Yesterday Al Jazeera began to unveil what the channel is promoting as “the largest intelligence leak since Edward Snowden,” the NSA whistleblower.
The most widely-covered story revealed that only weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 speech to the UN General Assembly about the dangers of Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons program, Israel’s spy agency Mossad in fact assessed that “Iran at this stage is not performing the activity necessary to produce [nuclear] weapons.”
They also reveal new details about the PA’s participation in the US-Israeli campaign against the Goldstone report. South African judge Richard Goldstone headed a team which authored a UN investigation that ultimately accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes during Israel’s brutal 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip.
Unlike the Snowden leaks, which focused on signals intelligence, these cables focus on human intelligence. In other words, they read like something out of a more mundane version of a spy novel.
In 2011 the Palestine Papers (which were leaked by sources including former Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Ziyad Clot) revealed that the PA agreed to go along with US and Israeli demands to delay the formal presentation of the Goldstone report at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Campaign against Goldstone
A cable from South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency recounts that in 2009, then Mossad chief Meir Dagan called the head of the agency on his personal cell phone.
After the agency verified that Dagan really was who he said he was – the South African spies were apparently flummoxed as to how the Israelis got the number – they agreed to pass on their message to the politicians.
Dagan used the call to lobby against the Goldstone report, which South Africa, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, had a say in. Dagan claimed that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas was also against the report being endorsed by the UN: “this will play in the hands [sic] of Hamas and weaken his position” the cable reads.
(You can read the full cable on pages 2-4 of the document appended to this unrelated Spy Cables story about an attempt by the British to recruit a North Korean spy.)
Speaking to the press today in response to the cables, PLO official Hanan Ashrawi denied that Abbas engaged Dagan as a lobbyist against Goldstone, Al Jazeera English reported.
The PA’s diplomatic war against the Goldstone report was largely the result of its anti-Hamas stance, and the new cables confirm this in other ways.
Another South African intelligence cable states that the CIA in 2012 was “desperate to make inroads into Hamas in Gaza and possibly would like SSA [South Africa’s State Security Agency] to assist them in gaining access.”
The cable recommends the facilitation of this process, since the SSA stood a chance of “benefiting from that interaction” by discovering what the CIA wanted to get up to in Gaza.
But the US considers Hamas to be a “terrorist” organization, and it seems this plan was never followed through.
Speaking to Al Jazeera English today, Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said: “we don’t have official communication with CIA or US” representatives. He said that while Hamas has made contacts with US academics and other figures said to be close to government, no official contacts have been made.
Another South African cable, from November 2012, recounts a meeting with PA intelligence.
Palestinian General Intelligence Service “officials had wished to engage on the outstanding matter of SSA officials engaging Hamas. The attitude displayed is the same as what the [South African] Mission experiences on a regular basis when meetings are held with Hamas or travel to Gaza.”
The South African diplomats had “received several protest notes [from the PA] indicating their disapproval of SA engaging with Hamas.”
The PA’s attempt to isolate Hamas internationally should be seen in the context of the coup attempt mounted in 2007 by US-trained PA forces against the recently elected Hamas-led government. The coup was successful in the West Bank, where PA leader Mahmoud Abbas imposed an unelected prime minister, but Hamas drove the PA forces out of Gaza, where it remained in office. Along with Israel’s siege, the coup deepened the political divisions among Palestinians and the separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The revelations add to what is now known about the extent of the PA’s efforts to bolster Israel’s efforts against Hamas.
In further revelations published today, The Guardian reported that a 55-page secret document (which it appears not to have released) by South African intelligence showed that the Mossad regularly uses sex as a way to to entice or blackmail information out of its targets (my emphasis):
A section dealing with the operational practices of Israeli field intelligence officers says Mossad puts no pressure on female agents to use sex as a “weapon” but it is expected. It adds: “If sexual blackmail or entrapment is an integral part of the mission, however, Mossad often employs actual prostitutes.”
There is less hesitation among Mossad chiefs about using male agents to become intimate with embassy secretaries, airline stewardesses and others who might provide valuable information.
What sort of information are the Israelis after in South Africa? Other cables, published by Al Jazeera yesterday, go some way to answering that question.
In 2010 stolen blueprints to South African anti-tank missile technology ended up in Mossad’s hands. Although the culprits were apparently caught, the South Africans agreed to an Israeli request to allow one “Yitzchak Talyah” immunity from prosecution and even covered up the story, feeding a false narrative to the South African press.
Al Jazeera also revealed tonight that Israeli cyber criminals claiming to be former Mossad agents in 2012 threatened the South African government with cyber attacks “against South Africa’s banking and financial sectors.” South African intelligence investigated the authenticity of the threat, but it remains unknown what they concluded.
The attackers demanded that the South African government end its support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and that some of its activists be prosecuted.
The ruling African National Congress historically aligned itself with the Palestinian struggle, and liberation icon Nelson Mandela once described PLO leader Yasser Arafat as a “comrade in arms.” A recent visit by former Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine fighter Leila Khaled was widely hailed as a success in the country.