Foreword: There can be no doubt that the two units, Duvdevan ["Cherry"] and Samson called in common "Mista’arvim" (soldiers disguised as Arabs) are simply licensed killers. Nevertheless, much of their membership is drawn from what is considered as the Jewish left, especially from the kibbutzim where these units enjoy the greatest possible popularity, as the items I and Ia show. Item II, although wntten by a correspondent known for his flattery, contains a lot of useful information. The dispute about those death-squads was caused not by their murders of Palestinians, but by thelr failures, as shown by the cases of near suicide or of the killing of their own members. This dispute continues and will be further reported.
All emphases mine. Israel Shahak.
The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army (II)
Hadashot, 17 July 1992.
By: Alex Fishman
H. was the first to grasp the enormity of the tragedy. The body which lay next to the center of Barta’a village was wrapped in a civilian shirt, but underneath it H. noticed an army garment. He turned to his friends and said: You killed Eli. A short time prior to that H. had heard the shots and had run towards their direction. When he met with his comrades, they were still certain that they had killed a wanted person. Within seconds they understood what had really happened. Two days after the operational accident in Barta’a, on Friday, Colonel A. reported to the division commander, Brigadier General Moshe Ya’elon. Yaelon made it clear to A. that he was being released from his post and that a replacement is being looked for. Yaelon, to be precise, had been looking for a replacement for a long time. On Sunday, A. reported to his patron, General Danny Yatom [the commander of the Central Command]. This time even Yatom understood that If he will not remove A. from his post, it would be done by his superiors. After Barta’a he could no longer protect A.
For two months the army was seething with displeasure. The regional brigade commanders had constantly criticized the Duvdevan commander, and inside that unit people were angry at him. When after Barta’a he returned to the base, H. stood before a barrage of questions. The comrades tried to understand, but asked questions. It Is doubtful whether anyone of them would have dared to open his mouth. A. was hard with them. With his predecessor the atmosphere was open, everyone spoke their mind iJ, any situation. Officers in the unit used to arrange Investigating Military Police Interrogations for him, which always ended in his acquittal.
The speculations of the unit’s soldiers were a part of a long list of questions which the deputy commander of the brigade, now investigating the Barta’a affair, tries to deal with. He is examining which parts of the battle procedure which they repeated before the action were followed, and which parts were neglected. The mista’arvim, due to the nature of their activity, need to put a special emphasis on several areas in the battle procedure. The question of coordination, for example, is critical. The unit carries out each week dozens of operations in Arab villages with the fighters disguised. In the course of each opepration it must be clear where exactly each one of the "civilians? is going to be. The procedure is supposed to guarantee that. Today, after the tragedy, officers in the brigades under whose responsibility the mista’aravim operate write the procedures on posters in their offices, a bit too late. The work of the officer investigating the Barta’a affair might even end in transferring the file to the prosecution. A. was dismissed, his predecessor left the post in an uneasy manner, and prior to that, the Duvedevan unit was commanded by an officer who was not allowed to continue his military service. The trail of the first commander of the Mista’arvim unit in Gaza, Shimshon, ended last week when he was dismissed by the regional commander of Gaza due to disciplinary offenses.
In addition the non-complimentary sta!istics of the mista’arvim units, during the recent period there were many additional dismissals in the elite units as a whole: A battalion commander in the parachooter division was dismissed following the death of officer Yiftah Otolongi in a training accident, the commander of an extra-elite unit was dismissed following the death of two of his soldiers from dehydration, a reserve duty pilot of a senior offlcer rank, was suspended after his judgement led to the death of a soldier in a helicopter crash. And that is not the entire list. Perhaps there is a systematic problem of the entire army.
Discipline like in the Unit 101
At least with regard to Shimshon and Duvdevan, the army is willing to admit that it has a special problem in chosing commanders, mainly since the nature of these units is not purely military. In fact, only during the past year dld the army formulate some sort of permanent structure for them. The name Duvdevan was borne by a tiny military unit already before the IntIfada In the mld-1980s. There is little in common between that unit and the present Duvdevan and Shimshon. From the core of another type of unit grew units defined as assault units, dealing with the problems of the Intifada by unconventional means. Shimshon was established in Gaza at the beginning of the Intifada as a special unit of the Southern Command, following the model of Duvdevan in the Central Command. However, during the first year the use of these units was very limited. A long time passed before the army understood that the Intifada will continue for a long time and that they had to produce soldiers suited to it. .
During these first years soldiers who had been rejected from elite units for some reason or another, were reaching Duvdevan and Shimshon. The atmosphere that developed in the two units was remniscent of the good old days of Unit 101 in the 1950s – less from the level of performance and more on the level of discipline. It seems that even today it is difficult to remove that tradition, although the army is making a serious effort to instill in these units norms of a totally military framework. As the special units of the Command, Duvdevan and Shimshon were the regional commanders’ pampered pets. The General Staff invested in them. The amount of special vehicles purchased for them would not shame a medium sized parking lot of the General Command itself. The results, at least during the first two years, did not always justify the investments. Only two years ago did Duvdevan finally earn an achievement justifying the Regional Commander to be proud of it, when five heavily wanted members of the Red Eagles were liquidated in a barbershop.(1) That liquidation proved that the combination of good intelligence and proper cooperation of the unit could lead to operational achievements. The hitherto wasted potential led to mutual accusations between the intelligence and the army. The army argued: You are not bringing us information. The intelligence claimed: There is information, but you do not know how to use it.
The Mista’arvim operate in small groups. In the beginning the military authorities did not know how to swallow that new profession and to suit it to the frequent changes in the Intifada’s image. Even the officers in the field did not always understand what was to be done with them. What did they know how to do? What do they do better than conventional fighters? There were days in which the teams dispersed in the field wasted their time in routine work, when the then Chief of Staff, Dan Shomron. did not understand why the Regional Commanders were yelling out for additional forces. In check ups carried out for him it was found that at least one third of the soldiers in the special units were not in the field. Some of them were. permanently on leave at home, others were training, others still in educational seminars,and some were at their permanent bases.
The current Chief of Staff, Ehud Barak, took them under his wing already at the beginning of his service. He knew each week what each team of them was doing and some of the employment problems disappeared. About 18 months ago the Mlsta’arvlm units underwent a substantial turnover. The General Staff understood only then that the Intifada will require professionalism. Therefore, regular infantry companies were esta