IDF officers to hide their identity for fear of arrests abroad

In an attempt to protect themselves from prosecution abroad, IDF officers will hide their identity

The IDF is increasingly worried about the possibility of being prosecuted abroad for war crimes: Maariv published an article this morning (Hebrew), saying senior officers will have their identities hidden, noting specifically this was not due to ‘field security’ reasons, i.e. fear that the officers will become targets for assassination, but rather for legal reasons. A senior officer told Maariv this is done in order to “protect the officers from the legal point of view.”

Borrowing a longstanding Air Force tradition, soon Israeli media will be barred from naming all officers from the rank of Sgan Aluf (Lt. Col) and upwards, and will have to make do with an initial. The officers’ faces will, as is customary in the Air Force,be blurred or pixilated, to prevent their identification.

In recent years, attempts have been made to arrest senior IDF officers: Shaul Mofaz, former Chief of Staff, had to leave London in a hurry; Tat Aluf (Brigadier General) Aviv Kokhavi cancelled his studies there, for fear of arrest; Doron Almog, former commanding general, Southern Command, found a warrant for his arrest waiting for him when he landed in London. At the advice of the embassy, he declined to leave his plane. There have been reports that former Chief of Staff Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon had to leave New Zealand in a hurry for precisely this reason. Ya’alon denied those reports.

The fear of legal retaliation is not confined to senior brass: IDF gunmen have raided Bil’in while masked in September 2009, and riot policemen removed their identifying tag and put on ski masks before attacking activists in Sheikh Jarrah just a few months back.

It is unclear at this stage how the IDF will deal with independent photographers taking pictures of its senior brass. It’s also unclear whether the military censorship will be involved, as Supreme Court decisions allow the censorship to deny publication only in cases of clear and present danger to state security.