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His finest hours: On Sharon's murderous legacy

From the Qibya massacre, to Sabra and Shatila and the dirty tricks, lies and deceptions that made the West Bank settlements what they are today, Ariel Sharon has caused unimaginable damage to Israel, its army, morality, and political life.

(Translated by Sol Salbe)

President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon laugh together during their joint press conference in the Rose Garden Tuesday, July 29, 2003. (Paul Morse/White House Photo)

On Saturday night, as soon as  Ariel Sharon’s death became known, our hyperactive education minister, Shai Piron, rushed to announce that teachers would devote part of the following day’s lesson to Sharon’s legacy. These classes would be based on prepared outlines which were supposed to be distributed in the morning. You can get a really good idea of what the minister really thinks of his teachers and how desperate he is for publicity from this announcement. How long would it take a teacher to properly prepare such a lesson? How long would it take teachers to study the material not included in the presentation?

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich rushed to instruct police to open an investigation into the publication and posting of announcements expressing joy at the death of Sharon. “This is despicable,” fired up the minister, “and I have no intention of letting the matter rest. I strongly disapprove of such criminal behavior and I have requested that the police command address the matter quickly and professionally.” Oy!  The public security minister does not know his job. It is not the role of the police to enforce conformity of thought, but rather to investigate actual violations of the law. Expressing joy over the death of a person is not breaking the law, even if it annoys a lot of desensitized oafs.

So here are a few words about Sharon’s contribution.

This is Ariel Sharon as we must remember him: a killer from his youth. He served as the commander of Unit 101, which carried out a series of war crimes, as its members began to admit years later. One of the most well-known was the “reprisal operation” on the West Bank village of Qibya. (Its...

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Israelis could take a page from Abraham Lincoln

Forty years ago there existed a large group of Israelis that didn’t want to occupy the Palestinian territories – a group which at one time was the majority; this majority has since turned into thin air. Lessons from the 19th century American South.

(Translated from Hebrew by Jordan Michaeli)

Abraham Lincoln (Photo: Mathew Brady)

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe, a young and prim author from Connecticut, published one of the most influential books of the 19th century, if not history: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which talks about the fate of slaves in the United States South.

The book, which didn’t age very well over the years (it is barely readable for a modern crowd and is heavily packed with Christian preaching) was a dagger in the heart of slavery. It was written so masterfully: there is one scene, that no one who has read the book will ever forget, in which the slave Eliza escapes from her traders on the fragile ice of the Ohio River, her young son in her arms. Eliza was willing to risk her and her boy’s lives to prevent him from being sold and sent to the South.

“There,” told Stowe to the good people of the North, “that’s what you support when you look the other way: tearing children from their parents’ arms and selling them to strangers.” She wrote to a generation well-versed in the Bible, a crowd that immediately knew what she was referring to: “Do not hand him [a slave] over to his master” (Deuteronomy 23:17), and the dreadful verse: “Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day; and there shall be nought in the power of thy hand” (Deuteronomy 28:32). Stowe found the crack in the shining armor of lies protecting the unjust and struck with all her might.

She was admired in the North. The book became an unprecedented bestseller – only the Bible sold more copies in the 19th century – and is regarded as one of the direct causes for the Civil War, as it led to a radicalization in the South. People who until then hid behind numerous excuses, including “it’s not as bad as it sounds” to “it will lead to a civil...

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The Israeli government's official 'lawfare' contractor

The Israeli ‘hasbara’ group that once sued Jimmy Carter and Twitter, represents Israeli soldiers accused of excessive force and war crimes and files lawsuits at the behest of the Israeli government, calls itself a ‘human rights organization.’

(Translated from Hebrew by Jordan Michaeli)

Illustrative photo of a judge signing a document. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

You know Israel’s policy – since no one believes a word it says (and rightfully so) – that the country must operate through third parties supposedly unconnected to it? This has officially been Israeli state policy since 2010, but it seems it was established much earlier.

My Hebrew blog has dealt quite extensively with “Im Tirtzu,” and the fact that it is actually a GONGO (Government Operated Non-Governmental Organization), meaning, an organization pretending to be an independent organization while receiving instructions from the government, and the groups’ ties to the Prime Minister’s Office (Hebrew). Now, thanks to Chelsea Manning – and may we soon see her free – another hasbara organization, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, was exposed as a GONGO.

You may remember Shurat HaDin, which defines itself as a ‘lawfare’ organization and that threatened to sue Twitter for the fact that Hezbollah has a Twitter account, sued former president Jimmy Carter for ‘intentional misrepresentation” of Israel and tried to prevent the Gilad Schalit deal with a petition to the High Court of Justice, among other hasbara tricks.

The organization, which defines itself as a “Jewish human rights organization,” probably in line with [Hebron settler and MK] Orit Struk’s definition, was established in 2003 by Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. According to the American embassy documents leaked by Manning, Darshan-Leitner told American embassy personal in 2007, as was reported by them, that during its early years (of Shurat HaDin, Y.G.), the organization received instructions from the Israeli government regarding which cases to handle. “The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do,” claimed Darshan-Leitner (my emphasis). Darshan-Leitner had of course no problem with that. Among her contacts, she named “Uzi Beshaya” (should be Shaya, Y.G.) from the Mossad and Udi Levy from the National Security...

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NGO Monitor steps up the absurdity of its attacks

A lie travels around the world while the truth looks for a Wi-Fi connection. Sometimes, it finds it.

This blog’s favorite fibber organization, NGO Monitor – you may remember them from such classic favorites as distributing Hasbara lies about the UN Human Rights Commission, using a Trojan horse inside Wikipedia, as well as just stupid negligence – pounced on the tunnel that was found this week near Ein Hashlosha. The organization quickly took to twitter, saying “So, #Hamas terror tunnel was built w/concrete from #Israel, sent b/c of UN & NGO pressure. Thanks @Gisha_Access“. Lies have the speed advantage: in a very short time, the libel – if I were to use NGO Monitor’s rhetoric I’d write ‘blood libel,’ was quoted in the Jewish Press as if it were a matter of fact. That is, after all, how libel is done.

https://twitter.com/ngomonitor/statuses/389376816856571904

And then, reality came knocking on the hasbara organization’s door. The tunnel, says the IDF, was started about a year and a half ago and finished about two months ago. It is entirely made out of concrete. The problem is that Israel did not transfer cement to the private sector in the Gaza Strip until September 17th, that is, less than a month ago. The cement used for building the tunnel didn’t come to Gaza from Israel. It came through the tunnels. But these are just facts and NGO Monitor isn’t about facts. They’re about distributing Hasbara lies.

Read more about NGO Monitor on +972

The facts, of course, point to a massive hole in the entire Israeli Gaza siege concept. Until recently Hamas had no trouble getting anything it wanted: cement, steel, explosives. Gaza residents got used to relying on the tunnel economy. The sector that got screwed by the Israeli siege was the third sector (non-profits). Third sector organizations can’t buy building supplies for a school they’re funding through the tunnels because these organizations naturally need receipts, and as it happens, the smugglers don’t provide any. The organizations had to make do with very few supplies, under heavy supervision by Israel’s security forces. Not to mention, considering the “terror tunnel” sat around for two months, doing nothing, one might wonder just how much of a “terror tunnel” it really was. If terrorism is all Hamas cares about, why did nothing happen? Could it be that the other...

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'How speaking out about the occupation nearly landed me in jail'

When even reporting an immoral act by a senior officer carries with it a serious price, it becomes clear that one cannot win against the army. Been there, done that. 

In July 1989, as a young, bored soldier in the IDF’s main draft base in Tel Ha’Shomer, I asked my colonel to be transferred to the Civil Administration in the Gaza Strip. We were on friendly terms and he quickly made the arrangements, walking through my first sham court martial. I was in charge of running a small garden toolshed, which was broken into while I was on vacation – many of the tools stolen. This was standard procedure; I myself broke into a rival’s shed a few days later and stole some of my stuff back. But not enough. My staff sergeant, who did not at all like me, made certain I’d stand trial for the missing hoes and shovels. The colonel made it all go away in two minutes, and the public property (admittedly, not much of it) simply vanished into air.

I had other reasons to leave Tel Ha’Shomer besides a vengeful NCO and a boring job. The First Intifada was in full bloom and I was itching to do something worthwhile. I have recently left my yeshiva under a cloud, was highly militant in my leftist views, and felt I needed to do something.

About that time, Yonathan Geffen – a two-bit pundit (who was actually a much better poet) – wrote a column, suggesting a leftist has three options facing the Intifada. The first was dropping out: feign insanity or religious conversion, and get out of the military. The second was dumbing down and closing your mind: obey your orders, initiate nothing, and try to repress everything you see. The third was actively changing the military by volunteering to serve in trouble spots and leading by example. There was a fourth option which Geffen didn’t mention and which tells you about conventional leftist discourse at the time: disobedience.

It didn’t occur to me, either, and so I asked for and receive a transfer to the Civil Administration unit in Deir El Balah, in the central region of the Gaza Strip. It didn’t take me long to notice violent and illegal behavior among my colleagues; it took them even less time to realize they have a leftist on their hands and basically shut me out of...

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Techwashing: Hasbara group strikes back after Hawking boycott

Israeli hasbara organizations have been calling Stephen Hawking a hypocrite for daring to boycott Israel while simultaneously using an Israeli-designed chip in his wheelchair. And this, in essence, is the emblematic Israeli response: shut your mouth when you criticize me.

(Translated by Sol Salbe)

One of the more repulsive concepts underlying Israeli hasbara (the Hebrew term for the public relations efforts geared at disseminating information about Israel) is “redemption through technology.” The concept states that since Israel is a technology leader, it is exempt from any criticism for the fact that it oppresses the Palestinians and other minorities. The same get-out-of-jail card should apply to the fact that it is an ethnocracy, which just happens to be best thing that has ever happened to anti-Semites since the 19th century. This is usually expressed as “ah, so you write some criticisms of Israel, you despicable lowlife? Are you aware that you are using Israeli technology?!” As if somehow this provides some sort of rebuttal to the criticism.

Even if we accept the assumption that Israeli technology is somehow indispensable to modern life – and I certainly do not buy this assumption – there is a conflation here between the activities of individual Israelis or Israeli companies and Israel’s political pursuits. An American female blogger, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, noted that this minor psychosis is really strange: when someone criticises the United States government, it does not occur to her to say “but we gave the world a whole range of Apple products!”

This psychosis has now reached its zenith, an example of which can be seen here: one the most repulsive hasbara organisations, Shurat HaDin, is calling physicist Stephen Hawking a hypocrite for daring to boycott Israel while simultaneously using an Intel chip which is at the core of the system with which the handicapped physicist engages with the world . This chip, claims the lawfare organization organization, was manufactured in Israel. Thus, the brutes of Shurat HaDin suggest that if Hawking wants to be an honest man, he ought to shut the fuck up. This, in essence, is the emblematic Israeli response: shut your mouth when you criticize me.

Intel is an international company with branches in Israel. It is far from certain whether the chip that Hawking uses was created or designed by Israelis. Moreover, I doubt that Intel is all that keen about this kind of...

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Pretending away the Nakba only perpetuates the conflict

When the Czechs prefer to keep silent and repress their history, it’s a problem, but it is not an imminent danger to the country. When Israelis prefer to pretend there was no ethnic cleaning here, it’s a wholly different question: the conflict won’t end unless Israel admits to the injustice it caused.

Palestinian refugees ‘making their way from Galilee in October-November 1948′ (Fred Csasznik, copyright expired)

A few weeks back I watched The Gatekeepers, a movie which interviews six of the chiefs of Shin Bet, from Avraham Shalom to Yuval Diskin. The movie is shocking and well worth your time. The most surprising character was Diskin, who obviously underwent a great change upon leaving the service: at the end of the movie he adamantly agrees with Yishayahu Leibowitch’s famous dictum that the occupation will turn Israel into a ”Shin Bet state.” And over the weekend we learned Diskin went through another metamorphosis: he recommended to the Turkel Committee that the Shin Bet start video-taping its interrogations, which the service has long resisted.

Diskin is merely the latest in a series of senior security officials who, as soon as they leave office, see the light and understand just how ruinous the office they headed was, and how they represented positions that were damaging to the country. The last great show in this genre was the bunch of senior commanders of the IDF’s Northern Command, who upon retirement were astonished to find out that the Security Zone in Lebanon was a huge mistake – often, after defending it in uniform as vital to security just a few weeks prior.

In that regard, the most interesting speaker is certainly Avraham Shalom, the oldest interviewee. Shalom thinks strategic errors were made, particularly by the politicians, but he himself regrets nothing. When asked about moral problems, he laughs. “Morality?” He asks, “Morality? Look for it first among the terrorists.” One assumes former chiefs, assuming they would even bother to be interviewed, would supply similar remarks. It’s very hard to see Issar Har’el, for instance, the closest thing we’ve got to J. Edgar Hoover, providing the camera with anything aside from a mocking, world-weary grin, saying in effect “you’ll never understand, so don’t even try.”

Superficially, Shalom,...

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The pathetic negligence of NGO Monitor and truth from Argentina: Two comments

NGO Monitor’s most recent report on foreign government funding of Israeli left-wing NGOs glaringly omits publicly available financial statements, making their data unreliable and full of distortions. The pathetic truth is that NGO Monitor’s ‘researchers’ couldn’t be bothered to leave their office, drag themselves to the Registrar of Non-Profits, pay the necessary NIS 65 (about $16) and get the CD containing all of the information.

NGO Monitor (ngo-monitor.org screenshot)

NGO Monitor is one of the most influential organizations in Israel. A group of irksome right wingers with too much money originating from foreign donors, NGO Monitor is in fact one of the main engines propelling Israel’s new Right. If one follows Ben-Dror Yemini’s texts, for example, one finds that he often relies on their reports without doing too much fact-checking. If one reads the reports published by “Im Tirzu” and then searches those by NGOM, one soon discovers that “Im Tirzu” reports are but a watered-down version of NGO Monitor’s reports, sans the difficult words. In short, it is a kind of “Hasbara” Perpetuum mobile.

Now, relying on their reports is really not a very smart idea. As exposed by Noam R last week, NGOM specializes in half-truths and Ad hominem attacks. Those who uncritically swallow their claims might even believe that “Resolution 19/7 was initiated by the abusive regimes of Cuba, Venezuela, Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation), and the Palestinian Authority”. NGOM dearly hopes that you don’t check the facts and find that states like Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and others – none of whom, last I checked, were members of the Arab League or the Organization for Islamic Cooperation – signed that mandate.

Never mind their distortions, that is to be expected. We are talking about a “Hasbara” organization after all. But the stupidity! The stupidity! For example, NGOM’s latest report claims that B’Tselem received NIS 4,144,203 from foreign governmental sources. The correct sum, NIS 6,714,025 is alas, much higher, as can be seen in the NGO’s quarterly reports. In effect, by its own logic, NGOM is an organization subverting Zionism by assisting extreme-left non-profits hide the funding they receive from anti-Israeli sources – even when these non-profits declare it openly!

How could such a staggering mistake...

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Misspokesman: IDF New Media officer poses 'Obama Style' - in blackface

The IDF Spokesman is caught in a snafu, which paints him either as a racist or an ignoramus.

As a rule, junior or mid-level officers and officials, particularly spokesmen, prefer to stay behind the wall of anonymity of their office. They are termed “IDF spokesman” or an “officer in the Southern Command.” They are rarely mentioned by name. However, as part of the IDF Spokesman’s victory lap after Operation Cast Ballot, in which it tries to convince the natives it won the hard battles in the burning-of-consciousness theater, it exposed some of the people in its New Media unit in an article in Tablet. One of them, New Media Department Chief Lt. Sacha Dratwa, then became the focus of a cheap item in Gawker, of the kind we have become accustomed used to: he’s a sensitive man, he’s a normal guy, he likes macchiatos, he posts pictures to Facebook. The people in the IDF Spokesman unit probably thought this was good for showing the human side of their hasbara warriors; good for scoring a few points, if not with their target audience, then with the dying breed of kind Hadassah aunts from the United States.

But, as Eden Abergil and Avi Yakobov (Hebrew) have already learned, exposure on Facebook is a double-edged sword. Someone bothered to dig deep into Dratwa’s account, and dug up an unpleasant photo: Dratwa, mud spread over his face, with the subtitle “Obama Style.”

Oops. Dratwa was caught in homage to the genre of blackface shows, in which white actors would paint themselves black in order to portray blacks as caricatures. The Hadassah aunts, who still remember the golden age of the 60s fondly, are not likely to enjoy this particular sort of bad humor. Why does mud remind Dratwa specifically of Obama? Excellent question.

Which Dratwa leaves unanswered. He writes, in an IDF-sanctioned response, that “I am, and have always been, completely candid about my beliefs and have nothing to hide – as reflected by my Facebook profile.” A profile which he promptly closed to the public. The pictures, claimed Dratwa, “do not reflect my beliefs and have no bearing whatsoever on my position in the IDF.” Well, if it doesn’t reflect his beliefs, what was the picture doing there? And if it has no bearing...

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Operation 'Cast Ballot': Post mortem

As yet another military campaign ends, the IDF turns out to be, as usual, the weakest link in the chain.

Operation Cast Ballot, or as it is formally known, “Pillar of Defense,” has come to an end. Childish to the end, the Palestinians and Israelis managed to miss a ceasefire on Tuesday, as they quarreled over who would fire the last shell. The practice of announcing a ceasefire in advance, so as to make certain that all troops know of it in time and observe it, has been perverted into a competition of who can fire more in less time. Israel has been at it for at least three decades; I still remember how, in 1982, Israeli television enthusiastically reported about Israeli artillerymen making use of the last hours before the ceasefire to spread more death and destruction in Beirut.

A ceasefire has been announced, and we can officially mark Cast Ballot as a failure. It is a failure as far as Binyamin Netanyahu is concerned: he could have made it to the polls with four years of relative quiet, and he chose to end his second term with Tel Aviv being bombed (for the first time since 1991), as well as Jerusalem (first time since 1970), and a terror attack on a bus to boot, seemingly a first since 2006. As in 1997, when he ordered the botched assassination of Khaled Meshal and ended up empowering Hamas by releasing Ahmed Yassin from prison, Netanyahu – whose slogan once was “strong against Hamas” – will end yet another campaign by strengthening Hamas.

It is a failure as far as Ehud Barak, possibly the most hated man in Israeli public life, is concerned. Once more, he proved he learned nothing, and that his image as a military genius is a self-perpetuated myth. He was at it before, in Cast Lead, and he knew what happened in Lebanon; he should have known that the most important thing, before opening fire, is to have a solid exit policy, so that it can be quenched. He didn’t have any.

It is a failure as far as the Israeli economy is concerned. We’ve spent NIS 3...

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The strange case of the police writs served to Israeli activists

What we can learn from the weird orders served to several leftist activists on Sunday. On police intimidation and the sham of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East.’

Activist Ilan Shalif, who regularly takes part in weekly protests in Bil’in, reviews a military order declaring villages in the West Bank ‘closed military zones’ (photo: Oren ZIv, Activestills.org)

At least 11 leftist activists were surprised on Sunday morning when they were woken up by cops. The cops, all plainclothes and in groups of three, knocked on their doors between 6 and 7 in the morning, and handed them what they claimed to be administrative restraining orders, signed by the commanding general, prohibiting them from entering four villages in the occupied West Bank: Bil’in, Qaddum, Ni’lin and Nabi Saleh. Activist Alma Biblash reported that the policemen entered her apartment without a warrant, taking care to video not just her but her sister as well. The cops also waved in her face a file with her name on it. In another case, the cops woke up the parents of an activist who had moved out long ago. Activist Leehee Rothschild, also served with a warrant, was told they were issued under the 1945 Emergency Ordinances.

Commanding general? What the hell, you say? Oh. Despite Israeli propaganda claiming it is the only democracy in the Middle East, the 1945 Emergency Ordinances – defined by Menachem Begin, a noted leftist radical, as worse than Nazi legislation – are still in effect in Israel. They allow the military commander (in the case of all residents of Israel proper, that would be the Home Front Command) to do basically what he damn well pleases, or, to be more precise, to do what his ISA (AKA Shin Bet) handler damn well pleases he do. By writs signed by the Home Front Command, the settler Neryah Ofan was exiled from Pisgat Ze’ev, where he lived and worked; Tali Fahima was administratively arrested by such a writ; and the same writ enables draconian measures against John Crossman (AKA Mordechai Vanunu), even though he finished serving his prison sentence eight...

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Price tag of the Iran scare campaign revealed

Between NIS 10 and 11 billion were used in preparations for an attack that was never meant to happen. This incredibly expensive and ultimately failed political maneuver should be the focus of the next election. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks before the UN General Assembly, September 27th 2012. The effect of the cartoon bomb made most people miss the fact that Netanyahu moved the deadline for an attack till next spring (Photo: Avi Ochayon, Government Press Office)

Unless Netanyahu is crazier than is commonly assumed, Israel will not attack Iran in the near future. Until quite recently, Netanyahu stubbornly claimed that Israel must attack Iran before the 2012 U.S. presidential elections. This was a calculated attempt by Netanyahu to put pressure on Barack Obama and advance the chances of Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

This attempt at psychological warfare utterly failed: Obama, ice-cold, didn’t blink; he referred to Netanyahu’s demands as “background noise,” and adamantly refused to change his position. He left Netanyahu with no choice but to go to his Canossa, the UN General Assembly, and to make a retreat speech there. The bomb and fuse drawing (“this is the bomb, this is the fuse…” – possibly the lowest point ever reached by an Israeli prime minister) devoured all the attention – and camouflaged the only important part of that speech. Netanyahu announced that he postponed his threat to attack Iran to the spring or summer of 2013. Anything can happen until then – and as it looks, Netanyahu will dismiss the Knesset and go to elections before that time.

So Netanyahu’s attempt at a nerve war failed. Now we must ask how much it cost us. Let’s begin with the intangibles: How much damage will Israel suffer from a president who has to consider its prime minister to be a political rival or, at the least, an ally of his political rivals? How much damage will Israel take in U.S. liberal opinion, and actually in the mind of any American patriot, when the American public will begin to understand that Israel is no ally, but at best a cross the U.S. has to bear?

Obama’s former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, told Obama last summer that Israel is “an ungrateful ally.”...

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What happened to the refugees while the state lied and the court dithered

How the state lied to the highest court in the land, how the court lapped it up, and who is really guilty here.

Last Thursday, says Adv. Omer Shatz of the Anu Plitim (We Are Refugees) NGO, he showed up at the Supreme Court with his colleague, Adv. Yiftah Cohen, to ask for an injunction ordering the 21 refugees caught between the borders of Israel and Egypt to be brought into the country. Surprisingly, he said in a phone conversation, the process went well: the judges asked the state’s counsel some difficult questions, at one point asking her whether she would agrees to the injunction.

Common court courtesy says that when the justices suggest an injunction, you cordially accept. The state’s counsel bucked protocol, and refused – and furthermore, asked for a secret session with the justices, invoking “secret intelligence” surrounding the refugees. The secret session, to which only the state’s counsel and the justices were privy, ended with the justices postponing their decision to Sunday. Several hours later, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that a “solution was reached,” as part of which two women and a boy entered an Israeli prison, and the rest of the refugees “turned back.”

This was a lie from start to finish. The state lied when it told the Court it supplied the refugees with food. It only supplied them with water – and very little water at that. Adv. Shatz interviewed the three refugees allowed into Israel – he noted he interviewed each of them separately, not as a group – and was told the soldiers only gave them three 1.5 liter bottles of water a day. That’s 4.5 liters of waters a day – for 21 people. In the desert heat. That’s about 214 ml a person per day. Less than a small soft drink bottle, which contains 220 ml.

The refugees noted that bread was thrown at them twice – a bag of sliced bread. This was probably due to a single soldier disobeying orders. The bread was thrown in the early stages of the incident, before the media and the NGOs understood what was going on. One of the bags was caught on the fence, and the refugees looked at it, unable to reach it. The second one sailed clear over the fence. The famous cloth to provide shade, supposedly supplied to the refugees by the IDF gunmen,...

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