Shin Bet Secret Case Accuses Bishara of Corruption and National Security Breach
The kabuki-like story of Israeli Arab politician, Azmi Bishara, continues today as information continues to leak out in dribs and drabs despite a severe Israeli gag order against reporting the national security case against him. The background is that the Shin Bet for the past month has been building a secret dossier against Bishara based on two main charges. According to the independent Palestinian news agency Maan, he is charged with accepting $5-million passed to his through two East Jerusalem moneychangers. The second charge is that he communicated with Hezbollah representatives during the Lebanon war. Maan bases its story on an Israeli source though it is not clear whether it is a journalist or someone from Bishara’s party, Balad.
I spoke yesterday with a well-informed Mideast source who provided me further information on the story. Bishara’s phone has been tapped by the Shin Bet. There is only one way for the Shin Bet to eavesdrop on a Knesset member–that is by getting approval of the Supreme Court. This indicates that the charges against him are serious and perhaps credible since they have been vetted by Israel’s highest court. Though how credible these charges are is again anyone’s guess. Gideon Sapira of the Israeli online site, Left Bank (Hebrew), reveals that the bugging began a full year ago.
The source says that Bishara is charged with speaking with Lebanese journalists in Cairo and Amman who were affiliated with Hezbollah. This charge would seem to be the weaker one of the two. Unless Bishara revealed state secrets (and its hard to imagine what secrets he would know that could damage the State) and the Shin Bet has the goods to prove it, this is a hard charge to make stick. Regarding the $5-million, the source says the charge is likely that he used it for personal purposes rather than for political activity. Which means that the Shin Bet is building a case of corruption and if the charges prove true it would likely break Bishara as a credible representative for the Israeli Arabs. Though one has to keep in mind that many Israeli politicians have been accused of similar cases of corruption and their careers have not even been tarnished, let alone ended (Olmert and Sharon and but two examples that come to mind).
The Palestine Chronicle also notes that in 2005 the Knesset stripped Bishara’s parliamentary immunity in order to indict him for similar “offenses” to those charged now:
The Israeli parliament (Knesset)…voted in favor of stripping Bishara because of “his anti-Israeli remarks” and his organizing trips to Syria—considered [an] “enemy state” by Israel.
…This was the first time the Israeli Knesset [took] such a decision since its inception. Never had a Jewish Parliamentarian been stripped of her/his immunity for making political statements…
The comments that infuriated the Israeli establishment then were his [denunciation] of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s…policies in Palestine and Lebanon and his suggestion that resistance is a legitimate response to Israeli occupation. The Israeli officials interpreted this as “incitement to violence” and “expressing support for terrorism.” The second accusation referred to the trips he had organized for 800 Israeli Palestinians to be reunited with relatives in Syria they had not seen since 1948.
This decision, the lifting of his parliamentary immunity, was taken in order to enable the Israeli Attorney General to indict Bishara.
Does one begin to see a pattern of ongoing harassment in the current prosecution as well?? One way to find out would be to make the case public instead of hiding behind gag orders and secrecy.
Bishara has some momentous decisions to make just as the al-Ard party members, including famed poet Mahmoud Darwish, faced in the 1960s: whether to stay and fight and possibly go to prison for their ideals; or to leave the country and carry the fight from exile. My source believes that were the corruption charges unfounded that Bishara would be in Israel fighting them. However, again we must say that the motivations of all the parties are behind a veil that is impossible currently to penetrate.
Both sides in the case are playing a cat and mouse game with each other. Bishara refuses to return to Israel until the Shin Bet shows its hand and reveals what he is charged with. The Shin Bet waits to see if Bishara returns so it can arrest him. It also hopes Bishara will be so pissed off at its treatment that he will respond to the charges substantively, which in turn could be used against him in a future prosectuion. The Palestinian legislator has to decide whether to fight. He has to decide whether to resign his seat and remove his parliamentary immunity, thus making it easier for Shin Bet to prosecute him. The Shin Bet has to decide whether to make its case in the public sphere or behind closed doors as it has chosen to do so far. It has to decide whether its interests in prosecuting the case would be furthered by secrecy or openness (though we all know what their choice has been so far). If Bishara does return, the Shin Bet must mount a campaign within the Knesset to strip Bishara of his immunity. Will this combined with the resulting court case, turn Bishara into a martyr for the cause and thereby diminish any benefit (in their eyes) of prosecuting him.
This gag order, as I’ve written, is an assault, whether Israelis realize this or not, on Israeli democracy. Just because the Shin Bet sees Bishara as a threat doesn’t mean that the normal rules of judicial or political discourse go out the window. I am also concerned that there is a pattern of harassment and criminalization of all Israeli Arab politicians. By now, it is common practice for the Shin Bet to investigate alleged crimes by almost every sitting Israeli Arab Knesset member. Since when should it be a crime merely to BE an Israeli Arab and sit in the Knesset??
Beyond the question of whether the evidence in this case is solid and credible (and it very well may be), one has to wonder at the political motivations of the various players. Bishara himself says that the prosecution stems from an Israeli grudge against him for Israel’s loss in the Lebanon war. Israel’s bloody nose has motivated the intelligence agencies to puruse those like him who provided support for the country’s enemies like Hezbollah. I’ve already spoken here about the Shin Bet’s avowed declaration of war against the Israeli Arab nationalist parties for their campaign to change the nature of the State from being Jewish-dominated. This charge would seem part and parcel of that effort.
One also has to wonder at Ehud Olmert’s motivations as well. One of the weakest sitting prime ministers perhaps in the history of the State with subzero approval ratings (23% in the latest poll with only 2% saying they “trust him”). It would be a big sop to the far right parties for Olmert to get tough on an Arab they all love to hate: Bishara. At this point, Olmert has to be looking for things, anything, to help bolster his abysmal ratings and this could help a bit (at least in his mind).
Israeli journalists and Bishara himself have been crippled from reporting the substance of this case. And it is a shande that this is so. The first Western media story on it ran only yesterday, while the case has been building for a full month.
For more of my reporting on the case, see here. Michael Warschawski also has an excellent (minus a few ideological adjectives I would’ve left out) general background article about Bishara and Israeli Arab politics at the Alternative Information Center.
8 thoughts on “Shin Bet Secret Case Accuses Bishara of Corruption and National Security Breach – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
Interesting post. It’s hard to know how much substance there is to this investigation when it’s so shrouded in secrecy (reminds one of an administration closer to home!). There could very well be some real transgression, there, but the way in which Israeli Arabs are clearly targeted would tend to call into question the credibility of this case, or at least the focus on Bishara.
On a different topic. Have you seen the new production of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” in Seattle? I’m a little too far away, otherwise I’d go. I’m just curious if you’ve seen it, and if so, maybe you could provide a short commentary here on the blog. I know you commented a while back on the original production, but it might be useful to revisit the subject–examine how attitudes and reception may have changed regarding its “controversial” nature? I know that the local Seattle press (largely) gave it positive/supportive reviews. But I have the sense that there might be a little more open-ness on the subject of Israel/Palestine in the Pacific Northwest as opposed to many other parts of the country. This last is just an impression and I admit I don’t have any clear empirical basis for thinking this.
Here is a goag order for you closer to home
JUDGE UPHOLDS SIX CHARGES IN THOMAS KLOCEK CASE, BY IAN NORTH
Published in: TC Public Relations April 13, 2007
The case of Thomas Klocek is now poised to go to trial. On April 10, Hon. Daniel J. Kelley, a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, upheld six of the eight legal counts leveled against DePaul and others. This came as a result of DePaul’s motion to reconsider Judge Nudleman’s order from May 2006, which upheld four of the counts against DePaul and others.
In his 17-page order, Judge Kelley points to DePaul’s “reckless disregard for the truth” in statements made following Klocek’s suspension. This breaks a long silence in the case as DePaul University previously secured a temporary gag order to prevent the release of significant facts in the case.
“Now two judges have independently upheld the validity of Prof. Klocek’s complaint against DePaul,” says John Mauck of Mauck & Baker, whose firm represents Klocek. “We applaud Judge Kelley’s excellent decision. We also look forward to a public trial where DePaul students and the public can judge for themselves whether certain administrators silenced Tom Klocek because a few Muslim activists wanted his political and religious opinions repressed.”
Yes, I saw it last night in fact. I didn’t blog about it because I felt a little ambivalent about it. I may still blog on that.
This play is definitely the product of a 23 yr old woman. Really a girl who is in the process of becoming a woman, in the process of becoming a human being really. I know for a fact that the play really strikes a chord with any contemporary young person facing the issues she did of dealing both with her idealism in a rotten world & how to relate to her parents as well in that context.
But it was a rough-hewn theatrical vehicle to me. I sat through a whole lot of young person’s angst and earnestness & eagerness & hopefulness. It was like sitting through an intelligent person’s diary. Intermittently interesting, but also deadly at times.
There was one very long speech at the end which was riveting. There was also a heartbreaking video of her as a little child reciting an amazing speech about ending hunger by the year 2000. Plus the recorded accounts by her friends & witnesses of her death were powerful.
But this is not a “play” in the conventional sense that we think of one. It was not polished or dramatic or polished. It was raw. It was powerful at times. It was worthwhile especially for those not familiar with the miserable life that Palestinians lead. But there were moments when it was also a chore.
In seeing this, the key thing is to remember that you are hearing the actual words of a 23 yr old slightly precocious woman, someone who had a lot to give the world, but certainly not a polished playwright. Unfortunately, her future was stolen from her by that IDF bulldozer and by the Israeli Occupation. And for that reason alone the play is worth viewing.
[Ed.] Comment deleted.
Melvin, I’ve warned you before about crossing the line in comments. Do not post comments or press releases written by someone else. If you have a comment write it yourself. And anyone who calls Rachel Corrie an “advocate of terrorism” will suffer the fate of your comment. That type of calumny is not welcome here. Your are welcome to resubmit your comment without the propaganda.
She did work with the International Solidarity Movement, which helped the Mikes Place bombers enter Israel from Gaza. I am not calling her a terror advocate per se, but a naive person who was used by a group opposed to the EXISTENCE of Israel
No, you called her in your deleted comment an “advocate of terror.” If you didn’t mean to call her an ‘advocate of terror per se’ you should’ve made that clear, but didn’t.
If Rachel Corrie was naïve, can you tell me any other 23 yr old who isn’t naïve? Her views were developing. She was torn bet. taking a position hostile to Israel and one that embraced Israeli-Palestinian co-existence. She wasn’t a propagandist as she’s made out to be. She was a flesh and blood human being full of inconsistency and ambivalence. She was a passionate woman who wanted to make that part of the world a better place and wanted to relieve Palestinian suffering. She was killed for her trouble. That doesn’t deserve the treatment you accorded her. I don’t agree w. everything she wrote about the conflict that’s in the play. But essentially her perspective was on the right track.
Richard, Thanks for the feedback. It’s a bit too much of a drive up from Eugene just to see the play, but I’ve ordered the “play” online and it will be informative to read what she wrote. I’ve read some of the vitriolic, absolutely digusting attacks on Rachel Corrie on the Web and it just makes you sick to your stomach: Darwinian survival-of-the- fittest jokes, statements rejoicing in her death. It makes me really wonder about the moral universe of some on the other side of this debate, not that there’s two clear-cut, dichotomous “sides”, but you know what I mean. Anyway, sorry to divert from the main thrust of this blog post…
I’ve seen it to. It makes you realize that there are some people who are human beings but devoid of humanity. That’s why I react so viscerally when people call her a “terrorist” & other such junk.
BTW, my brother lives in Salem & calls dances in Eugene all the time.