There was a striking admission buried in this weekend’s edition of Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
After Israel’s killing of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara ship to Gaza in May 2010 caused a “surprise blow” to its image around the world, Israeli spy agencies decided on a widening of their focus.
“Israeli intelligence began to concentrate on monitoring the social networks of Islamic organizations and foreign left-wing activists,” according to the paper’s military correspondent Amos Harel (emphasis added).
This is the closest Israel has come to admitting that it spies on Palestinian solidarity activists around the world.
Israeli military censor
Harel is a senior correspondent to what is probably Israel’s most important newspaper and has privileged access to Israeli military and spy officials.
According to the “private intelligence” firm Stratfor, in an email released by Wikileaks, Harel is “one of the most widely read and well connected journalists in Israel.” The email also says Harel was likely leaked a copy of the Israeli military’s intelligence annual appraisal for 2012.
Harel is unlikely to have made such a blunt statement of fact if he did not have good reason to think it is the case.
(Incidentally, Harel concludes his analysis with a racist comparison of the Palestinians in the West Bank to animals: “a cat” with claws that gradually turns into “a tiger.”)
Although Australian-Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier is now known to have died inside a high security jail in 2010, the military censor ordered the Israeli press to cover the story up, and they of course complied.
The story only came out this month thanks to the Australian press, and much about it is still mysterious — not least of which the question as to what Zygier is alleged to have done to be locked up in the first place.
The military censor allowed this information about Israeli monitoring of pro-Palestinian activists around the world into Haaretz.
Therefore, it seems likely that Israeli spy agencies actually want activists to know they are being watched. The Mossad or Shabak are unlikely to have mistakenly leaked something of this nature.
Following the “sabotage” plan
Earlier in 2010, The Electronic Intifada exposed how an influential Israeli think tank called on the Israeli government to attack and “sabotage” movements of solidarity with the Palestinian people such as the BDS movement.
The Reut Institute said “Israel should sabotage network catalysts” of activists in what it termed “hubs of delegitimization” in major cities in Europe and North America.
If Harel’s information is correct, it seems Israel could well be following Reut’s advice.
Israel’s kidnapping, assassination and torture gang the Mossad is known to work with local Zionist groups around the world. Earlier this month I wrote about one example in the UK: The Community Security Trust.
Back in the 1980s, an Anti-Defamation League agent named Roy Bullock infiltrated Arab community groups in order to spy on and sabotage them, also working for the South African apartheid regime against the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela.
According to one activist quoted in the Spring 2002 edition of Jewish Socialist: “The reason Bullock gave us for attending the IHR [Institute for Historical Review] conferences was to distribute ADC literature and recruit some new members for the Arab-American organization. We found it both strange and suspicious that it had not occurred to him that [anti-Jewish and perhaps even pro-Nazi people were] the last type of individual that the ADC would want as a member” (Charlie Pottins, “ADL settles apartheid spy case”).
As The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah noted earlier this month, a recent report shows the ADL is still keeping a close eye on activists:
Are groups like the CST and ADL following Reut advice to “sabotage” Palestine solidarity groups today?
Update, 20 February: Charlie Pottins kindly agreed to re-publish his Jewish Socialist article on his blog (along with some useful context and further sources on the ADL spying episode). I’ve added the link to the text above.