Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support -- click here to help us keep going

Analysis News

How the public was manipulated into believing the teens were alive

Details under gag order could have suggested early on that the abducted teens were murdered. The government-led campaign calling for their release helped the legitimacy of Israel’s military operation in the West Bank. Local and even international media played along.

The following issue is not the heart of the kidnapping affair, the Israeli military operation or its aftermath — but it does carry an important lesson, especially for journalists. The bottom line is this: the Israeli public has been manipulated.

Details of the ’100′ call (the local equivalent of 911) and what investigators discovered in the car used for the kidnapping of three Israeli teens earlier this month were well known by security service heads, top ministers — and even journalists — early on in the affair; but not by the public because it was all placed and kept under a tightly held gag order. The blood found in the car, the sound of gun shots in the emergency call, evidence of live ammunition and the fact that there hasn’t been a single instance of two or more people being held hostage in the West Bank in decades – all that led to a single logical assumption: the teens were no longer alive. Yet at the same time, the Israeli public was told the teens were being held by Hamas, and a public campaign calling for their return was launched.

The result was the shock most Israelis felt once the bodies were discovered – terrible disappointment that could be avoided only by those with knowledge of the details under gag order.

Every other day or so, senior officers briefed the media and reiterated that the army’s working assumption is the abducted teens were still alive, sometimes adding that there is no evidence which suggests otherwise. This was a deception. On one of those days, Finance Minister Yair Lapid went on live television and said the 100 call is “impossible to decipher.” That was a deception too. And here is the most absurd part: while those sources were feeding the public with misconceptions, they added warnings against “spreading rumors on social media.” Well, I have news for you: the next tragic event will see many more such rumors because the public will take for granted that there are secrets which shed light on the events – as if we don’t have enough conspiracy theories here as it is.

I am not saying the call itself should have been made public or that the army should have operated under the assumption that the teens were dead. The effort to find them needed to be conducted with the same urgency as if they were alive. Yet there is a great difference between a “working assumption” and a “logical conclusion”; that line was deliberately and recklessly crossed.

The government even went a step further and initiated the “Bring Back our Boys” campaign. In schools across the country, including one near my home, signs were hung with the teens’ names and slogans like, “looking forward to your return.” If the teachers knew about the blood in the car, the bullet holes and the sound of gunshots, would they have let their young students paint those signs or have their photos taken with them and posted on the Internet?

As for the media, in case you read Hebrew, I invite you to take a look at the front pages below (h/t Tamir Cohen), full of emotional quotes from parents waiting to hug their kids again. Editors and correspondents knew better, yet they went ahead and printed them anyway. Even worse is the way some international reporters echoed these stories, despite not being bound by censorship and gag orders the way Israeli media is. (Censorship applies to foreign press in Israel but the state has fewer ways to enforce it with them. The coverage largely depends on the willingness of the media organization to play along).

Front pages of Israeli dailies covering the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, June 2104

Front pages of Israeli dailies covering the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, June 2104

What’s behind this large-scale public manipulation? Readers can make their own guesses. Maybe someone thought that hiding those facts would help the investigation. But this is very unlikely, especially since at a certain points details began to emerge in independent media abroad. Perhaps the government felt that maintaining the impression that the teens were alive would boost the legitimacy of its military operation. Perhaps security officials wanted to save themselves the embarrassment of the details being revealed now – not only the 100 call from the abducted teen, but dozens more calls from the worried parents to the army’s emergency lines which were ignored. Or perhaps it was just the way that Israeli security forces tend to operate: publicly reveal only those facts that serve the system’s own interests.

The Israeli public, it should be said, puts its complete trust in the country’s military and security services. Those institutions abuse the public’s trust time and again. This case is especially grotesque because it duplicated, step by step, the aftermath of the 2006 abduction of three Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. The government knew well that in all likelihood the soldiers couldn’t have survived the attack on their patrol jeep, and yet they started the Second Lebanon War promising “to bring the boys back home.” One can only conclude that in the next affair lying will be too easy an option for decision makers to pass up.

My only hope is that those district judges who approve the gag orders without giving them a second thought – be that incommunicado arrests, details of an investigation or a fact that might embarrass the chief of staff – might learn something from this affair. I hope that in the future, local and foreign journalists think twice about the way they serve the interests of those in power, as opposed to the interests of their own readers. (An exception during this affair was Haaretz’s Amos Harel, who tried to hint, without violating the gag order, that the government was creating false expectations among the public, UPDATE: Another good piece by TIO’s Mitch Ginsburg) ) But more than anything, I wish that Israelis become a little more critical of the information they are being fed by those “senior military sources.”

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

More on the kidnappings:
Three kidnapped Israeli teens found dead in the West Bank
Our problem with selective sympathy for young victims
Analysis: The end of the ‘cheap occupation’ era

Newsletter Banner 2 - 540

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • COMMENTS

    1. The Trespasser

      Author suggests that security forces should had assumed that kidnapees are dead and there is no reason to search for them.

      Well, I can only hope that when one of author’s family members is went missing, the state would assume that there is no reason to search for them.

      Reply to Comment
      • haifawi

        I’ll give you a pass on the poor reading comprehension since maybe english isn’t your first language.
        Noam suggested that the search should have been for BODIES and perpetrators. not this Jack bauer ‘tell us where the boys are!’ arrestathon.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Bar

      In my comments, I used kidnapped/murdered because it was clear it could be either/or. Finding blood and a bullet in a car, even if the recording suggests loud noises, could mean many different outcomes. It could mean injuries. It could mean death to one or two but the others still alive. It could mean injury to one of the kidnappers.

      If so, then why would the security forces of Israel declare that the boys are dead? If they do, the hostage-takers would have greater incentive to kill them or the ones who are alive. They can trade for the bodies.

      In fact, as I recall, there were articles with some quotes from people like Ayalon stating that as time goes on without the boys being found, there were significant worries creeping in.

      So perhaps all of this is “manipulation” by Israel’s leaders and security forces, and perhaps it’s just prudent management of a challenging set of circumstances that have no clear answer but require a vigorous response to try to find the kidnapped. If anyone should be angry about this, it should be the boys’ parents and their frustration appears to be with the early hours of what happened, not what happened after – even though they were also led to believe their boys could be alive.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mikesailor

      I seem to remember that Netanyahu promised to release evidence showing that Hamas was to blame.Has anyoone seen anything to that effect? Has the Israeli or any other media followed up and questioned Netanyahu? We have demolished homes and abosolutely no evidence. Now we have a dead Palestinian teenager. And, like the two dead Palestinian teenagers before him, and the other eight or nine Palestinians killed, not a peep out of Netanyahu. And the beat goes on.

      Reply to Comment
      • Erica

        Ma nishtana ? KLOOM!!!

        Reply to Comment
    4. Ginger Eis

      “You can’t fix stupid”!

      “Details of the ’100′ call (…) and what investigators discovered in the car used for the kidnapping of three Israeli teens earlier this month were well known by security service heads, top ministers (…) early on in the affair; (…). The blood found in the car, the sound of gun shots in the emergency call, evidence of live ammunition and the fact that there hasn’t been a single instance of two or more people being held hostage in the West Bank in decades – all that led to a single logical assumption: the teens were no longer alive”

      Dear Noam Sheizaf, ALL of the above facts could – contrary to your claim – have (1) led to a SERIES of “logical assumptions”, NONE of which is (2) “the teens were no longer alive” and (3) misleading/deceptive. Here are the possible “logical assumptions”:

      a. the gunshots were blanks to scare the boys. The bullet-casings found in the stolen car did not come from the kidnappers. The blood-DNA resulted from wounds that are not gunshot wounds. The boys are thus still alive;
      b. the gunshots were live-fire into the air to scare the boys into submission. The blood-DNA may not have resulted from gunshot wounds. The boys are thus still alive;
      c. the gunshots hit the boys (e.g. in the legs) but were not fatal. That accounts for the blood-DNA. The boys are still alive;
      d. “the fact that there hasn’t been a single instance of two or more people being held hostage in the West Bank in decades” is utterly irrelevant to assuming whether or not kidnapped victims are dead.

      You see, Mr. Sheizaf, the combination of 100-call, gunshot sounds, bullet-casings, blood-DNA does not form enough basis to “logically assume” that the boys are dead. To do so, you must FIRST rule out all other “logical assumptions”. You failed to do that, because either your analytical power is weak or you willfully smear Israel or both. If you disagree, pls. prove me wrong. This is a challenge!

      Reply to Comment
      • kate

        I hope your not selling anything made from that yarn you’re spinning ’cause it’s pretty weak stuff at best

        can’t admit that it was known to Israeli governmental agencies and most likely the families, who the recording of the call was played for and were described as being in tears of grief after hearing it that the kidnapped boys were already dead

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Kate, your personal opinions such as “that’s pretty weak at best”, “I hope your not selling anything made from that yarn you’re spinning”, etc. are just what they are: complaints and speeches. You need to make four sets of arguments that RULE OUT all of my “logical assumptions”. That’s how you prove me wrong. Can you do that? Let me give you a tip on how to articulate your arguments. Begin as follows: (1) “Your ‘logical assumption A’ is not possible because a. …, because b. …, because c. …, etc. (2) …. (3) … (4) …”. All you have done till now is just complain and make speeches (with info not in the article written by Noam Sheizaf) and that’s not remotely good enough!

          Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            “(…) and were described as being in tears of grief after hearing it that the kidnapped boys were already dead”

            Kate, would you pls. tell us what evidence, if any, you have to support your claim above?!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            You see, Kate, you LIED! The evidence is YOUR OWN source! Anyone who is in doubt about this lie should read the source and cut, copy and paste the sentence containing the claim that the parents of the murdered boys: (a) “(…) were described as being in tears of grief after hearing it that the kidnapped boys were already dead” or (b) anything that could be interpreted to the effect that the parents of the murdered kids were “in tears of grief after hearing it that the kidnapped boys were already dead”.

            Kate, the lie you told is serious and inexcusable. I need you to apologize. The explanation you now trying to provide to cover-up your lies is incomprehensible and unbefitting of any woman/man of integrity! Just apologize, ok?

            Reply to Comment
          • kate

            why did the families have to leave? was it because they were so overcome with joy? No either there are lies now about what is contained on the tapes or the parents knew these kids were dead as I said they are not stupid people

            but do keep squealing LIES LIES all LIES we’d expect no less from you

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Kate, the record shows WITHOUT DOUBT that (a) your statement is false and (b) YOUR OWN source does NOT support your own statement. Fair minds will read our exchanges here and make up their own minds as to whether or not you (c) lied and (d) committed fraud by making false statements and providing a source that does not contain said false statements you attributed to it.

            If you want to know the answer to your own question: “why did the families have to leave?”, then you need to read YOUR OWN source! You are not that dense, are you? The answer is provided therein in black and white and in no uncertain terms!

            Reply to Comment
          • GilGamesh

            Face it you lied and got caught. You made a claim and were proven wrong by your own source.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Howard

      it is quite obvious that the main reason for misleading and manipulating the public was to allow for the merciless pounding of the palestinians to enjoy full support from virtually the whole of the Israeli public, lead to believe that this was serving a purpose ….

      Reply to Comment
      • EYES2Cעיניים לראות

        Howard sees the light, which most Israeli Jews don’t. Reason being: Like the Netanyawhoes they want to acquire more Palestinian land, and expel the people to make room for more “Jews”. As Average American says: (The kidnapped)kids were only a screen, an excuse, a distraction, a manipulation.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Average American

      Kids were only a screen, an excuse, a distraction, a manipulation. Milked to cover Israel’s real objective which, as always, is to control more territory and get rid of more Palestinians. Israel was created for a purpose by Zionists, and Zionism says Israel exists to take over The Land Of Israel for The Jews. Relentlessly, unapologetically.

      Reply to Comment
      • dap per

        Average American, you butchered 100 000s of Indians, you mader the surviving ones drunk, stole their land, their identity their souls. Before you make unsupported allegations, you better look in the mirror first!

        Reply to Comment
        • Y-man

          European-Americans oppressed Indians over 100 years ago, by themselves. Israel commits daily oppression against the Palestinianzs now, today, as we talk, with the support of the US. Dumb comparison.

          Reply to Comment
    7. Ben Zakkai

      A crime was being investigated: kidnapping and possibly murder. Under such circumstances there are always questions about what particulars of the investigation should be publicized, and when. Reasons for full and prompt public disclosure include the public’s right to know and, in addition, the possibility that some member of the public, upon learning some detail of the investigation, might be able to provide another missing piece of the puzzle that somehow assists the authorities; but, on the other hand, in some cases, revealing particulars of the investigation can actually impede it.
      Here it’s difficult to see how informing the public about the “100″ phone call and the state of the kidnappers’ automobile would have prejudiced the investigation, and I gather that the authorities haven’t offered up any such justification for the delay, presumably because they don’t think they have to. Much of the Israeli public, which is generally quite shrewd when it comes to buying a quality new car or refrigerator at a bargain price, completely loses its critical faculties when it comes to the country’s government-security-military establishment; believing even the most ridiculous lies, trusting the Machine unreservedly, and accepting the fact that the public does not need to be consulted or informed before Israel bombs foreign countries, assassinates people abroad, or does whatever it likes in the Occupied Territories.
      Even more serious, in my view, is Netanyahu’s immediate attribution of the kidnapping to Hamas, even though it was clear from the beginning that it was probably a rogue operation, since Hamas had little to gain and much to lose from doing such a thing right after it signed an accord with Fatah, which Netanyahu was trying to undermine by screaming to all the world that Hamas is just a big illegitimate terror organization. So apparently those wonderful crazies from the Qawasmeh clan of Hebron executed a terror operation to throw everybody back into a fear-and-war mindset, Hamas for its own stupid internal reasons didn’t immediately deny responsibility and act against the perpetrators, Netanyahu happily exploited the opportunity to begin a small war, and now, in Jerusalem the holy city, ordinary people can’t even wander down a major commercial artery like Jaffa Street (much less ride the train to Shuafat for lunch) without fearing for their safety. Great.
      But at least we have the Mondial! I’ll be rooting for Costa Rica.

      Reply to Comment
    8. shachalnur

      looks to me like 1897 Zionism doesn’t care anymore what Jews outside Israel think of what has become of Judaism under Israel’s and 1897 Zionism’s control.

      1897 Zionism is becoming an ever shrinking suicidal sect,as it was planned to be,end desperation is setting in,as it was planned.

      When 1897 Zionism’s sponsors are pulling the plug,as was planned,the squeeze will force Israel to become desperate mass murderers of Palestinians and Jews alike,as was planned.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Sherri Munnerlyn

      Richard Silverstein was reporting on his blog maintained in the US from the outset of the teen illegal settlers going missing that they were likely dead and I believed his reports. The world knows we can never trust the Israeli government or IDF. The misfortune befalling these kids was simply used by the Israeli government as an excuse to commit yet more crimes against humanity in Palestine. Shameful conduct, and no matter how typical and expected such conduct has become, it always shocks and simply keeps on exposing the depravities of Zionism.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        Sherri Munnerlyn, does “they were likely dead” rule out that (a) ‘they are likely alive’, (b) ‘they might still be alive (with or without injuries)’, etc.? You see, Sherri Munnerlyn, your own logic is telling you to your face: you just can’t fix stupid!

        Reply to Comment
      • GilGamesh

        2 of the murdered boys did not live in settlements, so as usual Silverstein got it wrong. Anyone who would believe Silverstein cannot have much regard for the truth. The man is an unrepentant bigot and a proven liar.

        Reply to Comment
    10. diana

      Three Israeli teens are dead.
      One Palestinian teen also dead (and we don’t know whether it’s revenge or clan issues).
      BOTH SIDES HAVE TO STOP AND RECONSIDER.
      Personally I don’t like the extreme LEFT/RIGHT

      Reply to Comment
    11. Fisherman

      (You mean, Noam: How the public was manipulated into believing the teens were **dead**.) What do you know about the deaths? Where did the bullets enter, how many and what kind? Was there an autopsy? What forensic tests were done? Any pictures?

      Reply to Comment
      • Blindfaith

        For Mohammed Abu Khdeir, there was an autopsy, and there are also photos of the body with the mother. By contrast – the whole “bring back our boys campaign” could have been based on anything.

        Reply to Comment
    12. Panella

      I was unable to conclude whether the article was true or not. Nonetheless, the situation is as always, bad for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. I don’t see how it will ever change for the better.

      Reply to Comment
    13. annie

      this is something medy zulu wrote above

      “we now have 400 Arab criminals arrested, tunnels revealed, unity in prayer nation wide, and just maybe a greater understanding to many across the globe of how Israel santifys life and the Palistisnisans dance in the streets for the death of innocent children. This is war and if we received these things based on a blury gag order, so let it be our greatest crime”

      i’d just like to say mendy’s ‘if’, under these circumstances, is highly unlikely. it is much more plausible many people, like myself, have learned not to trust the words of israeli officials. while your nation may be in unison, the world is tired of your governments lies and deceptions and this is why your nation is not to be trusted. because if lying serves your purpose, it becomes an option always available. and while you may not think it is so bad for a “greatest crime” (it isn’t btw, the occupation is disgusting) i was raised to believe that trust is a very valuable commodity in the world, and to losing the trust of your fellow man is to lose ones honor. so enjoy your unity while you can but no man is an island.

      it never would have occurred to me the government was telling the truth, that is how much faith i have in the israeli government, completely lacking in integrity.

      Reply to Comment
      • GilGamesh

        Not many if any governments tell the truth Annie. I was raised to believe that people who single out one group when many groups are guilty of the same thing, are bigots. Oh and BTW congratulations on being made spokesperson for the world.

        Reply to Comment
        • annie

          singled out? are you suggesting i trust my own government? surely you jest.

          Reply to Comment
          • GilGamesh

            Point me to comments you’ve made about not trusting your own gov’t. Face it you’ve been outed.

            Reply to Comment
          • annie

            i blogged against our (horrid) invasion of iraq for years before i could even locate palestine/israel on a map or knew what an intifada was. i don’t need to prove anything to you.

            accusing someone of bigotry (sans one iota of evidence) instead of addressing their argument is ad hominem divert wimp way to argue. #massivefail

            Reply to Comment
          • GilGamesh

            provide a link to your blog. then provide a link to any comment you’ve made criticizing another country besides Israel. I have all the evidence I need right here on 972. You claim you don’t have to prove anything when we both know you can’t. Face it Annie you’re a bigot.

            Reply to Comment
        • annie

          and thank you for the award. where can i pick up my check.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Says a delusional fool who obsesses day-in, day-out exclusively with any- and everything relating to Israel and/or Jews and believes that she is somehow more righteous than others and speaks for “the world”!

            Btw Annie, which “government” do you have in mind when you asked: “are you suggesting i trust my own government?” – Which “government” are you talking about?

            Reply to Comment
          • annie

            which government? the one responsible for drone massacres killing innocent people all over the middle east including afghanistan, yemen, pakistan, etc etc, the gov responsible for genocide against the iraqi people, the one whose soldiers murdered innocent children in cold blood (bullet thru the head) in Ishaqi, Haditha and more recently 16 civilians in afghanistan (burned alive). all of which i have blogged about btw.

            the US of course. i am an american citizen.

            Reply to Comment
          • GilGamesh

            I assumed you already had it since you were already speaking for the world.

            Reply to Comment
    14. Y.

      This is ridiculous post. It was not certain from the info at the time that they were dead (the call does not establish that, and we know in fact one of them was murdered _afterwards_), and the government was right to try to get them. The risk of leaving someone alive was too great. Had the government made the opposite error, Noam would have still pilloried them (“They pretended the boys were dead so that they will not need to make concessions for them!”).

      Nor did the government did need an excuse to attack the organisation which launched the murders. Most Israelis would have supported them regardless, as the author knows well.

      Now, lets remain the readers that there was an actual manipulation involving pretending kidnapped people were alive – during the Quntar deal, following the 2006 war, when it was pretended that the three soldiers were alive (the army was completely sure they were dead). Of course, that came from the Left, and involve releasing a murdered (removing the ‘blood on hands’ taboo), so that was fine…

      Reply to Comment
    15. Piotr Berman

      The defenders of the government actions overlook that the government went beyond “working assumptions”. It was reported that family members were “kept informed about the investigation” including “new evidence that the kidnapped boys are alive”. That was a piece of outright deception.

      Some reasons for the deceptions were transparent: the government planned to “finish Hamas once for all” (again!). For some reasons, in Israel kidnapping is dreaded much more than simple murder, so as way to convince the public, this did a much better job than intended.

      In the past, announcements of the kind that Cabinet was making were swiftly followed by a very bloody military action. One can only speculate why nothing like that materialized. One possibility is that while such an action was already fully planned, it was planned for later. Another is that the Cabinet could not agree on a course of action.

      Reply to Comment
    16. joeblow

      prediction a week earlier by mossad , mothers laughing and smiling like they were at sandy hook ,these yids are probably recovering from some much needed rhinoplasty on kibbutz sippin on maneshewitz mojitos and eating gifilte with gene rosen and noah pozner rigth now
      sneaky shifty jews you can never trust them , “by way of deception thou shall do war” 911 was a mossad job ,NEVER 4 GET

      Reply to Comment
    17. Click here to load previous comments

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Name (Required)
    Mail (Required)
    Website
    Free text

© 2010 - 2014 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website empowered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel