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Who do you believe II?

11/20/2003

Israelis and Palestinians have lived in different realities for nearly a century. On each side, there is an apparatus that manufactures the different histories from current events each day. As usual, in recent weeks there have been a spate of incidents that were reported quite differently by Palestinian sources and Israeli sources.

Sometimes the news is manufactured in ways that would be funny if they were not maccabre. Palestinians staged funerals to manufacture evidence for an Israeli 'massacre' in Jenin in 2002, but a camera caught one of the "corpses" as he off the stretcher, and got up and got back on. Recently, the Israeli settler's Web site Arutz-7 ran a story that insisted that leftist activists or Palestinians had uprooted olive trees in a Palestinian village.

The highlight last month was an IAF missile attack on Palestinian terrorists that killed 14 innocent bystanders according to Palestinians. IAF showed films of the strike in which no bystanders were visible during the attack. After this attack. Uri Avnery asked, Whom to believe???

The answer is that we can no longer believe the IAF apparently. There were certainly real casualties in that incident. This week, Israeli MK Yossi Sarid claimed that the IAF report on the strike was incomplete, and that the IAF had used additional weapons besides the two missiles. IAF admitted that it had not told the whole story, claiming security limitations. It is not clear that the missing information is related to the unexplained Palestinian casualties, but it is extremely suspicious.

Those who complain that Israeli "public relations" efforts are not good enough at explaining the Israeli position should take into account that sometimes the efforts may be much too good in fact.

Ami Isseroff



Sarid: IAF's report on Nusseirat strike was incomplete
http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/363087.html

By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The meeting Wednesday night at Israel Air Force Commander Dan Halutz's office with Meretz MK Yossi
Sarid was supposed to end an affair that appeared to have been blown far out of proportion in the
past few days.

Major General Halutz and Operations Branch Commander Major General Yisrael Ziv were supposed to
provide Sarid with detailed explanations about the nature of the air force operation in the
Nusseirat refugee camp on October 19, when the Palestinians said IAF missiles killed more than 12
people and wounded more than 100 and Israel said the Palestinians were lying.

The explanations were meant to clarify the bottom line in the affair: information that
Sarid had received independently about the munition system used during the operation
turned out to be correct - and very different from what the IDF told the media and,
therefore, the public, the day after the affair.

As far as the army was concerned this was not supposed to make a difference to what it thinks
is the really important question. The munitions used for the operation did not influence the
scope of the damage and casualties and did not turn it into a more or less moral operation.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon published a clarification regarding the
IAF attack following Sarid's inquiry.

Ya'alon said that due to security constraints and for operational reasons details of the weapons
systems used in the attack could not be specified.

But at the end of the meeting, Sarid seemed only partially convinced, saying he would continue to
investigate the affair while considering whether to inform the public of the truth about the
munitions the army hose to use that night.

But until the clarification of Sarid's bottom line, the IDF, with help from the political echelon,
has managed to march wide-eyed directly into an entanglement that has dramatically harmed its
credibility in the eyes of the media and the public.

The affair began with a briefing by senior officers to small group of military reporters and
analysts on the day fter the attacks. The briefing, including a video taken during the attack,
emphasized the IDF position that only
two missiles were fired in Nusseirat and that the car targeted by the missile was not surrounded by
a crowd, as the Palestinians claimed.

According to the IDF, the collateral physical damage was limited in scope. The briefing was meant to
rebutt claims by the Palestinians that the air force fired three missiles, including one into a
crowd of people who rushed to help the wounded from the first missiles.

The reporters were told the helicopters fired Hellfire missiles. But on Wednesday the army suddenly
admitted that was not true - and it added Wednesday that it knew it was not true at the time. The
excuse given for the deception was "security reasons." The army wanted to keep secret information
about weapons systems it
uses for assassinations.

It also turned out Wednesday that other IDF announcements about "pinpoint preventions" in recent
months were full of inaccuracies. And not only the reporters were misinformed. So were various
spokesmen in the IDF's Spokesman's Office, at least until after the Nusseirat attack. Even the
telegram Halutz sent to wing
commanders after the Nusseirat controversy broke out included the deception about the type of
missile used.

It was all done in the name of security, but the results were diametrically opposed to what was
intended. The deception only drew more attention to the details of the operation and presumably the
foreign press will soon publish what Israeli reporters will be prevented from reporting because of
censorship.

Irrespective of the IDF's desire for secrecy about the weapons system, which the military censor
could have kept out of the Israeli press, the affair has created a deep crisis of confidence between
the army and the military press, which because it has relied on the IDF's credibility has routinely
taken the army's side in disputes between it and the Palestinians about the details of army
operations.

Some officers Wednesday tried to argue that the need for keeping secret the information about the
weapons system justified the deception of the media and therefore the public, but the press, of
course, has a different perspective.

Credibility is the only relevant currency in the relationship between the army and the press.
And as opposed to what might be believed, the army has managed to maintain its credibility
relatively more than some other state institutions. But Wednesday's admission has gravely harmed the
most important asset the army has in its relations with the public and the media - its reputation
for honesty.

Another aspect of the affair touches on the already tense relations between Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz's office and that of Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon. The chief of staff wanted to neutralize the
matter with Sarid a few days ago and to let his officers clarify the matter with the Meretz MK. But
because of Mofaz's political relations with the Likud chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, MK Yuval Steinitz, the matter was delayed, which only worsened the crisis.

Indeed, it was Steinitz who brought the affair into the open, charging that Sarid had threatened to
leak classified information. Sarid, who, except for the current Knesset and the three years he was a
minister, has been an opposition member of the Knesset subcommittee on the secret services for the
last 30 years,
at first didn't even bother to respond to the charges.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, asked by Steinitz to remove Sarid from Steinitz's committee also
rebuffed his Likud colleague's charge that Sarid was threatening to leak information. Indeed, Rivlin
Wednesday morning told Israel Radio that Sarid is "a leading light" on security matters and has
never been known to leak classified information. Rivlin was the one who arranged for Sarid to meet
with Halutz Wednesday night, in the hope that it would settle the matter.

Instead, after hearing out the generals, Sarid said, "It is now clear how incorrect the information
the IDF gave was and now further clarification is needed to determine how deceptive the information
was intended." In any
case, he added, it is now clear that the number of casualties in the Nusseirat attack was greater
than Israel claimed.

And as for Steinitz, Sarid only said that the Likud MK "had stuck his nose into the matter seeking
publicity."

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000116.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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