“Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.”
These words from Sir Walter Scott (1808) describe the political template of the modern state of Israel.
Israel is a nation built on deceptive lies, preserved by deceptive lies. Israel is a nation practiced in the art of using whatever is available to keep alive their carefully “tangled web” of deceptive lies.
The latest addition to this tangled web came June 12, when three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the occupied territory of the West Bank. The boys were from three Orthodox Jewish settler families living in illegal settlements in the Hebron area.
Their families had placed them in a danger zone. Juan Cole writes:
“It should be fairly obvious that if you take adolescents into the middle of the Palestinian West Bank and steal Palestinian land and build houses on it and shoot at Palestinians trying to harvest their crops nearby and bulldoze down their homes or dig tube wells so deep as to cause the Palestinian wells to run dry– if you engage in this settler-colonial enterprise, then you are exposing those adolescents you drag with you into it to danger.
It is still wrong. Violence in anything other than direct self-defense is always wrong, and innocent non-combatant life must never be taken. A resistance movement is legitimate, but its quarrel must be with soldiers.”
The latest narrative of Israel’s tangled web continued as Israel sent its occupying army on an extensive search for the teenagers.
The search extended well beyond the reasonable area where the boys might be found. Instead, it focused on homes and areas known to house Hamas supporters and leaders, the Palestinian party Israel wants to prevent from joining a unified Palestinian government.
From the outset the search was a deceptive lie.
The teenagers were not missing, they were dead. What was missing were the bodies of the three boys.
Knowing this from the beginning, the government of Israel put a media “gag order” on news of the search.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowed a narrative of national outrage and grief to grow, providing cover for a military assault on Hamas.
The teenagers had been dead since June 12. The government knew this. And yet, it allowed the lie that they might be found alive to fill the hearts of three grieving families and the collective heart of the nation.
Buzzfeed described what the government had known since shortly after the teenagers disappeared:
“Within minutes of stepping into the battered Hyundai i35 on the night of June 12, Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrach knew they were in trouble.
The three teenagers were squished into the backseat of the vehicle, which had picked them up in the southern West Bank’s Alon Shvut junction, just feet away from a nearby military base. It was just past 10 p.m. at night, and the three were making their way home to their homes in the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion.
They rang their parents to say they were hitching a ride, as they often did. But then, within minutes of entering the car, one of them managed to make a two-minute phone call to police at the local Kiryat Arba police station, and in hushed tones said, “We’ve been kidnapped.”
“They knew immediately what had happened to them,” said Yoav, one of two Israeli army officers involved in the kidnapping case who spoke to BuzzFeed on condition he be quoted with only his first name since many of the details are still under gag order. “They got into the car after 10 p.m., and at 10:25 they called police.”
The local officer on call, however, didn’t pass on the information about a possible kidnapping to his superiors for hours, and gave up trying to re-dial the cell phone after eight attempts. By the time anyone more senior had been notified, the three teens were dead.
“We don’t know yet what led the kidnappers to shoot the teens. But we know it happened quickly, within hours, maybe within an hour, of when they were taken,” said a second Israeli officer involved with the case. “They were shot. There was no chance they could survive.”
Previously under gag order were details that a shot could be heard in the background of the phone call to police, and that forensic evidence found in the Hyundai indicated that there had been foul play.
“We have been operating, for some time now, with evidence that these boys were killed,” said the officer in Hebron. “It is with a heavy heart that we realized we were looking for bodies.”
The Hyundai, which was abandoned, torched, in the Palestinian city of Hebron, shows that the three teens were shot at close range inside the car. The kidnappers then moved their bodies to a second vehicle, which they drove approximately 10 minutes down the road to an empty field in the north of the city.”
This truth could not surface, the web could not reach a new tangle, until the three bodies were located.
This finally happened June 29, when local volunteers and IDF soldiers dug into a pile of rocks by the side of the road where the teenagers had been traveling June 12.
Their bodies had been hastily buried under a pile of rocks. As one Israeli official admitted, “this was not a well-planned” abduction and killing.
An IDF statement on the discovery of the bodies, reported by Ma’an, ended with a final display of planned deception: “The families of the abducted teens have been notified.”
The Jewish families had been allowed to hope their sons were alive for 18 days, as the IDF looked not for live boys, but for three dead bodies.
The deceit continued with further deception of the Israeli public. The Israeli government promoted a mass rally in Tel Aviv one day before the bodies were found, focused on the bogus hope that the boys might still be found alive.
Earlier, Israel, in an egregious exploitative use of a grieving parent, sent one of the Jewish mothers to Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Council, where she asked for help in finding her son and the two other teenagers.
This narrative of hope and grieving stretched out for 18 days; it ended only when volunteers, who had to beg to be allowed to help in the search, assisted the IDF in finding the bodies.
Responding to the news of the discovery, Prime Minister Netanyahu was ready with his statement of outrage. He had three weeks to polish his statement.
It was not, however, a measured statement of a leader. It was rather, a statement to keep alive public anger and fear, the fuel on which his government depends for its existence.
The Jerusalem Post reported on the Prime Minister’s reaction:
“our hearts bleed, the entire nation cries” with the families of the deceased. “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals,” he said. “Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.”
These words were a part of the tangled web of deceit. They supported the ongoing attacks on Hamas, a “search” which served to justify military assaults intended to eradicate an important partner in a new Palestinian government.
By July 1, the “search” had led to the deaths of six Palestinians. This count was before the Israel Air Force struck more than 30 Gaza targets the day after the bodies were found.
Ma’an reports: “Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during a military operation in Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank early Tuesday, locals and medics said.”
“Palestinian Red Crescent medics told Ma’an, 16-year-old Yousef Abu Zagha was shot by Israeli fire in the chest during clashes with troops who raided the camp overnight.”
Richard Silverstein writes that “One day before the bodies were discovered Israel ordered armored units to report to the Gaza border where they are mobilizing for what may happen.
He quotes the words of Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon: “Israelis have the willingness and the fortitude necessary to endure the hardships of a long-lasting operation aimed at eradicating Hamas. We will not stop until Hamas is completely defeated.”
Silvestein gives the context for these attacks:
“This is the same rhetoric that preceded the 2006 Lebanon war and the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead. I predict one of two things: either there is a full-scale invasion of Gaza; or a punishing air assault accompanied by some dramatic targeted killings over the next six months which try to eliminate some of Hamas’ senior leadership.”
As part of the narrative, Israel identified its prime “suspects” before the discovery of the bodies. Two Hamas activists in the Hebron area, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amar Abu Aisha, were “fingered” by Palestinian security forces who reported to Israeli operatives that the two “suspects” had “disappeared” from Hebron “within 24 hours of the abduction”.
The Al Monitor web site suggested that Israel used the coincidence of two Hamas activists disappearing the day after the three Israeli teenagers disappeared as “the first clue” which prompted Israel to focus its assault against Hamas.
There is, however, an equally logical reason to assume that the two Hamas activists, if indeed they had anything to do with the murders (their disappearance being the only “evidence” against them), could have operated alone.
“According to Palestinian sources, Palestinian security forces had already reported to Israel that these two suspects had disappeared from Hebron within 24 hours of the abduction. That was the first clue in the investigation and the reason why Israel pointed an accusatory finger at the Hamas infrastructure in Hebron.
While Israel continues to accuse the Hamas movement and its leadership of being responsible for the abduction [and subsequent deaths], Palestinian security forces attribute the abduction to the Qawasmeh clan of Hebron, specifically.
Though the clan is known for identifying with Hamas, it also has a well-earned reputation as troublemakers. Not only does it tend to ignore the movement’s leaders. It even acts counter to the policies being advocated by the movement.”
As of Tuesday, July 1, nothing further has been heard of the whereabouts of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amar Abu Aisha. One thing is certain to IDF, the two men are not in their homes. The army has made frequent and destructive visits to their homes and found no signs of the missing Hamas-related Palestinians.
Guilty or not, it is highly unlikely that they will be found alive.
They have already served their purpose, guilty or not. They fit into Israel’s narrative of obsessive fear and anger, the detailed plot twists of which are orchestrated by Israel to fit its purposes.
Andrew Levine, a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote recently:
Israel thrives on what it calls “existential threats,” fabricated perils that are just plausible enough to be believed. As social divisions mount, they help hold Israeli society together. They also keep “diaspora” Jews on board. And they keep Western, especially American, diplomatic, military and economic support, coming.
These manufactured “existential threats” also keep alive the myth prevalent within American religious communities (most recently, the Presbyterian Church, USA), that Israel is a nation in peril.
Israel is not in peril, except from itself and its own self-destructive, paranoid narratives of deceptive lies, the latest of which exploited the deaths of three Israeli Jewish Orthodox teenagers.
The picture above, of Israeli bombing attacks on Gaza, is from Foreign Policy.