On 20 May 2007, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz responded to a letter sent by Adalah on 22 March 2007 demanding the initiation of a criminal investigation into the General Security Services’ (GSS) interference in the issue of political and legal documents recently published by Arab NGOs and academics in Israel. According to the GSS, as noted in a letter dated 15 March 2007, “The Shin Bet (GSS) is required to thwart the subversive activity of entities seeking to harm the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, even if their activity is conducted through democratic means.”
In his response to Adalah, the AG stated that he agreed fully with the contents of the letter: “The letter of the GSS Director was prepared in coordination with the Attorney General and with his consent. The detailed position contained within it is accepted by the Attorney General — “We also wish to clarify and to emphasize that, in general, and in sensitive cases in the aforementioned field, the activities of the GSS are undertaken in coordination and consultation with the relevant parties within the legal apparatus.” This statement means that the legal apparatus is involved in GSS operations and its persecution of Arab citizens, their leadership and intellectuals.
Commenting on the AG’s response, Adalah’s General Director, Attorney Hassan Jabareen stated: “It appears from the letter that the AG is giving the green light to the GSS to pursue Arab citizens, even if what they are doing is completely unrelated to the ‘security of the state.’ This strengthens the institutionalized belief that Arabs are a target of security investigations, and a permanent strategic threat.”
On 13 March 2007, the Israeli media reported on a special meeting with the Prime Minister in which the GSS Director warned of “a dangerous radicalization of the Arabs in Israel.” According to the reports, the GSS Director explained during this meeting that “the radicalization of the Arab citizens of Israel is a strategic danger for the existence of the state.”
The media reports indicated that the ‘warnings and alerts’ raised by the GSS Director came in the wake of political and legal documents published by Arab organizations addressing, inter alia, the amendment of the constitutional structure of the State of Israel (hereinafter: ‘the Arab Documents’). The Arab Documents are: “The Future Vision”, published by the National Committee of Arab Mayors and Arab academics; “The Democratic Constitution”, published by Adalah; the “Ten Points Document”, published by Mossawa; and “The Haifa Covenant”, which was then still unpublished.
Following these reports, Mr. Ala Hlehel, Editor of the Fasl al-Maqal newspaper published in Nazareth, wrote to the Media Division of the Prime Minister’s Office and asked to receive answers regarding the accuracy of these reports, particularly in regard to the GSS’s involvement related to the publication of the Arab Documents.
On 15 March 2007, the Director of the GSS, Yuval Diskin, confirmed the accuracy of the media reports and justified the GSS’s position in his letter to Mr. Hlehel: “Under this responsibility, the GSS is required to thwart the subversive activity of entities seeking to harm the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, even if their activity is conducted through democratic means, and this is by virtue of the principle of a ‘self-defending democracy’.”
Diskin’s letter described in detail the functions and authorities of the GSS, as well as the working methods at its disposal for preventing “subversive” activities aimed at the democratic regime and its apparatus.” Diskin clarified that the term “subversion” includes any “subversive” act which aims to change the basic principles on which the state is based by ending its democratic or Jewish natures.
Diskin argued that there are three working methods available to the GSS in such cases: using investigatory tools such as gathering evidence from open sources, and analyzing it; using “aggregated” tools that infringe the right to privacy, such as listening in on conversations; and using law enforcement tools and suppressing “subversive” activities through investigations, searches, and other means.
In the letter, Diskin further explained that in the case of the open and public activities undertaken by Arab citizens, the GSS will use the method of deterrence and not any other means (e.g., listening into conversations). He then argued that, were there a basis to suspect that the activities under discussion had a “subversive” character, this would justify the use of the aforementioned “aggregated” tools (e.g., listening into conversations), in order to reveal what is behind these activities, and to ensure against a breach of the law.
Diskin concluded his letter by stating that “The GSS can legitimately use ‘aggregated’ tools if there is a basis for suspicion that a specific organization is working in a clandestine manner, or if the activities of this organization constitute a basis for illegal activities. These illegal activities justify the use of the third method at the disposal of the GSS, which is the tools of suppression such as investigation and arrest.”
After receiving the response, Attorney Hassan Jabareen sent a letter on behalf of Mr. Hlehel to the AG demanding the initiation of a criminal investigation on suspicion of a criminal violation of Article 144 of the Penal Code regarding the inflammatory reports published following and as a result of the meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office on the subject of the Arab Documents, including an investigation of the GSS’s involvement. Adalah further demanded the issuance of clear, written directives clarifying what is permissible and prohibited under the law, with the goal of preventing the GSS’s future interference in matters similar to the current case.
In the letter, Adalah emphasized that the Arab Documents written by political groups and human rights organizations were not composed clandestinely. Not only are these documents open, with their public and declared objective to generate a change in the constitutional structure of the State of Israel, but they are part of the legitimate right of Arab citizens to exercise legal means to change their situation in the State of Israel.
This interference by the GSS is contrary to the authorities vested in it through primary legislation, Adalah argued. The General Security Services Law — 2002 explicitly enumerates the GSS’s authorities, with its principal authority being to protect the security of the state “from threats of terror, sabotage, subversion, espionage, and exposure of state secrets.” Adalah further contended that the GSS’s activity is illegal, outside the scope of the law, and contrary to democratic principles.