“When First We Practice to Deceive”

by James M. Wallunnamed

“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.


About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Human Rights, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, United Nations. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to “When First We Practice to Deceive”

  1. Best coverage of this event that I’ve read so far.
    Thank you, James Wall.

  2. Fred says:

    I had not heard the details of this grand deception. it is quite astounding.

    Israel’s use of collective punishment is routine. They have already destroyed the suspects homes where the families live, making the families homeless. They have ransacked many homes and killed more unarmed youth since the kidnapping. They have detained hundreds without charges. We must demand that out own government condemn collective punishment. Collective punishment is not okay.

    It’s bad enough what Israel does day in and day out to the non Jewish population, but our own government’s support for Israel’s policies of collective punishment and apartheid settlements is even more disturbing. The US media and our government are a huge part of why things don’t improve. Israel can do whatever it wants, and knows the US will protect it.

  3. Great reporting, great journalism, Jim. Thank you.

    I made this comment to a small e-group this morning. After 51 years of observing day to day the extent of Zionism’s evil ways, I know this to be true but have been unable to gain any traction:

    “What I simply can’t understand is that my thesis (of at least 8 years; I think I actually arrived at it via the ZioIsrael destruction of vast swaths of Lebanon in 2006) that Zionism and everything supporting it is enveloped in a bullying and uncontrolled criminal psychosis is studiously ignored. I’m no psychiatrist, but it is a given that psychosis builds and erupts periodically to relieve pressure – Lebanon 2006; Gaza 2006; Gaza 2008-9; Gaza 2012; West Bank/Gaza 2014 are convenient, opportunistically-spaced “triggers” to justify and enable the pressure-relief mechanism – and won’t/can’t be managed unless proper diagnosis, meds, therapy, consequences et al are administered by competent authority. I won’t go on and on (because I’ve been so ineffectual to date in advancing my thesis), but it is so obvious to me that until the root problem – a horrible collective psychosis – is recognized and treated, the Zionist fever of insanity will continue unabated. Pity the Palestinians, the hapless on-scene target of the demented bully…on our dime.”

  4. I’m in the process of reading James Elroy’s L.A. Noir. Why does this latest story of Israeli “shenanigans” sound like Elroy’s brilliant plots and characterizations?

    Or am I being too generous in my comparison?

  5. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you, Jim. This was a brilliant expose of the latest saga of Israel’s devious ways of deception, starting with the Israeli population itself.

    One condemns and mourns the brutality, savagery, and cold-blooded murder of hundreds of innocent Palestinian children over the past 5 years alone, simply for continuing to live on lands that Israel wants to grab and colonize. One also condemns and mourns the murder of 3 Israeli children during the same period. It is a tragedy whenever children are inserted into the story. Unfortunately, this has been the tragic story of Palestine, ever since Israel led to the dispossession of its Native people in 1947-49.

    Any Israelis, or supporters of Israeli occupation, willing to live on usurped lands in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank are directly, or indirectly, committing acts of terrorism and ethnic cleansing, by virtue of being there.

    The world should learn from this tragic incident, by applying non-violent BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) and demanding that Israel remove its settlers and resettle them back in the US and Russia, from where most of them come from, or in Israel ’48.

  6. Roy Hayes says:

    I’m standing in solidarity with you, Jim.

  7. Sami Joseph says:

    If only others are as ethical and enlightened as you are, the world would be a safer place. Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel, some behave like the three wise monkeys.

  8. Henry Marta says:

    God Bless you Jim Wall for always trying your best to tell the truth to our people in the US.
    The country of Israel was founded on very questionable illegal actions pushed forward in the UN by the US after WW II, and it has been cheered and allowed to operate outside international laws since 1948, again cheered and supported with over 110 billion dollars, and armed to the hilt by the US with complete disregard to our belief as a nation that stands for freedom and justice and peace.
    Many people blame the British government for the creation of Israel in view of the Balfour Declaration. It is however according to history, the British intended for the Jews and Palestinians to live in peace under one government. The Zionists from Europe and their US supporters refused to accept that and insisted on their own country even it meant the displacement of more that 50 % of the Palestinians. That is why the immigrant Jews created terrorist gangs (such as Irgun, Stern, and Haggana), and conducted terrorist operations, first against the British Government buildings (such as the King David Building and the Central Intelligence Department), and later against the Palestinian inhabitants in order to scare the people and cause them to leave their homes.
    Until the US finds a way to rip the Zionist incarceration of our foreign policy in the Middle East especially in regard to Israelis and the Palestinians, our nation will continue on it’s course of the past 70 years; i.e. to deliver vetoes in the UN and to defend and support the Israel’s criminal acts against the Palestinian people, contrary to the will of most other nations who wish to see a peaceful and just solution to that mess. Israel will continue to occupy the West Bank, take more and more Palestinian land, and will continue killing Palestinians, conduct collective punishment and ethnic cleansing until they declare all the Palestinian territory of the West Bank as part of Israel.

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