How the public was manipulated into believing the teens were alive

Details under gag order could have suggested early on that the abducted teens were murdered. The government-led campaign calling for their release helped the legitimacy of Israel’s military operation in the West Bank. Local and even international media played along.

Noam Sheizaf

The following issue is not the heart of the kidnapping affair, the Israeli military operation or its aftermath – but it does carry an important lesson, especially for journalists. The bottom line is this: the Israeli public has been manipulated.

Details of the ’100′ call (the local equivalent of 911) and what investigators discovered in the car used for the kidnapping of three Israeli teens earlier this month were well known by security service heads, top ministers – and even journalists – early on in the affair; but not by the public because it was all placed and kept under a tightly held gag order. The blood found in the car, the sound of gun shots in the emergency call, evidence of live ammunition and the fact that there hasn’t been a single instance of two or more people being held hostage in the West Bank in decades — all that led to a single logical assumption: the teens were no longer alive. Yet at the same time, the Israeli public was told the teens were being held by Hamas, and a public campaign calling for their return was launched.

The result was the shock most Israelis felt once the bodies were discovered — terrible disappointment that could be avoided only by those with knowledge of the details under gag order.

Every other day or so, senior officers briefed the media and reiterated that the army’s working assumption is the abducted teens were still alive, sometimes adding that there is no evidence which suggests otherwise. This was a deception. On one of those days, Finance Minister Yair Lapid went on live television and said the 100 call is “impossible to decipher.” That was a deception too. And here is the most absurd part: while those sources were feeding the public with misconceptions, they added warnings against “spreading rumors on social media.” Well, I have news for you: the next tragic event will see many more such rumors because the public will take for granted that there are secrets which shed light on the events — as if we don’t have enough conspiracy theories here as it is.

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