It's Time to Put a Stop to Israel's Cover-up Culture

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Brig. Gen. Jamal Hakhrush in 2016.
Brig. Gen. Jamal Hakhrush in 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Maj. Gen. Jamal Hakhrush says he followed police procedure. “I did everything that ought to be done. The first thing that has to be done in such a case is to stop the crime from continuing. It was stopped. And to secure the scene. We secured it. And call the professionals, whether it’s the police or Magen David Adom. We did that,” he told Channel 13 News, referring to the rescue service.

But his claims have been refuted. The horrifying video footage and the testimony of police officers in the murder in Kafr Kana more than a year ago proves that the senior police officer didn’t tell the whole truth.

In his initial statement, Hakhrush skipped over not only the wounded man lying on the stairs, but also the fact that he went on his merry way without stopping to check whether the man needed help. It also turns out that the top brass, possibly including then-Police Commissioner Motti Cohen, as well as the state prosecution, also skipped over the incident.

Police sources hastened to say that the new police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, wasn’t familiar with this incident. If that’s true, the rot in the police is evidently even thicker and deeper. And if it isn’t true, and Shabtai knew what had happened, then it’s a scandal.

As usual, the police have established an inquiry committee headed by a retired police major general. The police will investigate, spray a little perfume over the stench and maybe oust Hakhrush, and life will go on as usual. After all, the murdered man was “known to the police.”

Two weeks ago, there was a cover-up of the way in which Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad – now known as “the 80-year-old Arab” – was murdered by soldiers from the Netzah Yisrael Brigade. As in the Hakhrush case, it was only a report by a Haaretz journalist – in this case, Yaniv Kubovich – that momentarily shook the Israel Defense Forces, and only thanks to the U.S. State Department’s “inquisitiveness” has the Israel Defense Forces begun to investigate the crime.

Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit worded the cover-up statement superbly. “On January 12, 2022, a Palestinian was found dead near the town of Jiljilya, in the territory of the Binyamin territorial brigade,” it said. “An initial inquiry indicates that the Palestinian was arrested during operations by IDF forces after he resisted a security check. ... Naturally, we can’t go into detail about an ongoing investigation.”

What a vocabulary, what phrasing. He “was found dead,” a fairly normal occurrence among people in their 80s. He “resisted a security check”; is any other reason conceivable? And all this is before the investigation has even ended. Now, all that’s left is to find proof to back up the spokesperson’s statements.

Two senior officers, Ofek Aharon and Itamar Elharar, company commanders in the elite Egoz reconnaissance unit, were killed by friendly fire in an unnecessary incident. Most of the details are already known. Three investigations are being conducted simultaneously, and the public is awaiting their results.

This tragic affair, which at the very least attests to flawed procedures, also received an ideological whitewash. The commander of the Bahad 1 training base, Col. Yehuda Wach, was quick to cover the failings with blatantly nationalist wrapping paper.

In a letter to IDF cadets, he wrote, “Ofek and Itamar acted with daring and initiative for the sake of an important value – our sovereignty over this land. The result was painful, and there will be things to learn from this regrettable incident. But we must remember that they acted with the goal of benefiting the country and ending the crime that’s occurring on IDF bases.”

“Sovereignty,” “benefiting the country.” Here we have a different, lofty paradigm that covers up every flaw, negligence and failing. As former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir once said, “It’s permissible to lie for the sake of the Land of Israel.”

And what do we even know about the flaws, failures, cover-ups and lies in classified organizations like the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad, which are hidden from the disinfectant of sunlight?

Each of these agencies – the police, the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad – has a commander in chief who is responsible for them. Each of these leaders needs to be held accountable for the layers of rust, mold and rot that have developed in their respective organizations and are eroding the public’s faith in them.

A senior police officer who lies, army officers who whitewash, Shin Bet officers who mislead judges – all these are not wild weeds, but signs of a culture that has gone bad. The architects of this culture, the people who stand at the top of these agencies, cannot be exempted from accountability.

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