Gabriel Gatehouse, a BBC foreign correspondent, has delved deeply into the Abubisi story for a major documentary report (download podcast) on his kidnapping by Israel and trial for alleged security offenses. I’m proud to say that Gatehouse came upon the story through my own reporting on this. Though I’m disappointed he wasn’t able to credit my work, or the fact that I secured Abusisi’s Shabak interrogation transcript for him, in the documentary. Story of my life.
But the important thing is that Gatehouse has gone to all the places that are critical to this story and interviewed almost all the key players in Ukraine, Gaza, and Israel. This is the sort of hard reportorial work that an Israeli journalist should’ve done long ago. So credit to the BBC and Gatehouse for doing their jobs as journalists to uncover shady, nasty dealings by the Ukrainian and Israeli security services.
Gatehouse does a good job of probing and dismantling the Israeli narrative involving Abusisi, doing so in that deliberate, careful way good British journalists have. He also brings new insight to the Gaza portion of this story by noting that Hamas offered strange, halting support to Abusisi throughout his ordeal. Through his interviews with Hamas representatives, Gatehouse advances a theory I first proposed here a week or so ago, that Hamas actually wanted to punish Abusisi for having the nerve to seek to abandon both Gaza and the group’s blandishments to join its resistance efforts. This theory is borne out by Gatehouse’s interview with Hamas’ deputy foreign minister who studiously avoids denying (or confirming) that Abusisi was involved with Hamas. You’d think that a movement that wished to protect one of its citizens would know whether Abusisi was involved with the group or not. I smell something not quite right.
In my post last week, I suggested that Hamas recruited Abusisi and he refused the approaches or he refused to become more involved than he already might’ve been. In the prison interrogation transcripts, Abusisi confirms as much and documents specific threats to physically harm himself and his family if he tries to leave Gaza. Given that Hamas did so, it’s quite easy to believe that Abusisi’s defiance in leaving for the Ukraine would’ve enraged the group leading possibly to its betrayal of him to the Israelis.
It seems quite far-fetched to believe that the Shabak would’ve known much about Abusisi or cared unless they’d been tipped off that a big fish had just gotten away from Gaza. Though he unfortunately did not include this key part of the theoretical puzzle in the documentary, Gatehouse likely believes, and I agree, that Hamas likely tipped off the Shabak (likely through some sort of intermediary source) that not only was Abusisi a big cheese rocket scientist, but that he knew the whereabouts of Gilad Shalit.
The only problem: Abusisi knows nothing about either. Which would mean that if Hamas gave him up, they gave up nothing; and that the Shabak has been “had.” The only problem: a hard-working civil engineer and father of six children stands to pay for this intrigue with several decades of his life in an Israeli prison. This is an example of the cynicism of this game played by both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s a “great game” except for the individuals caught up in it who are made to pay for the machinations of both sides against the other.
One other addendum to Gatehouse’s piece. He interviewed Haaretz’s Yossi Melman about the Abusisi case. Melman appeared to confirm implicitly that there was no legitimate reason for kidnapping Abusisi that corresponds to any publicly announced reason by Israel or any other party. He does concede that kidnapping Abusisi might’ve been considered in order to use him as a “bargaining chip” to gain the release of Gilad Shalit. But this presumes that Abusisi, who was trying to flee Gaza permanently, would be a desirable person for Hamas to retrieve. I’ve seen no evidence of this at all.
Melman also makes one important historical error when he states that Israel has only kidnapped two people from foreign soil and brought them back to Israel for trial. He is correct when he mentions Eichmann and Mordechai Vanunu as two of those figures. But he leaves out Alexander Israel, an IDF officer who was kidnapped in Europe in the 1950s and returned to Israel when suspected of passing on secrets to the Egyptians. The problem was the doctor who sedated Israel on the plane, gave him a sedative overdose and killed him. This was the same doctor who performed the same function on Mossad’s behalf in the capture of Eichmann. I’m surprised that Melman would’ve forgotten this story.
I’m proud to say that without reporting and research first published here, this BBC documentary either would never have aired or would’ve looked substantially different that it does. I only hope it puts pressure on Israel to drop the charges against Abusisi and end this horrible charade. Please consider supporting my work by clicking that Paypal button in the sidebar.