Israeli Army can’t provide me evidence of flotilla’s violent plans, story unravels (Updated)

Israelis woke up on June 27 to a front page Jerusalem Post story claiming flotilla passengers planned violence against soldiers. The story has completely unraveled.

Israelis woke up to a front page Jerusalem Post story claiming flotilla passengers planned violence against soldiers. The story has completely unraveled.

Update: Neues Deutschland reported that chief army spokesperson Avital Liebovich claimed Israel infiltrated the US boat to Gaza with naval intelligence agents, who relayed the IDF with a report of the passengers’ violent intentions. The passengers denied the claim as baseless and hysterical. The ludicrous nature of Liebovich’s claim is underscored by my interview (below) with the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, where she works. A robot translation of the ND article is here.

On June 27, the Israeli army released a highly suspect claim that passengers on the flotilla planned to kill and maim Israeli soldiers. The claim looks like yet another anti-flotilla hoax emanating from Israeli government channels.

Today, I reached an official from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit after placing several calls and an email to the office requesting proof to support the army’s claim. The official was unable to supply me with one piece of evidence. Instead, she said, “Basically there’s a trust between the IDF and reporters. And like in any other army, you know, a senior IDF source says something, people are inclined to believe it because this is somebody high up, this is somebody that has a lifetime of experience and credibility and this is like any other army.”

When I asked why anyone would report such a claim without seeing any firm evidence, the army spokesperson said, “If there were something we probably would give it but because of sensitivities we can’t expand further.”

Listen to the whole interview here:

Despite an apparent lack of evidence, the army’s disinformation found its way into top Israeli newspapers through a select group of military correspondents including the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz. Katz reported that flotilla passengers planned to kill Israeli soldiers and that they were bringing “bags of sulfur” to attack the soldiers. “This is a chemical weapon, and if poured on a soldier it can paralyze him,” an unnamed army source told Katz. “If the sulfur is then lit on fire, the soldier will light up like a torch.” Yedioth Aharanot’s Hanan Greenberg also reported, “IDF fears flotilla activists will try to kill Israeli soldiers.” And Haaretz hyped the claim in Hebrew.

Today, the army’s story was exposed as disinformation. First, Yedioth Aharonot military correspondent Alex Fishman reported, “There is no information that there is going to be a group of radicals on board that will form a hard core of violent resistance against IDF soliders. Nor is there any clear information about live weapons that will be on board the ships.” Then, a group of Israeli government ministers accused the army of “media spin” and “public relations hysteria” for claiming the flotilla passengers planned to attack soldiers with chemical weapons.

And now, an Israeli army official (who curiously did not want to give me her name) has refused to supply me with any evidence to support the army’s wild claims. As I wrote during Israel’s disinformation spree in the wake of last year’s flotilla, nothing the Israeli army says can be trusted. Unfortunately, many reporters still accept the army’s claims on trust, while others do not even bother to investigate.

6 thoughts on “Israeli Army can’t provide me evidence of flotilla’s violent plans, story unravels (Updated)

  1. Dena Shunra

    That is an utterly astonishing interview. She seems to have a hard time believing that anyone would question the word of the Israeli army – no matter how many hoaxes, lies, international sabotage, and other forms of deception they engage in.

    Thanks for posting that!

  2. chayma100

    As I wrote during Israel’s disinformation spree in the wake of last year’s flotilla, nothing the Israeli army says can be trusted. Unfortunately, many reporters still accept the army’s claims on trust, while others do not even bother to investigate.

    I don’t think any military can be trusted when they are “defending” their country, because they have the right to censor information that is leaked to the media. The media are obliged by law to comply with military censorship. No doubt that includes “planted news” like this sulfur bag (probably non existent)

    All reporters should be aware of that. But who knows what pressure each individual reporter faces, if he or she doesn’t “comply”.

    Good interview Max, (except for your American accent) …joking :)

    Thank you for posting that.

    @Dena Shunra

    She seems to have a hard time believing that anyone would question the word of the Israeli army

    Either that, or she knew and was just covering up. She didn’t sound all that confident. I wonder what Yaakov Katz has to say now.

  3. LeaNder

    Max, the former East German newspaper Neues Deutschland/New Germany (the former main party organ, not that it matters) reports today that according to the top spokesperson of the IDF, Avital Leibovich, Israel has infiltrated the US boat, which is supposed to be the source of this to-be-handled-carefully information. They write this was said in a conference call on Tuesday.

    Here a really bad translation via Google translator.

    You only need the second paragraph. Psych-ops or truth? This could be meant to create strife on board, and thus isn’t spread in the US. Right?

  4. lehrer

    It is a normal thing that a military does not provide everything to everyone, even journalists.
    Check the case of Julian Assange.

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