TEL AVIV – Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah tricked three senior Israeli officials and a wounded soldier into giving interviews for its documentary on the 2006 Second Lebanon War by telling them it was for the BBC.
The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported on Tuesday that an Italian reporter, Michela Moni, interviewed former defense minister Amir Peretz, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, and Maj. Gen. (res.) MK Eyal Ben-Reuven, and told them the footage would be aired on the BBC and Italian television.
However, Moni said he was also misled, claiming that the Palestinian producer who offered him the job told him the broadcast was for the BBC and Al-Jazeera.
On Saturday, al-Mayadeen, a Hezbollah-affiliated television channel, aired previously unreleased footage of Hezbollah fighters undergoing training for the abduction of two IDF soldiers that led to the 34-day Second Lebanon War.
Spokespeople for Livni and Peretz maintain they were never informed they were being interviewed for al-Mayadeen.
First Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and Sergeant Eldad Regev were abducted while another two soldiers were killed in an ambush. Remarks made by Goldwasser over IDF radio communications were included in the documentary.
The footage is part of a documentary series marking 10 years since the war. Israeli officials maintain that the goal of the documentary is to restore Hezbollah’s image in Lebanon, especially in light of its participation in the Syrian civil war.
The video, in Arabic and Hebrew, can be viewed below:
Tomer Weinberg, an IDF veteran wounded in the war, told Yediot that Moni approached him and was persistent about his participating in the documentary.
“In February, Michela Moni presented himself as a journalist for the Italian ANSA news agency in Rome. He asked to interview me about the kidnapping. I declined the offer a few times and explained reconstructing the incident could worsen my mental and physical state,” he said.
“The Italian journalist didn’t give up and I eventually agreed to be interviewed. When he came to my home he told me he was staying in Jerusalem and came to visit me specially ‘because the Italian people are extremely interested to hear your story, and it is important they hear the circumstances of the kidnapping,’” Weinberg added.
According to Weinberg, Moni had asked over and over to film him next to a photo of his fellow soldiers who were either abducted or killed during the 2006 raid. Weinberg refused to comply. The Hezbollah documentary twisted his account to appear as if he abandoned his comrades.
“My friends shamed me because after all that I told the Italian journalist, they showed only a tiny part of it, which implies that I escaped from the vehicle and abandoned my friends. All at once the memories from the incident came flooding back and I started to feel anxiety,” Weinberg said.
“Since the film was shown I have not been to work,” he added.
For his part, Modi maintains that he was fooled along with everyone else.
“I also didn’t know that the interviews I was sent to do in Israel were intended for Hezbollah,” the Italian journalist said. “[Palestinian TV producer] Ahmed Barghouthi, who hired me in Jerusalem, told me that he was preparing interviews for a show to be aired on the BBC and on Al-Jazeera. I work a lot with this producer and I took on the task.”
“I am a professional journalist and I have no connection with al-Mayadeen or Hezbollah and I have no interest in being in contact with them. Tomer Weinberg is an extremely nice individual and he says that he has no idea how the interview wound up on al-Mayadeen,” added Moni.
“When I realized that the Hezbollah channel broadcast the interviews and not Al Jazeera or the BBC, I understood that I had been used and I came out looking like a liar to my interviewees. I am scared of losing my job,” he said.