‘Hearsaygate’ inciter tries to save himself

Posted: April 7, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Own Articles, Palestinians
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IDF soldiers in GazaDanny Zamir – the inciting force behind notorious ‘Hearsaygate’, now tries to save his own face, writing an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, in which he claims his intention never was to enrage the world by falsely portraying murderous conduct by IDF soldiers in Gaza. Instead, Zamir offers his ‘perception’: the mainstream media, who eagerly published the allegations.

Both explicitly and by insinuation, the [New York Times] articles claim a decline in the IDF’s commitment to its moral code of conduct in combat, and moreover, that this decline stems from a specific increase in the prominence of religious soldiers and commanders in the IDF in general, and from the strengthening of the position of IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Ronsky in particular.

It was as if the media were altogether so eager to find reason to criticize the IDF that they pounced on one discussion by nine soldiers who met after returning from the battlefield to share their experiences and subjective feelings with each other, using that one episode to draw conclusions that felt more like an indictment. Dogma replaced balance and led to a dangerous misunderstanding of the depth and complexity of Israeli reality. The individual accounts were never intended to serve as a basis for broad generalizations and summary conclusions by the media; they were published internally, intended for program graduates and their parents as a tool to be used in the process of educating and guiding the next generation.

I chose as well to submit the soldiers’ accounts to the highest levels of the IDF, directly to the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, out of my deep faith in the solid moral foundations of IDF policy and in complete confidence that the accounts would receive serious and thorough attention, including both investigation and corrective measures, if and when necessary. This faith was and is based on my personal experience of more than two decades – as a combat solider, a major in the IDF and as mentor for hundreds of the Rabin Mechina’s graduates who are soldiers serving in combat units (active and reserve).

Can you read between the lines? I definitely can: Zamir claims the moral high ground – it is press’ fault, I only wanted answers from the military. To remind you, the ‘Hearsaygate’ began when Zamir published the discussion through the mass media. Did he not expect the international media would gladly bash Israeli soldiers? Did he not expect this would spread like fire in Arab press?

Another question to ask is why Zamir speeks out only now that the story has been brewing for weeks? Why not speak out just a day or two after the materials were published, when Haaretz’s Amos Harel used his op-ed column to claim that “it seems that what soldiers have to say is actually the way things happened in the field, most of the time”? Was it okay for Zamir when Israeli newspaper bashes thousands of troops, claiming most of them vandalized Palestinian property and murdered Palestinian civilians in cold blood? Yes, that is exactly what happened: Haaretz’s Amos Harel claimed that most Israeli troops in Gaza destroyed Palestinian property and murdered civilians in cold blood. Where was Zamir hiding then?

Zamir then goes on for many paragraphs to explain IDF’s moral code and conditions in which IDF soldiers fight, to the confused reader. Nevertheless, the damage has already been done: what Zamir now publishes in JPost will never reach New York Times and Al Jazeera. Thanks a lot, mate, you actually have done it.

In a separate article, Zamir tries to explain that the whole ‘Hearsaygate’ ‘spun out of control’, claiming the discussion was internal and should be read in context as such:

“The whole story spun out of control,” Zamir said. “From an internal discussion where soldiers talked about what was difficult and painful in the war, and which I took to the army because I expected them to deal with the issues raised, the international media turned the IDF into war criminals.”

The transcript of the soldiers’ comments, which appeared in an internal newsletter that was posted on the Internet, led to a media sensation, with numerous articles using the soldiers’ comments to substantiate allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

I will be totally, brutally honest: Zamir acts like a cowards. Instead of telling us – the Israelis (as no one else will read his articles) – that he made a mistake and published material he should not have published, he tries to blame others – the media – for his disgraceful actions. Now it is time to stand up and take responsibility. Something Zamir – a major in reserves – would not do.

As a nota bene, I will publish an email I have sent to Harretz today:

Dear Sir or Madam,

When Amos Harel wrote his first – or what I believe is first – op-ed on issue of soldiers’ testimonies from Gaza, I saved the link to his article. Here it is.

In this article, Harel writes: “It’s possible that somewhere in the stories there were a few mistakes or exaggerations, because a squad or platoon leader does not always see the entire picture. But this is evidence, first hand, of what most Israelis would prefer to repress. This is how the army carried out its war against armed terrorists, with a civilian population of a million and a half people stuck in the middle.”

Dear Sir or Madam. Now that it is clear there is no ‘evidence’ regarding cold-blooded ‘murder’ of Palestinian civilians, I am still waiting for an apology from Mr. Harel, who claimed in the same article: “It seems that what soldiers have to say is actually the way things happened in the field, most of the time”.

I would fully expect Mr. Harel – a known military analyst and correspondent for your newspaper – to admit he was wrong to label most soldiers fighting in Gaza as vandalizing murderers. His apology, with my best regards, will also be published as an update, and – hopefully – a closing chapter of the ‘Hearsaygate’, on my own website for my readers to review.

Best regards,

Jonathan M. Boyko,


I will be waiting for Harel’s response.


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