Rechavia Berman has done it again. He was the first journalist/blogger to break the story of the Ameer Makhoul arrest and his secret detention. Now, he’s broken the gag again by revealing the identity of the alleged Hezbollah agent (per the Shin Bet) with whom Makhoul and Omer Said met. It is this meeting that the security services is using as a pretext to charge them with grave espionage offenses. UPDATE: It appears that Haaretz either intentionally or unintentionally first let the cat out of the bag on this one when it published this:
Unofficial sources say Makhoul was in contact with a number of foreign activists, some with links to groups classified by the government as terror organizations. These include a Lebanese citizen, Hassan Geagea, who is married to the daughter of Palestinian writer and historian Akram Zaitar.
They immediately removed this paragraph, but not before Marcia Cohen, being the crackerjack researcher she is, noted and quoted it at Antiwar.com. This passage also indicates that there may be other alleged foreign agents with whom Makhoul and Said consorted.
Correction: Subsequent research confirms that Hassan Jaja (not Geagea) is a Muslim, not a Maronite Christian and not related to Samir Geagea.
Hassan Jaja, a Maronite Christian and likely a relation of Samir Geagea, the feared militia general and fierce Hezbollah opponent who leads the Lebanese Forces, was the ‘Hezbolla operative’ with whom they met. The former Jaja is a known opponent of Syrian political involvement in Lebanon, which would make him an opponent of Hezbollah as well since the latter relies on Syrian support (and arms). As Rechavia writes so memorably:
So this is Yuval Diskin’s smoking gun, the mountain that gave birth to a mouse!
…This information renders ludicrous the Shin Bet claim that Makhoul and Omer had contact with a Hezbollah agent…Anyone who opposes Syrian interference in Lebanon will perforce be an enemy of Hezbollah.
…Thus it becomes clearer why the security services wish to conceal the identity of this individual, because this would cut the legs out from under their baseless theory of the case.
Berman notes the cry for blood emanating from the Israeli body politic when they are thrown red meat slogans by the Shin Bet like “grave espionage, “Hezbollah agent,” and the like. He further notes that the accused have not only not been convicted, they haven’t even been indicted or tried. But this doesn’t stop the baying of the hounds on the scent of prey.
He further notes how problematic Israeli law is regarding the charge of espionage:
You traveled to an international conference and shared a few words with a Lebanese professional colleague? If Yuval Diskin wishes, you are a traitor and spy.
The Israeli journalist further notes a distinction between Israeli and western law regarding real espionage. In most western democracies it isn’t enough that you had a conversation with an agent of a foreign power. You have to prove that you had a conversation that contained information that injured the security of your country.
And when you come down to it, what super secret information could Makhoul and Said have provided to this foreign power? Makhoul is a community activist and Said a naturopathic pharmacist. Where and how would they amass such knowledge? The Shin Bet’s claim simply doesn’t pass the smell test. The entire episode is an exercise in ludicrousness. However, it is not so ludicrous to Makhoul, Said and their children, who stand to lose the company of their respective fathers for many years if the Shin Bet and Einat “Hang ‘Em High” Ron have their way.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.