A documentary was broadcast last Saturday on the Hezbollah-affiliated satellite channel Al Mayadeen featuring some of Israel’s most senior politicians and military officials during the second Lebanon War in 2006.
In the first segment of the three-part documentary entitled “What happened in 2006,” the Israeli interviewees—which include former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, MK Tzipi Livni and Maj. Gen. (res.) MK Eyal Ben-Reuven—are heard discussing the war and the kidnapping of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
In addition, the documentary included an interview with Tomer Weinberg who was injured and managed to flee the patrol humvee which was ambushed by Hezbollah militants before the IDF soldiers were abducted.
“In February an Italian journalists called Michele Monni approached me and said he was gathering material for an extensive article about the kidnapping,” Tomer Weinberg told Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday.
Weinberg is heard on the documentary describing at length the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping. “The moment that the firing started I realized that it was coming from Hezbollah. I opened the door of the humvee, I didn’t look at my friends who were sitting on the back seats and I fled.”
In the documentary one of the Hezbollah narrators says, “We interviewed the soldier who was injured and who managed to escape but his capture was not part of the operational order which is why we didn’t take him.”
The first part of the series also features an interview with former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate Amos Yaldin, and concludes with a preview of the next two episodes showing excerpts of an interview with Tzipi Livni who served as justice minister in 2006.
Amos Yaldin, said on Monday that he was not interviewed by the satellite Hezbollah-affiliated television channel Al Mayadeen and insisted that they simply took excerpts from other interviews with Israeli television channels.
However, the account provided by Tomer Weinberg on Monday sheds new light on the matter: “In February Michele Monni 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,” Weinberg recalled.
“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,” he explained.
Weinberg said that the interview lasted more than an hour during which the journalist asked him if he would agree to be interviewed against a background of footage of the kidnapping. He categorically refused, however. “The Italian journalist explained that his producer was pressuring that I be photographed next to the footage and offered me $2,000. I immediately said no and told him there was no chance.”
Weinberg, who today works in high-tech as a developer for computer software did not see the Hezbollah film but explained that he has since been made to feel like an outcast since it was aired.
“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 rushing back and I became anxious. Since the film was shown I have not been into work,” he admitted.
Tzipi Livni’s and Amir Peretz’s spokesmen said on Monday that they were also tricked and were told that the filming was intended for the BBC and Italian television. At no point were they told that the interviews were being filmed for Hezbollah.
According to the Italian journalist, he received angry phone calls from both senior politicians’ spokespeople who duly reprimanded him: “How could you do this to us? How could you not tell us that this was an interview for a Hezbollah television channel?”
Despite the anger, Monni insisted that he had also fallen victim to a trick: “I also didn’t know that the interviews I was sent to do in Israel were intended for Hezbollah,” the Italian journalist claimed in his defense. “(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.”
Responding to the accusations that he presented himself as a journalist for an Italian news agency and thereby deliberately misled his interviewees, Monni refused to comment. Furthermore, on Monday he denied that he ever offered Weinberg money in exchange for the aforementioned filming conditions: “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,” said Monni.
“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.”