A former high ranking Israeli government source revealed to me that Israeli intelligence leaked to a pro-Israel British tabloid blogger an alleged Syrian government document claiming that the Syrian government organized the bus convoys which brought demonstrators to the Syria-Israel armistice line on Nakba Day. Demonstrations on that day were met with murderous IDF fire killing 14 individuals.
Michael Weiss, the Telegraph’s pro-Israel blogger known for his neocon views, apparently lied when he claimed the government document was “leaked by the governor of al-Quneitra.” Any government official who leaked such a document would be jobless in a heartbeat, if not dead. In truth, my source says Weiss received the document from Israeli intelligence, which has been spreading rumors through the online hasbara community that the government organized the protests in order to distract from the severe instability it faced from democracy protests. Why did Weiss engage in such a prevarication? Clearly to conceal his true source. Though it’s conceivable that Israeli intelligence stole or otherwise secured the alleged memo from the governor of the province.
The Israeli media is dutifully reporting the story as if it was halacha l’Moshe mi’Sinai (‘God’s law from Sinai’). But no one appears to asking themselves how Weiss got this scoop and whose interest it would be to pass it to him? This way Israel distracts from its own murder of unarmed Syrian-Palestinians and leaves no fingerprints on the evidence.
I am in the midst of having Arabic speakers authenticate the translation offered by Weiss to determine whether it’s accurate. Here is an excerpt:
…Security, military, and contingent units in the province, Ain-el-Tina and the old al-Qunaitera are hereby ordered to grant permission of passage to all twenty vehicles (47 passenger capacity) with the attached plate numbers that are scheduled to arrive at ten in the morning on Sunday May 15, 2011 without being questioned or stopped until it reaches or frontier defense locations.
Permission is hereby granted allowing approaching crowds to cross the cease fire line (with Israel) towards the occupied Majdal-Shamms, and to further allow them to engage physically with each other in front of United Nations agents and offices. Furthermore, there is no objection if a few shots are fired in the air.
Captain Samer Shahin from the military intelligence division is hereby appointed to the leadership of the group assigned to break-in and infiltrate deep into the occupied Syrian Golan Heights with a specified pathway to avoid land mines.
It is essential to ensure that no one carries military identification or a weapon as they enter with a strict emphasis on the peaceful and spontaneous nature of the protest.
Though my Israeli source concedes that the document is likely genuine, there are aspects of it that smell “off” to me. First, why would a Syrian intelligence officer say protesters must not carry weapons, and then say that a few shots may even be fired? Unless, possibly he was saying that Syrian security forces could fire shots pretending to try to stop the protests from proceeding–though in the videos I have seen I saw no such security personnel in evidence.
Second, why would the official say that protesters should “infiltrate deep into the Syrian-occupied Golan Heights.” If you were Syrian and you viewed Israel’s Golan territory as sovereign Syrian land, you simply wouldn’t call a protest crossing the armistice line an “infiltration.”
The Mossad has, in the past, been known to leak falsified documents from Middle Eastern nations. In fact, it leaked fabricated Iranian government memos alleging work on nuclear triggering devices to another British paper, the Times, several years ago. It also leaked this story of alleged Syrian-Hezbollah war perparations to a Kuwaiti paper.
Michael Weiss is affiliated with two hawkish pro-Israel groups in Britain, the Henry Jackson Society (Jackson was an anti-Soviet hawk Democrat and one of the U.S. Senate’s most ardent pro-Israel supporters) and a pro-Israel media advocacy group, Just Journalism. It appears to be modeled on a number of such groups like CAMERA, MEMRI, The Israel Project, and Palestine Media Watch. It would make perfect sense for Israeli intelligence to exploit a willing asset like Weiss for its purposes, and indicates that the line between journalism and intelligence is a very thin one at times.
UPDATE: Michael Weiss writes to demand a retraction based upon the fact that he’s now changed his story and the source wasn’t the governor of Quneitra as he earlier claimed, but another unnamed Syrian who received it from the “office of the governor of Quneitra:”
I’m afraid you’ve got this wrong. My source was not a member of Israeli intelligence. I don’t know who you’re talking to, but it might have paid to have ringed me up to ask before you accused me, in print, of lying.
I told the Washington Times that my source was, in fact, a Syrian, not in the current government but in a position to authenticate state documents.
Apparently, the fact that he told the Washington Times something makes it the absolute truth. Note that the Times “authenticated” the document by turning to the “Syria specialist” for the neo-con Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. That’s pretty ironclad to me.
I replied to Weiss that I’d publish a correction sometime after he can get his story straight about who his real source was.
And one thing I’m not understanding is what would be the motivation of a Syrian opponent of the Assad regime furnishing a Syrian government document that would embarrass both the Syrian regime and the Palestinian cause and advance the interests of the Israeli government? And why would this alleged Syrian choose a pro-Israel journalistic martinet to do it? That’s a bit obscure to me. Not to mention it hasn’t seemed to have crossed Weiss’ mind that if his source is Syrian that they could indeed be working for Israeli intelligence. My source would be in a position to know this. Weiss wouldn’t be.
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.