On April 24,, a Palestine solidarity activist and co-coordinator of last year’s Russell Tribunal on Palestine, was stopped at Ben Gurion International Airport by the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service, and subjected to four hours of interrogation and nearly a full day’s detention before being deported back Belgium. His “crime”? To have visited Israel while a supporter of Palestinian rights. Here, he describes what took place.
“WRITE YOUR e-mail addresses, your mobile phone number, your house phone, the name of your father and the name of your grandfather on this piece of paper” were the first words the Israeli security officer told me when I sat in front of him in his office.
As anyone involved in solidarity work with the Palestinian people will tell you, landing at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and having-to-face questioning by the authorities is never an exciting prospect. In the last couple of months, a few activists have been turned back. Due to my work with the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, I knew even before I arrived in front of the immigration desk that I was a likely target for hard questioning from the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service.
I was coming to Palestine to visit old friends and also to take part in a conference on political prisoners organized in Ramallah as part of my role as coordinator for the Russell Tribunal. Due to the fact that Israel controls all the West Bank borders of Palestine, one has to go through Israeli officials in order to reach the occupied Palestinian territories. (Now, only Gaza–via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt–is accessible without too much Israeli interference.)
So I wrote the requested details on the piece of paper in front of me–except that I put an alternative e-mail address, being fully aware that what the officer in front of me wanted was information about other people involved with solidarity work in Palestine and abroad. Mapping networks has in recent years been vigorously pursued by Israel.
The line of questioning, at first, stuck to my travel plans. Six days in Tel Aviv without a travel guide was too much to bear for the man. He then quickly moved to my personal details and asked me to log on to my e-mail account, which is apparently less illegal (in Israel anyway) than I thought (see here and here).
He started to get upset when my inbox opened and there was no message in it. He told me repeatedly, “I know you have another e-mail address. Give it to me.” “I only have this one,” was the answer I stuck with throughout the whole process. I was taken to various offices throughout the whole interrogation process and spoke to a few people, who asked, again and again, the same questions.
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I HAD to wait for long periods between each interrogation. Palestine and political activity only were raised after about three hours of questioning. I was sort of relieved to hear the word because I knew deep down that the Shabak agent had known about my work on the Palestine issue from minute one. He even asked me at one point, “What will Google tell me if I search for your name?”
The goal, however, was somewhere else. The goal was to exhaust me into giving information about workmates, colleagues and various people I knew in Israel/Palestine. The exhaustion part worked. I was clearly on my knees at 4 a.m., having had no sleep for 24 hours and faced with several unfriendly people questioning me. But they never got what they really wanted–my e-mail account and its content. After four hours of questioning, the verdict came (there were five people in the room, including me, at this time): “You lied to me. So you won’t get in. You will now be deported back. Your flight is in 23 hours.”
Still, right after telling me this, the officer tried one more time, telling me that he was my friend, here to help me and that if I collaborated he might change his decision. I was at this point taken to a room where I was body searched thoroughly (by a young man with an apologetic look on his face), and where my carry-on bag (the only piece of luggage I brought) was fully checked, in and out, approximately three times, including passing through X-rays.
At roughly 4.30 a.m., I was put in a van, alone, and driven to my next destination: the deportation center. Why we stopped, for about 10 minutes, in between airplanes on the tarmac is a question that remains unanswered. He told me before he dropped me off that I would be deported in 23 hours. “You’re lucky,” said the man. “Some people have to wait for a week here.”
The next 23 hours were the longest in my life. With no means to know what the time was, it took forever. My cellmate, a 21-year-old Ukrainian man who spoke no English at all and came to Israel in search of a better future, and I were allowed two 10-minute breaks outside, under surveillance of course, and managed to catch a glimpse of the palm trees and the sunshine that we were at this point longing for. We were then joined by two older Ukrainians as well as a Chinese man.
What I did not know at the time was that a friend in Israel, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, had contacted the office of Israeli lawyer Gabi Lasky to ask her to try to get more information regarding my whereabouts–did I enter? Was I being deported? Detained? They did not want to say anything. It took many hours for Gabi to get confirmation that I was in the detention center at the airport. Over the phone, Gabi later told me that the authorities are making life harder and harder for lawyers and that they are being more difficult every day.
I was put back on a plane, escorted by an immigration official, my bag full of security tags, paraded in front of the other passengers, at 1 a.m. the next day. The fact that the main air hostess was Arab and smiled at me when the immigration official handed her my passport felt, I have to say, very good at the time.
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WHILE THIS was an extremely unpleasant experience, it is crucial to put things into a broader context. The pressure, fear and humiliation I often felt during this time–the scare tactics used by the Shabak (“Tell me the truth, or you’re going to jail right now”) and the short time spent in jail–are nothing compared to what the Palestinians are going through every day. Right now, more than 4,500 Palestinian political prisoners are rotting in Israeli jails. A few of them have started “hunger strikes” and are slowly dying, while the “international community” (understood as the Western states, the European Union and the United Nations) is doing nothing to come to their rescue.
It is crucial to keep highlighting this. The inconvenience felt by a privileged international citizen should not overshadow the reason at the core of his activism: To acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to resist their far more powerful occupier and to do so until the systematic and institutionalized apartheid system put in place by Israel ends; to expose the active role played by third parties (states, institutions and corporations) in supporting Israel’s occupation; and to highlight Israel’s impunity regarding countless resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council that have been, so far, never followed by any concrete action.
It is our role as global actors involved in a global struggle for justice, freedom and dignity for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, political orientations, or countries of origin, to show solidarity with those people stripped of their rights. The breaking down of human civilization in sub-categories of human beings (privileges come depending on where you were born, while this act was simply an accident of nature), the slow crumbling of any “common decency,” solidarity and compassion showed by people towards others, can be reversed and is not ineluctable.
This can only happen if we all unite towards this goal.
There is a new documentary movie about Israel, called The Gatekeepers. It is directed by Dror Moreh, and features interviews with all the former leaders of the Shin Bet, the country’s internal security organization. The Shin Bet is assigned the job of preventing Palestinian retaliatory attacks on Israel and, as described by Moreh, the film “is the story of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country.” Along the way it touches on such particular topics as targeted assassinations, the use of torture, and “collateral damage.”
The Gatekeepers has garnered a lot of acclaim. It has played at film festivals in Jerusalem, Amsterdam, New York, Toronto and Venice, and elsewhere. It has received critical acclaim from critics and won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary Award. It has been nominated for an Oscar.
In order to promote the The Gatekeepers, Moreh has been doing interviews and recently appeared on CNN with Christiane Amanpour. He made a number of points, as did the Shin Bet leaders in the clips featured during the interview. I shall review and critique some of these below.
Moreh says that “if there is someone who understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s these guys” (the Shin Bet leaders). Actually, this not necessarily true. One might more accurately claim that these men, who led Israel’s most secretive government institution, were and are so deeply buried inside their country’s security dilemma that they see it in a distorted fashion (with only occasional glimmers of clarity). For instance:
– Avraham Shalom (head of the Shin Bet from 1981-1986), tells us that “Israel lost touch with how to coexist with the Palestinians as far back as the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967….When the country started doubling down on terrorism.” But is this really the case? One might more accurately assert that Israel had no touch to lose. Most of its Jewish population and leadership has never had any interest in coexistence with Palestinians in any equalitarian and humane sense of the term. The interviewed security chiefs focus on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza because they are the ones who offered the most resistance to conquest. But what of the 20% of the population of Israel who are also Palestinian and who actually lived under martial law until 1966? You may call the discriminatory regime under which these people live “coexistence,” but it is the coexistence of superior over the inferior secured largely by intimidation.
–Moreh also insists that it is the “Jewish extremists inside Israel” who have been the “major impediment” to resolving issues between Israel and the Palestinians. The film looks at the cabal of religious fanatics, who in 1980, planned to blow up the sacred Muslim shrine of the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, as well as the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin in 1995. Yet, as dangerous as are Israel’s right-wing extremists and settler fanatics, focusing exclusively on them obscures the full history of the occupation.
By the time Menachem Begin and Israel’s right-wing fanatics took power in 1977, the process of occupation and ethnic cleansing was well under way. It had been initiated, both against the Arab Israelis from 1948 onward, and against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967, by the so-called Israeli Left: the Labor Party and such people as David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, and Yitzak Rabin himself. Amongst the Israeli leadership, there are no clean hands.
– Finally, Dror Moreh repeatedly pushes another message: “a central theme of the documentary is the idea that Israel has incredible tactics, but it lacks long-term strategy…if [security] operations do not support a move toward a peace settlement, then they are meaningless.”
Again, this erroneous assessment is a function of being so deeply situated inside of a problem that you cannot perceive it clearly. Moreh assumes that achieving peace with the Palestinians is the only “long-term strategy” Israel ought to have and, in its absence, Israel pursues no strategy at all. However, an objective assessment of Israeli history tells us that there has been another strategy in place. The Zionist leaders have in fact always had a long-term strategy to avoid any meaningful peace settlement, so as to allow: 1. occupation of all “Eretz Israel,” 2. the ethnic cleansing or cantonization of the native population, and 3. settlement of the cleansed territory with Jews.
It is because of this same naivete that Moreh confesses himself “shocked” when Shalom compares the occupation of the Palestinian territories to “Germany’s occupation of Europe” which, of course, had its own goal of ethnic cleansing. It is to Shalom’s credit that he made the statement on camera, and to Morah’s credit that he kept the statement in the final version of the film. But then Morah spoils this act of bravery when he tells Amanpour, “Only Jews can say these kind of words. And only they can have the justification to speak as they spoke in the film.” Well, I can think of one other group who has every right to make the same comparison Shalom makes– the Palestinians.
The Retired Official’s Confession Syndrome
For all its shortcomings, the film is a step forward in the on-going effort to deny the idealized Zionist storyline a monopoly in the West. Indeed, that The Gatekeepers was made at all, and was received so positively at major film venues, is a sign that this wholly skewed Israeli storyline is finally breaking down. Certainly, this deconstruction still has a long way to go, but the process is picking up speed.
On the other hand there is something troubling about the belated nature of the insights given in these interviews. They are examples of what I like to call the “retired official’s confession syndrome.” Quite often those who, in retirement, make these sorts of confessions were well aware of the muddled or murderous situation while in office. But, apparently, they lacked the courage to publicize it at the time. It would have meant risking their careers, their popularity, and perhaps relations with their friends and family. One is reminded of the fate of Professor Ilan Pappe, who did stand up and live his principles, and eventually lost his position at Haifa University and was, in the end, forced into exile. For most, however, including these leaders of the Shin Bet, their understanding was clouded and their actions skewed by a time-honored, but deeply flawed, notion of “duty” to carry on like good soldiers.
To date, Israel’s leaders and Zionist supporters have shown an amazing capacity to ignore all criticism. The newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has let it be known that he has no intention of watching The Gatekeepers. It is also questionable how many of those who voted for him, or other right-wing politicians, will bother to seek the documentary out.
Israel’s government has recently made the decision to ignore the country’s obligations under the United Nations Human Rights Charter, a decision signaled by its representatives refusal to show up for the country’s “universal periodic review” before the Human Rights Council. Nor is there any sign that any new right-wing led government coalition will stop the ethnic cleansing and illegal colonial re-population of East Jerusalem.
The only reasonable conclusion one can come to is that it will take increasing outside pressure on Israel, in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, to convince a sufficient number of that country’s Jewish population that they must change their ways. To not change is to acquiesce in Israel’s evolving status as a pariah state. The irony of it all is that that status will have little to do with their being Jewish. Yet, It will have everything to do with the fact that, in this day and age, even the Jews have no right to maintain a racist state.
The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected two petitions for an order to the Attorney General to carry out a criminal investigation into allegations of torture and mistreatment by the Shin Bet security agency.
A number of human rights organisations submitted the petitions last year in protest at the work of the official observer of detainees’ complaints against Shin Bet and the Public Prosecutor regarding the opening of criminal investigations into the internal security agency. Some of the detainees alleging mistreatment were signatories to the petitions.
The Popular Committee against Torture submitted a report claiming that there were 598 complaints about torture and mistreatment against the agency between 2001 and 2008. The country’s Public Prosecutor has not ordered an investigation into any of them.
Summing up, Supreme Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein said “Shin Bet is neither above the law nor fortified against criticism, but the nature of its work has to be considered.” In addition, Judge Rubinstein said that he had to consider the “political and ideological background of absurd complaints.” The Judge pointed out that opening an investigation is very important, but it is necessary not to be arbitrary if there is clear evidence.
The Director of Israel’s Public Committee against Torture, Dr Ishai Menuhin, said that the Court supported the central claim of the petitioners that members of Shin Bet cannot investigate their own colleagues. He added that the Court’s decision contradicts international law which considers it to be mandatory to open an immediate and independent investigation into allegations of torture.
- HRO criticize Israeli Supreme Court over Palestinian prisoners torture (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Knesset Exempts Shin Bet from Recording Interrogations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UN Committee against Torture releases list of issues for Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
While US politicians boast strong ties with Israel, CIA officials suggest Israel is one of its biggest counter-intelligence threats. With spyware that rivals that of American agencies, it is extremely difficult to detect the extent of its spying.
In a CIA ranking of the world’s intelligence agencies and their willingness to help the US fight the War on Terror, Israel fell below Libya.
Speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, current and former US intelligence officials blame Israel for incidents that indicate attempts to acquire secret information.
One CIA station chief noticed that the communication equipment that he used to contact CIA headquarters from Israel had been tampered with, even though it was in a locked box. Another CIA officer based in Israel had his home broken into. While nothing was stolen, the officer noticed his food had been rearranged.
In addition to home intrusions and equipment tampering, CIA officials also suspect that a leak by Israel led to the capture and presumed death of an important US agent inside Syria’s chemical weapons program.
The US suspects that Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad, and its FBI equivalent, the Shin Bet, have been trying to steal American counter-intelligence secrets. In the CIA’s Near East Division, which oversees spying across the Middle East, Israel is considered the main counter-intelligence threat. This suggests that counter-intelligence secrets are thus safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.
However, the distrust has been ongoing for decades. Several years ago, two female CIA officers were fired for having unreported contact with Israelis. One of the women admitted to a relationship with a member of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who introduced her to a person that worked for Shin Bet.
In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, a US Navy civilian intelligence analyst, was convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2006, a former Defense Department analyst received 12 years in prison for sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat and two pro-Israel lobbyists.
Moreover, Israel’s high-tech spyware and services rival American agencies, making it more difficult to detect the extent of any spying. With advanced equipment and full access to the highest levels of the US government in military and intelligence services, Israel has a large capacity to monitor its ally.
This sometimes poses problems for US foreign affairs. Even though the US and Israel have a tight friendship, the two countries have sometimes conflicting interests abroad, especially regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Furthermore, America’s relationship with Israel can also affect the way Muslim countries perceive the US.
“It’s a complicated relationship,” said Joseph Wippl, head of the CIA’s office of congressional affairs. “They have their interests. We have our interests. For the US, it’s a balancing act.”
But while the two countries are strong allies, Washington continues to distrust Israel with sensitive national security information. Its most trusted allies are Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Together, the “Five Eyes” agree not to spy on one another, while sharing sensitive information.
The relationship between the US and Israel is known as “Friends on Friends,” which comes from the phrase, “Friends don’t spy on friends.” But that pact has repeatedly been broken, and CIA officials continue to distrust Israel with each additional case of spying.
But as intrusions into the homes of US agents in Israel continue and instances of spying increase the distrust, the US continues to give vast amounts of money to Israel, while the president trumpets an “unshakeable commitment to Israel.” On Friday, President Obama promised Israel an additional $70 million in military aid to help Israel produce a short-range rocket defense system.
Ynet reports (Hebrew) that the Shin Bet detained a 26 year-old Irish woman at Dublin airport when she arrived three hours prior to flight time (in order to go through the security check). She’d hoped to fly to Israel for a romantic reunion with her Israeli boyfriend, Alon, who she’d met in South America. It was to be her first visit to Israel.
When the Shin Bet security interrogators asked her why she was flying to Israel and she told them, they actually called her boyfriend in Israel to confirm this. They asked personal questions about the nature of their relationship. But that wasn’t enough.
At first, she was told she could board the flight, but without any personal electronic devices. Then, she was told she couldn’t bring any luggage at all. When offered this option, after the decidedly chilly reception she’d experienced from the Israeli security apparatus, she said: thanks, but no thanks. The distinct impression she got from her inquisitors was that the only reason she was treated this way is that she isn’t Jewish.
Keep in mind that her boyfriend is a former IDF officer who served his country and understood the need for security precautions.
During her trip to South America, she’d met many Israelis who told her about the bad rap that Israel got in the world media. They assured her that the real Israel was something else entirely.
The Shabak claims that it told the woman she could board the flight without her baggage and could send it separately via London. She denies they made this offer. They also claim that they couldn’t allow her luggage aboard because it required scanning by a special device which local airport security didn’t make available to them. I’d venture to say that if any Irish journalist picks up on this story and queries officials at Dublin airport they’ll find this is a crock. But the way the Shin Bet works, it only has to deflect criticism for a day or so for the embarrassing incident to be forgotten (or so they expect). That’s why they often don’t even make a pretence of having a credible story.
Alon’s girl still wants to reunite with him–anywhere but Israel. So think about this, if Alon and his girlfriend someday marry, where do you think they’ll live? Anywhere but Israel. But that won’t bother the racist thugs who control entry to the ‘Jewish homeland.’ They prefer their guests and betrothed to be Jewish. Non-Jews need not apply. The needs of the national security state trump love and romance.
There are two lessons to be learned from this story. First, don’t fly to Israel on an Israeli airline. Second, if I were Irish authorities I’d demand the head of whoever was responsible for this mess. In South Africa, when a flyer was abused racially, the authorities threatened to ban the airline from flying to South Africa. That got Israel’s attention.
Since I published this story, Maan reporter George Hale told me he received the exact same treatment. He was told on two separate occasions that he could only fly without luggage (that’s besides the regular strip searches). The Shin Bet official told him he could retrieve it “the next time you’re in Zurich.” That didn’t sit too well with George since it was everything he needed to practice his profession.
When he arrived at Ben Gurion he filed a complaint with the Press Office and the Shin Bet relented and returned his effects (which included all his electronic reporting gear). The Irish lass’ story is, unfortunately, not unique.
- Shin Bet Goes on Palestinian Arrest Spree (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Defending Privacy at the Israeli Border: Information for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Knesset Exempts Shin Bet from Recording Interrogations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Supreme Court Rubber Stamps Shin Bet Impunity (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Shin Bet Crackdown on Israeli Arab Unrest in Nazareth, Golan (richardsilverstein.com)
The Shin Bet appears to have gone on a tear in arresting Israeli Palestinians over the past few weeks. There are now at least four who’ve been arrested, the last three under gag. I reported on the first arrest, of Dr. Eyad Jawhari of Majdal Shams earlier this month. He is still imprisoned at Kishon prison after being moved from there to Shikma and back again. Though he was arrested at the end of June, the security services have refused to allow him to consult either with his attorney or to speak with his family. He has been incommunicado for three weeks, standard operating procedure for the Israeli secret police. Though there was an initial gag concerning his arrest, shortly after I broke the story the Shin Bet partially removed the gag. Now they may report the detainee’s name, though there is no official word on the charges against him.
In the short space of the past few days, three more Israeli Palestinians have been secretly detained. They are:
Abdul Basset Zo’abi of northern Israel (no further information known as of this time)
Salman Hassan Safadi: his arrest reported by the Golani Arabic language news service, Baladee, which notes that the Shin Bet “turned his house upside down” and confiscated mobile phones & computers. Like Jawhari, I’ve confirmed he is a resident of Majdal Shams, though neither Jawhari’s lawyer or family know if there is any connection between the two arrests.
Musa Khatib, a resident of the divided (Lebanese-Israeli) village of Ghajar, whose residents are largely Alawite, the same Muslim sect as Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad. He is currently in Shikma Prison, outside Ashkelon.
Though I do not know the charges against these individuals, the fact that they were arrested by the Shin Bet under gag indicates a strong likelihood they were arrested on security charges. This, of course doesn’t mean they endangered the security of Israel. Far more likely they were engaged in political or nationalist activism, which is viewed as subversion by Israeli authorities.
Compare this treatment to that accorded to Jack Teitel, a Jewish settler terrorist who bombed other Israeli Jews, Christians and Palestinians, killing a number and severely wounding others. He even murdered two Israeli policemen. Only recently, years after his killing spree began, did the court accept a plea bargain by which Teitel admitted killing two Palestinians, though the court still has not formally convicted him or even found him criminally liable. There appears to have been some struggle about whether to declare him insane and so be rid of a criminal trial (a tactic often used by the authorities to avoid sending Jewish terrorists to prison). At any rate, he’s still officially in possession of his faculties, and free.
Another example of this sort of laxity concerns Dor Oved, who repeatedly vandalized the offices of Peace Now, the home of Hagit Ofran and cars of her neighbors, and other public property. He e-mailed death threats and scrawled them in graffiti messages on the walls of building housing Peace Now and at Ofran’s home. After a new round of this nonsense, the police have finally arrested him and charged him with some of these acts. But he was first arrested last November and sent home to his parents, where he promptly reoffended by sending out the e mail death threats.
The worst thing about this story is that Oved’s name is under gag not because of any serious security danger, but because both his parents work for the security apparatus, he for the Shin Bet and she for the police. When a photographer took the father’s picture at the court house, he assaulted the photographer warning that she should know who he was. Despite the incorrigible nature of this Arab and Jew hater, his identity and that of his parents are still forbidden for Israelis to know (unless they read this blog).
So there you have it: four Israeli Palestinians about whom we know almost nothing, including what they’re charged with. They have had no contact with lawyers or family and their names are under gag so that no one can rally to their support. As opposed to Dor Oved, coddled by the State, afforded the finest lawyers, sent home by the court to his parents, where he promptly continued his campaign of hate. His identity is protected in order by an arbitrary use of power on the part of the security police. This is “democracy,” Israel-style.
- Shin Bet Arrests Israeli Druze at Golan Border, Holds Him Incommunicado Under Gag (richardsilverstein.com)
- Knesset Exempts Shin Bet from Recording Interrogations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel has a law that requires police and security officials to record their interrogations of suspects who are charged with crimes carrying a sentence of ten years or more. That sounds great, right? Just the way a democracy should work. But hold on. There’s a hole in the law big enough to drive a Mack truck through. Both the police and Shin Bet are exempt from this law as far as security detainees are concerned. In other words, in order to allow security personnel to use whatever means they wish, the Knesset permits them to have no recordings that might offer evidence of widely reported abuse and torture used against such prisoners.
The exemption was due to expire recently after it had initially been extended first for five years, then another four. But never fear, we won’t abandon our boys doing the dirty work on our behalf in the cells of Shabak. So the Knesset will extend the exemption for another three years, doing its duty on behalf of the secret police.
Here’s the reasoning (Hebrew) behind the exemption in all its fetid glory:
In the special circumstances of security investigations, which involve the fight against extremist, well-organized terror groups, documenting interrogations is liable to damage in a very real way the quality of security investigations, and thus the ability to deter terror threats.
Not a word about damaging the quality of Israeli democracy since it’s taken a back seat to security from almost day one of the existence of the State.
The Shin Bet chief of investigations, who was present at the Knesset deliberation, wove this nice fairy tale for the assembled solons:
Shin Bet investigations are overseen and documented from the beginning to the end [note he doesn't say how they're documented, in what form, etc.]. We’re not talking about damaging anyone’s human rights, but rather protecting our methods. The exemption is necessary so that our enemies don’t learn our investigative methods.
So get this, Shin Bet interrogations are the equivalent of work product and mustn’t be revealed because to do so would allow Israel’s enemies to learn how it ‘persuades’ prisoners to give it the information it demands. Presumably, that would enable terror groups to prepare their cadre for such interrogations in order to withstand them. Not a word about the possibility that such recordings would reveal the nasty quasi-criminal enterprise that the security agencies conduct on behalf of the State. Lest you think the previous sentence was hyperbolic, go back and read this post about a provoked prison riot which the prison security service put down with brutal force, ending with the murder of a prisoner who wasn’t even engaging in protest. Now, recall that the commander who oversaw this exercise wasn’t disciplined or even investigated. In fact, he was promoted for doing his job so well.
Israeli human rights NGOs dutifully raised their voices (Hebrew) in opposition. But they were drowned out by the swelling chorus of support for any and all methods used to beat confessions and information out of detainees. Here are some of their wise, but unheeded words:
The need for recording security interrogations is greater because of the need for certainty that a confession is valid and because of the critical importance of ensuring that the investigation was conducted properly, preventing the use of improper methods. Prisoner populations are the most likely to be exposed to the danger of degrading or inhumane conditions, including the use of physical or emotional violence up to and including outright torture. Recording interrogations can aid greatly in determining the credibility of complaints of improper acts. It can supply objective specific documentation regarding the conduct of an investigation, either supporting or refuting the charges of the detainees.
Like voices crying out in the wilderness. They speak but there is no one to hear. In fact, the existence of the NGOs, though an inconvenience for the authorities, allows them to tell the world: we are a democracy; look at how our NGOs freely criticize us; what more can you ask of us?
There are those who’ve questioned my contention here that security prisoners like Dirar Abusisi, Ameer Makhoul, Mustafa Dirani, and others have been tortured during their interrogations. They’ve done this despite the fact that defense lawyers have described in detail the sleep deprivation, loud noises, being tied to a chair for long periods, anal penetration, and worse. Now, I’ll throw it back in their face: if you’re confident there is no such abuse, protest the lack of documentation of the interrogations. If you don’t then you’re little more than a hypocrite because the video or audio tape would prove your claim. Without it, you have nothing, not a leg to stand on.
Any of you American’s out there reading this, don’t get any big ideas about how superior our legal system is to Israel’s (though given the horrid record of the Obama administration it’s hard to see how anyone would believe this). Remember the videotapes of brutal waterboarding by CIA inquisitors that were destroyed when word began to leak out that they existed? Remember Jose Rodriguez, the CIA officer who destroyed them, who wasn’t even investigated, let alone punished for obstruction of justice?
We are no better than Israel in this, which is what makes it all the more tragic.
- Shin Bet exploit family to pressure detainees? (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
- Israeli Supreme Court Rubber Stamps Shin Bet Impunity (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli occupation offers the deportation of five Palestinian prisoners for two years (alethonews.wordpress.com)
As we’ve acknowledged before, our lives are increasingly contained on our digital devices, which makes travel—and the decisions we make about what to carry with us—increasingly complicated.
A recent case in which two young travelers to Israel were requested not simply to provide their laptops for arbitrary searches, but to log in to their e-mail accounts and allow Israeli officials to search through their e-mail for specific strings and correspondence highlights the increasing obstacles to privacy that travelers face, as well as the increasingly global nature of security theatre.
In that particular case, the two young women—both of Palestinian origin—complied with officials’ requests but were nonetheless detained overnight before being deported. In another, similar case, a U.S. citizen who refused access to her email was told she was probably hiding something and was refused entry to the country. Israeli security (Shin Bet) told a reporter that “the actions taken by the agents during questioning were within the organization’s authority according to Israeli law.”
Not unlike travelers to the U.S., travelers to Israel face serious privacy challenges at the border. The government generally has broad authority to search through your personal possessions, including your laptop, for any reason at all. When you cross the border to Israel, the Israeli government retains the authority to question you and examine your belongings, which it interprets as also allowing it to go through your electronic devices and computer files. More recently, authorities have also been known to demand user passwords to online accounts.
As we state in our guide to U.S. border searches:
For doctors, lawyers, and many business professionals, these border searches can compromise the privacy of sensitive professional information, including trade secrets, attorney-client and doctor-patient communications, research and business strategies, some of which a traveler has legal and contractual obligations to protect. For the rest of us, searches that can reach our personal correspondence, health information, and financial records are reasonably viewed as an affront to privacy and dignity and inconsistent with the values of a free society.
EFF recently asked Jonathan Klinger, an Israeli attorney, for his thoughts on the law and government practices that apply to searches at the Israeli border, and here is his analysis.
The Situation at the Israeli Border
At the Israeli border, there are some limited legal protections against the search itself. Based on a collection of experiences, however, it seems that mentioning these protections to border officials can be considered antagonism, and can limit your ability to enter Israel. Those concerned about the security and privacy of the information on their devices at the border should therefore use technological measures in an effort to protect their data. They can also choose not to take private data across the border with them at all, and then use technical measures to retrieve it from abroad.
There is, however, little to prevent a scenario in which one’s email is searched, as refusal to allow the search may result in deportation. With that in mind, concerned travelers should think ahead and review their online accounts before traveling.
Why Can My Devices Be Searched at the Border?
Article 7 of Israel’s Basic Statute of Human Dignity and Freedom1 states that every person is entitled to his privacy, and that his property may not be searched, apart from where it is required under legal authority. This generally means that the government has to show probable cause that a crime has been committed and get a warrant before it can search a location or item in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy; moreover, a recent Supreme Court ruling stated that there is no such thing called consensual search,2 and where there is no probable cause, the state cannot rely on a person’s consent in order to search in his possessions. But searches at places where people enter or leave Israel are subject to different statutes. The two applicable statutes are the Aviation Act (Security in Civil Aviation), 19773and the General Security Service Act, 20024; the two acts altogether provide two different state authorities the right to search on a person’s body and in his property. However, they do not refer to computer searches at all.
The Aviation Act allows security personnel, police officers, soldiers and members of the civil defense forces to search at border crossings if “the search is required, in [the officer's] opinion, to keep the public’s safety or if he suspects that the person unlawfully carries weapons or explosives, or that the vehicle, the plane or the goods has weapons or explosives.”
Similarly, the General Security Service Act states that in order to prevent unlawful activities, secure persons or any other activity that the government authorized with the approval of the Knesset committee for the Shin Bet5 to perform, any employee of the Shin Bet (the service) may search a person’s body, property, baggage or other goods and collect information, as long as the person is present.
Only in extreme cases, where there is an object that needs to be seized for a vital role in the Shin Bet’s activity, can the Shin Bet also search without a person’s presence.
However, nothing in these acts authorizes computer searches. Recently, the Israeli Justice office proposed a new anti-terror bill,6 which is yet to pass through the legislative process. This Anti-Terror bill does request to correct the current General Security Service act to specifically state that computers may be searched.
How the Government Searches Devices at the Border
There are three government agencies primarily responsible for inspecting travelers and items entering Israel: the General Security Service (Shin Bet), The Customs Authority and the Immigration authority.
The law gives the Shin Bet and other officials a great deal of discretion to inspect items coming into the country. There is no official policy published in respect to border search of electronic devices and accounts. And when recently requested to comment, the Shin Bet stated that its acts are “according to law.”
Recently, the Israeli Foreign Ministry admitted that it used Facebook in order to create a blacklist of activists who were then—along with a number of uninvolved and mistakenly identified individuals—banned entry to the country amidst the Flytilla events. If you are active on one or more social networks and express opinions about Israel, you carry a greater risk of being profiled and selected for search.
Keep in mind that the Shin Bet can keep your computer or copies of your data for “the time required for the seizure.” There is no specific consideration regarding forensic practices and the ways that your computer files may be copied during the seizure. This is unlike the Israeli Criminal Procedure Order (Arrest and Search), 1969,7 which deals specifically with the forensic procedures of copying computer materials and requires two witnesses for any file duplication.
The Israeli Customs Authority, under Article 184,8 allows any customs official to search every person for contraband or drugs given probable cause. Moreover, the customs official may also request urine, blood or saliva samples and request persons to undress. However, nothing in the law allows them to search through computer materials.
In short, border agents have a lot of latitude to search electronic devices at the border or take them elsewhere for further inspection for a short period of time, whether or not they suspect a traveler has done anything wrong.
We do not have the exact numbers or methods of how such searches are handled, and the Shin Bet is exempt from the Israeli Freedom of Information Act.9; However, the frequency of technology-oriented searches at the border may increase in the future. Researchers and vendors are creating tools to make forensic analysis faster and more effective, and, over time, forensic analysis will require less skill and training. Law enforcement agencies may be tempted to use these tools more often and in more circumstances as their use becomes easier.
Travelers should consider taking the same precautions outlined in EFF’s guide to carrying digital devices across the United States border.
The Palestinian Prisoner Committee said in a press release on Monday, that the Israeli occupation intelligence service the “Shin Bet” is keeping five Palestinian prisoners in solitary confinement cells in Jalama prison, despite the end of their interrogation with them, with no charge.
The Committee stated that the court gave the occupation investigators from the “Shin Bet” one week to provide it with an indictment against the five detainees, if not the prisoners should be released. Thus, the intelligence officers proposed the prisoners an offer requiring their deportation for two years in exchange for their release.
The statement stressed the prisoners’ complete rejection of the deportation and their determination to stick to their position. The prisoners also called on all local and international human rights organizations to take urgent action and pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to release them after being detained for two months without charge.
Meanwhile, the Israeli prison administration is imposing sanctions that include fines, solitary confinement and denial of visitation rights, against nearly two hundred Palestinian prisoners in Megiddo, the Negev, Jalama and Raymond detention centers.
- #PalHunger | Palestinian Prisoner Mahmoud Sarsak Is In A Deteriorating Health Situation (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- #PalHunger | Palestinian female prisoners protest medical neglect (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- 20 Reasons to Get Angry for Palestinian Prisoners (theuglytruth.wordpress.com)
- Israel arrests 800,000 Palestinians since 1948 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli occupation authority renews administrative detention of MP Rejoub for fourth time (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin told an Israeli audience that he had no confidence in the leadership of Bibi Netanyahu or Ehud Barak:
“My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us into an event on the scale of war with Iran or regional war,” Diskin told the “Majdi Forum,” a group of local residents that meets to discuss political issues.
“I don’t believe in either the prime minister or the defense minister. I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,” he added.
Diskin deemed Barak and Netanyahu “two messianics – the one from Akirov…and the other from…Caesarea,” he said, referring to the residences of the two politicians.
“Believe me, I have observed them from up close… They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off. These are not people that I would want to have holding the wheel in such an event,” Diskin said.
“They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race,” said the former security chief.
Considering that this was the fellow who ran Israel’s domestic security services during the entire reign of the current government, I’d say his dismissal of Netanyahu’s judgment and leadership is, or should be, a lightning bolt for Israelis. What’s more, Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief has already voiced almost precisely the same views. Until now, Diskin had maintained a discreet public silence on the issues though it was common knowledge that he joined Dagan in opposing an Iran attack. This latest salvo will (hopefully) open the floodgates of criticism even farther.
Also, considering that neither the prime minister or defense minister are religious, attributing messianic motives to both should also be a warning. What is any leader, let alone one who doesn’t profess religious beliefs, doing falling back on such wild-eyed notions to govern national policy? Why does any leader believe his actions will save not just Israel, but the entire Jewish people?
These are the thoughts of megalomaniacs, not national leaders. And if they are national leaders they will lead to national catastrophe, rather than national salvation.
- Former Shin Bet chief: Netanyahu not interested in peace talks (theuglytruth.wordpress.com)
- Following criticism of Netanyahu, Israeli ministers attack former Shin Bet chief (haaretz.com)
RAMALLAH – Head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society Qadura Fares said Saturday that Israeli media reports on the interrogation of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi failed to prove he confessed to any charge.
Israeli daily Haaretz on Friday reported that records of the leader’s questioning by Israeli internal security service Shin Bet show Barghouti giving partial confessions of his awareness of attacks on Israelis, and late President Yasser Arafat’s tacit acceptance of attacks.
Barghouthi — a revered political figure and former presidential candidate — was convicted by Israel of five counts of murder in 2004, but refused to present a defense, saying the trial was illegitimate.
Fares on Sunday questioned the timing and content of the Haaretz report, ten years after the interrogation took place.
“The Israeli security services, which failed to make Barghouthi give any confessions during four months of interrogation using the ugliest ways of psychological and physical torture, come today with false claims and baseless lies,” Fares said.
“If there were such confessions, the Israelis would have disseminated them at that time, and they would have used them for political gains,” he added.
“I challenge any Israeli service to show any document or paper of any kind signed by Marwan Barghouthi.”
- Marwan Barghouti: A Decade of Defiance (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- What Marwan Barghouti Really Means to Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- 1,600 Palestinian prisoners begin open-ended hunger strike in Israeli jails (alethonews.wordpress.com)
French activists participating in the Welcome to Palestine campaign over the weekend accused Air France of racism on Tuesday after the airline asked passengers if they were Jewish as part of a strategy to prevent the activists from boarding.
“The racism of Israel and Air France was brought in plain light on Sunday…It was proven that one had to declare themselves Jewish or holder of an Israeli passport to have the right to travel,” the French contingent of Welcome to Palestine 2012 said in a press release on their website.
The activists noted the case of a passenger named as Horia, who had successfully boarded the plane, but was then asked by an air hostess whether she was Jewish before the flight had taken off.
An Air France employee signed Horia’s response on an official document (see below), and was then allegedly told by Air France personnel that she was prohibited to travel to Tel Aviv, according to activists.
Coordinator for the French chapter of Welcome to Palestine 2012, Maximilien Shahshahani, told Al-Akhbar that Air France was colluding with Israel’s secret service, Shin Bet, in determining which activists were not permitted to board Sunday’s flight to Tel Aviv.
“Shin Bit shared a blacklist of names with Air France, but told the airline to double check [others not blacklisted] with a series of questions,” he said.
The questions were also asked of other passengers, Shahshahani said, who were not participating in the Welcome to Palestine campaign.
“We saw another passenger, to which the same questions were asked. The response to the second question was that they were Jewish. The passenger was extremely shocked by the nature of the questions,” he said.
Air France in a statement issued on its website said Israeli authorities demanded that the airline question one of the passengers, without detailing what kind of questions were asked.
“The Israeli authorities requested that one of the passengers be questioned. The answers did not satisfy the Israeli authorities, the passenger had to disembark the flight at their demand,” Air France said.
Hundreds of activists, mostly from Europe, were due to fly into Tel Aviv international airport on Sunday as part of a global campaign to raise awareness of the restriction of movement and travel for Palestinians brought by Israel’s military occupation.
But, as in 2011, Israel threatened airlines that they faced sanctions if they did not prevent activists from boarding their flights, providing them with a list of names.
“You are ordered not to board them [activists] on your flights to Israel. Failure to comply with this directive will result in sanctions against the airlines,” a stern statement from Israel’s Ministry of Interior to airlines, obtained by activists, read.
Dozens still managed to board flights to Israel, with the official website for the French contingent of Welcome to Palestine saying that 40 French activists were detained upon arrival.
Preparations for legal proceedings against Air France are underway, Shahshahani said.
Welcome to Palestine has become an annual campaign, which is part of a growing international movement to highlight the continued suffering of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and Israel’s apartheid policies.
An alleged Air France document showing questions asked of a passenger boarding a flight to Israel on Sunday 15 April 2012. (Photo: Handout – Welcome to Palestine 2012)
- Israel and Air France racism overt (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Europe’s airlines enforce Israeli travel ban on activists hoping to repair Palestinian schools (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- ‘Flytilla’ for Palestine hit by arrests as Israel clamps down (alethonews.wordpress.com)