If you want a lesson in the ways of the Israeli security apparatus–how it manipulates law and media in service to its interests–take a lesson from the case of Golani Druze Sedki al-Maket. As I reported a few days ago, the security apparatus arrested him (in secret, of course) and slapped a gag order on the case. No Israeli reporter could report the name of the detainee or the charges against him. Thanks to a report in Syrian state media, I was able to expose his identity. My own reporting added the reason why he irked the security apparatus to the extent that it arrested him and likely will bring charges that will send him to prison for years.
UPDATE: Israel’s secret police are so freaked out by Israeli media even noting in their reporting that foreign media outlets (like this blog and two Arab media sources) have reported information about this scandal, that they today issued a sweeping new version of the gag order. By the way, this is the handiwork of Judge Hanna Sabbagh of the Nazareth Magistrate Court, one of the apparently infinitely pliable Israeli jurists (he is Israeli-Palestinian, by the way) when it comes to security matters:
As an extension of the gag order of 2/25/15 in the matter of the security case investigated by the Northern District police and the Shin Bet, today a new gag order was published by Judge Chana Sabag, vice-president of the Nazareth District Court. According to it, the earlier gag order is widened to prohibit publication of any details of the investigation; any detail that might identify the suspects, publication about the reporting of any other media outlets including full or partial quotations from foreign media or publications on the internet, including any direct or indirect hint concerning the information prohibited [in Israel] from publication in this case.
I would urge Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists and any other NGO which ranks press freedom internationally to take this ludicrous ruling into account when you determine Israel’s ranking.
Now, Syria’s state media outlet reveals two other Golani Druze were arrested along with al-Maket. They are Sheikh Atef Darwish from Baka’ata and Fidaa Majed al-Shaer from Majdal Shams.
A confidential Israeli Druze source informs me that yet another Druze has been arrested. His detention is still secret inside Israel, as is his identity. I can report that he is an IDF soldier, Hilal Halabi, from Daliyat Al-Carmel (near Haifa). My guess is that Halabi serves in the Golan. He knew about the meeting between IDF and Syrian rebel commanders. He conveyed the information to al-Maket, who used it to film his video.
In the coming days, you’re likely to see lurid headlines spoon-fed to the Israeli media by the intelligence services about a Syrian spy cell within the IDF; about Druze who passed secret intelligence to the enemy. And it will all (or mostly) be crap. Don’t believe any (or much) of it.
This is an extraordinary development, but not for the reasons the Shabak would have you believe. The only major non-Jewish ethnic groups who serve in the IDF are Druze and Bedouin. The Druze are especially known for their fierce devotion both to the State and the army. Their history of service goes back to the founding of the State. In recent years, there have been no Shabak arrests of Druze soldiers, while there have been such arrests of Jewish soldiers.
Only recently have young Druze begun to question the legacy of older generations. Several who reached the age of military service have become refusers and gone to jail for their principles. Carmel Druze recently protested Israeli medical treatment offered to al Nusra fighters who’ve killed Syrian Druze.
The arrest of Halabi indicates the gradual deterioration of relations between this minority and the State. The fact that an IDF soldier has collaborated with Golani Druze signifies a growing solidarity between Carmel and Golani Druze. Many of the Golani Druze maintain support or allegiance to Syria. Until now, Israel never had to doubt the loyalty of the Carmel Druze. Until now.
The hawkish Israeli security site 0404 reported this incident revealed a “major security breach.” It said further that the particulars of the case will cause re-evaluation of basic security assumptions. I’m sure that one of them will be the growing suspicion of the loyalty of the Israeli Druze.
Turning to Syria, Israel would like you to believe it’s neutral in the civil war. But it isn’t. Israel has serially bombed Syrian targets and assassinated Syrian and Iranian generals (two) supporting the regime. Several media outlets and I have also reported Israel established a military encampment for Syrian rebels in Israeli-occupied Golan. Israeli media reports:
UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel. The Syrians also warned that if the UN would not evacuate the tent camp, the Syrian army would view it as a legitimate target.
UN peacekeepers have also written reports confirming this. Israel also shared intelligence and transferred weapons to al-Nusra Islamist rebels on the Golan border, and shot down a Syrian fighter jet which spent less than one second over airspace of Israel-occupied Golan (which itself is internationally recognized as Syrian territory.
That’s what al-Maket further exposed. He followed a group of four Syrian rebel commanders as they crossed into Israel-occupied Golan and made their way to a rendezvous with Israeli intelligence officers. They met near border known in Hebrew as Ramat HaMagshimim (UN outpost 85). He videotaped a report some yards from the meeting and described it in detail. Al-Maket then offered the video to the Syrian regime and it was aired on Syrian national TV.
You can imagine how happy the Shabak and IDF AMAN were with this development. Besides noting how poor Israeli security was in ensuring the meeting was held covertly, it further blows out of the water Israel’s claim of neutrality. This couldn’t be countenanced. That’s why he was arrested and the security apparatus is going to such great lengths to try and find him guilty in the media without revealing anything specific about the charges. This is standard operation procedure: to bruit about the claim of a “grave security violation.”
Israeli media coverage of national security issues is of the lowest quality. Reporters routinely publish stories derived from intelligence sources who are anonymous. When arrests are made, reporters very rarely quote defense lawyers or interview family members or colleagues to learn about the suspect (something I try to do whenever I can). They present one side, the side of state power. This makes the detainee guilty before the public even knows his name. It’s a benighted form of journalism, one in which the intelligence apparatus co-opts the Fourth Estate, turning it into an accomplice in victimizing those who resist or dissent.
The truth of the matter is that any real reporter would give their eye-teeth to cover the story Al-Maket had. Israeli journalists, however, would know there wasn’t a chance in hell they could get such a report on the air. The IDF censor would stop it in a heartbeat. But of course, no Israeli Jewish journalist would be arrested for practicing such journalism. That only happens to minority (non-Jewish) journalists. Can you imagine what it must be like for an Israeli reporter knowing he or she can’t do their job? Such is the sorry state of Israel’s “free press.”
Here is Walla’s strange coverage of the story, which amounts to: this is big, but I can’t tell you a thing about it:
Shabak and Police Investigate Grave Security Case in the North
A sweeping gag order has shrouded every detail of the investigation, and any detail likely to identify the suspects in the case. Therefore, we can’t report any additional information at this point. The police released a statement about the existence of the case in light of revelations by journalists of several nations who published about it.
Even this vague non-coverage is incomplete. I was the first journalist who reported both the identity of the detainee and the reason for his arrest (yesterday an Arab-language outlet reported the story and was the first to break the gag order, since its reporter is stationed in Jerusalem and subject to it). As a result, Israeli secret police felt compelled to partially lift the veil on their activities. That’s why it’s so important that foreign journalists not subject to Israeli jurisdiction be able to blow the lid off cases like this.
Foreign media aren’t as constrained: Vice has already reported on similar liaison meetings between Israeli intelligence and rebels. FoxNews aired a TV news segment showing footage of Israeli commandos returning home after liaising with Golani Druze inside Syria. Everyone but the Shabak seems to know this is going on. But the fact that a Golani Druze proved it with video footage rises to a criminal offense.
You and I and any reasonable person (including many Israelis) would want to know if their government was making common-cause with radical Islamists (al Nusra) allied with Al Qaeda. You might, as a citizen, have a good many questions about whether this is a sound policy. You might compare it to the U.S. alliance with the mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. You might compare it to the Israeli alliance with the Lebanese Phalangists. Most observers now concede that little long-term good came from these temporary alliances of convenience. But if the Israeli security police have their way, no Israeli will be hearing or talking about any of this.
The way they do this is by using the tools of the national security state (secret arrests, censorship, gag orders, a compliant judicial system) to compel obedience and consensus, and to suppress dissent.