Israel’s Shabak posted an odd help-wanted listing on its website. It was seeking to recruit a field agent fluent in Chinese. The recruit also needed excellent “interpersonal skills” and a willingness to work “irregular hours.” At first, I didn’t know what to make of this. I could understand why the Mossad might want a Chinese-speaking agent, but the Shabak? Was there a domestic Chinese terror threat I wasn’t aware of?
An article in Maariv attempted to answer the question. It’s premise was credible: that Israel was worried that China might be spying on Israel and seeking to pass those secrets on to Iran. But again, Chinese agents inside Israel would stand out. While there are trade and military relationships between Israel and China, they’re not so intense that China would be flooding the zone with agents seeking Israeli military secrets.
My Israeli source has cracked this nut: Israeli settlements generally cannot exist without Palestinian workers. They build the new housing that so inflames Palestinian and world opinion. Palestinians are the grunts of settler society. They do all the jobs a Jew wouldn’t be caught dead doing.
But there are extremist settlements so ideologically-opposed to Palestinians that they will not employ them. To do their grunt work, they turn to foreign workers of which there are tens of thousands from which to choose. But some of the hardest-working and honest workers are Chinese. Israel has good relations with China too. So settlers trust the Chinese.
Shabak has exploited this by recruiting among the Chinese workers to be the security service’s eyes and ears, ferreting out information about price tag or terror attacks planned against Palestinian targets. There has been some limited success with Chinese workers who speak English or Hebrew (the veterans). But it needs a Chinese speaker to reach out more broadly.
I have thought about whether to publish this information because I realize it will frustrate Shabak plans to monitor Jewish extremist violence and it will potentially endanger those Chinese workers in the settlements. No settler will be able to trust them. They might even turn to workers from other ethnic backgrounds.
But I decided to publish this for a few reasons. The main one being that the Shabak does not want to stop Jewish terrorism. It certainly doesn’t want to arrest, convict and imprison terrorists. Just look at how many settlers are ever convicted and imprisoned for acts of violence: the numbers are infinitesimal.
Instead, Shabak wants to monitor extremists. It wants to know what is being planned so that it can prevent embarrassing episodes to the extent it can. If I felt that the security services wanted to root out Jewish hate and violence and took it seriously, I would not have exposed this plan. But Shabak is interested in managing the extremists, not stopping them. That, in my opinion is a fool’s errand.
Second, I thought posting a job listing on its website for this position was an especially dumb thing to do if you plan to infiltrate Israeli settlements. Of course the listing would get out and radical settlers, who are not a dumb lot, would put two and two together.