The return of the ‘Hearsaygate’ hero

Posted: July 17, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Cast Lead, Gaza, IDF, Israel, Own Articles, Press and Media

Haaretz's Amos Harel

JUST WHEN I reach conclusion regarding certain people, they do something like this: Amos Harel, the arch-hero of ‘Hearsaygate‘ is back at it again. But if before I believed the man is dishonest, now I think he is just clueless. Well, and a little dishonest. One thing I am still sure about: Amos Harel is not a professional journalist. Double-checking the facts presented is way out of his league, as well as basing his own opinions on facts and reasonable doubts. Amos Harel is an ideologist, and when you read his reports and opinion articles he should be treated as such.

Finally, case in point: Amos Harel, of Israeli daily Haaretz, released his recent op-ed, regarding Break the Silence‘s report, which we discussed here on Wednesday. To remind my readers: BtS is a left-wing Israeli organization, consisted mostly of IDF veterans, whose official goal it is to "expose moral corruption" within the IDF. BtS’ way of doing so is going through hundreds of testimonies in the past six months, and handpicking ones that suit their goals.

Harel sets his mission to defend the organization in his column. He believes it is ridiculous to question reliability of the witnesses (he notes some went as far as allege the witnesses are actors, reading from a script); it is ludicrous to demand the soldiers to reveal their identities. "It was enough," he says, "for these soldiers to hear from graduates of a pre-army prep course about the onslaught they faced after previous Cast Lead testimonies … to understand that their fears are not unfounded". Concluding: "It will be interesting to hear the full version of events once these soldiers are discharged" (Some of the interviewees were soldiers serving their 3-years-long regular duty).

Harel relieves the reader of trouble of remembering his own fiasco during the ‘Hearsaygate’ scandal, where he alleged most IDF soldiers during operation Cast Lead in Gaza vandalized property and murdered civilians in cold blood. When the whole thing was discovered to be a scam – two soldiers telling stories they never witnessed and never had the chance to, as they were never near Gaza at the time – Harel never apologized. To this day, he stands for his beliefs that IDF soldiers committed serious war crimes in Gaza, and does everything in his power – including omission of facts and distortions – to present his viewpoint.

With such goal in mind, Harel scolds at people demanding to see the faces of the testifying soldiers, or at least know where they served during the operation. The soldiers are afraid of "retribution" he says. And some of them should be! With regular troops it is understandable – they are not allowed to talk to press and could be punished for that. But what about reserve troops? After all, if they tell the truth, what is there to be afraid of? Unless, of course, there are some things they didn’t say, like them being in Sderot at the time of described events, with their testimony consisting of – once again – hearsay. After ‘Hearsaygate’ debacle several months ago, the public is much more demanding towards organizations releasing anonymous statements – and the public should act this way. Abomination, in which Harel participated, caused irreparable damage to Israel, and Israelis do not want to see that happen again.

The major point Harel makes is that IDF should listen to such testimonies, process and implement lessons learned from such events. What Harel fails to ask is why should IDF listen to a group, whose report makes investigating allegations impossible (you can’t investigate anonymous personnel), seeking attention from international press and donors. Immediately after report’s release, IDF officials expressed their dismay with the group publishing those accounts with the media first, instead of turning to IDF, asking for an investigation of the events. Harel could shill for the radicals all he wants – but people in position of power would not listen to him nor to people he promotes if they use tactics of hiding behind masks of anonymity. If the group wants the cases investigated, they should to transfer all evidence and testimonies to the Army prior to the release of the report, and wait for the results of investigations. They don’t have to wait forever – they could set an ultimatum of allowing, say, two months for investigations. But that is the correct way to go if you want to justice. Going to Haaretz first is the right way to go – if you seek to please your financiers and radical elements supporting you. In which case, the rest would never listen.

Cases of dubious or illegal behavior by the troops in Gaza should be investigated. But unless such testimonies are presented in fair and balanced way, Israeli public will stay oblivious of it. The belief in the IDF on the side of Israelis is strong – but it is not blind. Remember, most Israeli Jews served in the Israeli Defense Forces, many of them fought wars, and they actually know how IDF conducts itself. If Breaking the Silence – together with left-wing journalists – wants to break this belief and make people think – there is no better way to do so other than use of objective sources and presentation. With Harel, though, whose ideology hat covers his eyes, objectivity is not an option.

 

Update: Here are two great links for follow-up: «Breaking the Silence group cheating on global media», Unanswered Questions.

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