The Shin Bet is reportedly trying to entice Palestinian medical students to join the Israeli intelligence service by promising entry permits to al-Quds (Jerusalem).
The spying agency allegedly tried to blackmail two fifth-year medical students at al-Quds University who are pursuing internships in Palestinian university hospitals in the city, Israel’s English-language Haaretz newspaper said on its website on Wednesday.
A “Captain Biran” who introduced himself as the Shin Bet agent responsible for monitoring the university told the two to report on other students and their activities as a condition for renewing their entry permits, Haaretz reported.
The medical faculty of the university — located in the village of Abu Dis near East al-Quds — is affiliated with some of the oldest and largest hospitals in al-Quds and have up to 200 students of medicine, nursing and physiotherapy who need entry permits to enter the occupied city.
Hospital officials file requests to authorities of the al-Quds Civil Administration in the settlement of Beit El who at the discretion of the Shin Bet issue permits valid for between three and six months.
One of the two Palestinians in question encountered the recruitment request in mid 2009 after his entry permit into al-Quds was not renewed following his pilgrimage to Mecca. He was then told by the Civil Administration to meet with a Shin Bet coordinator.
In his meeting with Biran, the agent allegedly threatened the student that the Shin Bet could “interfere with your ability to finish your studies,” but that if he acceded to “help” him monitor other students, the agency would even grant him entry to the prestigious Hadassah medical center.
The other student met Biran in March, days after his entry permit to al-Quds was confiscated at Zeitim checkpoint outside East al-Quds. He was told that his entry permit had been seized because “some illegal things were found in your bag” and was similarly instructed to report to the Shin Bet about students traveling abroad.
The Palestinian students said they were effectively prevented from choosing a residency specialty and continuing their medical training when they both refused to spy on their peers.
The Shin Bet said in response that the entry permits for the two students had not been renewed for security reasons, but did not comment on the blackmail claims.
RAMALLAH — Hundreds of armed Israeli settlers, without prior warning, raided the villages of East Farm and Sinjil, east of Ramallah city, which caused fierce clashes at noon Tuesday.
Eyewitnesses said that hand-to-hand fighting erupted between the Palestinian villagers and the Israeli assailants who used their guns in the attack.
The settler-related incidents are rarely reported in these two villages and such sudden barbaric attack means that the settlers expanded their area of violence against the Palestinians.
The Israeli Aasor military post, which is the largest base in the West Bank and located near the East Farm village, was the staging point from which the settlers waged their attack.
In another incident in Nablus, other violent Israeli settlers appropriated Palestinians’ agricultural lands in the village of Jalud and forcibly prevented the owners from entering them before bulldozing them.
Local sources in the village said that the settlers bulldozed 30 dunums of plowed fields as a prelude to seizing them.
In another context, Al-Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies and human rights said that the Israeli occupation forces stormed and ransacked the home of prisoner Ayed Dodeen in the village of Dura in Al-Khalil causing panic and terror among the children.
Director of the center Fouad Al-Khafsh explained that in conjunction with the election of Dodeen as the head of Hamas detainees in the Negev prison, a large military force barbarically broke into his house terrorizing his wife and children and destroying everything in its way without giving any reason for the raid.
Khafsh said that Dodeen, 43, is a father of six children and has spent 13 years in administrative detention except for few months he spent with his family.
His wife appealed through a telephone call with Al-Ahrar center to international human rights organizations to swiftly intervene to get her husband released from Israeli jails.
Dr. Graeme MacQueen | May 1, 2010
Investigators dismiss US claims that Faisal Shahzad was working under direction of Pakistani Taliban
Pakistani investigators have found no evidence to support American claims that the failed Times Square bomber was working under the direction of the Pakistani Taliban, the Guardian has learned.
Senior officials in Washington – including the attorney general, Eric Holder, and John Brennan, the White House’s special adviser on counterterrorism – have said that the suspected bomber, Faisal Shahzad, conspired with militants in Pakistan, but a Pakistani security official with knowledge of the investigation said: “No Taliban link has come to the fore.”
The interrogation of Muhammad Rehan, a friend of Shahzad who was arrested last week outside a radical mosque in Karachi, has not yielded a link to the Pakistani Taliban or any other militant group. Rehan, a member of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad extremist group, remains the only suspected link found between 30-year-old Shahzad and the militant underworld in Pakistan.
Officials in Islamabad are perplexed and angry at statements from Washington about Shahzad’s links with the Pakistani Taliban, believing that the US is exploiting the issue to apply pressure for new military offensives in Pakistan’s tribal border area with Afghanistan, in the north Waziristan region.
“We have not found any involvement of Rehan [in the New York attempted bombing]. He didn’t introduce Faisal Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban,” said the security official.
“There are no roots to this case, so how can we trace something back?”
An FBI team which flew into Pakistan after the arrest of Shahzad was allowed to question Rehan on Sunday. More than a dozen other suspects taken into custody in Karachi have been released, but the investigation is continuing, so new leads could yet emerge.
Rehan’s arrest as he left prayers at the Karachi mosque was seized on by the international press as evidence of Shahzad’s involvement with Pakistani militant groups. It emerged that Rehan and Shahzad had last year taken a 1,000-mile road trip from Karachi to Peshawar, on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal area, raising further suspicions.
However, Pakistani investigators have found that Rehan was not a very active member of JEM, a violent group primarily against India and with no history of global activities. He knew Shahzad because he is related to Shahzad’s wife… Full article
ISTANBUL — Turkish premier Recep Erdogan said that his country is working alongside other countries to break the Israeli unjust siege on the Gaza Strip and to rebuild what was destroyed during the war. This came during his meeting on Monday in Istanbul with a delegation representing a number of European civil organizations including the European campaign to end the siege and the Palestinian return center. Erdogan stressed that breaking the blockade on Gaza is a priority for him and Turkey and that he is working with other countries to end it. The delegation discussed with the premier the avenues to end the siege and the importance of the Turkish role in the region.
The two parties also talked about Israel’s new membership in the organization for economic cooperation and development and the need to oblige Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza and respect human rights as a precondition for accession into any international body.
Director of the Palestinian return center Majid Al-Zeer criticized the international community for rewarding Israel for committing massacres and crimes against humanity with allowing it to join international organizations without having to meet the minimum human rights commitments. Zeer also called for more European parliamentary efforts to isolate Israel internationally until it ends its unjust siege on Gaza and stop all its crimes against Palestinians, asserting that any attempt to strengthen the position of Israel internationally would encourage it to commit more crimes and violations.
In the same context, MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee against the siege, hailed the Turkish premier for his strenuous efforts to break the blockade on Gaza and alleviate the suffering of its people. Khudari said in a press release on Tuesday that Turkey has always adopted admirable positions toward the Palestinian people, especially its ongoing effort to end the blockade and support poor families, graduates, and the unemployed. The lawmaker denounced Israel for arresting Turkish human rights activists who provide humanitarian services for the Palestinians in the West Bank.
Under the coordination of the Free Gaza Movement, numerous human rights organizations, including the Turkish relief foundation (IHH), the Perdana global peace organization from Malaysia, the European campaign to end the siege, and European institutions will send later this month three cargo ships loaded with reconstruction, medical and educational supplies. At least five passenger boats with over 600 people on board will accompany the cargo ships. These passengers include members of parliament from around the world, UN officials, human rights and trade union activists, as well as journalists who will document the largest coordinated effort aimed to confront Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza.
Israeli sources reported that Nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, was sentenced, Tuesday, to three months imprisonment after he refused to perform community service in West Jerusalem, fearing harassment from fundamentalist Jews.
Yet, the Israeli Prosecution argued further than that and claimed that Vanunu can still harm the state’s security.
The Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem declined Vanunu’s request to perform community service in occupied East Jerusalem, and the court insisted that his service should be in West Jerusalem.
Israel’s Ynet News reported that attorney Dan Eldad of the state prosecution told its reporter that the court tried all venues to prevent sending Vanunu to jail “but had no other choice”.
His new case at the court brought back claims made against him 24 years ago, when he was first arrested for revealing information about Israel’s Nuclear Reactor where he worked.
Eldad told the Ynet that Vanunu knows information that, if revealed, could “jeopardize Israel’s security”. He also claimed that Vanunu “repeatedly violated the terms of his parole”, as he spoke to the media and other groups “in violations to the terms of his release”.
Vanunu was sentenced to six months imprisonment in 2008 for holding a meeting with foreign nationals, as this issue was seen as a breach of the conditions of his parole.
Vanunu, who converted to Christianity after he was released, served 18 years behind bars, including 11 years in solitary confinement as Israel did not want him to communicate with other prisoners. Upon his release, he was ordered to remain in Israel, and was ordered not to enter the Palestinian territories or talk to the press.
Vanunu was born in Marrakesh – Morocco on October 14 1954. He declared his opposition to Israel’s nuclear program and to all sorts of Weapons of Mass destruction.
After talking to British press in 1986 about Israel’s Demona reactor where he worked, the Israeli security drugged and kidnapped him after he was lured to Italy by a spy working for the Mossad.
He was then secretly sent to Israel and an Israeli court quickly convicted him in a closed session. Vanunu has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Last Thursday, in the early hours of the morning, a Palestinian community leader’s home was raided by Israeli security forces. In front of his family, the wanted man was hauled off to detention without access to a lawyer, while his home and offices were ransacked and property confiscated.
While this sounds like an all-too typical occurrence in West Bank villages such as Bilin and Beit Ummar, in fact, the target in question this time was Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and head of the internationally-renowned nongovernmental organization network Ittijah.
After being snatched last week, Makhoul’s detention was subject to a court-enforced gagging order, preventing the Israeli media from even reporting that it had happened. This ban was finally lifted yesterday, as Israeli newspapers were being forced to report on angry protests by Palestinians in Israel without explaining the specific provocation.
It turned out that another Palestinian citizen of Israel, Balad party activist Omar Said, had also been arrested, and interrogated by the Shin Bet since the end of April. Now, both Makhoul and Said are to be charged with espionage and “contact with a foreign agent” — namely, Hizballah. On Monday night, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Haifa to protest against what they call “an escalating campaign to crack down on Israel’s Palestinian citizens.”
The gagging order recalls the Anat Kam case, where for several months it was forbidden to report that the former soldier was under house arrest and being investigated by the Shin Bet for “leaking classified military information.” The facts about Kam were first circulated by bloggers and campaigners, something repeated in Makhoul’s case (including the Facebook group “Free Ameer Makhoul & Omar Said“).
The night raids, interrogations and charges are not isolated incidents — indeed, Makhoul had been prevented from leaving the country in April, according to an order by the interior minister. Days later, a West Bank Palestinian nonviolent resistance organizer, Iyad Burnat, was also banned from traveling at the Jordan crossing, en route to, among other things, a conference on the Geneva conventions.
Several examples now point to an uncomfortable reality for the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East”: practices that have long been routine in the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are being used in Israel to suppress dissent and limit civil liberties. The green line is increasingly blurry.
There are the Sheikh Jarrah protests, where marches and rallies against the eviction of Palestinians from their homes have been targeted by the police, including the arrest of an organizer at his home — only for him to be released without charge and no evidence presented. Then there is the trend towards repressive legislation, with the so-called nakba law making its way through the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, that will ban state funding for any group that marks the expulsions of Palestinians in 1948.
Two weeks ago, a new bill was proposed by more than a dozen cross-party members of Knesset (MK), which would outlaw any organization “if there is a reasonable basis to conclude that the organization is providing information to foreign bodies or is involved in lawsuits abroad against senior officials in the government in Israel and/or officers in the Israeli army regarding war crimes.” Adalah, one of the groups specifically targeted, stated: “Only a state that commits prohibited acts would be interested in such legislation.”
Arab members of the Knesset are also increasingly under attack. MKs Mohammad Barakeh and Said Naffaa have had their parliamentary immunity stripped so that they can face criminal proceedings, with the chair of the committee which deals with immunity issues reported to have suggested that “a serious decision” would have to be made as to “whether or not these parties can continue to sit in the Israeli parliament, even while they operate against the country.”
More recently, a trip by Arab MKs to Libya has been greeted by attempts to “strip the members of their immunity,” with MK Michael Ben-Ari declaring “an historic opportunity to abolish once and for all the immunity and rights of Knesset members who hate Israel and denigrate the state.”
At the heart of this and other cases against Palestinian citizens is contact with the wider Arab world. According to Adalah, the “charge of meeting a foreign agent” is so broad that it criminalizes “almost any Arab who establishes legitimate relations with political and social activists in the Arab world.”
So why is this happening now? First, it is the latest manifestation of a deteriorating atmosphere in Israel, with political dissent and human rights groups under attack. Depressingly, there is considerable support among Jewish Israelis for this kind of crackdown: one poll found that 57.6 percent of respondents “agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely.”
Second, there is also a specific focus on Israel’s Palestinian minority. Three years ago, it was revealed that the Shin Bet intended to “thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law.” This is no doubt in part a response to the kind of developments Makhoul talked about in January when I met him in Haifa: how “this generation” of Palestinian citizens “has grown up with October 2000 [when Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Israel]. The green line disappeared — in terms of thinking, behavior, and consciousness.”
Hussein Abu Hussein, the lawyer for both Makhoul and Said, stressed the role of someone like Makhoul in being a prominent advocate internationally for “the need for accountability” – in other words, “the state has enough reasons to stop this voice.” Mohammad Zeidan, of the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), says that the arrests are “clearly political.” He believes that for some in Israel, the work being done by nongovernmental organizations and Arab parties on the international level is “crossing a red line” — “they want to remind us that this is not a democracy.”
Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer whose articles have appeared in the Guardian’s “Comment is free,” where this essay was originally published, The Electronic Intifada, the New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide (Pluto Press). He can be contacted at ben A T benwhite D O T org D O T uk.