20 thoughts on “Israel, National Security State – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. RE: “…the electorate turned away in revulsion from such an approach. Would that something like this one day happened in Israel.”

    MY COMMENT: Sadly, I don’t see that happening (except perhaps in the distant future) without outside intervention to end the occupation of the West Bank.

  2. Richard, your heart is in the right place, but I sometimes think you are rather naive. Do you really think the U.S. is any less a security state than Israel, or that the CIA and Homeland Security are any less intrusive than Mossad? If you do, please see the article at http://www.commondreams.org: “Smile: the U.S. sees you coming.” This is just one example. And it should be noted that most of the surveillance equipment (cameras, etc.) is manufactured in Israel (!), which also supplys China.

    As for the “democracy” comparison, the U.S. is fast losing it.

  3. Richard – this would be a great topic for a Cif article. maybe with a few more anecdotes/interviews?

    As for Alex Stein – he wouldn’t know how prevalent service in the secret branches in israel is. For one, being a relatively recent immigrant, he is not likely to be recruited except for special job involving, eg, his English (and he may not even know he was recruited – it’s not always done through the army). For another, he probably has no large extended family in Israel (I’m surmising here), again because he is a recent arrival and because he comes from a country where the birth rate is lower than it is in Israel. No disrespect to Stein here, but my observations (and first hand knowledge) jibe with what your lunch friend told you.

    BTW, one of the biggest problems in doing a story based on anecdotes told by annonymous sources is that in Israel there’s a huge bragging industry regarding association with the secret services. It is considered so glamorous that the temptation to exagerrate a chance encounter is always there. And israelis sure partake in the great middle eastern imagination game. Though from what you say, your lunch partner did not seem to be prone to this condition, based on your comments….

    1. I would be very interested in hearing more such stories and comments from Israelis having such experiences. Any information conveyed would be held in confidence of course unless otherwise directed.

      As for knowing how many are employed by the intelligence services…one of the problems with the structure of these Israeli agencies is that they are totally opaque. No one knows the answer to that question nor does anyone know how much Israel spends on these entities. But I’d be willing to bet that per capita/population Israel prob. has a higher number of spooks than any other democratic nation.

      1. I’ll ask around – see who might care to put neck on line. Too bad a fellow I once knew well, Yossi Ginossar, is no longer among us. He loved to have a good chat – back in the days (as long as putting a word in edgeways was not a priority, it was fun too).

        I think BTW that your lunch friend meant the “intelligence” aspect in the widest possible sense. For example, many Israelis and Israeli ex-pats are recruited for a little “industrial” espionage in the US – for the benefit of israel, of course. Something they might do quite off-handedly, without thinking about at all. It would not even occur to them there was something wrong in that. Others may be more active, eg, infiltrating certain “peace” and/or progressive and campus movements. A lot of the intelligence gathering is done on-line by professionals, bolstered by amateurs and IT hobbyists of all sorts (call it – let’s hack into something for fun). You can safely assume that your blog is vigilantly monitored daily for any nuggets (oops, and there I was, spilling a couple of “nuggets”….).

        In israel itself, it’s safe to assume that all communication is monitored and that there are many automatic flags. That alone would take quite a contingent of overseers. All i can say is that should that lovely little country by the blue, blue sea revert at some point to a true police state, the means would be in place. Which is why the operation against new profile should be so worrisome to people there – and here.

  4. Well there’s nothing like patronising a new immigrant…
    Let’s take the ‘every family’ thesis seriously, then, Dana. How many people are you suggesting are employed by Mossad and Shin Bet?
    As for the issue of glamour, from my experience of people who have perhaps been recruited by the security services, absolute silence prevails.

    1. from my experience of people who have perhaps been recruited by the security services, absolute silence prevails.

      Well, that’s tantalizing now isn’t it. How would you know or even surmise they might’ve been recruited if absolute silence prevailed.

    2. Alex, I was not trying to be patronizing, merely factual (please reread my comment with a beer in hand). You are way too sensitive, which by itself is a hallmark of new immigrants in Israel (the ones from well-to-do western countries). OTOH, they tend to be proud of the choice they made (and continue to defend it to the friends they left behind in the country left behind most vigorously). OTOH, Israelis are really big sometimes with that patronizing pat on the shoulder, often followed by indifference as to the consequences – and depth of that choice. That when they are not accusing the new western immigrant of utter folly, seeing how they themselves would love to go the other way. Which is why the new immigrant (assuming they are not too religious) is subject to attitudes ranging from patronization, incomprehension, suspicion, envy and even a touch of hostility (worse come to worse they are assumed to be able to return to whence they came from, right or wrong, an option native israelis feel they don’t have). OK, there’s sometimes a little admiration in it too – but only by those who perceive personal courage for what it is. If your experience is typical, there wouldn’t be too many of those. That being said, I’m not surprised this only reinforces your commitment, being idealist and all. Oh, and one more thing, the condescension part is worse for a young female – just ask around.

      As for your comment on glamor – the way people brag about their own possible role in intelligence is with a wink and a nod. but since many exaggerate their role while in the IDF service, so nothing unusual about that. You again display your [laudable] immigrant-from-UK quality of not tending to braggery/bravado, so you may not perceive it so acutely in others. I’m just one who happens not to think it’s particularly charming – or laudable – trait, having tried it for size myself a few times (and discarded, mercifully for all).

  5. It’s good to see that Israeli’s are smelling the totalitarianism in the F.B.I. and their own spesnaz, the MOSSAD. At what price a ‘police state’, then, is the question? How much of your liberty are you willing to give up to be incessantly under surveillance because YOU could be the BOOGEY MAN or WOMAN, too?

    of course, the government never can be the evil monster they are warning us about in their incessant security tyrades, right?


  6. We should – as usual – note your casual shifting of the goalposts. First there’s a spy in every family; now Israel has more spies per person than any other democratic country.

  7. Here are my stats:

    Out of a LARGE extended family, nobody is in Mossad or Shabak. Few are career officers in the army and a couple work for RAFAEL.

    Out of my high school buddies, nobody that I have kept in touch with is in security, but some used to work or are currently working for RAFAEL.

    When I was in college I used to get to odd invitation to come work for the “prime minister’s office”. You can also see these ads in the newspapers.

    Maybe it’s also a matter of locale, I’m from Haifa and I think big-time security is clustered in the center of the country.

    1. First, that article was published in 2002. I’d venture to say those numbers are totally out of date today. Second, you’ve only listed estimated employees of the Mossad which is one of many Israeli intelligence services. Even if we say the total number (Shin Bet, Mossad, Lekem, Aman, etc.) is 10,000 that would translate into roughly 500,000 if it were the U.S. Though the CIA does not publish the numbers officially, others have estimated about 20,000 CIA employees. Even if you throw in FBI employees and U.S. military who work in intelligence and counter-intelligence, Israel’s numbers still dwarf ours on a comparative basis. What does that tell you?

  8. Well I’m not sure much can be gained by making a simplistic comparison with the States. I’ve never denied that Israel has a disproportionate amount of people working in the security services, I’ve just challenged you on the idea that every family has someone working for them. Given that Israel’s standing army is the same size as the US (i.e. the number of people that both countries could call up), I’m not surprised that the security services are similarly bloated.
    As for the out of date claim, any evidence that in the last seven years Mossad has suddenly started employing significantly more people?

    1. a simplistic comparison with the States

      When it’s inconvenient to yr argument, my analogy is simplistic. If comparing Israel to the States is simplistic, then I suggest you compare Israel to any other democracy you wish. Or would a comparison to ANY democracy be simplistic??

      I’ve never denied that Israel has a disproportionate amount of people working in the security services

      Actually, you never said a word on this subject here at this blog. I don’t know what you may’ve said at yr own blog or elsewhere.

      You misunderstood the way in which I was using the word “family.” So I clarified it by changing my phrasing to every “extended family” has a member in the security services. And this was not MY claim, but my Israeli informant’s. Try to be a little more precise in the way you characterize these things.

      As for the Mossad, once again I’m less interested in how many people specifically work for a single Israeli intelligence agency than in how many work for ALL intelligence agencies.

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