Identity of ‘brutal’ IDF interrogator revealed
Doron Zahavi, hitherto known as ‘Captain George,’ was accused of sodomy by a Lebanese operative believed to be the last to see Ron Arad alive
Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
A gag order concealing the identity of the Israeli military interrogator who was accused by a Lebanese militia commander of sodomizing him was lifted late Monday, revealing the man hitherto known as “Captain George” to be former military intelligence official Doron Zahavi.
Zahavi, a 53-year-old married father of three, was put in charge of Mustafa Dirani’s interrogation while serving as a military interrogator in the IDF’s elite 504 intelligence unit.
Dirani, a commander of the Amal Shiite Lebanese movement and the last man known to have held missing Israeli Air Force pilot Ron Arad, was abducted by Israeli Sayeret Matkal commandos in May 1994.
Though the army knew that he no longer held Arad, the hope that he possessed vital information that could put Israel back on the missing airman’s trail led to a drawn-out investigation that culminated in 2004 with Dirani’s release in a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah.
Dirani accused one of his Israeli interrogators, known only as “Captain George,” of employing brutal methods, including sodomy, during the investigation against him, which reportedly did not bring to light any new information regarding Arad’s whereabouts.
Zahavi, who was discharged from the army in 2002 and currently serves as a deputy commander in Israel’s police force and an adviser on Arab affairs to the city of Jerusalem, asked a court to lift the gag order obscuring his identity after he decided to be interviewed on Channel 2’s Uvda (“Fact”) program and present his side of the story. On Monday, the Tel Aviv District Court acceded to his request.
“I’m tired of hiding behind the pseudonym ‘Captain George,’” Zahavi said on the program, which has yet to be aired. “I’ve come to a realization that the public needs to see my face, hear my natural voice and understand that I was a man on a mission. And my mission was mandated by the state.”
Zahavi said that an interrogator’s first priority is to interrogate his charge. If his charge goes to sleep at night “with the understanding that he is allowed to keep quiet,” the interrogator won’t be able to draw information out of him.
“He must understand that you determine the rules of the game,” Zahavi said. “If you are given permission to hit him, the slap you give him will be game-changing.”
The ex-interrogator, who served in military intelligence for over 20 years in a variety of roles, said he was given nearly sole responsibility for Dirani’s investigation.
“Everyone preferred to distance themselves from it,” he said.
Dirani was released in 2004 in a prisoner deal with Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah in exchange for kidnapped Israeli businessman Elhanan Tenenbaum.
While unit 504 received an award of distinction this year, it has a controversial reputation within the defense establishment.
Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.