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Spoiler: Benny Gantz wasn’t captured by Iraqi forces

Official Iranian mouthpiece and others claim former IDF chief caught while aiding Islamic State. Er, no

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (Flash 90)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (Flash 90)

Rumors that a high-ranking IDF officer had been captured while working alongside Islamic State forces began circulating on the Internet last week, beginning on assorted websites dedicated almost solely to starting and perpetuating conspiracy theories and later being picked up by the Iranian government’s official mouthpiece Fars news.

An Israeli brigadier general or colonel — the reports vary — from the Golani Brigade named Yussi Elon Shahak was allegedly caught by Iraqi forces, the websites claim.

“The Zionist officer is ranked colonel and had participated in the Takfiri ISIL group’s terrorist operations,” the Fars News Agency claimed an Iraqi commander said.

The assertion was backed up with a photograph of the offending officer and turned into a readily sharable graphic, which was promptly shared on Facebook and Twitter.

In fact, the photograph does not show a brigadier general or a colonel, the man in it is not named Yussi Shahak and all of the so-called proof offered falls apart almost immediately when held up to any level of scrutiny.

While no discerning person could believe the bogus claim, for the sake of thoroughness The Times of Israel has broken down the allegations, as presented by the conspiracy theorizers, fact by fact for your enlightenment and entertainment:

Look closely at this man, his name is Yussi Elon Shahak.

No, it’s not. His name is Benny Gantz. He served as IDF Chief of the General Staff for four years from 2011-2015.

He is Jewish Israeli officer.

True! Benny Gantz is absolutely Israeli and Jewish. Though he left the IDF in February 2015, he is still considered a reserve officer.

His rank is brigadier.

Gantz has not been a brigadier general since 1998, when he rose to the rank to become the commander of the Etgar Division, a now defunct reservist unit that was a part of the IDF’s Northern Command until 2004.

His military number is Re34356578765Az231434.

No, it’s not. This is the wrong format for Israeli army ID numbers. Every soldier does indeed get a “personal number,” as it’s called, but these are quite a bit shorter than the 21-digit alphanumeric sequence listed. IDF personal numbers are a mere seven digits long.

He was captured by the Iraqi popular Army.

The Iraqi Popular Army (note the capitalization) dissolved in 1991 with the First Gulf War; however, perhaps the creator of this graphic was referring to some other military force that is currently all the rage among the residents of Iraq.

He is commanding ISIS terrorists.

Benny Gantz is currently the chairman of a high-tech company called “Fifth Dimension,” which is developing advanced artificial intelligence. Just last month he gave a speech in Washington, DC about Israeli national security.

Some other websites carrying this story, including the official Iranian government mouthpiece Fars News, allege that the Israeli officer in question was a former Golani Brigade colonel, and not a brigadier general.

Gantz, however, did not serve in Golani. A quick search through former commanders of the Golani Brigade shows that none of them is named Yussi Elon Shahak; almost all of the recent colonels from the infantry brigade are either still in the army in high-ranking and highly public capacities or are in equally public positions in civilian society. Or else they are well into their seventies and not likely to be dropping into war zones.

This information is confirmed by the Foreign Affairs High Representative at the USA Parliament.

The United States has a congress, not a parliament. A parliament is by definition the leading governing body of a country, above the executive branch. In Israel, for example, the Knesset is a parliament, above the powers of the president. A congress, meanwhile, is on the same level as the executive. The two have distinct and separate legal powers.

The United States government also does not have a position of Foreign Affairs High Representative, though the European Union does. Its high representative is currently Frederica Mogherini.

And confirmed by the Secretary General of the “DESI” European Department for Security and Information

The European Department for Security and Information is not an official body in any European country. Its raison d’être appears to be the propagation of fantastic conspiracy theories.

And confirmed by Ambassador Dr. Haissam Bou-Said.

This man’s name can only be found on websites of the lowest repute. He has claimed to be an ambassador to multiple countries, including Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Lebanon. His alleged medical degree comes from the Open International University of Alternative Medicine, a diploma mill, which for a small fee awards degrees for passing a single examination.

Now think…Why is Israel behind IS?

Considering the recent release of two videos by the Islamic State — one which applauded the stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians, police and soldiers and another, directly threatening Israelis that once IS terrorists begin operating in Israel “not one Jew will be left alive” — it is more than likely that Israel is not in fact behind the terror organization.

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