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When does propaganda go too far?

The Israeli army publishes a heavily edited video of a detained Palestinian man from Gaza being interrogated about Hamas tactics. The army won’t answer any questions about it.

By Oren Ziv

A still frame from the IDF Spokesperson's video.

A still frame from the IDF Spokesperson’s video.

The Israeli army often claims that video clips published by B’Tselem and other human rights organizations in the occupied territories are mendaciously edited, and that they do not show the whole picture. It turns out, however, that it is the IDF’s spokesperson which uses manipulative video editing techniques and refuses to release original, raw video footage.

Last week, the IDF Spokesperson released a one-minute video of an interrogation of a Palestinian man from Gaza who was caught near the Gaza-Israel separation barrier during protests on Nakba Day. Several Israeli news outlets broadcasted the clip, which shows a Palestinian detainee, whose face is blurred, and a kite painted with swastikas placed directly behind him.

The detainee appears to be speaking to a soldier who is questioning him. The soldier’s questions are inaudible. The detainee is shown speaking in Arabic about the situation in Gaza, and describing how Hamas uses women and children in demonstrations he says are aimed at silencing protests against the organization.

At first glance, this 63-second video seems like precisely the kind of evidence the army needs to incriminate Hamas. But at second glance, it’s clear that the video was cut and spliced no less than eight times — almost every eight seconds on average — in a way that the detainee isn’t allowed to even complete a full sentence. It is impossible to know whether, or where, his quotes were taken out of context or have been distorted.

We asked the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit to release the full video of the interview. They refused to release the video and would not explain why the video was edited.

Is an IDF soldier even permitted to film a detainee moments after their capture? Is the Spokesperson’s Unit allowed to release such footage? The army spokesperson refused to comment on whether the detainee gave his consent to the filming and publication of the video.

“Any soldier or policeman who speaks with a detainee suspected of committing an crime is carrying out an interrogation in every respect, and the penalty for publishing an interrogation without the court’s approval is a year in prison under Israeli law,” explained Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights attorney. “It was intended to frustrate the work of journalists but it also applies to the state.”

In this specific case, it is impossible to identify the detainee because his face was fully blurred, so “a lot of the harm was avoided,” Sfard added.

“International law states that enemy citizens must be protected ‘against insults and public curiosity’,” continued Sfard. “Publishing a video like that of a person speaking against his country and his people is a classic example of this. This is what creates the humiliation effect”.

“We are all familiar with the despicable Gilad Schalit videos published by Hamas or by the North Korean authorities of Americans who were imprisoned there,” Sfard concluded. “It is despicable.”



In a statement issued by the Israeli army, as well as in the Hebrew-language captions the IDF put on the video, the Palestinian detainee is referred to as a “terrorist”. In the English version of the video, embedded above, the IDF refers to him simply as a “rioter.”

The army spokesperson refused to say whether the detainee was armed when he was captured or if he showed any intent to commit a violent act. The army refused to answer whether the man, who it described as “trying to infiltrate Israeli territory,” was captured on the Israeli side or on the Gaza side of the separation fence, or, perhaps, while trying to climb the fence.

The army refused to answer where the kite decorated with swastikas came from, and whether it was at all connected to the suspect or if the army just put it behind him as a backdrop for dramatic effect.

The army also refused to answer whether the man depicted in the video was released back to Gaza or brought before an Israeli military judge and imprisoned.

Translated by Yoni Molad for the Middle East News Service edited by Sol Salbe, Melbourne Australia. A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew at Local Call. Read it here

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      • Bruce Gould

        @Cenguk: Don’t know about Deir Yassin, but here’s a long piece on Lydda (later Lod) but the self-described Zionist Ari Shavit in the New Yorker:


        Do I wash my hands of Zionism? Do I turn my back on the Jewish national movement that carried out the destruction of Lydda? No. Like the brigade commander, I am faced with something too immense to deal with. Like the military governor, I see a reality I cannot contain. When one opens the black box, one understands that, whereas the massacre at the mosque could have been triggered by a misunderstanding brought about by a tragic chain of accidental events, the conquest of Lydda and the expulsion of Lydda’s population were no accident.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Is that right? For something that didn’t happen, the Israeli government has seemed awfully reluctant to release the archives and the relevant photos If nothing happened, as Tauber would have it, then why wouldn’t successive Israeli governments be anxious, if not delighted, to release the archives? Answer that question.

        A massacre of arabs masked by a state of national amnesia
        Sixty years on, the true story of the slaughter of Palestinians at Deir Yassin may finally come out

        …Defending its right to keep the documents under wraps, the Israeli state has argued that their publication would tarnish the country’s image abroad and inflame Arab-Israeli tensions. Ha’aretz and Ms Shoshani have countered that the public have a right to know and confront their past.

        Judges, who have viewed all the archived evidence held by the Israeli state on Deir Yassin, have yet to make a decision on what, if anything, to release. Among the documents believed to be in the state’s possession is a damning report written by Meir Pa’il, a Jewish officer who condemned his compatriots for bloodthirsty and shameful conduct on that day. Equally incriminating are the many photographs that survive.

        “The photos clearly show there was a massacre,” says Daniel McGowan, a US retired professor who works with Deir Yassin Remembered. “Those photos show [villagers] lined up against a quarry wall and shot.” …

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          …At the Haganah Archive, where Shoshani continued her search – “like an naive child,” as she said – another surprise awaited her. “An older man came up to me, very hush-hush, took me to a side room and told me that he had taken pictures immediately after the massacre,” she said.

          The man was Shraga Peled, 91, who at the time of the massacre was in the Haganah Information Service. He told Shoshani that after the battle he was sent to the village with a camera to document what he saw there. “When I got to Deir Yassin, the first thing I saw was a big tree to which a young Arab fellow was tied. And this tree was burnt in a fire. They had tied him to it and burned him. I photographed that,” he related. He also claims he photographed from afar what looked like a few dozen other corpses collected in a quarry adjacent to the village. He handed the film over to his superiors, he says, and since then he has not seen the photos.

          Possibly this is because the photos are part of the visual material that is hidden to this day in the Archive of the IDF and the Defense Ministry, of which the state is prohibiting publication even 70 years after the fact. …


          Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        Gee ….. why don’t you watch “Crazy People Here” by French-Israeli film maker Tamara Erde ? there’s a 10 minute trailer on the net, she conducted interviews with milicia who participated in the killing. don’t miss the part about burning the corpses ….. , they’re all giving their testimonies with their full name and in front of the camera.
        And there’s another documentary about Deir Yassin by Neta shoshani. Anyway your Nakbadenial has nothing to do with the video here except it”s both shitty hasbara !

        Reply to Comment