Israeli officials upset over freed hostage’s interview slamming government failures
10/26/2023 // Cassie B. // Views

When 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, one of just four hostages to be released by Hamas terrorists so far, spoke to the media, her descriptions of the horrors she experienced were widely expected. However, her characterization of her captors as being kind to her and her criticism of the Israeli government took many people by surprise and have left officials scrambling to deal with the public relations damage.

Sources have told the state-owned Kan News in Israel that the interview with Lifshitz was a “mistake” and that they believed there were no preliminary meetings preparing her for the interview. It is being widely regarded as a major public relations failure for the Israelis and a significant propaganda victory for Hamas.

The interview was broadcast from the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where Lifshitz is recovering from her ordeal. She described how militants took her from her home in the Nir Oz kibbutz. She said the motorcycle drive to Gaza was “painful” and that she was beaten with sticks on the trip so badly that she sustained bruises and had breathing troubles. After being separated from other hostages, including her husband, she was led through a “spiderweb” network of underground tunnels, where she slept on a mattress on the damp floor. “I went through hell,” she said.

However, she added that she was treated “gently” by her captors, who gave her and other hostages one meal per day of pita bread, cucumbers and cheese and made sure they received the same medications they normally took at home. They were visited regularly by doctors, and she reported that her captors had been friendly with her. She added that they took care of their hygiene and other needs.

She went on to condemn the Israeli army’s failure to prepare for the attack despite spending millions on security systems that failed to stop the terrorists. “A swarm of people came to the fence — it cost NIS 2 billion ($493 million) and it didn’t help, not even a little bit,” she said.

She singled out Shin Bet and the IDF for their lack of knowledge of the plans, adding: "We were the government's scapegoat, we were abandoned. We went through hell."

She said there were plenty of signs before the attacks, such as balloons sent across the border to set fields on fire, but the IDF did not take it seriously.

Lifshitz’s family said that she had worked in the past to help Palestinians in Gaza receive medical aid, and she was seen shaking hands with the Hamas fighter who handed her over to the Red Cross when she was released.

A propaganda win for Hamas

Former FBI special agent Ken Grey told CNN that Lipshitz’s comments about her treatment could be part of a Hamas PR strategy.

He said: “They want to project the information that they are treating the hostages very well … using this as a method of being able to show themselves of being humane, treating the hostages well. And then it will make the IDF look even worse when they actually enter into the Gaza.”

Experts have said it is possible that Lifshitz and the other hostage released with her were threatened by Hamas, who still has their husbands in their custody. They may have been told their husbands would suffer a particularly grisly death if they did not give a glowing review of their time as hostages.

Lifshitz’s husband was involved in campaigning for Palestinian rights and speaks good Arabic, so the family is holding out hope that he is faring well. Their daughter said they don’t know how other hostages were being treated because her mother did not see them.

A reporter for Israel's Channel 12, Daphna Liel, tweeted: “There’s no doubt that Lifshitz’s statement could have been managed better.”

“Anyone sane should understand that medical attention she was given [by Hamas] was intended to keep their bargaining chips alive and not from the kindness of their hearts,” she added.

Despite her claim that she was treated well, Lifshitz nevertheless went through a horrific ordeal at the hands of terrorists, and it is not surprising that she would blame the Israeli government for what happened to her and numerous others. It’s a view that is shared by so many other Israelis, and more will certainly come to light in the weeks and months ahead about the reasons behind this failure.

Sources for this article include:

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