IDF promotes colonel who encouraged violent interrogations

Colonel Itai Virob, who won notoriety when he admitted he encouraged his soldiers to use violence against Palestinians they were questioning, will become a brigadier general soon

The IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Binyamin Ganz, decided (Hebrew)  to promote Colonel Itai Virob, formerly the commander of the designated occupation brigade Kfir, to brigadier general. Virob will be appointed to the office of Chief Infantry and Paratroopers Officer, a plum assignment which generally indicates the officer will become an aluf, in Israel not merely a major general but also a member of the General Staff Forum.

If the name of Virob rings a bell, it’s probably because he’s the senior officer who admitted in court he allowed his soldiers to perform some acts of violence (Hebrew).  For the purposes of questioning, Virob said – he was defending one of his junior officers, charged with assault of a Palestinian – he found that “a slap, sometime a blow to the back of the neck or the chest, sometimes kneeing [in the stomach? Unclear – YZG] or strangling [is required] for the purposes of calming” the detainee during an “impromptu interrogation”. The plain truth caused a minor shit storm, Virob’s promotion was delayed, and he was officially rebuked by his commanding general. Two years have passed, and now Virob, too, is a general.

Turns out, if you’re an IDF officer and you’re ordering your gunmen to violate human rights and military law, and they do (as mentioned above, Virob’s order was exposed during a rare trial of Kfir soldiers who tortured Palestinians; we’ll probably never know how many Palestinians were beaten under Virob’s order), you will not be prosecuted, you will not be expelled from the ranks of the even-more-moral-than-Hamas army, you will not be demoted; your promotion will merely be delayed, and as compensation you’ll receive one hell of a job.

But that’s not the whole story. When Virob testified, he was admired military reporters and IDF gunmen alike for “telling truth to power” to judges sitting in air-conditioned halls. The fact that Virob, like any senior officer, also spends most of his time in air conditioned bureaus was conveniently forgotten. He was considered as an officer standing for his gunmen.

That’s not the case, however. Virob was summoned to testify in the trial of one of the other gunmen, a grunt, not an officer. And there, after being officially rebuked, he changed his tune so much from his earlier testimony, the court rebuked the officers who rebuked Virob, saying – strangely enough – this amounted to obstruction of justice. When you peel back the layers of obfuscation, it seems the court was strongly hinting Virob was perjuring himself during this second testimony.

So this great defender of the gunmen turns out yet another officer in a long and dishonored IDF tradition of selling your soldiers down the river in exchange for a promotion. Strangely enough, the gunmen never seem to remember that an officer promising them it will be fine and he’ll be there for them if they break the law will in all likelihood drop them like smelling socks if they are caught in the act.

So, next time some fool tells with high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory that old lie, that the IDF is a moral army capable of investigating itself, feel free to laugh in his face. And the next time someone decides to skip the IDF system of justice and just go straight to Hague, Binyamin Ganz, who promoted an open endorser of violent interrogation, should blame himself only.