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The IDF’s ‘Hannibal Protocol’ and Two Criminally Insane Governments

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The sickness of present-day Israel, on display over the past horrible month of the one-sided slaughter of nearly 2000 Palestinians (including over 400 children) in the fenced-in ghetto of Gaza, has finally reached its nadir with the ugly case of the deliberate Israeli Defense Force murder of captured IDF 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin.

According to an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, once it was determined that Goldin had been captured by Hamas fighters in the Gaza town of Rafah, the IDF initiated what it calls the “Hannibal Protocol” — the deliberate liquidation of the captive — to prevent his being used as a hostage to win concessions from Israel in future truce negotiations with the Palestinians. One reason for the almost instantaneous and ruthless Israeli decision to kill Goldin rather than attempt to rescue him, is that this captured soldier had the misfortune of being related to Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, making him a valuable prize indeed for Hamas.

And so began a massive bombardment of the entire residential area where Goldin was captured.

As Haaretz reports in an editorial [1] about this case of deliberate sacrifice of an IDF officer, headlined “What Happened in Rafah?”, the ensuing high-explosive blitz on the area didn’t just kill Goldin, but also indiscriminately killed over 150 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including many women and children. Indeed, the paper states that the IDF “…shelled and bombed houses and their inhabitants indiscriminately, and as they tried to flee homes, hit them with shells and bombs in the streets.” The fatal bombing of a targeted UN-operated school in Rafah, which was condemned by the US government and by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, who called it a “criminal act and a moral outrage,” was part of that Hannibal Protocol action.

Now recall that President Obama was quick to label the Hamas capture of Goldin “barbaric.”

The trouble is, having rather absurdly deployed that term to characterize the capture by Hamas fighters of an Israeli soldier who was at the time reportedly exploring a tunnel and trying to capture or kill enemy fighters, though, what then does Obama — what indeed does any person — call the indiscriminate slaughter of 150 civilians in the interest of eliminating one of one’s own captured soldier?

Certainly the Hannibal Protocol is in itself “barbaric” in its cool calculus of denying the enemy a bargaining chip. But that term hardly seems to capture the horror of what was done by the IDF in this case. Clearly implementing the Hannibal Protocol would have been okayed at the highest level of the Israeli government, particularly with the relative of a top government official involved. And when a military organization or a government moves beyond just killing the captive and his immediate captors to slaughtering everyone in the surrounding area, we’ve moved way beyond a word like “barbaric.”

I’m a journalist, and part of my job is being good with words, but I admit I’m at a bit of a loss here. Perhaps “criminally insane” is appropriate, but that is usually a term applied to an individual. In this case, though, we are talking about a whole government, or at least the military establishment and the senior leaders of that government, taken collectively.

The mind reels. Can an entire government be criminally insane? Certainly what happened with this Hannibal Protocol incident suggests that it can.

Recall, though, that this crime extends well beyond the borders of Israel. For the bombs and shells that were unleashed by the IDF on the people of Rafah as part of this murderous Hannibal Protocol campaign were, for the most part, manufactured and provided, at taxpayer expense, by the United States of America.

This massive war crime is thus as much a US atrocity as it is an Israeli one.

And if the Israeli government is criminally insane, so is the US government for uncritically and unthinkingly backing it.

We knew the US government and its military were criminally insane back in the Vietnam War, when we were told that peasant villages were being burned to the ground by US troops on the theory that “we have to destroy the village in order to save it.” Now we’ve moved a step further towards the depths of insanity in backing an Israeli policy of “slaughtering a village in order to kill one of our own soldiers.” Even in the moral cesspool that was America’s war on the Vietnamese people, the US military didn’t sink to that — they stopped at just slaughtering villlages.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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