Arab savages who live only to kill and maim their civilized Jewish victims.

49874068ae35b66ae46b625450c298a3Israel Tal, Ariel Sharon, Yeshayahu Gavish, Avraham Yoffe (1967)

Benn’s story today concerns the massacre at a battle called Ras al-Sudr (Hebrew) in the Egyptian Sinai during the 1967 War. All of this information is censored from Benn’s report. After the battle, “tens” (an earlier Haaretz report speaks of the remains of 52 or 62, depending on the source, Egyptian soldiers uncovered) of disarmed Egyptian soldiers were herded into an enclosed inner courtyard, where they were fed. The Israelis conversed with them about their respective military service. But this unit prepared to leave for another mission and was replaced by a second unit. This force refused to accept the prisoners and the first unit, which was an armored corps, had no logistical means of transporting them. Further, the entire Israeli battle plan was based on lightning-fast tank attack and the troops could not afford to be bogged down with prisoners. At that point, the tank commander of the original unit felt he had no choice but to kill the prisoners. They were lined up, ordered to face the wall, then summarily executed. The Egyptian commanding officer turned to flee and was hunted down by soldiers from the relief unit, who followed him in a jeep and shot him to death as well. All the bodies were buried on the spot by a bulldozer.

The story was reported to Benn by two witnesses to the killings. The first told the journalist that he had refused his superior’s order to kill the captives because he had earlier promised them they would not be killed. Though the officer threatened to bring him up on charges if he failed to comply, the soldier still refused. Then another soldier volunteered to carry out the illegal order, in which he was joined by three others. Then they were killed. Some of these were severely wounded before being killed. The IDF commanding officer who ordered the murders was punished lightly with a three-year sentence, reduced to seven months, presumably after he agreed to keep his mouth shut. During his trial, he claimed that the order to massacre the prisoners was given to him by his own superior officer. When approached by Benn, he told the reporter that the matter was secret and that he should approach the defense ministry with his inquiry. The senior commander, who may have ordered the massacre, was never punished. He went on to promotions which led him to “the most senior of military posts.” This would indicate that the latter possibly was later named chief of staff, though I can’t be certain of this, yet. The incident was later suppressed so that neither the army, the political echelon or the media ever reported it. The names of both were also censored from the report. However, in 2000 Walla reported on the same incident and interviewed Yeshayahu Gavish, who it described as the commander of the southern front. He was later the CEO of one of Israel’s largest industrial conglomerates, Koor Industries. According to Walla:

Gavish told its reporter the name of the officer in overall command of the troops who would have committed the atrocity, but he said: “I know of no incident involving the murder of captives.” According to him, no information about the killing of captives at Ras Sudr was ever brought to his attention during the fighting. He pointed out that Ras Sudr was captured with a fight by troops under the command of Avraham Yoffe, and that all the residents fled.

Of course, Yoffe didn’t report the incident to his superior, Gavish. Why would you report a war crime to your commanding officer? You’d arrange to sweep it under the rug. Clearly, an ambitious senior commander like Gavish would prefer not to know when troops under his command commit a war crime. It looks bad on your resume. And you’d especially look the other way about a war crime which other units had committed in the past and were committing during the same combat operation in which you were fighting. Interestingly, in 1970 Gavish was nominated to become IDF chief of staff, but in an internal conflict between various political party factions, David Eleazer was appointed in his stead. Yoffe appears to be the senior commander referred to in Aluf Benn’s account, the officer who went on to the highest level of IDF command and who was never punished.  We know Yoffe commanded the troops at Ras Sudr from this account of his ’67 operations:

On the fourth day of the war, Jun 8 1967, the Egyptian forces were defeated. General Tal’s division conquered Qantara on the banks of the Suez Canal and continued south along the canal in order to join up with the main force of the division which continued from Bir Gifgafa to the Suez Canal in the Ismailiya sector. South of them, Yoffe’s division also continued towards the canal along two axes in the Suez sector, while another force of his division continued on another route to Ras-Sudar on the Gulf of Suez, south of the Canal. From there, the force continued south along the Gulf of Suez and reached Abu-Zenima, where it met up with the paratroopers coming from E-Tur.

We still do not know the name of the local commander who executed the orders to kill the captives. I have approached many Israelis who might know the answer, including Benn himself. So far, none has offered any direct information. If anyone reading this knows the name or knows someone who might, please let me know. Now it becomes easier to understand why the IDF censor found reason to censor a story that is a half century old. Gavish and Yoffe went on to long and distinguished careers, both in the army and in private life. They served their country and any blemish on their record was washed clean by deliberate historical amnesia. Revelation of the nation’s refusal to address their crimes would be a further blemish on Israel, a nation already embroiled in numerous accusations of more recent war crimes. So why permit a journalist to stick the country’s finger in this beehive, only to be stung by it? Then again, every aspect of Benn’s report has been previously published. Indeed, the Walla report is even more detailed than Benn’s and names the two commanding officers which were censored from today’s report. Not to mention that media outlets in Egypt and Toad Hall reported on this very incident. The horse has left the stable and now you want to bar the door? It’s typical of the stupidity of the IDF censor, Col Ariella Ben Avraham. Not that she has a monopoly on this quality. She just is afflicted with it worse than some of her predecessors.

To be clear, armies of many nations have killed prisoners of war. Bob Kerrey, a Vietnam Medal of Honor winner, admitted that his special forces operations could not afford to take enemy prisoners while operating behind enemy lines, which left no choice but to murder any witnesses they encountered. However, I’ve rarely seen accounts of massacres of disarmed soldiers in such numbers and spanning three different wars. There is no question but that this is a systematic, long-term war crime which was countenanced at the highest IDF command levels. IDF supporters will no doubt point out that there were scores of IDF units operating in the same territory which managed not to commit such war crimes. This would supposedly clear the IDF as a whole of guilt in systematic war crimes for which the entire army could be blamed. But when you have this many massacres involving many different units in multiple wars, it is systematic. The fact that most of these crimes were never investigated or prosecuted also taints the army with the stain of refusal to hold itself accountable for its own crimes. Under international law, a nation which refuses to prosecute war crimes opens it to trial before the ICC. Israel will have much to answer for in the dock at the Hague some day.

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