In the annals of Shin Bet outrages, this one is right up there. There is a gag order against publication of the name of the individual in this case, but in this instance especially I’m happy to break it. The security services have caught (Hebrew) an Israeli red-handed in spying for Iran. At least that’s what they’d have you believe.
Let’s just say, Edward Snowden this guy is not. Upon further review and research (including information obtained from a confidential Israeli source), what the Israeli secret police have done is arrest a mentally ill individual named Yitzhak Bergel, age 46. The latter is a member of the anti-Zionist Haredi Neturey Karta. This group has been known to have close relations with many anti-Israel entities and countries including Iran.
Bergel flew to Berlin in 2011 and walked into the Iranian embassy asking to meet with a diplomat. During a meeting with three embassy staff members, Bergel offered to spy for Iran and to “kill a Zionist.” As anyone will tell you, when such individuals approach foreign intelligence services in such a way, there is a huge red flag that goes up. If you’re a serious spy or have serious information you wish to pass on to an enemy state you don’t generally make such blatant approaches.
Further, while Neturey Karta are an odd anomalous movement within Israeli society whose ideas are clearly in the minority, they are not violent. I’ve never heard of a single incident in which they’ve attacked or harmed an Israeli. Since they don’t serve in the IDF, nor generally have professions, it’s hard to see how Bergel could’ve harmed a flea. Further, Haredi Jews generally have a very low level of secular education. All of this is a further red flag in terms of the credibility of the security services claims regarding him.
A representative of the religious movement has called Breugel “mysterious, friendless” and “incommunicative.” A “strange bird” within his religious community and having an “odd manner.” That seems to be an understatement. He also said the charges seems to be fraudulent because the “moderate” (in relative terms) sect within Neturey Karta to which Bergel belongs is expressly opposed to collaboration with Arab states against Israel (though it’s also opposed to a Zionist state in Israel). Therefore, if the victim did what he’s charged with he violated the tenets of his own religious sect. He was also never known as one to participate in the group’s protests against Israel or Zionism.
Bergel told his interrogators that his goal was to earn money for his services to the Iranians. You’d have to be a very strange person to think with such a background Iran would pay you anything for your services. What could he possibly do for Iran? Steal top-secret military or intelligence information? Scope out top-secret Israeli installations (wearing his distinctive Haredi clothing-outfit)? Become a nuclear scientist and pass on secret data? Stalk a general?
The Iranian agent was humored by the man’s obviously troubled personality and sloppy attempt to become the latest 007. He told Breugel that he should call him “Haji Baba,” clearly making fun of Bergel’s gullibility. The Iranian then reported Bergel’s offer to his superiors. They in turn, hoping to divert the Shabak’s attention from any serious efforts on their part to infiltrate Israeli interests arranged to compromise Bergel so that the Israelis would discover his efforts. Iran certainly never intended to take the man’s offer seriously nor did it. Nor did he ever spy for them or do anything that compromised Israeli interests.
This is similar to the way in which Hamas, disgruntled by Dirar Abusisi’s rejection of their overtures, passed false word to the Shabak that Abusisi was a senior Hamas operative who knew Gilad Shalit’s whereabouts. That explains Israel’s kidnapping of Abusisi and it’s refusal to dismiss trumped-up charges against him (or even to try him). The entire episode is a black mark on the Mossad as is (or should be) the Bergel arrest.
Returning to his case, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency thought it had a major spy operation on its hands and went after Bergel hammer and tong. But they will shortly find out, if they haven’t already, that the latest victim of the intelligence apparatus is one of the smallest fishes in the espionage pond. Meaning, the Shabak has once again been fooled into throwing the book at a man who’s more deserving of mental health treatment than a few decades in prison for spying.
Once again, we have an example of the national security state running rampant and sweeping up the mentally disturbed in its net. All so that the Mossad’s or Shabak’s counter-intelligence operatives can trumpet their success in nabbing yet another dangerous Israeli double-agent. This is a case of nabbing Inspector Clousseau rather than 007.