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IDF Unit 8200 Counter-Offensive Begins

aviv kochavi

IDF chief intelligence spinmeister, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, at IDC Herzliya security conference

Those of you who remember back to the Bush presidency, will recall the controversy generated by the exposure of torture techniques used against Islamist prisoners at Guantanamo and at secret prison sites in Poland and elsewhere.  Among them were the notorious waterboarding which brought detainees to near drowning.  When this scandal erupted, the Bush-Cheney cabal went on a counter-offensive claiming that lives were saved and terror plots exposed by such torture.  In fact, the claim turned out to be hollow and those averted terror attacks were not exposed through torture.

Now, the IDF is going on a counter-offensive of its own after the reputation of the prestigious SIGINT Unit 8200 was sullied by charges of veterans that it engaged in tawdry, immoral acts attempting to exploit the weaknesses of Palestinians in order to compel them to collaborate with Israeli intelligence.  Strangely, this counter-offensive hasn’t torn a page from the Bush administration by claiming terror attacks were averted by Unit 8200.

Instead the IDF’s intelligence unit, Aman, has claimed that its technological capabilities have offered Israel unparalleled access to enemy computer systems.  If you ask me, the “sell” is rather pallid:

The source placed a significant emphasis on MI’s cyber division, which is able to mine data and combine it with visual and signals intelligence. It helped to create a digital map of Gaza so detailed that thousands of targets appeared on it, and every building in the Strip was shown from four different angles.

…The source discussed MI’s use of Trojan horses, some of which are so sophisticated they took 18 months to create.

“They bring back information on their ‘backs,’” the source said. “We learned about various threats through them. Some have to avoid cyber defenses.

Some have to destroy themselves if detected.”

In some cases, hordes of Trojan horses are released, where they proceed to sneak into enemy systems and return to Military Intelligence with valuable data. The source also discussed a new array of electronic sensors that have helped the IDF neutralize multiple threats recently.

Israeli media will never name a senior military or intelligence source.  But I have my own source who tells me the secret source of this report is none other than Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Aman’s chief.  There can be no doubt that this article is an exercise in damage control.  But as I said, it surely can’t convince anyone that IDF intelligence is engaged in righteous efforts to protect the homeland.  The only thing one can say is that Kochavi has put forward a vision of his unit that doesn’t do much more to embarrass it than already happened through the refusers’ letter.

Here’s more puffery from Kochavi:

During Operation Protective Edge, members of Unit 8200, the signals unit, sat in a control room and provided real-time instructions to field commanders, telling them where to turn and which buildings housed targets.

“This isn’t the Matrix [the movie],” the source said. “It happened during the war.”

You’re kidding me.  Unit 8200 breaks out its GPS devices and tells IDF commanders which way to turn in the streets of Gaza?  Something any decent GPS device could tell the soldiers themselves–and this is the Brave New World of Unit 8200?

But the puffery isn’t done yet:

In long term, Islamic State is one of top four strategic threats to Israel. If needed, Israel will pass on intelligence to members of a coalition that will strike it, the officer said.

Israeli intelligence officials have conceded that ISIS is not only not a threat to Israel, it’s never attacked a single Israeli target.  Even when it held an Israeli citizen and executed him, it never said he was Israeli (it’s unknown whether ISIS knew of his Israeli citizenship though I believe they would’ve had to have been stupid not to know).  ISIS has, if anything deliberately avoided engagement with Israel.  It holds a great deal of Syrian territory and could have confronted Israeli forces in the Golan and elsewhere had it wanted.  But it didn’t.

So now the IDF’s chief intelligence officer wants to sell us the ISIS used car.  Though the Jerusalem Post obviously is buying–I’m not.

Kochavi’s final affront to truth and reason is this comment:

Turkish-Iranian relations appear to be good on the outside, but beneath the surface, Turkey is deeply disturbed by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, according to assessments.

There is absolutely no confirmation for this claim.  In fact, Turkey and Brazil brokered a promising compromise the Obama administration initially accepted to resolve the Iranian nuclear impasse.  Turkey, if anything, if far more sympathetic to Iran than it is to Israel.  As far as I can tell, the claim Turkey is “deeply disturbed” by Iran’s nuclear program is a total fabrication.  But that doesn’t surprise us, does it?  Why should an officer who can spout to his heart’s content anonymously in the Israeli media be held to any standard of credulity?

On a related matter, Yossi Melman’s latest story in The Forward basically rehashes what we already know about the Unit 8200 refuser controversy.  But he does tell us that the highest ranking refuser to join those who protested against Unit 8200 offenses was a Major.  That’s an extraordinarily high rank for such rebellion.  It’s unheard of in the current IDF, which is far more right-wing than it was in previous decades.

Melman also adds to what I wrote in my recent post about the nexus between Unit 8200 and the NSA.  These guys are like peas in a pod.  If anyone needed proof that the NSA has in store for us precisely what Unit 8200 is doing to Palestinians, read this passage:

At a recent high-tech conference at Tel Aviv University, all eyes were on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon as they took their turns in the spotlight to stress how important it was for Israel to remain at the frontlines of science and technology. But less conspicuously, two middle-aged men were sitting next to each other in the first row reserved for VIPs, listening carefully to the speakers at “Cyber Innovation: The Next Generation.”

Gen. Keith Alexander, a former director of America’s National Security Agency, and Gen. Nadav Tsafrir, the former commander of Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200, chatted with each other avidly, and from their smiles and body language it was clear they have known each other well and were happy to meet again.

Their familiarity is not surprising.

It sure isn’t.  That why we too should become more familiar with the depredations of Unit 8200.  They’re coming soon to an NSA near us.

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gideon saar sex scandal

Gideon Saar and second wife, Geula Even. Is Haaretz preparing to publish investigative report exposing further sex scandals

Gideon Saar, senior cabinet minister and a rising star in the Likud firmament, announced he would resign his ministerial portfolio and Knesset seat after the High Holidays. It was an announcement that took Israeli politicos totally by surprise.  He described his departure from the political scene as a “break.”  Speculation runs rampant about what is behind the announcement.

Most reports point to his rising disenchantment with his former mentor, Bibi Netanyahu, who both helped his rise and then just as quickly turned on him and shut him out of the Likud inner sanctum.  Much of the rancor can be traced to Saar’s decision to support Reuven Rivlin’s successful presidential candidacy (at one time Rivlin too was a Netanyahu intimate).  Bibi opposed Rivlin’s candidacy for no clear reason.  But they say cherche la femme and Sara Netanyahu may’ve taken a disliking to him–she has definitive control of major government appointments.  At any rate, Bibi brooks no opposition.  Disciples and followers must follow and never lead. Anyone who breaks from the circle is placed in herem, or in English terms, the deep freeze.

Conventional thinking says that Saar has had enough of the outrageous sleights he’s received at Bibi’s hands.  He’s newly married, wants to spend more time with his wife, perhaps start a family.  He may also intend to join up with another Likud rebel, Moshe Kahlon, who also was tossed out in the cold by Bibi, being seen by him as another potential rival.  In the next elections, it’s conceivable that the two would create a formidable moderate-right alternative to the hard-right politics of the New Likud.

One wonders what will happen after Bibi.  He can continue to lead for some time.  But there comes a time when every politician must step down.  One wonders whether the Likud can remain a coherent political entity after the glue Bibi applied to hold it together, evaporates.  That’s where rivals like Kahlon, Saar, Danny Danon, come in.  Will Likud splinter into farther-right and soft-right sects?  Or will another strongman come along to ride herd over the disparate egos and ambitions of the younger generation of Likudnik wannabes.

Israeli political conspiracist, Eldad Yaniv, has a completely different explanation, whose accuracy I’ve confirmed:

“One of the reasons for Saar’s announcement: major investigation which Haaretz has labored over for the past few weeks.”

This takes us in an entirely different direction. My Israeli source has confirmed that a part of this investigation involves multiple Saar sexual scandals, which I’ve recounted here in some detail.  This Walla report confirms a Haaretz story is in the works, which will review the circumstances of an alleged affair with a Knesset co-worker.

A few months ago, Saar web an attractive TV newscaster, Geula Even.  This was after he’d abandoned his first wife (as had Even her first husband), presumably as a result of the affair with the woman who became his second.  After wedding Even, the rumor mill died down somewhat.  But apparently Haaretz has the goods on him.  Given his being on the outs with Bibi and the fact that such a scandal might lead to his forced resignation, he presumably felt discretion was the better part of valor.  When/If the scandal hits, he will be out of political life.  That will defuse some of the dynamite.  In the year or two before the next elections, Saar is probably hoping memories will fade and he can enter the next election cycle with a clean slate.

Sexual indiscretions and even predation seem to be activities Israelis will forgive in their politicians.  Though when victims complain of rape, even that goes too far for forgiveness: witness Moshe Katsav.  It remains to be seen whether the Haaretz expose will delve into the former or latter sorts of charges.

What I want to know is who’s talking to Haaretz?  My money is on Bibi himself or one of his consiglieres.  But let’s not discount the jilted first wife.

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Those who’ve followed Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying may think they’ve heard just about every depredation they can imagine.  But there could be more to come.

James Bamford spent three days in Moscow with Snowden and wrote about it in Wired.  Today, he has a NY Times op-ed focussing particularly on the Snowden revelations about NSA collaboration with the IDF’s Unit 8200.  None of this is particularly new.  Further, at one point Bamford even dubiously claims that material the NSA shared with Israel might’ve led to some of the blackmail and recruiting of spies, which the Unit 8200 veteran’s letter decried.  I think that’s doubtful because the activities criticized by the refusers involved listening to phone conversations and reading e mail and text messages by Palestinians in the Territories.  It’s hard to believe (though not impossible, I suppose) that NSA spying on U.S. citizens would help 8200 to target Palestinians.

As an aside, it’s entirely possible that my own contacts with Israelis and Palestinians both in this country and abroad are monitored by the NSA and passed on to 8200. A sobering thought, not because I engage in any activity that should be monitored, but precisely because I don’t.

shin bet runs Palestinian collaborators

Shin Bet handler, Gonen ben Itzhak (center), and Palestinian collaborator, Mosab Hassan Yousef (right, the “Green Prince”), reap the benefits of Hollywood film festivals, celebrity, and the good life, while other Palestinian collaborators end up in hoods before a firing squad.

It’s worth noting Bamford’s summary of Unit 8200’s offenses:

…They [Unit 8200 refusers] charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.

For anyone wishing to know how Israel recruits spies and the impact that spying for Israel has on the lives of collaborators, read this riveting and disturbing story.  The 8200 refusers were spot on when they said their job was to drive wedges into Palestinian society.  To make brother hate brother.  Read this and see how such hate plays out in the lives of those Palestinians who are sacrificed on the altar of Israeli security.  Do you think any Shabak agent who runs these Palestinian agents sheds a tear when they’re shot by Hamas?  Does Israel offer them refuge or offer them resettlement in return for the dirty work they did?  Not at all.  Collateral damage.

It’s important to remember as you see pictures of hooded Palestinian collaborators before their execution, that no matter how reprehensible it may be to kill such individuals without trial, collaborators do real damage to Palestinian society.  They get people killed.  Our outrage should be directed as much or more at the Shabak and Unit 8200 which creates the collaborators, as at Hamas for hunting them down and killing them.

Returning to the lessons we here in American can learn about Unit 8200 practices–remember that Israel has progressed much farther down the road to being a national security state than the U.S.  While we may have more powerful technology, capabilities and funding, Israel has far fewer fetters on its spies and spooks.  There are no laws or regulations governing surveillance of Palestinians.  There are, as the refusers correctly noted, almost no strictures on what they may do.

Though Snowden made similar charges against his own NSA brethren, there were limitations on their actions.  They may not have been particularly effective or thorough.  But approvals were necessary for some of the most intrusive activities.

The real value in Bamford’s op-ed is to warn us that what Unit 8200 has wrought in the Mideast could become “best practice” for our own NSA:

It should also trouble Americans that the N.S.A. could head down a similar path in this country. Indeed, there is some indication, from a top-secret 2012 document from Mr. Snowden’s leaked files that I saw last year, that it already is. The document, from Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the director of the N.S.A., notes that the agency had been compiling records of visits to pornographic websites and proposes using that information to damage the reputations of people whom the agency considers “radicalizers” — not necessarily terrorists, but those attempting, through the use of incendiary speech, to radicalize others. (The Huffington Post has published a redacted version of the document.)

To paraphrase Herzl, if Unit 8200 wills it, it’s no dream.  So many of Israel’s counter-terror practices have become standard fare for the U.S.: from targeted killings to drone strikes to racial profiling for security purposes.  We “learn” from the Israelis.  They are falsely seen as being on the cutting edge and experts in this field.  That’s why U.S. local police forces and other agencies flock to Israel for security training.  It’s why Israeli security consultants are hired to manage airport security around the world.

What the Americans don’t realize is that they’re hearing from Israelis who have no strictures on what they can do.  Israelis for whom the means justify the ends.  There are no ethical qualms among Israeli intelligence operatives at exploiting every possible weakness on behalf of Israel’s interests.  The Palestinians are not human beings.  They are an enemy and this is a war.

What the NSA refuses to realize in adopting the Israeli model is that Unit 8200 is oppressing Palestinians who, while occupied by Israel, aren’t Israeli citizens.  At least technically, from an Israeli point of view, this allows them freer rein in their invasions of Palestinians privacy and rights.  The NSA is often spying on U.S. citizens.  If they bring Israeli spycraft to these shores, then the American intelligence community will be treating its own citizens the same way Israelis treat avowed Israeli enemies.  Is that the standard under which we want the NSA to operate?  Do we wish to allow out own spy agency to treat us as the enemy?

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john kerry isis meeting

Kerry entering the Paris meeting of anti-ISIS nations (Alain Jocard/AFP-Getty

In 1991, George Bush created what was then called the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ to defeat Saddam Hussein.  Yesterday, the U.S. met with members of what it hoped would be a new coalition of similarly willing nations dedicated to defeating ISIS.  The problem is that it’s a fractious coalition.  If George Bush thought he had it rough, Obama and Kerry have it much tougher.

The nations comprising and bordering ISIS-held territory (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey) have widely disparate interests in general and specifically related to ISIS.  Turkey originally encouraged the formation of Syrian rebel forces to battle Bashar al-Assad’s regime.  It also allows the smuggling and sale of ISIS-harvested oil in the Turkish black market.  It is terribly awkward for Erdogan to pivot from support for such rebel groups to fighting them.  Nor does the U.S. have especially warm relations with Turkey, which has been disappointed by the weakness and hesitation of Obama’s Middle East policy.  Our strong endorsement of Israeli interests hasn’t helped matters either.

Syria is the white elephant in the room: while the coalition members detest ISIS, they detest Assad almost as much, and don’t wish to do anything that may help him.  And if ISIS is weakened or destroyed, it can’t help but bolster the Syrian regime.

Iraq is rapidly turning into a failed state.  Its military practically doesn’t exist–riven as it is by poor training and supply, ethnic rivalries, and a corrupt officer corps.  The only coherent fighting force in Iraq are the Kurds, and their interest is in protecting the territorial integrity of their enclaves, not necessarily the integrity of the entire country.

Iran is the country with perhaps the most to lose or gain both from the confrontation with ISIS and participation in the coalition.  But there’s the rub: whatever the U.S. may want to happen regarding Iran, it has two restive Sunni powers (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) who want nothing to do with Shiite Iran.  They both told Kerry that if Iran attended the Paris meeting they wouldn’t.  That effectively sunk what could’ve been a constructive development.

We’ve said that we’d like Iran to play a role in the fight against ISIS.  But we’ve essentially said we can’t be seen to be coordinating our strategy or tactics with the Iranians due to the antipathies of the Sunni despots.  Anything that happens must be done on the sly.  The Iranians are a proud people used to being trampled upon by Great Powers.  That prospect doesn’t encourage them.  It’s a pity we’re locked into the lose-lose proposition, because the U.S.’ long term interests in the region lie much more with Iran than the Qatari or Saudi strongmen.

Iran looks at the bind the U.S. has gotten itself into and laughs derisively.  Ayatollah Khamenei dismissed any participation with the U.S. in anti-ISIS efforts saying the U.S. can’t be trusted.  He tried to rub salt in the wound by publicly exposing U.S. requests that Iran join these efforts, and telling the world that he rejected them out of hand.

Though a harsh rejection, no one should be surprised.  ISIS is an important issue for Iran since it threatens to overrun the Shiite regions of its neighbor, Iraq.  But the nuclear issue is no less critical.  And there is much unfinished business regarding it.  Though negotiations toward an agreement are proceeding, and hopeful murmurings have been heard, nothing is assured.  For Iran, an honorable resolution of this issue and the reopening of relations with the U.S. on mutually respectful terms, are critical.  The Grand Ayatollah is in effect telling us he’s heard nothing that persuades him there will be marked changes in America’s approach to Iran in the near term.  So he sits back, bides his time, and watches as the U.S. president elected to end a war, proceeds to get himself back into the one he hoped to end.  When your enemy is sunk in quicksand, a cardinal rule of politics is to sit back and enjoy it.  Don’t give him a helping hand.

Another lesson that the U.S. and Israel have never learned, and which is important if you want to play any role in the region, is that determining when NOT to act is sometimes more important than determining TO act.  In other words, there are times when standing back and allowing your opponent to overplay his hand is the better part of valor.  A nation that believes it must always DO something to advance its interests or prevent them from being threatened, is a nation that will make mistakes and blunders.  Action can harm your interests.  Though inaction too can bring risks, caution is often the preferred option.

There is no doubt that some form of action is needed to suppress ISIS.  But going on a holy war, which seems to be the path chosen by Obama, aiming for the total eradication of ISIS, is a fool’s errand.  Some of the hesitation of our putative allies may lie in their realization that more finesse and less firepower is called for.

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The Pennywhistlers Started It All

There were two songs that played a formative role in my musical life.  They are Shto Mi e Milo, recorded by the Pennywhistlers (1966) and Si Bheag, Si Mor, by Planxty (1973).  The Pennywhistlers came first.  They were the mother lode.  Ethel Raim and her sisters created one of the first, if not THE first, American ensemble to perform world music.  Until that time, American popular culture embraced the music and art of other cultures in a scattershot way.  There were Carmen Miranda’s outrageous hats, Richie Valens’ La Bamba, Jose Feliciano’s Hispanic-inflected Light My Fire in the late 1960s.  But these were one-off hits.  Novelties.

pennywhistlers

The Pennywhistlers’ first album (1963)

It wasn’t until the Pennywhistlers came along that a musical group devoted its entire repertoire to the music of other cultures.  Wonderful groups like the Bay Area’s Kitka could not exist without the Pennywhistlers being a forerunner.  Even a native Bulgarian choir would never have had the enormous world success of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares had not the American group first popularized the music in this country.

When I first heard this song, it was a revelation.  The female vocal harmonies were like none I had ever heard.  It was as if I was hearing a sound from another universe.   It was a revelation.  I lived on planet earth but had never heard the music of the culture which produced this.  It made me realize there was a whole other world out there that American culture ignored.

I have been trying to find the song for 20 years.  Before YouTube existed I tried using music sharing sites, but no one appeared to have mp3 files of their music (probably because they were never transferred from LP to any other format).  Though the social media revolution has brought much bad with the good, it’s an undeniable good to be able to find old musical friends like the Pennywhistlers through YouTube.  With all its hyper-commercialization, YouTube has enabled the archiving and retrieval of the sounds of the world.

The Pennywhistlers’ eponymously titled first album is available for purchase from Smithsonian Folkways.

H/t to Cynthia Anne.

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A Modest Proposal to Zionize American Academia

In the true spirit of capitalism, I’ve identified a niche in the academic market and plan to fill it. First, let’s state the problem: the recent spate of campus firings from Yale to the University of Illinois (with earlier episodes at Princeton, Brooklyn College and other institutions) have left schools in the messy position of having to rid themselves of controversial, undesirable prospective faculty and, God knows, sometimes even chaplains. The ensuing bad publicity generated by activist troublemakers too often gives these institutions a black eye they don’t deserve.

Wouldn’t it be better if schools could vet job candidates with a group of trusted consultants who would explore their background (especially their Twitter feeds), seeking embarrassing material and ideologically suspect expression in order to save administrators the trouble of learning about it when it’s too late?  I call this new product I plan on offering, ZioCredit.  It’s based on the model of accreditation committees which travel the country examining the fitness of universities to call themselves legitimate academic institutions.

In my case, for a small fee, schools throughout the United States (but especially in communities with large pro-Israel markets) may hire my company to ensure peace of mind.  A few of the more cynical among you may liken what I propose to protection rackets in which the Mafia offered businesses protection from assault.  Those who refused often met unpleasant ends.  If that’s what you’re thinking, you can put your mind at ease.  This is the 21st century after all.  Not Little Italy in the 1950s.  We don’t operate that way.  We’re as clean and classy as our clients and sport academic pedigrees to prove it.

So this is how the process works: if we find a candidate in the ideologically lower-tier it would be best to be rid of him or her immediately.  We can take care of that for you (no, you won’t find him at the bottom of the East River in cement shoes–I kid!).  Why should you get your hands dirty?

We will accredit your university, department by department to ensure each one hews to a proper line.  We will even examine course curricula and weed out overly contentious books, essays and ideas.  We will examine individual job candidates and prepare them and their case files for presentation to hiring committees and boards of trustees.  Earning our accreditation (hence the company name, ZioCredit), is the pro-Israel Good Housekeeping seal of approval.  Working with us will guarantee that you will never face the unwanted attention of the Israel Lobby because after all, we are the Israel Lobby!  But we’re a manageable and cooperative version.  We don’t aim to embarrass you publicly. And we ask for so little in return.

There may be a few of you Old School academics worried about values like free speech and academic freedom.  I can assure you that your concerns are unwarranted.  After all, these values are overrated.  Like tenure, they’ve outlived their usefulness in the modern age.

The premise behind ZioCredit is that in this new academic age what students really want is comfort.  They want to enjoy their academic experience.  They want civility.  They don’t want unpleasant interactions with alien groups they’ve never met in their life.  Ideas should be challenging but not too challenging.  After all, you don’t want to scare off your students by forcing them to face realities better off avoided.

We will help transform the campus environment from a raucous free-for-all, in which feelings become bruised and identities confused, into a polite, civil society in which everyone takes their turn and knowledge is parceled out in nice, bite-sized packages.

Back to my product, it takes into account that there may be some candidates who, though suspect, are still for various reasons beneficial to the faculty.  They may fill an unspoken race or gender quota; or even an ideological quota.  They may help promote the school within certain demographic profiles and market niches.

For an extra fee, my company will work with such candidates to reframe academic interests so as to be acceptable within the community.  After all, academics are such unusual individuals raised like hothouse flowers in intellectual environments so alien to the average person (by which I mean any supporter of Israel).  They need to be coaxed into the real world, to be shown proper manners and etiquette, if you will.  In particularly awkward situations, we may even be engaged to cleanse reputations and eliminate particularly egregious examples of anti-Israel hate speech from a candidate’s internet identity.

If the University of Illinois had only had such a product available, it could’ve avoided all that Steve Salaita unpleasantness.  So messy and so unnecessary.

Now I can hear a skeptic or two among you (a small minority of course) wondering how this consultancy will be structured.  I assure you we will engage some of the foremost experts in the field of internet surveillance and Zionist identity politics.  These will be individuals with impressive resumes and who are lionized by everyone who matters.  Discussions have already commenced to hire such luminaries as Ayan Hirsi Ali, Carey Nelson and Alan Dershowitz.  They know what a good candidate should bring to the table.  Either they will help your job seeker to become the best pro-Israel candidate he can be; or they will tell you in no uncertain terms to toss him aside.  After all, who wants to waste time on hopeless causes?

Since there is a growing acknowledgement that the customer should be represented at the table, we’re engaging students too, who’ve proven their allegiance to the cause, to sit on these vetting committees.  Two of the stars of the field are Daniel Mael and Chloe Valdary.  It’s a pretty tough environment for hiring such stellar young people.  They have offers of employment at FoxNews and the Wall Street Journal respectively.  But we hope to lure them with promises they will make the campuses of America safe for Israel.  A more sacred mission I can’t conceive.

Though we believe this is a lucrative field we’re entering (creating, really), we don’t want our clients to think of as money-grubbing capitalists.  To that end, we plan on donating 5% of our net revenues (you didn’t think we were nuts enough to base this on gross revenues, did you?) to various worthy, non-political causes like Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, and one of our sister Israeli organizations, Im Tirzu.  We’re proud of our association with our Israeli brethren who are bringing a “second Zionist revolution” to Israeli academe.

Please don’t get the idea that any of this is political.  Zionism, after all, knows no denominations or sects.  There are Christian, Jewish and heck, even Muslim Zionists.  It’s entirely non-partisan.  And that’s as it should be.  There are so many enemies of the Jewish people out there flapping their mouths.  God knows what they might say.  But we know what’s right.  And there isn’t a political bone in our body.

Don’t get the idea that we’re affiliated with one Israel Lobby group like Aipac.  After all, how would it sound to say: Aipac Certified?  That’s thinking too small.  No, we’re going big.  We want the whole enchilada.  That’s why we call our process Zio Certification.

There may be a few holdout institutions who think they can do things the old-fashioned way.  They can honor all the old cliches like academic freedom and pay the price by standing by faculty who speak inconveniently in public settings.  To them I say, God speed.  You don’t need our help.  You need a time machine.  You’ll find that you’re dinosaurs and this Brave New World we’re entering will soon pass you by.

My message to academe is: we’re ready to go–are you?  Zionize or die.

H/t to Abou Ali Zarif.

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IDF Unit 8200 Officers Refuse to Fight Palestinians

ofrit

Unit 8200 base, Ofrit, in Occupied East Jerusalem, which spies on the West Bank.

43 reserve members of the IDF’s prestigious intelligence group, Unit 8200, signed a letter (original letter here) refusing to take part in operations targeting Palestinians or in furthering the military Occupation.  Activists who’ve paid attention to Israeli military affairs over the past decade or more know that hundreds of soldiers and inductees have similarly refused military service in the West Bank.  But this group is different.  Unit 8200 is the equivalent of the NSA.  It is one of the most critical weapons in the IDF arsenal to defend the nation’s security.  It participates in myriad ways supporting, and even initiating IDF operations.  It is the biggest intelligence unit in the Israeli army.  This is the first time any such officers have publicly protested.

These refusers are not Edward Snowden.  They are not spilling secrets or naming names.  But their motivation for protesting against Israeli intelligence operations is almost the same as Snowden’s.  They claim that there is virtually no oversight or restraint against spying on Palestinians.  That there is no distinction made between innocent and guilty Palestinians.  That their goal as intelligence operatives was to subvert Palestinian society from within.  Here is a translation of the letter, which was addressed to the prime minister, IDF chief of staff, and Aman (intelligence) chief:

We the undersigned, veterans of Unit 8200, current and past reserve soldiers, declare that we refuse to take part in activities against the Palestinians and refuse to participate in or enable the deepening of military rule in the Occupied Territories.

There is a view that service in IDF intelligence is devoid of moral dilemmas and contributes only to preventing violence and injury to the innocent.  However, during our military service we learned that intelligence is a inseparable part of military rule in the Territories.  The Palestinian population, living under a military regime, is completely exposed to spying and surveillance of Israeli intelligence.  As opposed to Israeli citizens and citizens of other nations, there is no supervision ["review"] of methods of gathering, tracking or using intelligence information related to the Palestinians, whether they are involved in violence or not.  Information gathered damages the innocent and is used for political persecution and creating divisions within Palestinian society through recruitment of collaborators and turning of Palestinian society against itself.  In many cases, intelligence prevents doing proper justice to the accused under military courts through preventing him from seeing the evidence against him.  Intelligence enables continuing rule over millions of people, authority that is deep and penetrates into every facet of daily life.  These things prevent normal life and spark further violence and further distance any end of the conflict.

Millions of Palestinians have lived under Israeli military rule for 47 years.  This rule negates their basic rights and expropriates their lands in order to settle Jews upon them who are subject to a separate police, legal and judicial system.  Such a reality is not a part of the efforts of the state to defend itself, but rather a result of a choice.  Broadening the settlements has nothing to do with self-defense.  Nor does limiting [Palestinan] building and development and economic exploitation of the West Bank, or the collective punishment of residents of Gaza, or the route of the Separation Wall.

In light of this, we have reached the conclusion that we who served in Unit 8200 have a responsibility for this situation and a responsibility to act.  Our consciences do not permit us to continue serving this system, which damages the rights of millions of human beings.  Therefore those among us who are reservists declare that we will refuse to take part in operations against Palestinians.  We call upon intelligence officers, currently and in future, and all Israeli citizens, to make their voices heard against these injustices and to act to bring them to an end. We believe that Israel’s future depends on it.

In an interview with Yediot Achronot, one of the signers expanded on his objections of Israeli intelligence gathering methods.  His claims echo Edward Snowden:

As a soldier in Unit 8200 I participated in gathering intelligence on people accused of attacking Israelis.  But along this we gathered intelligence on those who were innocent, whose only sin was that they were of interest to the intelligence apparatus for various reasons.  Reasons of which no one had any knowledge.

Every Palestinian is exposed to perpetual monitoring without any legal protection.  The lowliest army personnel can decide that someone is a target for intelligence gathering.  There is no process under which damage to the rights of an individual is weighed to determine if it is justified.  The idea of Palestinian rights is non-existent.

The signatories also pointed to another controversial Shin Bet “recruitment” technique, by which they exploit character flaws or vulnerabilities among Palestinians in order to blackmail them to become agents.  Intercepting private phone conversations, text messages, and e mails is a prime tool in this process, making Unit 8200 officers complicit.

Like Snowden, signers of the letter are also being accused by the IDF of not using normal internal channels to make their complaints known.  The army claims it has internal review processes that would guarantee examination of such complaints.

Unfortunately, in one sense the refusers are on shaky legal footing regarding their claims.  Not because they’re not correct in substance–they are.  But because, similar to the NSA (which has virtual carte blanche regarding foreign citizens), Palestinians have no standing under Israeli law.  They are not citizens and therefore are not afforded even the minimal protections offered to Israelis.  One can argue that Unit 8200, like the NSA should have constraints on its operations against non-citizens.  But that’s not the case.

To be honest, the letter specifies the refusers will not spy on Palestinians.  But there is plenty of other objectionable Unit 8200 activity having nothing to do with Palestinians.  It provides intelligence data on Israeli enemies like Hezbollah and Iran.  It intercepts private communication used to assassinate militants and even officials of foreign countries.  Targeted killings violate international law, whether carried out by the U.S. or Israel.  This behavior is no less a product of the same spy regime which has no oversight or restraints, and which the letter criticizes.

The IDF’s response was characteristically mendacious:

The military spokesman’s office said in a statement that Unit 8200 personnel were held to ethical standards “without rival in the intelligence community in Israel or the world”, and had internal mechanisms for filing misconduct complaints.

In terms of how the intelligence personnel’s participation in this letter will be seen by the populace, they will be treated as the Justice Department has treated Snowden.  They will be seen as oddballs and in certain circles as traitors.  In such a view, these are the creme de la creme of society.  The nation gives them everything.  Entrusts them with its secrets.  And they turn around and bite the hand that feeds.  Shameful.

I can’t exaggerate how brave these officers have been.  As those who read this blog regularly know, service in Unit 8200 is a steppingstone into Israeli high tech.  It offers a wide array of professional opportunities that are not available to those who don’t serve there.  Veterans network amongst each other and it’s like a Good Old Boys’ club, only more so.  The signers will be blackballed.  They will lose privileges, friendships, promotions.  This is a big step for them.

The names of the signatories have so far been shielded from public knowledge.  Though clearly the IDF knows who they are since the did sign their names to the original letter.  I predict that the prime minister will find a way to leak the names.

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