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.
“Therefore, if the victim did what he’s charged with he violated the tenets of his own religious sect.”
Didn’t a delegation of Neturey Karta, met with the Iranian former president ? they actually met with him few times, one of the times was during Yom Kippur in NY (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCw-oWp1wf8) , the other was in a formal NK delegation that traveled to Tehran (http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3226543,00.html)
so if that’s what the group does, how exactly did he “he violated the tenets of his own religious sect” ?
Furthermore how exactly you know he’s mentally i’ll ? and if he is mentally i’ll why do you feel it is necessary to violate his privacy ? In Israel the identity of the mentally ill is protected by law, i assume such is the case in the US as well.
This story has been all over twitter since yesterday afternoon, it was published with T.O.T website (תוכעס אויפן טיש) earlier today, (before you did).
Richard Silverstein says
Did you read the article? His branch of Neturey Karta is known as more moderate than the mainstream NK. His segment refuses to have contact with Arabs or cooperate with them against Israel. This is why would he did was completely out of context & bizarre.
I’m touched by your concern for Bergel’s privacy. But I think the fact that he faces decades in prison & that his fellow Haredim have revealed his identity gives more than enough reason to expose this travesty fully.
As to how I know he’s disturbed, his own sect’s leader said as much & my Israeli source confirms it.
Please don’t comment in future without first reading the articles linked in the post. It saves you making errors or erroneous assumptions which I have to correct.
The difference between “Friendless who doesn’t speak to no-one, off a Mizrahi origin, baal tshuva with a different religious style then Neturi Karta” to being mentally ill is huge. Baseless accusation on your part.
The sect he belonged to “תורה ויראה – Torah and Fear” is the same sect Rabi Moshe Ber Beck of Monsey, New York. belongs to. That Rabi is the one who led the meeting with the Iranian president. as you can learn here http://www.bhol.co.il/article.aspx?id=45011
Do you have a problem with a civil discourse and meeting the head of state of Iran on his visit to speak at the United Nations in New York? How does this meeting reflect on Yitzak Bergel, guilt by association? With excuse for the term, there were plenty of insane people protesting the presence of Ahmadinejad at the Warwick Hotel in New York. Often religious zeal or fanaticism ranks in my vision close to insanity. A form of mass hysteria where the individual lacks any judgment to reality.
On International Justice, see protest by Neturei Karta on behalve of the Palestinian people outside the ICJ in The Hague on the ruling by the World Court in the case of the “Barrier Wall.”
Personally i have a problem with a group of people who doesn’t contribute their fair share to the Israeli society (whether by military / communal service or by paying taxes) , who get more then their fare share back from the Israeli welfare and education systems (in terms of special stipends allocated to Yeshiva students, state child support, local city taxes discounts etc) and identify themselves with a group of a holocaust denier zealots, who call for the distraction and elimination of the place i live in.
In case you have forgotten – or don’t speak Hebrew – this is the reason they traveled to Tehran in 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/11/world/middleeast/11cnd-iran.html?_r=0. Identifying with a Holocaust denier, who was able to gather the worst of the world’s racist scum from the KKK leader David Duke to Georges Thiel, is simply something no one should accept whether the meeting took place in Iran or New York.
And in case you missed the latest, just earlier today the so called moderate Iranian president elect Hasan Rouhani, ahead of his inauguration called Israel “An ‘Old Wound’ That Should Be Removed”
Of course in a damage control attempt the original statement was later changed, the original translation was offered by the ISNA – Iranian students news agency. Would anyone like to argue that the ISNA people do not speak adequate and fluend Farsi ?
Richard Silverstein says
@Gonen: You don’t speak Farsi & I wouldn’t trust anything you told me about the language. I might trust a native Farsi speaker who had a verified transcript of his actual remarks. But I trust you can’t provide anything that meets all those criteria (not some, but all those criteria).
Oh & btw many Israeli leaders & generals have expressed the view that the Iranian regime is the greatest danger facing the world today, with the clear inference it should be overthrown. You & I both know that many of Israel’s leaders would be overjoyed to either overthrow themselves or have the U.S. overthrow the Iranian regime. If you don’t, you’re either ignorant or lying to yrself.
Thank you for clarification and NYT link to blog Robert Mackey!
Richard Silverstein says
@Gonen: Absolutely false. The same Israeli source who told me Israel attacked Latakia weeks before any other news source said so, told me Bergel is mentally disturbed. And you’ve only quoted some (not all btw) of what Neturey Karta said about Bergel. My source confirms that he is mentally troubled. You can trust this or not. But do not say my claim is baseless or an assumption, when it isn’t. This violates a comment rule so be careful with your words. I do not allow my claims to be dismissed without evidence they are “baseless.”
I don’t care what Rabbi Beck did. He lives in Monsey & Bergel lives in Jerusalem. There’s no command & control center between Beck & Bergel that directs Bergel’s thoughts & actions. Maariv says that Torah V’Yirah doesn’t believe in contact with “Arabs” (apparently Maariv doesn’t realize that Persians are not “Arabs,” but that’s another matter). I trust Maariv over your claims.
Today, Israeli court released the name of the man and declared that he is not mentally ill. It is not final decision.
Richard Silverstein says
@Eli: Though I haven’t yet read the link you supplied (I did read another story on this matter), you’ve once again distorted the reality. The judge was asked by the defense to allow a psychiatric evaluation. She refused. That doesn’t mean the judge said he was mentally competent. She merely refused to allow the test. The defense has said they will bring further evidence to support their request for a psychiatric exam.
Interesting: Neturei Karta (Aramaic: “Guardians of the City”)
Tensions were at their highest between the Zionist and non-Zionist Jewish communities in Palestine in the 1920s, following the assassination of Jakob Israel de Haan, a Dutch poet, former Zionist, and spokesman for Agudat Israel against the creation of a Jewish State.
From a top commenter at Jerusalem Post, added to article:
“Haredi from anti-Zionist Naturei Karta sect charged with trying to spy for Iran”
Let there be NO doubt: this dangerous ‘Jewish’ sect must be purged from our belly. Not only that, they are EVERY bit the enemy, as are the mullahs in Tehran. Therefore, not only should their leadership be charged with treason, but the community must be expelled from Israel, as should all internal Arab Islamists who endanger our national interest, including those who sit in our Knesset! And, it is not a bad idea to have ‘Jewish justice’ squads take care of business, if his identity becomes known.
Adina Kutnicki, Israel
“Born and raised in New York City, I made aliyah to Israel in the summer of 2008. Being fluent in Hebrew allows me to gauge the mood (aka matzav) of the country, thus, enabling me to report on core Zionist issues (though in English) with much more accuracy.
Hopefully, my small effort will enlighten Israelis and Americans (and the west in general) to the dangers posed by our common foes. These dangers are fueled exponentially by the morphing of the Red/Green alliance-radical leftists and Islamic jihadists.”
I’m appalled a right-wing radical like Adina claiming a birthright to live in Israel while rejecting the Palestinians removed during Nakba and even Arab MKs with Israëli citizenship. Can blind hatred get any worse?
There you go again, going OT and adding plenty of misinformation. Yes, a major handicap, I don’t read Hebrew nor Arabic, so I have to be very careful commenting on certain topics. I do hope to learn from this site.
From the NK website:
“For those who took time to bypass the media blizzard of disinformation, several things about our trip should have been clear. Our position as stated throughout the conference was explicit and free of any ambiguity. We affirmed the reality of the mass murder of Jews during the Second World War.
… we told those assembled that the reality of the Holocaust should not be used as a pretext to strip the Palestinian people, either as individuals or collectively, of their property and land.
It is our Torah based obligation to constantly declare before all humanity that the deeds done to the Palestinian people throughout the last century and continuing to this day are unconscionable. Our experience has shown that the fulfillment of this obligation yields only positive results.
… Obviously two paths lie before the Jewish people. There is the path of Zionism that summons Jews to a state of perpetual war in order to “protect” Jewry and there is the path of the Torah which calls upon us to seek peace and dialogue with all men.To us the choice is elementary.”
Was meant as answer to Gonen on August 2, 2013 at 8:44 AM
I have no idea under what set of values you were brought up. I do know that as a person i will never associate myself with racism . The notion that the religious delegation participated in those conventions and meetings to try to influence the agenda, is simply ludicrous.
The religious delegation identified to the fullest with the notion of bringing an end to the State of Israel, which was the theme behind the convention. For the religious group to take tax payers money, and identify themselves with such goal – for whatever reason – is simply crazy.
France24 had a Farsi translator and came with this correct translation … (plus video)
Every Western democratic state has a legacy of racism. In the so-called religious “tolerant” country of The Netherlands, we live under the scourge of the likes of Geert Wilders (funded by Daniel Pipes et all), xenophobia and the lies of CIDI and Dutch Likudniks. The former FM Uri Rosenthal was a disgrace to the Dutch and the EU. Unfortunately racism is baited and fed by hatred and appears as the multi-headed serpent Hydra of Greek mythology.
My set of values? Read my posts and diaries.
@ Oui, I do not buy the translation backtrack of the Iranian president elect.
The current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech in the same rally, the podium from which he carried his statement was covered with a banner in it was written in English “Israel should be wiped from the page of time”. I fear no translation is needed for the statement.
Hezbollah leader made the same “Israel is a wound….” Statement today. I think that the president elect was caught “with both hand in the cookie jar”, realized afterwards that such statement can hinder his negotiation efforts with the G5 + 1, may prevent direct talks with the US and ordered the backtrack. I seriously doubt that ISNA (Iranian’s to remind you) would have any problem to translating statements made in Farsi.
A video of the podium banner aired in Israel’s channel 1 news program – (as part of a video showing the speech of the current Iranian president) you can watch it online on the http://www.iba.org.il website – time marker is 10:00. To watch it you would have to select “יומן” from the recorded program. I do apologize but no English version of the said program is available.
There you go, expanding again! We were discussing the words of next president Rouhani. You stand corrected. ISNA is not as independent as you may suggest and is funded by a conservative department of Iran’s government. Like I said, France24 and now also BBC Persian service has published the correct translation. See also the Jerusalem Post article.
I understand, it’s the last Friday of Ramadan and Al Quds day throughout the Islamic world. A day of feast for all hasbara students …
[Comment deleted as off-topic & comment rule violation.
This is precisely why I delete such off-topic comments. They often don’t stand the test of truth or time. Anyone who believes the nonsense in the headlines about what Rouhani said needs to read this.]
Richard Silverstein says
I am NOT getting into a debate on what Rouhani said. That is off-topic & a comment violation. If you raise the issue again you will be moderated. Confine ALL your comments to the subject of the post you are commenting on. This is an important rule I insist you respect. INSIST.
Richard Silverstein says
@Gonen: The idea that I’m supposed to be offended by a banner at a political rally is one of the stupidest I’ve ever heard.
As for what YOU think happened regarding the fraudulent translation of Rouhani’s speech, I’m not interested,
@ Richards “The idea that I’m supposed to be offended by a banner at a political rally is one of the stupidest I’ve ever heard.”
This particular political rally is organized by the Iranian government. A government official is no doubt approving all banners appearing in this rally.
As for the ISNA translation – You never accept any argument offered by the Israeli government, you declined Arguments made by the Egyptian officials claiming that both had an interest. Yet you have no problems accepting Iranian arguments declining the huge interest of the regime in damage control.
I didn’t translate anything, translation came from semi-official Iranian organization (Thank you Oui for the definition). The only possible explanation of such an error is that the level of Farsi studies in Iran is declining due to the sanctions.
Richard Silverstein says
@Gonen: So you mean to say that there have never been any deeply offensive, racist banners or ones with messages threatening to Iran at political rallies of Likud and other government coalition partners? Did you see the banners hanging from the Jerusalem balcony from which Bibi incited Rabin’s murder? C’mon. This is a silly game. And two can play at it.
A banner means little more than somebody wrote what appears on it & wants others to see it.
As for errors in Farsi translation: I frankly couldn’t care who made an error and why. Someone made an error. BTW, MEMRI’s stock in trade is making deliberate or accidental errors in translating Arabic and Farsi sources. Do you scream bloody murder about that too? I don’t seem to recall you ever complaining. Hmmm.
[comment deleted–I’m totally bored with your off-topic comments. Again, if your comments are off topic you will be moderated]
I’ll let Norman Finkelstein answer your question. Pls. grow up, you’re becoming a bore. Anyone can find a balanced view of what MEMRI is all about.
@Oui, thank you for the nice compliments.
In case you missed the headline / fax / Telegram / Newsflash – Memri is not an official / semi-official Israeli news organisation. Therefore comparing it to the ISNA which as you stated was a semi-official (thank you for the clarification) is just like comparing ISNA to you or me.
Please try and compare similar attributed objects.
Richard Silverstein says
MEMRI was founded by a former Mossad agent and operates, much like StandWithUs, the Israel Project & Im Tirzu as a quasi-official Israeli organization. It closely coordinates its activity w govt officials & intel agencies.
It is most definitely NOT independent & not nonpartisan. It’s product is suspect & often flawed either deliberately so or due to ignorance.
Thank you for the information about MEMRI, you learn something new every day.
Do you have any links showing that MEMRI “closely coordinates its activity w govt officials & intel agencies.” ?
Richard Silverstein says
You mean more than that its founder is a former Mossad agent? And you think former Mossad agents doing work that is directly supportive of Israel’s anti-Arab propaganda efforts DOESN’T work closely with the government and its propaganda efforts?
1. Yigal Carmon was the counter-terrorism adviser for Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin
2. Carmon’s association doesn’t reflect on the quality of translation preformed by MEMRI
3. You were unable to provide any link verifying your statement that MEMRI “closely coordinates its activity w govt officials & Intel agencies.” and the your response will not win you a case in court.
Richard Silverstein says
@Gonen: Neturey Karta have never expressed any interest in “bringing an end to Israel” by violent means. They have never taken up arms against Israel either internally or through a third party. They want a different regime in Israel, one that isn’t Zionist. There is a clear difference bet. that & wishing for the extermination of Israel or Israelis. To claim or believe something else about their views is simply false.
Baruch Goldstein was crazy too.
Bob Mann says
What a strange story this is – thanks for bringing it to our attention.
Incidentally, what is a good source of information to understand this Neturey Karta group and what they are all about? (beyond Wikipedia, or their own website). Is there a book you can recommend or can you provide the name of someone who was written objectively about them that might help shed some light?
They are mentioned in your original post so I am hoping this is an acceptable on-topic question. Be curious to learn more about them from an outside (but neutral and respectable) perspective. Any ideas?
The judge concluded that there is no reason to send Ythzhek Bargek to a psychiatric evaluation.
Jay G says
Todos Richard! Finally someone puts the so called ‘spy’ report into proper perspective without hyperbole and rant, having simply stated available facts and apparent anomalies with the official story. You are a true journalist which separates you from the mainstream. Since anyone can say they belong to so and so a group, or that they are affiliated with such and such does not mean that they are a member. Does NK even know who Yitzhak B is? Netueri Karta is despised because they correctly point out Zionist hypocrisy claiming to stand for a Jewish home but instead are the promoters of worldliness and G-dless values as a substitute for Torah observance. And although not all Israelis necessarily subscribe to the Zionist agenda, life in Israel has clearly become the most dangerous place on earth for Jews to live despite every effort made by the State to ensure tranquility and safety. Zionism by definition is ethnic nationalism unlike NKUSA the Holy One blessed be He and blessed be the peacemakers, as you correctly say NKUSA does not support the nation of Israel. NK has to my knowledge never been involved in nor advocate militancy in any way. That in distinct contradiction to the MO s of the JDL, Irgun etc. IMO Bergal absolutely could not be associated with NKUSA period! Those of us aware of regional history and geo-politik can perhaps more easily comprehend the probable backdrop going on behind this story, which looks like a smear campaign against a righteous group who wholeheartedly oppose every form of nationalism including Israel.