On Israel Independence Day, several exemplary Israelis are chosen to light the torch at a special national ceremony marking the commencement of the day. This year, the theme of the ceremony will be: trailblazers. One of those chosen was Israeli Palestinian TV host, Lucy Aharish, a notable safe, liberal Zionist choice. But there is particular controversy over another individual chosen. She is Sima Shine, the former director of the Mossad’s research unit. There is only one reason she was chosen: her boss is Yuval Steinitz, the minister for strategic affairs, and a close Netanyahu confidant. The prime minister, in the past government, had to remove him from his prestigious senior finance portfolio in order to placate Yair Lapid. So Bibi owes him.
When Shine’s name was announced a furor erupted (Hebrew) within the ranks of the Mossad, especially among female Mossad personnel, 60 of whom signed a letter of protest to the culture minister, who approves these honors. The reasons offered for appointing Shine were that she was the highest ranking field agent within the agency and that she was a trailblazer for herself and other women. In fact, it emerged that Shine had advanced her career not as a trailblazer, but in one of the oldest ways imaginable. She essentially slept her way to the top. She had an affair with her boss, Uri Neeman, who served as director of the research division (how she won that job). After he resigned from the Mossad, they married and it became clear they’d been carrying on an affair while both were serving. She wasn’t a field agent, nor was she involved in operations, which are the positions most coveted and respected. Rather she was a desk jockey; and didn’t help other women within the ranks. She helped herself.
In fact, another women served as deputy director of the Mossad, a position more senior than Shine’s. Many women are field operatives who risk their lives for their country and she was never one of those. Unlike them, she never made a unique contribution to the security of the nation, as the statement which announced her appointment claimed. Those who protested her appointment said it misrepresented the truth and “misled the public.” They said that Shine “isn’t remembered by anyone in the Mossad as someone who made great achievements there.”
Further, it turns out that despite the fact that Steinitz presented the honor as a mark of respect to the Mossad, no one in the agency asked for her appointment. It was the minister’s wish and essentially his alone. Had the agency been asked, the protesting agents declared, it would’ve suggested other women be honored instead.
Shine was also accused, while she worked there, of obtaining sensitive intelligence information from the agency which was outside her sphere of responsibility. She passed this on to Neeman, her husband, after he’d already left the Mossad’s employ and was a civilian. This is a very serious charge. But she didn’t receive any serious punishment. Rather, she left the agency and transferred to the National Security Council. When Uzi Arad became its director (he’d been one of her bosses at the Mossad), he fired her. She then transferred to work under Steinitz, where she is today.
Both the Mossad and Shin Bet have long histories of both sexual harassment and exploitation of both male and female personnel. Affairs of bosses with subordinates abound. There are instances in which bosses harmed the careers of men with whose wives they were conducting sexual relationships. For some reason, this doesn’t tarnish the reputation of either agency in the eyes of the Israeli public. Sexual peccadilloes are a small price to pay, apparently, for those who keep the nation safe from foreign enemies. No thought seems to be given that those who have the greatest responsibility to defend the nation should be held to high moral standards as well. In fact, moral standards seem to be fairly low on the totem pole both for personnel, and espionage operations themselves.
Glad you brought up this topic. It’s an absolute farce. One thing I would mention is that sexual harrassment or getting promoted via your boss’s bed is an epidemic all over the world, nothing unique to Israel.
“..female Mossad personnel, 60 of whom signed a letter of protest to the culture minister, ”
It is indeed remarkable that in this culture of ‘both sexual harassment and exploitation’ that 60 female Mossad personnel felt free enough to sign the letter of protest. You’d think that these females would have been cowed into silence.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Hefe: There are thousands of Mossad employees, among them several hundred women. 60 is an exceedingly small number. No one is claiming every single one of the Mossad’s female employees is sexually harassed. Unless you are. Are you?
nessim dayan says
“moral standards” ==== say what?
Today of all days, when OLMERT WAS FOUND GUILTY OF WHO KNOWS HOW MANY AND HOW MUCH?
Moral standards? when Bibi’s wife thinks the whole country is her petty cash?
Monkey see monkey do, what’s good for the Bibis and Olmerts is good for us too, or not?
An Israeli says
As always, interesting and teaching. One note: The public is not particularly tolerant to sexual harassment in the security forces any more than in other organizations, as the recent cases in the police and IDF demonstrate. There were not many sex scandals in the GSS or the Mossad, but the workers there may be more prone to solving these issues silently rather than filing a formal complaint.
Richard Silverstein says
@ An Israeli: First, it hardly matters what the public think about sexual harrassment in the security forces. They can cover up their excesses behind the veil of secrecy and national security. The police & IDF have rampant sexual abuse which is often tolerated & rarely prosecuted. Yes, there are a few cases here & there in which some commander is embarrassed by public scrutiny. But these are the tip of the iceberg. And on the contrary, there are many sex scandals in the Shabak & Mossad. Read my link in this post to see examples of several. And there are more.
If you are an Israeli you know very little about what goes on inside your own security services.
nessim dayan says
I was shell shocked after landing my first job in israel at age 50+, what was taboo both in EGYPT (long ago) Uruguay and Canada, was considered here “a right of passage”, no female (age irrelevant) can EVER bypass the “sleeping” with someone higher, IT WAS (not sure now about the level) A MUST” whether it was by choice or obligation.