≡ Menu
Adam livix

Adam Livix, 30, U.S. terror suspect arrested by Shabak

Last month, I discovered the Shabak was secretly holding a foreign citizen on suspicion of serious security offences. I tweeted this on November 26th (see tweet below). But I could not obtain further information except that his name was “Adam L.”

This morning, an Israeli journalist confirmed the story in an e mail to me, and within an hour the Shabak “coincidentally” released a full account of the arrest and charges against him. The police report noted that he’d been indicted.  Haaretz’s Hebrew language story here.  The AP story is here:

As you read MSM accounts of this story and see this fact omitted, you may wonder why.

The suspect is Adam Livvix, age 30, a resident of Texas and wanted there on drug charges. Though there are indications he may be from Illinois, where other close family members live.  He appears to have jumped bail in the U.S. As a a fugitive on the run, he might’ve fled to the West Bank to avoid capture. The journalist told me that Livvix is a Christian fundamentalist and “probably not very stable.”

According to the Shabak release, he first traveled to the West Bank, where he lived in Hebron. After boasting about serving in the Navy SEALS, Palestinians allegedly solicited him to join in an attempt to assassinate Pres. Obama during his trip to Israel last year.  They offered him a sniper rifle to use as the weapon.  He purportedly refused, but the Shabak began to investigate him at that point.  Later, he came to Israel and moved in with a roommate who was an IDF solider.  Livvix told him that he was a former Navy SEAL, and bought stolen Israeli military munitions from him.  His goal was to blow up Muslim holy places.

I find the alleged assassination plot to be the most lacking in credibility.  I simply don’t believe Palestinians would attempt to assassinate the U.S. president.  It’s possible that Livvix approached settlers or Palestinians with this goal in mind.  But not for Palestinians to have initiated such a plot.  Further, can you imagine a Palestinian militant approaching a deranged Christian fundamentalist American in Hebron to join a plot to assassinate an American president?  They would have to be very stupid terrorists.  I would challenge the Shabak to produce any evidence justifying this claim.

Livvix was secretly arrested last month and has been held incommunicado at Ayalon Prison since then. The Shin Bet statement claims that the FBI has been apprised of the arrest. I asked the agency for comment and they released this:

“We are aware of the recent arrest of an American citizen in Israel and are currently working with the Israeli authorities to assist in their investigation. The FBI continues to work closely with our counterparts in Israel to identify, apprehend, and hold accountable those who threaten the public with violence.”

This would presume that the domestic intelligence agency endorsed the Israeli secret police’s abusive treatment of Livvix.   It also goes a long way to presuming Livvix’s guilt since it presumes he “threatened the public with violence.”  My impression was that this needed to be proven in a court of law and couldn’t be presumed.  But given today’s release of the CIA terror report and the revelations of U.S. torture of suspected Al Qaeda militants, it appears we’re fine with Shabak’s torture techniques as well, even if used on U.S. citizens.  In fact, the CIA has exploited Israeli use of torture as a justifying precedent for its own brutality.

Generally, the Israelis arrest Jewish and Palestinians security suspects in secret.  They gag the media from reporting the story.  They hold victims without charge and without legal representation for periods of time determined solely by the secret police in collaboration with a malleable judicial system.  They use abusive interrogation techniques, even ones specifically excluded by Supreme Court rulings.  This is what Adam Livvix has endured.  He has, in this case, the benefit of not being Palestinian and holding U.S. citizenship, so they probably went somewhat easy on him.  That is, comparatively easy, since U.S. officialdom has apparently washed its hands of him.

One also has to wonder why the Shin Bet did not question him after he was unsuccessfully recruited for the supposed assassination attempt on the U.S. President, and only arrested him after he began planning terror attacks against Muslims.

Why is it when the U.S. exports human beings to Israel they tend to be lunatics like Livvix or Jewish terrorists like Jack Teitel, Ephraim Khantsis and others? Why are our haters and human flotsam drawn to Israel?  It would be wrong for anyone to label Livvix a nutcase and outlier.  He and the comrades I listed above are the Ugly Face of Israeli extremism.  But Israel extremism rules Israel.  If you tapped into Bibi Netanyahu’s sub-conscious, the miasma floating around in there wouldn’t be terribly different from what’s in the mind of Adam Levvix.  Bibi’s Jewish, shrewder, wears better suits and has a nicer accent.  Other than that…

I’ve just asked the State Department for comment about the case. This is their statement in full:

We have seen these reports.  The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously.  When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all possible consular assistance.  Due to privacy considerations we are unable to comment further.

This means that Livvix would have to waive his right to privacy in order for State to comment publicly.  But it could easily mean diplomatic officers in Israel did not approach him to ask for such a waiver; or that the Shin Bet refused to allow them to visit him.  At any rate, State is refusing to tell us whether they had any contact with him, which is unacceptable.

While I find Livvix to be an odious character based on these reports, I’m proud that once again my Israeli partners and I have been able to penetrate the opaque national security state to guarantee that no prisoners are disappeared without access to legal representation and their rights.  This appears not yet fully to be the case with Livix, but the process has begun.’

Please support this important work through a donation. Thanks to several Israeli sources for help in breaking this story.

{ 12 comments }

An earlier version of this essay was published by Middle East Eye, whom I thank for offering it a home:

I love that old Linda Ronstadt song from classic era of Eagles-inspired soul-rock, It Don’t Matter Anymore.  Describes the upcoming Israeli election to a ‘T.’

During the U.S. anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s there was a popular slogan: suppose they gave a war and nobody came?  I’d like to amend that to the Israeli context: suppose they called an election and nobody came or cared?  That sums up the coming March election, which Bibi Netanyahu has precipitated for no apparent reason other than to prolong his record as the longest serving Israeli prime minister.  At this rate, he’ll be embalmed in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem like Lenin in the Kremlin.  They should change his title to Prime Minister for Life.  The irony is that 60% of Israelis polled don’t like him or want him to be prime minister.  They just want the other guy even less.

israel as jewish state

Settler Judaism comes to define Israel as “Jewish State”

If you were cynical (and it pays to be when you observe Israel and its political system), you’d say Bibi has been orchestrating key events for months leading up to his call for new elections.  There’s nothing like a good war against Gaza or Lebanon to perk up poll numbers.  I have little doubt that Operation Protective Edge was part of his plan to prepare for elections.  Even if it wasn’t, it dropped a wonderful campaign gift into his lap.  Further, the Israeli provocations that led up to the last month of terror attacks and killings were also likely laying the groundwork for elections.  There’s nothing like feeding red meat to the settler ‘dogs’ of the Likud’s far-right flank–with police assaults on the Haram al-Sharif, Palestinian expulsions from Silwan to further the Judaization of East Jerusalem–to motivate extreme nationalists to vote Likud.  The latest series of what I call Knesset “Race” Bills (but which Israelis call “Nationality Laws“) has also monopolized the political discourse.  Even though these racist proposals have been roundly criticized abroad and by no less figures than Shimon Peres and Reuven Rivlin (the current and past presidents), and it’s unlikely they will pass in their current form, they play well to the 60% of Israelis who polls show have racist views of Palestinians.

Another critical move the Knesset made to anaesthetize the left was raising the electoral threshold for political parties from 2% to 3.25%.  It’s no accident that no single Palestinian party wins more than 3.25% of the vote.  The upshot is that unless the parties unite, they will be shut out of the Knesset.  So instead of Israeli Palestinians having only half the actual representation they should have in proportion to their actual population in the current Knesset, they will have none.  It was a shrewd racist move in many ways.  Even if the parties do coalesce into a single entity Palestinians, almost half of whom refuse to participate in the electoral process at all, will be far less motivated to vote.  Imagine if the UK Tories and Social Democrats were forced to unite in order to rise above an electoral threshold.  How many voters in each party would be so turned off by the cheapening of their values that they would say to hell with both of them and stay home?  I predict this is what’s likely to happen in the coming Israeli election.

This is not an academic exercise, nor is it’s impact limited to Israeli Palestinians.  It is yet another in a long line of successful ploys designed to emasculate the Israeli left.  The extreme nationalist right has engineered (barring outside intervention) a permanent settlerist majority.  Israeli democracy is dying.  Any society which disenfranchises 20% of its population in the name of Jewish supremacism is on its way to political hell.

Netanyahu’s announcement of the sacking of the two centrist ministers, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, in which he accused them of orchestrating a “putsch,” is also the stuff of political theater.  The idea of Israel’s pathetically weak centrist parties having the coherence, savvy or boldness to organize such a political maneuver is beyond ridiculous.  Neither Livni nor Lapid can agree on what day it is, let alone join together to try to take over the government.  But conspiracy-mongering of this sort of plays well to the Likudist electorate, always smelling a conniving “leftist” rat.

Netanyahu, whose performance in the last election was actually quite poor, forcing him to cobble together an awkward coalition of far-right nationalists with centrist liberal Zionist parties, stands to do much better in the coming one.  He has neutralized the political center and stimulated the right with Pavlovian policies like those I outlined above.  The opposition is demoralized, the governing coalition is mobilized.  It promises a sure win for the rightist coalition.

Now let me say something heretical for most observers of Israeli politics: who wins doesn’t matter.  In the inconceivable event Lapid or Livni win, policies would not be significantly different.  Sure, there will be a few sops thrown to the social justice movement.  Maybe Mahmoud Abbas would be invited to visit.  Israel might allow a nuclear agreement with Iran and not threaten to attack.  But no Israeli prime minister would be able or willing to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinians and other frontline states (Lebanon and Syria).  There is simply no consensus about this and no one has the guts to try to forge one.

Nor does it matter much who’s elected to the Knesset.  That body, despite being Israel’s legislative branch, does precious little that has any substantive impact on Israeli society.  Government policy is implemented by a tight-knit circle of the political, military and intelligence elite including the prime minister, defense and finance ministers, the intelligence chiefs and IDF chief.  The main purpose of the Knesset and ministerial portfolios is to hand-out political pork to supporters and factions.  This is why the Haredi, Mizrahi and Orthodox parties have done so well in past governments.  They had little interest in impacting policy in significant ways.  They wanted political fiefdoms from which they could parcel out goodies and patronage along with the odd Judaic morality play about preserving rabbinic control over marriage and divorce.

In other democracies, the purpose of the legislative branch is to oversee the executive branch: to review policies and finances and ensure government functions in a fair and transparent way.  The Knesset doesn’t monitor the prime minister, military or intelligence branches as they might in a real democracy.  Its members do a lot of grandstanding.  They give interviews to newspapers in which they vent about the latest Palestinian outrage.  It’s all pandering to an electorate which laps up Palestine-baiting.  The grandstanding is little more than political positioning for the next election.  They more column inches you get in Yisrael HaYom the higher you’ll be placed in the party list and more likely you’ll enter Knesset and become a minister.  Israeli politics is little more than a gravy train leading to perks and patronage.

Lest anyone doubt this, take Ehud Olmert’s political career as a model.  From almost the beginning when he became mayor of Jerusalem through his role as a junior cabinet minister up to becoming prime minister, he was as crooked as the day is long.  Almost everything was for sale for the right price.  If he couldn’t find Israelis able to finance his lifestyle, he turned to kindly Diaspora Jews like billionaire, S. Daniel Abraham, to shower him with Slimfast boxes full of cash.

Now Olmert whines about how bad Israeli politics works and how little is being done to solve real problems.  But when he had a chance to make peace with the Syrians and Palestinians, he demurred.  In the former case, he preferred starting a useless war against Gaza than signing a deal with Pres. Assad.  Only when Israeli politician leave power do they sound like the soul of Hamlet.

Netanyahu hasn’t quite followed the same path.  He’s corrupt, but not on the same scale (as far as we know).  He is more ideologically motivated than Olmert.  But even Bibi is willing to trim his sails to suit the prevailing winds.  Though he’s repulsed by the notion of a Palestinian state, he gave George Bush a speech in which he endorsed it with his fingers crossed behind his back.

Bibi’s primary goal is not to make an indelible mark as a statesman.  Not to solve an intractable national problem.  His goal is survival.  Longevity.  He likes hearing the sound of his own voice delivering orations at the UN or before Congress.  It flatters him.

He has no strategic vision.  He’s not trying to get from Point A to Point B in terms of pursuing a political agenda.  He satisfied with the settlers providing the ideological passion and energy.  He sits above it all as a conductor leading the orchestra, making sure no one plays too much out of tune.

In 2011, Jerry Haber penned a post, Bibi for Prime Minister, which at that time seemed heretical to some.  I wasn’t sure at the time I agreed with him.  I do now.  In fact, I’d prefer a victory by someone even more extreme like Lieberman, Bennett or Danon.  They will expose the fangs of Israeli racialism and fascism.  The world will know what it’s getting with that crew.  There will be no mincing words, no waffling, no hoping for better future outcomes.  Once Israel elects the Apocalypse there will be no turning back to a nation of liberal democracy.  There will be no nostalgia for the past of kibbutzim, collectivism, and social democracy.  That will be thrown on the dust heap of Israeli history.

This time, Israel will be exposed like the Alien monsters in the film franchise who lurk undetected inside perfectly nice and unsuspecting human beings.  But at a certain moment, these aliens explode from the bodies, killing their hosts as they show themselves in all their hideous “glory.”  That’s the direction Israel is heading.

France has had its Republics.  Like France, Israel’s history has included kings, prophets, judges, conquerors, and prime ministers.  Now, Israel is closing out another chapter in its history.  The era of the democratic nation state is lapsing into a Judean theocratic regime.  Paraphrasing Yeats, some “rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches” towards Jerusalem to be born. The sooner this beast appears, and wreaks the full measure of his havoc, the sooner the world will realize that it must act to prevent an even greater catastrophe.  Things will get worse, much worse, before they get better.

The NY Times published a similar take on the elections from Max Blumenthal, which is worth reading.  I especially enjoyed this passage:

If a shift is underway in Israeli politics, it is primarily tonal. Israel’s rightists intend to carry on the Zionist project as originally conceived, but without the pretense of democracy. In a way, their honesty is refreshing.

I recorded an audio interview with Robert Rosenblum of The Truth About Israel, to which you may listen here. The audio isn’t terribly good, but you can make it out decently if you listen closely. Head phones help:

Check Out Politics Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Truth About Israel.
{ 19 comments }
max rayne price tag arson

Max Rayne School officer witnesses classroom fire damage

The Shabak today arrested several suspects in the arson attack on the Max Rayne School, which is one of the few institutions in the country which has an integrated Jewish-Palestinian student body.  As always in these cases, the secret police nab the suspects secretly and prohibit the media from reporting the arrests or the names of the suspects.  This allows them to put the screws to the detainees, interrogate them using whatever methods they choose (in the case of Palestinians, abusive ones), with no countering pressure brought to bear by the victim, his lawyer, family or the public.

nachman twito

Nachman Twito pictured with his price tag “artistry.” The graffiti says: “price tag.”

So the identities of the arson suspects cannot be reported in the media.  However, I know the name of the leader of the terror cell and can report it here: Nachman Twito.  He’s a devout Kahanist of North African origin.  I’ve displayed some of the photos on his Facebook account which document his blind loyalty to the cause.  His Facebook page sports his enthusiasm for the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team and Israeli pop star, Amir Benayoun.  All are worshipped by the most rabid, racist of Israelis.

Though almost all price tag attacks against Palestinian mosques, cemeteries and beatings handed out to Palestinians by Jewish hooligans go uninvestigated and unsolved, this case is different.  First, it comes in the context of numerous acts of terror committed by each side against the other.  This has magnified the incitement quotient of such attacks.  Second, Netanyahu has just dissolved his government and is going to new elections.  Along with the Race (aka Nationality) Laws now before the Knesset, the school attack comes as a powerful incendiary device.  If the suspects were treated with the same light hand as previous incidents, it might damage the chances of the ruling rightist coalition and/or harm the prospects for the Race bills.

kahanist terror gear

Twito’s Kahanist terror gear

For these reasons, the situation reminds me of the classic French film, This Man Must Die.  Nachman Twito won’t die of course.  But he must be seen by the public to be a bad boy.  Someone who faces consequences for his actions (sort of).  He probably won’t even be tried, let alone convicted or imprisoned.  The authorities will give the Jewish terrorists consideration they don’t offer Palestinian security prisoners.  As soon as the political-security situation eases, Twito and his pals will be released.  Then they can return to their old ways having been turned, by incarceration, into heroes in the eyes of their comrades.

This allows Bibi Netanyahu and his settler allies to continue this little charade they have going.  Democracy?  Of course, we’re a democracy, we treat all the right citizens with utmost respect.  Rule of law?  Of course.  We even arrest Jews when they behave badly.  Then of course, we release them so they can continue serving the useful purpose of inciting hate among the “Arabs.”  It’s the democracy game.

Don’t be fooled by Israeli pols who decry such attacks and the perpetrators as “enemies of democracy.”  Of course they are.  But the real enemies of democracy, the ones who give the pogromists their power are the Israelis themselves who vote the Likudists and their ilk into control.  Even those who vote for centrist parties like Labor are accessories after the fact, since they know in their heart that no Labor Party MK has the guts to do what has to be done to turn Israeli into a just society.  This isn’t a question of a few bad apples.  The barrel itself is rotten.  Israel needs a new apples and a new barrel.  No Israeli Jewish party is willing to do that.

I encourage you to support the School with donations that will enable them to repair the damage inflicted by Jewish hate.

{ 15 comments }


UPDATE: Within hours of originally publishing this post, Arab media reported that Israeli war planes attacked two military targets near Damascus.  This would make at least the sixth Israeli invasion of Syrian territorial sovereignty to attack military-security targets.  Nicholas Blanford seems to have summed up the situation pretty well:

“Usually we have the attack, there are accusations from the one side, the Israelis say nothing, within two or three days there are leaks in the American or Israeli press and that’s when we get to find out what they tried to hit,” he told Al Arabiya News.

Blanford said previous reported strikes had allegedly been against what the Israelis described as “potential game-changing weapons” such as air defense systems, advanced anti-aircraft missiles, anti-ship missiles or long-range surface-to-surface missiles…

“It’s still too soon to say and we will have to wait for the inevitable leaks to come out in the next few days but I think we can safely assume that whatever they hit [on Sunday] will probably fall into these categories,” Blanford said.

*   *

For much of the length of the Syrian rebellion, news media have claimed that Israel has maintained neutrality between Pres. Assad and the rebels.  Israel officially makes the same claim.  But this is not true and has never been true.  At least five times the IAF has attacked Syrian government positions, in several cases in an attempt to destroy advanced Russian weapons being shipped to Hezbollah, Assad’s ally.  A few weeks ago, Israel shot down a Syrian plane it claimed had strayed yards into Israeli territory after it had returned to Syria, another breach of Syrian territorial sovereignty.

In the past few days, Lebanese media reports the army fired on Israeli drones inside Lebanese airspace in the Bekaa Valley.  By one account, the drones were monitoring a Syrian airport on behalf of rebels forces who were trying to take it from loyalist troops.

Now, the UN peacekeeping force on the Israel-Syria border, which has been under threat from Syria rebels, reports on the increasing level of explicit support offered by the Israeli military to the rebels.  Some time ago, I reported about a FoxNews story which filmed Israeli commandos inside Syria, returning from operation in support of Golani Syrian Druze forces opposed to Assad.

The latest report shows not only that Israel has accepted wounded rebel fighters for medical treatment inside Israel, it is accepting them from those who are the most radical Islamists among them: the al-Nusra Front:

In the [Israeli hospital in Safed], they’re careful to present in a positive light the work to save the lives of those [Syrians] who need it: children, female non-combatants, refugees and even fighters from the Islamist al-Nusra Front.

Though some local Israelis resent the intensive and expensive medical treatment offered the Syrians, even going so far as to say “they would slaughter us if they had the chance, it’s in their blood,” reasons of state prevail in this matter.  In fact, treating Syrians who are fresh from the battle zone is a terrific means of picking up intelligence and recruiting Israeli agents.  The Shin Bet already does this by blackmailing Palestinians to spy in return for offering superior Israeli medical treatment for family members.  This is one of the many odious ways in which it recruits some of the agents who may end up executed someday by Hamas after being abandoned to their fates by their Israeli handlers.

Israel has even established (Hebrew source) a Camp Ashraf-style Syrian rebel encampment just inside Israeli territory on the border (watch Israeli TV video):

UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel. The Syrians also warned that if the UN would not evacuate the tent camp, the Syrian army would view it as a legitimate target.

The video featured above has this to say:

Now, pictures are coming from a refugee camp established next to the border which hasn’t brought about any response from Israel who, in the meantime enables the continuing existence of the complex.

This would be a huge red flag to Assad, indicating Israel was prepared to escalate its intervention by permitting rebels to operate openly inside Israel and engaging in cross border sabotage-terror operations.  Clearly, it’s in Israel’s interest to create maximum instability inside Syria in order to harm the interests not just of Assad, but his chief allies Iran and Hezbollah.  Despite the fact that Sunni Islamist rebels are enemies of Israel and Zionism, in Israel’s current policy trajectory, the enemy of its enemy is its friend.  However, one must remember that in the Middle East, one’s current ally can quickly turn into one’s worst nightmare: witness the Afghani mujahadeen alliance with the CIA under in the Reagan presidency; and Israel’s own covert efforts to found both Hamas and Hezbollah to counter the impact of the secularist Fatah in Palestine and Lebanon.

Whatever any Israeli may say about this, do not tell me this is a generous humanitarian gesture on Israel’s part.  It’s nothing of the sort.  It’s a move calculated purely for intelligence and political advantage.

 

{ 47 comments }

Will Obama Impose Sanctions Against Israel?

obama netanyahu

Obama’s pissed off, but pissed off enough to impose sanctions?

Move over Iran and North Korea, there may be a new member of the U.S. Sanctions Club: Israel.  Earlier today, several DC news outlets began running accounts of secret White House deliberations regarding imposing sanctions on Israel for its continued building of settlements.  Pointedly, no U.S. official has denied the rumors.  Haaretz appears to have first reported this story.  But in its reporting it never mentioned the word “sanctions.”  Instead, it mentioned more mundane terms like taking stronger action.

The DC press corps and the rightist pro-Israel media has interpreted this as Obama is considering sanctions.  So it’s hard to know what the real intent is here.

So far, the actions suggested don’t constitute sanctions in the conventional sense: refusing to veto anti-Israel Security Council resolutions and cutting off certain financing and support to settlements.  They are more tangible expressions of anger.  But nowhere near formal legal action.

These measures would be a step in the right direction.  Especially if one of the policies under consideration includes removing tax-deductible status from the tens of millions that flow from settlerist American Jews to the settlements yearly.

There are several odd things about this announcement: where was Obama before this?  Why has he all of a sudden decided to pursue such a radical change of course?  Statements like this make the president look naive:

The failure of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting and the administration’s growing anger over the settlement construction led to the understanding that denunciatory statements, no matter how harsh, have become ineffective.

After years of such pablum, all of a sudden Obama understands how useless they have been?

Bibi himself will point to this as a cynical maneuver by a frustrated U.S. leader who can’t bring the prime minister to heel any other way.  As a result, he pulls out this election gimmick designed to hurt the governing coalition at the polls in the upcoming election.

He wouldn’t be far wrong in claiming this.  Sanctions? Sure.  But now?  Why?  Why not a month or six months or a year ago?  What has changed so radically to deserve such a change in policy?  Hey, I’d love to think it was all of us who screamed bloody murder when the State Department spokesperson expressed “regret” or “concern” on the murder of Palestinian civilians or new settlement building.  But I’m not that naive.  Obama didn’t get religion all of a sudden.

How would sanctions affect the Israeli election?  First, it would rally Bibi’s rightist base.  But he already had them anyway.  There was no question he would bring them to the polls in droves.  So it may marginally improve his standing on the far right.  Among the center-left voters, it could have a dramatic impact in strengthening their will to vote.  Instead of seeing a demoralized center-left in the election, directionless and lacking focus–these voters may see the President of the United States echoing their own views about settlements.  It could improve the chances of the center-left which, I believe, stood to take a drubbing.

I still believe the center-left will take a drubbing.  It has no right or mandate to rule.  It presents no discernible agenda other than self-preservation and retaining the status quo.  So as I wrote above, sanctions are an excellent idea in general and should’ve been proposed long ago.  But now?  Doing so now makes them look like a political tool meant to impact the election.  If that’s all they are then they are illegitimate.  They should be a principled moral and political response to Israel’s unjust illegal settlement policy.

{ 7 comments }

For those who follow my Twitter feed, you’ll recall a tweet I published based on a Haaretz story, which reported the mysterious appearance of unmarked airplanes at Ben Gurion Airport.  It turns out these planes were leased to a “Gulf State” company.  But the reporter refused to name the country, the cargo carried or reason for their being at Ben Gurion.  This information is either under military censorship or judicial gag.  But it can be reported here.

Thanks to a confidential Israeli source, I can answer those questions.  The planes were leased to a company doing business in Abu Dhabi (UAE) and are carrying security personnel, other security-related machinery being shipped there by an Israeli cyber-security consultant.  These are not merely computers.  These are the infrastructure of a national security state.  Everything that is needed to control a population from within and protect its security from without.

Some of you may wonder how Israel is doing business with an Arab state which doesn’t recognize Israel.  The answer, it turns out, is easily.  Iran is not only Israel’s enemy, but the enemy of all the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia.  The latter funded Israel’s covert ops campaign against Iran to the tune of $1-billion.  During the last round of P5+1 nuclear talks, Israel purportedly joined with the Saudis to pressure the U.S. not to do a deal.  There have been rumblings that Israel and S.A. might jointly attack Iran to stop its nuclear program.  Israel has made common cause against Iran with many of these kingdoms.

I reported here that Israel opened a secret military liaison office in UAE to coordinate security strategy against Iran.  This security deal may be part of this process of beefing up military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the Gulf.

mati kohavi

Mati Kohavi, secret purveyor of cyber-security “public safety” technology to United Arab Emirates

One of my ‘sidelines’ is reporting the corrupt dealings of Israel’s flourishing arms dealing/cyber-intelligence industry.  Tonight, we have a new story to tell.  It involves an Israel security company called Logic, which is part of a larger conglomerate called AGT International (originally Asia Global Technologies).  AGT is a Swiss-registered company owned by Mati Kochavi, with $8-billion in projects under management and $1-billion in annual revenue, according to its own claims (which are disputed in a Calcalist Hebrew profile of Logic).  Here is a description of its portfolio:

The company provides security services and research in a wide variety of areas, including industrial, urban, cyber, transportation, maritime, border and corporate security. It protects transportation hubs, manages urban information systems, assists law enforcement and provides intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance solutions. Its professional services also include risk and vulnerability assessment, evaluation and personnel training, and it will provide customized security solutions built to particular needs.

Kochavi, age 50, is a mysterious, and even somewhat shady character about which relatively little is known. Calcalist offered the most extensive picture of his background.  He was born in Haifa and attended the University of Haifa, where he studied history and philosophy.  He claims that early-on he wanted to be a journalist, rather than a security expert or high-tech mogul.  He did his military service in intelligence (most likely Unit 8200, though he’s never confirmed this).

In the 1990s he moved to New York, where he fell in with the wealthy real estate developers Steven Ross and Martin Adelman of the powerhouse Related Companies. They provided him with a spacious office in the Time Warner Center, which Related had built, and he proceeded to make his first fortune.

After 9/11, Kochavi and other entrepreneurs like Aubrey Chernick, the main funder of Standwithus and other Islamophobic causes and founder of NC4, saw a monumental business opportunity. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s almost unlimited security budget to ensure the nation’s internal security, offered a veritable gravy train of opportunity. With his strong sales background and patina of Israeli cyber-security expertise, the Israeli was a natural.

But his first few attempts were abject failures.  He bought the rights to market a new drone technology, hired well-known Israeli ex-military figures as lobbyists and door-openers, and fell flat on his face.  In his next venture, he entered into a partnership with the Israeli defense contractor, EL TA, to market its security technology.  However, the partnership dissolved when EL TA discovered that Kohavi was essentially stealing the technology and selling it in private ventures that were outside their partnership.  He was never charged with wrongdoing, but no Israeli military-industrial enterprises will ever partner with him again (though they will sell him their products).

The Israeli performed another business sleight-of-hand by founding AGT in Switzerland, allowing him to avoid Israeli taxes.  An even more important benefit is to shield from his Arab customers the Israeli origins of his products and services.  Logic was founded as the Israeli branch of the company.  But much about it is secret.  It has no website.  It has one client, AGT.  It mushroomed from an initial 20 employees to 600, making it one of Israel’s fastest-growing companies.  Yet, until the Calcalist profile, almost nothing was known about it.  Despite claims of international business consultancies and projects in multiple countries, AGT has only one known client.

Intelligence Online noted in 2012 that the $300-million in annual trade between Abu Dhabi and Israel involved almost solely security products including surveillance cameras, electronic fences and sensors to monitor strategic infrastructure and oil fields.  It noted that Kohavi and AGT was the major, if not only supplier.  Israeli sources note that AGT probably could not compete with the major industry players in the field for contracts with the developed world.  It is a relative newcomer and its expertise is untested.  So the company turns to the second-tier for its revenue, and Arab nations are impressed by the Israeli reputation for air-tight security.  Despite the official hostility between Israel and the Arab states, the more authoritarian ones have much in common with Israel.  Their levels of corruption, repression, and authoritarianism require sophisticated security solutions in order to maintain the elite in power.  Who has maintained its own position in a hostile regional environment better than Israel?

uae torture

UAE royal prince conducts torture session live on video

Just to point to a few international indexes that spotlight the levels of repression and corruption in UAE, Transparency International ranks it 25th in corruption of 175 countries, while Israel is ranked 37th.  UAE is 118th in press freedom according to Reporters Without Borders.  Some of you will recall the Afghan businessman who was tortured on videotape by a member of the UAE royal family.  This is the society whose powerful elite Mati Kohavi props up.  Calcalist could not identify any other projects under supervision by AGT.

In 2004, Kohavi sought to burnish his image with a major sortie into the world of think tanks with an NGO promoting the peace process called Bridging the Rift.  It was to be a joint Jordanian-Israeli project bringing together scholars and researchers from both countries.  The two governments were to contribute 300 dunams for a campus on which the research project would flourish.  It would fall under the academic auspices of the blue-chip U.S. universities, Cornell and Stanford.  At the groundbreaking, Kohavi was joined by a Who’s Who of Israeli politics including then-PM Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister, Bibi Netanyahu.  His New York developer mentors, Edelman and Ross joined him.  However, the project never went far and sources close to Kohavi claim it’s been “frozen” due to “governmental decisions.”

The company’s business model seems not to develop its own original technologies, but rather to license various independent (mostly Israeli) technologies and integrate them for a complex security environment.  So it may coordinate domestic surveillance, border security, airport and seaport oversight into a single package that UAE can purchase.  The Israelis in turn will purchase, install and maintain the infrastructure.

Kohavi is portrayed in adulatory media articles as a “global thought leader” in “public safety and security solutions.”  In other words, he’s the Herzliya version of the old-fashioned arms dealer with a suit and MBA.  Here’s some more puffery about Kochavi and his security sales pitch:

AGT International has dedicated itself to providing security solutions to law enforcement and urban security organizations that fit the specific needs of each city and country. Overall, the goal of AGT International is to help local and national governments predict, prepare for, and prevent security problems through unique solutions.

When you’re a hammer every problem is a nail waiting to be pounded.  When you’re an Israeli, raised in a national security state, every problem can be managed using the tools of such a state.  This reduces human beings and values like justice to irrelevancies.   Every problem is a target and every solution is a gun.  Forget politics, civil rights, democracy, freedom.  The only thing that matters is stability.  We can create it in a few ways if we’re not popularly elected in the Middle East: either by buying it or by enforcing it from the barrel of a gun (I use that term metaphorically to encompass all the security products Kohavi sells).  That is AGT’s method.

The Israeli is one of thousands who’ve transferred their intelligence/Unit 8200 skills from cyber-warfare scenarios to the realms of global security and commerce.  This national burst of entrepreneurial energy has also benefitted Israel’s intelligence services by allowing it to exploit these products as part of their own operations.

Though I suspect his motives and find much about him distasteful, I have to admit he’s innovative in his way.  He’s found ways to integrate his “security solutions” with unlikely enterprises like journalism and social media.  His product, Vocativ, harvests information from social and journalistic media in ways that serve the needs of his clients, notably security and intelligence agencies:

If you were to eavesdrop on social-media conversations all over the world involving the term “NSA” and run a sentiment analysis on the results, you’d probably find that the wire-tapping spy agency is none too popular with just about anyone these days.

A new digital news startup called Vocativ has the technology to run just that analysis. Yet its founder, Israeli-born security mogul Mati Kochavi, invites the comparison. He’s organized his newsroom along the lines of an intelligence agency in the belief that journalism needs to undergo the same transformation that’s already swept the field of spycraft.

I found an example he offered in a Haaretz interview quite interesting: in the company’s social media war room his staff collated all the tweets published in Saudi Arabia over a certain period.  They zeroed in on one tweet published by a Saudi professor who had hundreds of thousands of followers.  The ultimate goal, the reporter was told, was to contact the source and develop the tweeted information into an article that could be sold to other publications.  But imagine you ran Vocativ, had the Israeli intelligence background you did, and knew your pals back home might want to develop their own sources in Arab countries.  What better way to develop intelligence sources and possibly future agents than have an ostensibly international journalism enterprise, owned by Israelis, and delving into the social developments in those states most hostile to Israel.  A potential intelligence goldmine.

An article from back in July in Pando already made this connection using the sole big story Vocativ claims to have broken.  Here’s a representative passage:

…When you realize that Vocativ is also a mouthpiece for Israel’s armed forces, you have to stop and have a moment of silent appreciation for the sheer sleazy hilarity of this world. I mean, a site that’s half soft porn and half IDF press releases, with a side bet on a fake occult skill in Deep Web summoning…that’s just amazing.

It’s worth a read.

The melding of journalism and intelligence should bring a shock and sense of horror to journalists out there.  What Kochavi really wants to do is perform the investigative research that reporters might normally do, but to harness it to the interests of the repressive regimes who are his clients.  If you’re an activist in say, UAE, and using Twitter or Facebook to broadcast your views and rally your followers, Vocativ is going to expose you to that country’s security agency, which can then track you either physically or virtually.

Though he describes the product as a way of better understanding global trends in information and other fields and intends for his clients to be conventional media outlets: it seems clear that the product can easily be used in more prosaic and damaging ways.

{ 31 comments }
einat wilf

Einat Wilf glumly contemplates the fate of the Jewish state. (Israel National TV)

The Pacific NW chapter of StandWithUs will hold its annual fundraising event this month here in Seattle.  It will feature ex-Labor MK Einat Wilf and will honor recently retired local Reform Rabbi Jim Mirel.  Both choices are interesting for different reasons.  Wilf spent a few terms in the Knesset, first with the Labor Party and then with Ehud Barak’s ill-fated split-off, the Independence Party.  When the latter lapsed into oblivion, Wilf lost her job.

She always seemed an ill-fit for a center-left party since her views are far to the right of any other Party MK.  Wilf sits on the board of Gerald Steinberg’s NGO Monitor hasbara outfit (along with another former liberal humanist, Elie Wiesel).  She writes a regular column for Fathom, the glossy publication of UK’s Israel Lobby, Bicom.   She’s managed to carve out a lucrative niche as the token “leftist” Israeli willing to say the hard truths about Palestinians.  Diaspora audiences love to have their moral consciences assuaged by Israelis who tell them it’s OK to hate Arabs.  If Einat Wilf, a liberal Israeli does, then so can I, so the reasoning goes.  She does this around the world with invitations like the one offered to her by StandWithUs.  It’s a lucrative job in which speaking fees can range from $10,000-50,000 per appearance.   She’s represented by the Harry Walker Agency, whose clientele include many of the old warhorses of the pro-Israel lecture circuit.

Last year, British pro-Israel pols invited her to speak at the House of Commons about BDS and other demonic anti-Israel phenomena and she managed to smear former Labor Foreign Minister Jack Straw by accusing him of mouthing anti-Israel “prejudice of the worst sort.”  What did he really say?  That Bibi Netanyahu exploits U.S. political divisions by sidling up the Republicans and that the Israel Lobby plays a damaging role in determining U.S. Mideast policy.  She accused him specifically of saying Jews provided the Lobby “unlimited funding.”  Except that even the Jerusalem Post was forced to admit he didn’t even say that!  Nonetheless, that’s way too independent a line for the UK Israel Lobby’s taste, which was why the pro-Israel media crucified (pardon the expression) him.

The UK Lobby has done a similar job on Labor Party chair, Ed Milliband, trying to divert Jewish support from his run for prime minister in the next elections because he denounced the summer’s Gaza War.

Wilf has a special distaste for UNWRA, which she believes should be eliminated since it perpetuates the status of Palestinians as refugees:

UNWRA should not be spoken of as a humanitarian organization, but rather as a Palestinian organization and enemy [of Israel] which perpetuates the dream of [Palestinian] Return.

The former MK also railed against the “ungrateful” Negev Bedouin who refused the “generous deal” proffered to them by the Israeli government in the form of the Prawer Plan.  It would’ve displaced 40,000 Bedouin from their ancestral lands and concentrated them in centralized slum cities in which crime, drugs and unemployment are rampant.  This displacement would’ve enabled the Judaization of the Negev through the introduction of new settlements and infrastructure projects like roads and farms.

When Wilf served in the Knesset, she proposed her own version of what I call Israel’s Race laws (the ones being debated now in the Knesset).  She is the individual who first coined the opening line that has been retained in the current legislation:

The State of Israel is “the nation state of the Jewish people.”

At one time, this definition might’ve been acceptable to the majority of world Jewry.  But it’s becoming increasingly clear that by hitching our wagon to this “Jewish nation state,” we’re giving over our right to be independent Jews with a voice in our own destiny and that of Israel.  This ‘bargain’ offered  us allows Israel’s leaders to pursue their own political interests and to do so in our names.  For example, when Netanyahu attempts to spook the world into hating Iran he falsely states that the latter wants to destroy, not just Israel, but the Jewish people.

Further, it’s becoming ever clearer that the notion of Israel as a Jewish state jettisons democracy as a core value.  Democracy is replaced, just as Meir Kahane advocated, by notions of religious triumphalism, racial purity, and territorial expansion (lebensraum, anyone?).  Hate of The Other is at the core of this new concept of Jewish nationhood.  More and more Jews aren’t buying into this.  Which is what makes Wilf’s formulation so problematic.

In this portrait of her legislation, she describes her discomfort with linking the term “Jewish state” with “democracy:”

Through the years, we’ve become accustomed to the construction “a Jewish and democratic state” as a definition of the State of Israel.  I’ve never liked this definition.

She hasn’t ditched democracy entirely.  In fact, she even reaches out her hand (fraudulently) to the Palestinian minority and offers them equal rights to the Jewish majority.  But she does so with a catch:

…The full, equal citizenship of Israel’s Arab [sic] citizens and the possibility of their full integration into in Israeli society is dependent on this process happening through the Zionist idea and on the basis of Jewish heritage.

These words might not be as objectionable as they are if there was any evidence that the State embraced the concept she’s enunciating.  But it never has and never will.  In other words, these are empty words.  They sound good, look good on the page.  There’s even a hint of poetry in them.  But it’s all a sham.  Palestinian citizens do not, and have never had equal rights in her Jewish nation.

Another principle in her nationalist “theology” is that Israel’s existence offers the Jewish people the right to realize their ethical potential as a people.  At one time, visionaries like Ahad HaAm were willing to speak of the Jewish experiment in Palestine in ethical terms.  But far too much water has flowed under that bridge.  Any talk of Israel being an ethical expression of Jewish peoplehood is at best a cruel joke, at worst a cynical delusion.

jim mirel

An American Jewish Committee PR photo featuring Rabbi Mirel with Imam Jobani of the Redmond MAPS mosque

Rabbi Jim Mirel is the SWU guest of honor at its fundraising event.  Mirel has served for decades as senior rabbi at one of the Eastside’s major Reform congregations.  He has a liberal reputation in the community.  This has included his participation in some events that no other local rabbis would join.  A few years ago, Brenda Bentz organized a major conference on Islamophobia.  Mirel spoke at the conference and participated in its planning.  He has joined in other efforts to promote tolerance between the Jewish and Muslim communities locally.

But Mirel’s luster began to fade over the past year when the Washington State Holocaust Center invited a speaker from the Wiesenthal Center.  Local Muslim community members protested the Islamophobia represented by Wiesenthal and asked the Museum to cancel its invitation.  Instead of engaging with the critics, Mirel shouted at them and refused to concede there was a problem.  The event went ahead.

I wrote Mirel an e mail message a few days ago expressing my concerns about his participation in an event sponsored by one of the Jewish community’s most notoriously Islamophobic organizations.  He has not responded.  Mirel certainly knows what SWU represents.  He’d have to be blind and naive not to.  But too many Jews like him believe they can have their cake and eat it: they can be pro-Israel and associate with the brutalists in SWU while maintaining their liberal Jewish values.  You can’t have it both ways.  Rabbi Mirel should know this.  I say that by throwing in his lot with SWU he’s made his choice.  The local progressive community of Jewish, Christian and Arab activists should not pretend Rabbi Mirel is one of them.  You simply cannot play both sides of the street.  When you break bread with SWU, you embrace the enemies of tolerance, justice and democracy.

Rabbis and other community leaders like Mirel who straddle the fence ideologically are useful to the Israel Lobby.  I have little doubt that NW consul general Akiva Tor meets or speaks regularly with Mirel when he’s engaged with the Palestinian or Christian activist community.  He would be able to give them an inside view of what Israel’s critics are doing and saying.  What they plan.  It allows Israeli diplomats and their affiliates like SWU to anticipate what opponents will do in the community.

I’ve always believed something similar regarding another well-known “liberal” local Jewish activist, attorney Phil Ginsberg.  He’s a member of Mirel’s synagogue and often acts as the intermediary between the rabbi and the local activist community.  At the Islamophobia conference I mentioned above, I spoke and offered serious criticism of the Jewish community’s response to the Naveed Haq attack on the Jewish federation staff.  In an incident I’ve never seen happen before, Ginsberg, who’d introduced me but had no further role in my remarks or presentation, stood up after I’d finished and disputed what I’d said.  I’d never been so disrespected before in a public gathering by someone ostensibly participating as an event organizer (as I was too).  After I expressed my views to him directly, he dismissed them intolerantly.  Ever since, I’ve deeply suspected his motives and principles.  Now I’ve seen some of these same suspicions confirmed by Rabbi Mirel’s participation with SWU.

robert wilkes

Robert Wilkes, SWU board member and anti-Palestinian, anti-Black racist

One of the items I warned Mirel about in my message was this racist screed published by local SWU board member, Robert Wilkes, in the Times of Israel.  In his blog post, he likened the failures, violence and perfidy of Palestinians to the protesters of Ferguson.  I’ve excerpted most of it here:

The rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, have much in common with the Palestinians…

Both have permanent, deep-set anger and rage and are looking for anything to set it off. Anger defines them, and anger keeps both mired in failure. Rather than make better choices they prefer to ride the “victim” train to nowhere. Both must have an “oppressor” to rage against; a white cop defending himself or an Israeli Jew wanting to pray on the Temple Mount serves their purposes. Rage is the only path they know to gain honor and prestige among their peers.

…Palestinians learn hate in their society, which idolizes murderers, and in their schools…American students, even those in prestigious universities…are taught that they live in a racist society under an oppressive, imperialist US government that has committed innumerable sins at home and abroad. They become enlightenment-besotted idealists that believe Rousseau’s nonsense that civilization is a corrupting evil and virtue belongs to the noble savage. The result of all this expensive education is the nihilistic anarchy we see in the streets of Ferguson.

Both wish to undermine the state’s moral authority by provoking violent reactions, then portraying themselves as victims of oppression. Destroy the state’s moral authority—then destroy the state. In the Gaza War civilians died as human shields or because Hamas did not allow them to have shelters…The rioters in Ferguson  destroy as Utopian revolutionaries, hoping to build some vague notion of a classless society. They believe they first have to burn down what is already there.

Emotion is the be all and end all; practical solutions are not sought or desired. Prior to the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer, many good people in Ferguson reached out to the protest groups to let them know they were welcome to exercise their First Amendment rights. They pleaded with the protest leaders for peace and calm. It had no effect and the city burned anyway. Similarly, everyone knows that if the Palestinians cared about improving their lives they need only to make peace. A practical solution is of no interest to them.

Both have perfectly wretched leaders. Black leaders in America are con artists and a disgrace. They are a race-hustlers in a “business” fueled by anger. As long as blacks remain angry their “leaders” will continue to have a lucrative career. Similarly, the corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian leadership is equally unconcerned about the human aspirations of their own people.

Both have an abundance of people who will make excuses for them no matter what they do. Black problems in America have nothing to do with the conduct of the police…Their problems derive from…unhealthy aspects of black culture. Addressing those issues is a discussion that is not taking place in “politically correct” America. Try it, and the cultural elite in America will brand you a racist in a New York Times minute. The Palestinians too have an amazing array of feel-good apologists who are ready at all times to make excuses for murder…

Both adhere to causes that are quixotic and hopeless. Do the 1% protesters really believe they can steal wealth rather than earn it, and that the country be better off?…Do Palestinians really believe that the Israelis will just hand over the keys to the high-rise office complexes, universities, research laboratories, farms and factories of Israel and leave? Actually, they do…

Authorities in both places have their hands tied by their high standards of human rights and reverence for the rule of law. In an overabundance of caution, the governor of Missouri was reluctant to use force to stop the rioters. He asserted that they have a right to be there and make their voices heard. His high ideals were answered with Molotov Cocktails. Similarly, Israel’s IDF is the most careful, caring war fighting force the world has ever seen, even to the detriment of its own soldiers.

In both places, the innocent pay the price. The businesses destroyed in Ferguson belong to hard-working citizens who had nothing to do with the incident in which a policeman shot a robbery suspect in self-defense. The Palestinians are, tragically, far more bloodthirsty. They intentionally target civilians, even children…

I’ve quoted a significant portion of the post because, after Max Blumenthal tweeted about it and Wilkes’ affiliation with StandWithUs as a board member, it disappeared from the Times of Israel site.  But before that happened, SWU staff member, Hen Mazzig tweeted support of Wilkes.  Then the former backpedaled, tweeting that the views didn’t represent those of SWU.  Then the post simply disappeared.  Knowing TOI, I strongly doubt it was the cause of the removal.  I’m virtually certain that SWU demanded it be withdrawn.  It was too incendiary coming two weeks before the fundraising event.  They didn’t need any distractions that diverted from raising money.

It’s ironic that SWU muzzled Wilkes, since he publishes prolifically in local Jewish media in SWU’s name and says virtually the same things there (in fact, he smeared me once claiming I “depict Israel as a Nazi state inflicting a Shoah on the Palestinians”).  The only difference in this case is that Wilkes chose an international venue to spew his hate and someone like Max Blumenthal, who himself has an international audience, caught him.

There’s another odd facet to this story.  Alternet published a generally good story on the Wilkes post.  But a reader of this blog informed me that I’d been called a ‘booster of Israel’ by the author and that he claimed Wilkes “admired” me and Alan Dershowitz:

Wilkes says he is an admirer of Israel boosters Alan Dershowitz and Richard Silverstein.

This isn’t at all what Wilkes wrote or even meant.  Here is what he wrote:

To prepare myself for this task I have read everything from the scholarly arguments of Alan Dershowitz to the blogs of Richard Silverstein, and much in between.

The writer is an intern at Alternet.  He clearly doesn’t know anything about me or my views, nor has he done any serious research before making such blatantly false claims.  But it clearly hurts to be described this way even by someone who’s merely being incompetent.  I can’t say I’m surprised by this lapse.  Alternet editor, Alex Kane and his colleagues at Mondoweiss, where he also publishes, joined in calling me “racist” for my satiric references to Black pro-Israel advocate, Chloe Valdary, as an ‘Uncle Tom’ and “Negro.”  It appears sloppy thinking and research continues at Alternet.

{ 5 comments }