The new round of violence in Gaza began with the assassination of a Popular Resistance Committees official – and the IDF trotted out an old lie to defend it.
As these lines are being written, we are in the third day of yet another round of violence in Gaza, in which at least 17 Gazans have been killed and more than 100 rockets fired into southern Israel. It began – not that you’d know it from the Israeli media – when the IDF assassinated from the air Zuheir Al-Queisi, secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees. The strike also killed Mahmoud Hanani, described by the IDF as Al-Queisi’s ”collaborator.” The IDF Spokesman’s communique said sanctimoniously (Hebrew) that “the IDF is not interested in an escalation, but is ready and willing to defend the citizens of the State of Israel and respond with force and determination against any attempt to carry out terrorist activity.” It’s good to hear the IDF dislikes the escalation, since if we were to judge it by its actions, we might reach the opposite conclusion.
There is a serious problem with this communique: it attributes to Al-Queisi responsibility for the terrorist attack near Eilat in August. But, as was written on this blog several times, the attackers did not come from Gaza, but rather from Sinai. This did not stop the IDF from killing six members of the PRC leadership several hours after the attack, nor did it prevent Prime Minister Netanyahu from announcing that “those responsible for the attack have already been punished.” Two months after the attack, someone in the security establishment leaked to Alex Fishman of Yedioth Ahronoth enough information for Fishman to write the truth: the attack did not come from Gaza but rather from Sinai. The PRC had nothing to do with it. Asked to comment, the IDF Spokesman declined. It basically managed to tell us a bald lie, and then walk backwards from it by feeding the information to a trusted reporter. A few weeks later, the Egyptian army arrested a resident of Sinai, charging him with planning the Eilat attack (Hebrew).
None of this prevents the IDF from trotting out the old lie about the PRC’s responsibility for the attack. It can rely on the short memory of the public, which won’t remember the series of lies from last time. (The PRC did it – actually, we’re not sure – the attackers came from Gaza, they had AK-47s – the culprits are dead – oops, they came from Sinai but we won’t say so for the record.) The military reporter now parroting the new party line about Al-Queisi seem the most oblivious of all, and certainly won’t contradict the IDF. Given the IDF’s history of economy with the truth on this issue, one wonders whether the other claim by the IDF about Al-Queisi – that he was planning another attack in the same region – is just as credible. Ehud Barak did undermine it somewhat yesterday (Hebrew), saying the intel on this new attack was hazy. With this kind of record, why should we believe the IDF Spokesman?
Someone is liable to turn to conspiracy theories about the reason for the IDF attack on Gaza. None are needed: this is just how the IDF is conditioned to act. If it has a chance to kill someone who annoyed it – and Al-Queisi claimed to be involved in the capture of Gilad Schalit – it shall do so, and damn the consequences. The safety of the civilians who pay dearly for it is hardly ever a factor in the IDF’s planning.