Thanks to a major AP story breaking the Dirar Abu Seesi case, the Shabak has modified its gag order and allowed reporting inside Israel that derives from foreign sources (such as AP). But Israeli media are still not allowed to develop their own original reporting, so that leaves us to continue our work. Unfortunately, the AP story neglects the work I did in researching and developing the story (this is the first post I wrote breaking the story open), which of course detracts from any future work I do in protecting the human rights of Israeli national security suspects and detainees.
The new report notes that the UN High Commission for Refugees has become involved with this case, which is a terrific sign. This means that Israel will not just be facing an American or Israeli blogger or lone reporter, but a distinguished international body whose mission is to protect the rights of refugees. It likely has become involved because the purpose of Abu Seesi’s trip to Ukraine was to migrate from Gaza due to the pressure and threat his family felt living there. The victim was in fact in the process of obtaining Ukrainian citizenship during the trip, which makes him a refugee. Here’s what the UN body’s local representative said about the case:
Maksim Butkevych, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ukraine, said Abu Sisi has been in custody in Israel since shortly after his disappearance.
The UN agency said it believed Abu Sisi was abducted and illegally transported by Israeli security forces, perhaps with the aid of Ukrainian counterparts.
“We don’t know details of his trip from Ukraine to Israel — let’s put it this way,” said Butkevych. “But unfortunately, what happened looks like a violent abduction and not a legal extradition or any other legal action on the part of authorities.”
I just finished an initial interview with Veronika Abu Seesi, the victim’s wife. We didn’t get a chance to have a long conversation because our translator’s line went dead in the middle. But I am developing strong suspicions about a possible motive for snatching Abu Seesi. To be clear, due to the opacity of Israeli national security and its ability to obscure even its darkest acts, Shabak and Mossad have not had to account for what they’ve done, nor explain the charges under which he has been apprehended.
I believe the reason for this lies in the fact that they either cannot or choose not to charge him as an alleged spy or someone acting to harm’s Israeli interests on behalf of an enemy organization. My sense is that the kidnapping relates directly to Abu Seesi’s professional work as the deputy chief engineer at Gaza’s sole power plant. In my interview, Ms. Abu Seesi called her husband “the mind of the power system.” He was instrumental in rebuilding it from scratch after it had been destroyed in an act many human rights activists called a war crime, when Israeli F-16s obliterated it during Operation Cast Lead.
My hunch is that Israel wants to know as much as it can about the power plant. It wants to know how it works, what computer software and systems it uses, its vulnerabilities. It is also interested in the role that the power plant plays in the entire Gaza infrastructure system, how it is connected to other major facilities there, etc. As I wrote in an earlier post, if Israel can disable the power plant at will during a military actions or at any point of its choosing, and do so without bombing it, this would relieve Israel of the opprobrium of the war crimes charges associated with the 2007 destruction.
I continue to think of Stuxnet as well in this regard since it too is a method of causing catastrophic damage to key infrastructure of an enemy society without having to get one’s hands terribly dirty through using war planes, bombs, etc. If you disable an entire country’s electric system merely by flicking a computer switch rather than dropping a bomb and possibly killing innocent civilians, Israel might reason that such an abduction would be worth the price. This source reveals that the turbines at the Gaza power plant were manufactured and serviced by Siemens, the same company which produced the command and control systems for Iran’s Natanz and Bushehr nuclear plants, which were sabotaged by Stuxnet. No, it’s not a smoking gun, but sure is suggestive.
Returning specifically to Gaza, the detainee’s wife further believes that his kidnapping is intended as a way of further disrupting power generation in Gaza and further degrading the functioning of its infrastructure. As such, Abu Seesi’s extraordinary rendition would be a continuation of Israel’s war against Hamas by other means than war or military action. Removing Gaza’s senior civil engineer is a means of warfare against Gaza and Hamas. It should be viewed the same way as if it killed him by putting him out of action. In other words this is a crime, a serious crime and should be addressed by all concerned as one.
This kidnapping which violated the sovereignty of Ukraine and several UN conventions and international laws, is a serious affront that must be addressed at the highest level. I hope the family may be able to make a formal complaint to the UN that would enable the world body to take up this case and raise the heat on Israel for the man’s immediate release.
Here is a link to the Hebrew language account Haggai Matar wrote for MySay, which was taken down yesterday due to the secret police gag order. My thanks to all journalists like Haggai who are doing their best within the straightjacket of the national security state to find and free Dirar.