As part of the Kabuki-like posturing common to Israeli justice and politics, Maariv reports a supposed plea deal between Dirar Abusisi’s attorney and the Israeli state prosecutor under which the suspect would receive a 15-20 year sentence for his alleged crimes. Tal Linoy, Abusisi’s attorney, confirmed to me that the entire story is a “flyer” by the state in its attempt to exert pressure on Abusisi. What was most interesting was this statement by the prosecutor:
The case against Abusis could go on for years. It involves tens of thousands of documents, many of them classified. We would prefer to close the case with a plea deal that calls for a relatively severe sentence in order not to have to conduct the case. The evidence we have [against him] is incriminating enough.
I read this statement quite differently from the way it would appear on its surface. First, the man who Shabak has claimed to be the mastermind behind all of Hamas’ rocket technology and terror campaign against southern Israel has all of a sudden shrunk from the devil incarnate to a mere irritant in the eyes of Israeli intelligence. Instead of throwing the book at him and putting him away for life as would be fitting for his alleged rap sheet, his sentence would be considerably less. Second, the prosecution has admitted that it doesn’t want to try the case. Frankly, I’ve never heard an Israeli prosecutor say in such a national security case that he would prefer not to try it. To me, this indicates either a serious weakness or flaw which the prosecutor would prefer not to have to expose by going to trial.
So why would they prefer not to try it? There is a hint in the acknowledgement by the prosecution that there are classified documents, which one may infer the prosecution would prefer not to have to reveal, even to a judge. What might those documents be? Perhaps contacts between Shabak and Hamas via an intermediary which led to the former’s kidnapping of Abusisi? Perhaps those documents would reveal how mistaken Shabak was in its initial evaluation of the value of Abusisi as a terror operative.
Or perhaps the state’s lawyer is referring to the childish drawings rendered by Abusisi of Hamas’ alleged missile fleet. Maybe the state would prefer not to offer these in evidence for fear that the judge would laugh them out of court.
On a serious note, Linoy has filed a motion with the Israeli Supreme Court demanding that the Shabak release all the classified interrogation materials. This would include documents or transcripts which might support the claim he was tortured to extract the confession he made. It might include any or all of the items I speculated about above. If the State fears the High Court might actually agree with the defense and force public exposure of these materials, it would be in the interest of the prosecution to offer a deal. Washing its hand of the case would avoid potential embarrassment should the Supreme Court hold in Abusisi’s favor.
It would also be important for Dirar’s family to understand that this is the way the game is played in Israel. And it’s a complicated game in which the State gets to set the terms, gets to leak to the press whatever it wishes, in which the truth is almost always concealed. What the State says via the media isn’t always the truth. Sometimes not even close. So don’t accept anything you read at face value. Read between the lines.
It’s certainly no coincidence that Yisrael HaYom (aka Bibiton), published virtually the same story, which placed special emphasis on the supposedly top secret materials which might have to be revealed in order to secure a conviction of Abusisi. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever recalled such a claim by the State of Israel in a national security case. There is never any fear of revealing secrets because judge’s almost never force them to do so. Which is why this entire line of argument is so hollow and unpersuasive.
At any rate, this story proves how important it is not to accept at face-value most Israeli newspaper stories involving national security cases. The truth is either beneath the surface or perhaps even nowhere to be found on the printed page. Often you have to dig deeper to find the truth yourself.
Those of you who read Hebrew will note that the right-wing Maariv didn’t even bother to ask Tal for a comment in this story. I had to do that here. It merely dutifully reported the story regurgitated by the state prosecutor for their consumption. This isn’t journalism. This isn’t justice. This is stenography and kangaroo justice.
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.