The IDF speaks in two voices in the Jawaher Abu Rahmah affair – because it knows its case is weak
On Monday the IDF went on a coordinated media offensive against the Bil’in activists and the Abu Rahmah family, claiming not only that Jawahar Abu Rahmah was not killed as a result of inhaling IDF gas, she wasn’t even present in the demonstration on Friday. This comes on a day when the Haaretz editorial questioned the use of CS gas, claiming it may be especially deadly.
Or, rather, it wasn’t the IDF, but “an IDF senior source” or “senior officer”. The IDF Spokesman told me its official position remains the same: The death of Jawahar Abu Rahmah is under investigation, and that it has some question regarding the official Palestinian position. The briefing held last evening for all of the main Israeli media (as well as a select group of right-wing bloggers, people you can rely on not to ask difficult questions and who would understand their role in the Hasbara choir) was given, according to a source, by Major General (Aluf) Avi Mizrahi, general commander of Central Command. Mizrahi – first noted by the public when his colossal failure to supply the troops in the 2006 Lebanon war led him to permit limited looting – is a major figure, which may explain why his remarks were given such space by all of the Israeli media, even though he was not named.
It should be mentioned again that this is not the official IDF Spokesman position; it refused to answer the question whether it was Mizrahi who gave the briefing, claiming it cannot expose a person providing “background information”; but Mizrahi’s briefing was anything but a “background briefing”, it was entirely for immediate publication.
Why is Mizrahi’s position not the official one? Because it contains holes the size of his incompetence in Lebanon. If necessary, the IDF Spokesman can repudiate them and say, correctly as far as he is concerned, that it did not make those claims.
In summary, Mizrahi’s points are:
A. Abu Rahmah was not present in the demonstration at all.
B. The report of her evacuation was later than usual in such cases.
C. There is no good reason to believe Abu Rahmah was harmed by the gas.
D. There’s a mix-up in the records between the time Abu Rahmah reached the hospital and the time she received treatment.
E. Abu Rahmah received medications used by cancer patients, hence it may be deduced she was ill with cancer, which caused her death.
He made some other remarks, with which my colleague Noam Sheizaf dealt with summarily.
One should note the difference between the qualifying position of the IDF Spokesman (“the issue is under investigation, we have some questions”) and Mizrahi’s stentorian tone. The Israeli media adopted the latter: Ma’ariv’s headline was “Bil’in’s blood libel?”, and Yediot’s was even more decisive: “the death of the protester – a fabrication”. As usual, the IDF is running a psyops campaign against the Israeli public under the doctrine of shock and awe: drum your narrative, at once, into all major media, and you nail it among a population already leaning towards it. What will come later will be less important. No one will remember the denial, just as few people remember that the IDF’s famous claim in 2004 that UNRWA’s ambulance service delivered Qassam rockets for Hamas turned out to be bogus. It tainted the organization for years.
Let’s take Mizrahi’s points one by one.
A + B: A clear lie. Several people saw Abu Rahmah at the demonstration, and as Rechavia Berman was quick to point out (Hebrew) today, a tweet by Jewish Voice for Peace noted the evacuation of Abu Rahmah at 14:36. Mizrahi claimed that Palestinian sources did not respond as quickly as usual; as the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee noted today, the Palestinian Wafa newservice reported it shortly afterwards (Arabic). Even assuming Abu Rahmah was not at the demonstration but at her home, some 500 meters away, anyone who joined the Bil’in protests knows the IDF does not, shall we say, limit itself to surgical strikes of gas on the protesters; all too often, the clouds of gas reach the village itself.
C. A series of eyewitnesses testified (see the report of the Popular Committee, above) Abu Rahmah was hit by the gas, and that she reacted unusually. The ambulance driver who brought her to the hospital notes she told him that she suffocated on the gas. The medical report on her death names asphyxiation as a result of inhaling gas as cause of death. The IDF’s retreat position in this case is that it can’t be held liable for harming people suffering from abnormal health problems; as Israeli advocate Ro’ee Rothman notes (Hebrew) the standard judicial position in such cases (the “Eggshell Skull Rule”) is that it actually is liable.
D. Mizrahi hints Abu Rahmah’s medical documents were forged, pointing to the fact that according to them, she arrived in the hospital at 15:20 and started receiving treatment at 14:45, i.e. allegedly 35 minutes before reaching it. What we see here is a minor typo: if the treatment would begin in 15:45 instead of 14:45, there would be no suspicion. Berman notes that if the document was purposefully forged, this is the sort of error which would be avoided.
E. Mizrahi hinted during his briefing that Abu Rahmah was ill with cancer, and she conveniently died during the demonstation, just to screw the IDF. His proof? She received medicines which may also serve cancer patients; this made him jump to the conclusion that she was sick with cancer, and died of it.
Let us hope Mizrahi does not get access to sensitive intelligence, because if that’s how he deduces, we’re in deep trouble. The report of the Popular Committee notes that “Jawahar had an inner ear infection, which affected her balance, for which she was recently given a CT scan. The radiologist who performed the CT scan, Dr. Hamis Al Sahfi’i, confirmed that the brain scan was normal (for the CT scan results click here). Jawahar had a minor health issue involving fluids in her inner ear. Her physicians insist that she did not suffer from any illness or from any symptoms that might, if combined with tear gas, lead to her death.” Dr. Uday Abu Nahlah, with whom she worked, testified she was in fine condition.
In short, the IDF asks us to believe that a 36 year-old woman died suddenly, just on the day of the demonstration, from cancer which showed no earlier symptoms; that a large number of people conspired to fake her death; all of which, by the way, without any results of an autopsy (which was not held). All of which takes place a day after the IDF was forced to admit that the soldiers who supposedly prevented a “stabbing attack” fabricated much of the event. And this steaming pile of semi-lies, combined with full lies, comes to us from a senior IDF officer who insists his name must not be used, while the IDF Spokesman refuses to provide us with his own version of the events.
In short, the same old psyops which the Israelis have learned to expect from their military, who is extremely proficient at using it against those who keep it in existence.
The annoying thing is, it works on most Israelis.