How Many Countries?
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Most of my non-Israeli readers would probably ignore the importance of this issue (How many countries would solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?) in the Israeli society. Many years ago, when a Mossad agent called Arik still thought he could get valuable information out of me, he spent a considerable amount of time and efforts trying to find out which kind of solution to the conflict I favored. Would it be the “two states” solution or the “one-state” one? Along the years, I met this security services’ obsession theme time and again.
Essentially possessing simple minds, people working for the security services tend to see everything in terms of black and white. Anything more complex apparently eludes them, even if pronounced slowly. The Shin Beth and Mossad logic works as follows: “if you support the ‘two states’ solution (a Palestinian state next to Israel) then we can work with you; but if you support the ‘one state’ solution then you are our enemy because this option leads to a Palestinian majority that would take control of the country administration.”
As a result of this, Israeli citizens are systematically approached by undercover state agents attempting to find out their political opinions in a variety of issues and sometimes even more.
On Champagne and Solid Evidence
Eight years and twenty-five days before I was shot at by an Israeli agent, I was half-listening to “Reshet Bet,” the Israeli government’s news radio station. They were broadcasting live from a peace rally on Tel Aviv’s main square. At around 9:30 PM, a slight change in the tone and semantics used by the anchors hinted that something had happened. There were unclear shouts in the background; panic filtered into the anchors’ voices, while they were trying to buy time and understand what was happening. Death was in the air. Three gunshots had shattered a dream. Rabin – Israel’s Prime Minister – had been assassinated by a religious Jew, and a promising peace process had died.
The event had been videotaped by Roni Kempler – a man with unclear but published connections with the security services – who was standing on the “Gan Hair” shopping mall roof. Inexplicably, he was allowed to stand within the sterile security area surrounding Rabin’s exit point. In the minutes before the killing, his video focused mainly on the assassin, as if he knew what was about to happen. In the video, the rear bodyguard was seen clearing the way to the assassin, who shot three bullets before he was restrained by the police. Later, the video was purchased by “Channel 2” – allegedly for a million dollars – and then broadcast to the astonished public, before being banished from the Israeli media.
Rabin was allegedly the best secured head of state in the world. The thought that a civilian could enter the “sterile area” surrounding Rabin was unbelievable.
Later, it became known that the assassin, Yigal Amir, had been targeted by the Shin Beth months before that and that the Shin Beth trained him in the use of arms. Avishai Raviv, a Shin Beth employee, was placed next to him. They claimed he was only an information gathering agent. Yigal Amir, a former Yeshiva student studying at the religious Bar Ilan University, killed Prime Minister Rabin with the blessing of his Pharisaic rabbi. He moved from one rabbi to another until he found one who agreed that the killing would save many Jewish lives; and thus – the religious authority claimed – it was justified.
Raviv knew that and reported Yigal Amir's plan to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin, based on “din rodef” (law of the pursuer) which rabbis interpret as allowing the killing of another Jew to prevent him from handing Jewish land over to non-Jews.
Despite that, the Shin Beth did not stop Amir.
The most troubling part of this story is that “The Jerusalem Post,” an English, right-wing newspaper published in Jerusalem, reported witnesses having heard Raviv telling Amir: “Be a man! Kill him already!” Later on, Raviv’s name came out during Amir’s trial. It was published that his operational code was “Champagne.” Nothing seems more appropriate for an agitating agent, which is a better definition to the role he performed.
For the next several months I kept listening day and night to the incredible news broadcast on the radio. The more I listened, the more terrified I became. A few months after the event, Professor Michael Harsegor, a well-respected historian at Tel Aviv University, openly claimed over the military radio station – a very popular one in Israel – that Shin Beth was behind the assassination. It was their reaction to Rabin’s decision to pursue a peace agreement with the Palestinians that led to his murder.
Needless to say, the official investigation didn’t advance beyond the point of rumor and speculation. Shin Beth’s working methods were never seriously questioned. However, the video was incriminating. Why did Rabin’s bodyguards expose his back at a critical moment? How was Amir allowed to stand for a long period of time next to a policeman within the sterile area? These questions were never properly answered.
The Shin Beth didn’t deny its use of infiltrating agents within the Jewish population previous to Rabin’s assassination. It was a shocking revelation. We were under surveillance and the objects of evil manipulations. The government saw all of us as the enemy. From that moment on, any friend and neighbor became a potential informant, any innocent talk a possible entrapment attempt.
Even if only half of what was being alleged was true, the situation was serious. There was no denial of the Shin Beth’s tactics. On the contrary, several analysts in the Israeli media who are closely related to the security services, openly proclaimed in the Israeli main newspapers that the disclosure of “Champagne” had caused irreversible damage to Shin Beth’s operational capabilities. During his trial, Mr. Raviv claimed he was just doing his job under very difficult conditions. Eventually the court accepted this line of defense.
A cornerstone of Israeli education is that Nazi soldiers and officers should have refused illegal and immoral orders; however, according to the Israeli court, this principle does not hold for Israelis.
Many people have difficulty accepting that such surveillance techniques exist, despite the many reliable books written by insiders, like A CIA Diary by Philip Agee and Spycatcher by Peter Wright. Moreover, many have difficulties understanding that states have large frameworks of people capable of tracking down and attacking many people at once. Specifically, the Mossad uses "sayanim," or local Jews living in foreign countries; Victor Ostrovsky in his book By Way of Deception described the issue extensively. Checking a person’s background or persecuting him did not require a special addition to the budget. Among others, the Stasi and the KGB kept control of their country’s entire populations this way; their budget never included a per-head basis for surveillance. The Mossad and the Shin-Beth are no different.
The resistance to accept the obvious may be the result of a well-organized campaign aimed to ridicule the very idea of domestic spies who spend their lives undercover. Endless movies and books make fun of the idea; yet, that would be the only way of creating reliable, fool-proof cover. A mechanism to ridicule anyone who dares to expose that fact or automatically link any reference to it with a mental illness would reinforce the agents’ safety. Nobody denies the existence of counter-intelligence organizations; how could they gather reliable personal information otherwise? Who would trust a threatening, unknown “man-in-black” arriving in a black van and asking strange questions? The third line of protection these agents employ is subtler; simply, most of us prefer to ignore the evidence since its implications are troubling.
A recurring claim in Israel was: “Political violence and persecution by the state on political grounds happens only in non-democratic countries.” Yet, Avishai Raviv, the man who was reported to have instigated the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin, was a secret political police agent disguised as an innocent civilian. And there have been similar reports worldwide of undercover agents operating among its people.
So, How Many Countries Do You Want?
In this reality, the Shin Beth keeps pushing: “So, how many countries do you want?” In this reality, I want to keep denying them the desired answer and plea to the Israeli citizens to begin a disinformation campaign against these illegal and immoral practices.
In this reality, I want to tell the Israeli Administration (an organization that was defined by the Human Rights Committee of the UN as terrorist in Article 1690 of the Goldstone Report and in other places) that as refugees, we do not count countries. I want to tell them that as refugees we want back our lost time, the families we didn't have, the friends we didn't meet, the crops we didn't harvest and the life we didn't live.
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