Though the Shin Bet is reporting a major success in thwarting a Palestinian effort to smuggle funds to a Hamas leader in an Israeli prison, they’re not revealing that it took years for them to detect the plot and thwart it. In that time, Sana al-Hafi, age 44, passed “hundreds of thousands” of dollars undetected to her prisoner brother, Sheikh Hussein Abu Kweik.
The Israeli security agency claims that under interrogation, she said the funds were used to purchase her brother “an elegant apartment” and “fancy car.” This makes absolutely no sense. Why would she need to go to the danger of smuggling funds into an Israeli prison when she could’ve bought the items herself on his behalf?
Al-Hafi also allegedly told interrogators that the funds were transferred from a Hamas charity, Al Noor, which is dedicated to helping the families of shahids, prisoners, and those wounded in Israeli attacks. In other words, the Shin Bet is attempting to plant the notion that al-Hafi and her brother are corrupt and misusing Hamas charity funds.
Another bizarre feature of this prosecution is that the victim is being charged under Israeli law with “contact with a foreign agent” when she isn’t an Israeli citizen and her “crime” isn’t a crime in Gaza itself, where she lives. If Israel annexed Gaza and proclaimed sovereignty over it and charged Gazans with crimes under Israeli law, that would be one thing. But they’re treating Gazans as if they’re under Israeli sovereignty when they’re not (supposedly).
Shin Bet also makes a point of claiming that Hamas’s heartlessness towards Gazans may be found in the fact that it smuggles enormous sums into Israeli prisons while poverty lurks in Gaza itself. Making such a claim gives the lie to the hasbara notion there is no siege and commerce is conducted as normal. If that were so, there would be no such funding crisis in Gaza. Again, something for which Israel is responsible, not Hamas.
Shabak Recruits Chinese Spies
China has raised objections to an Israeli plan to dragoon tens of thousands of Chinese laborers into the West Bank to build new settlements. These objections are supposedly based on Chinese opposition to violations of international law. In fact, The Marker’s headline blares: “Boycott Come to the East: China Demands No Chinese Employed in [Building] Settlements.” China says it insists on this condition “in order to protect” its citizens.
My cynical take is that the moral implications are of less importance to the Chinese government than the cash considerations. It probably wants a better financial deal than Israel is (yet) offering. In fact, The Marker story notes China is demanding payment of $6,000 per head. The Israeli government plan, spearheaded by new Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, hopes to import up to 15,000 Chinese workers. That amounts to a hefty $90-million payment to the Chinese government each year. Much of that would go to the local regional governments in China from which the workers originate. Note, this level of society is where some of the worst corruption in China exists. $90-million greases a lot of palms!
This new system would replace one in which private companies in both Israel and China oversaw the hiring of laborers. This led to scandalous violations of labor and human rights in which workers paid as much as $30,000 to their Chinese sponsors. This in turn led to them being little more than indentured servants once in Israel, and held under conditions little better than slavery. This in turn led to Israel being accused of engaging in human trafficking.
Israel, for many reasons, refuses these Chinese demands. An Israeli security source revealed to me that one of those is that Shin Bet has been recruiting Chinese as spies in the settlements where they work. If there are no Chinese workers then that’s the end of the agency’s Chinese spy program. My source claims the agency has had success in such recruitment (it even placed an ad a few months ago seeking such an agent). In fact, it calls this agent, with a bit Graham Greene-like bravado, “Our Man in Samaria.” He monitors Jewish terror suspects who live in the West Bank. Israeli Shin Bet agents are known and largely exposed in the settlements, but few would suspect the Chinese of being Israeli intelligence assets. Personally, I’m not certain how useful Chinese spies would be in settlements: they don’t speak Hebrew, they have no familiarity with the culture or society. Perhaps, they might perform activities like planting surveillance equipment (if trained to do so).
So China may not be especially happy to have its citizens groomed as Shabak spies (that may be why The Marker portrayed China’s refusal to allow its workers to work across the Green Line as “protecting them” i.e., from recruitment). Another reason the Chinese might object to Shabak doing this is that these spies might return to China and spy for Israel there. Though given that they are mostly common laborers it’s not clear how useful they would be once they returned to China. You’d expect Israel would want intelligence on Chinese military affairs and weapons systems. It’s not clear to me how such individuals could obtain such information. Though in spy craft, almost anything is possible.
The Marker notes that Israel may continue using Chinese workers under the old system (when Shabak successfully recruited its “man” in the settlements). But it will run into objections both from the Israeli Supreme Court (which objected to the Chinese peonage) and the U.S. State Department, which lists countries which abet human trafficking. In this age of BDS, that’s one list Israel doesn’t need.
How do we know that the monies she smuggled were charitable, and not used for more nefarious purposes like purchasing diving suits like those recently intercepted on their way to the Gaza Strip?
Any funds smuggled for any purpose at all are conditioned by the blockade and seige, i.e. the economic realities of Gaza. Israel is the main determining source of Gaza poverty and misery as everyone knows so clearly, but Growler doesn’t.
“These objections are supposedly based on Chinese opposition to violations of international law.”
China says this is due to safety concerns rather than politics.
The notion that SB is using Chinese laborers to spy, is, on it’s face, absurd.
Richard. Even you sound incredulous.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Growler: “Incredulous?” I posted an image of the Shabak job ad seeking a Chinese agent. A public ad. So how “incredulous” can the truth be?
The Marker article didn’t say China was concerned for the worker’s safety. It said it was seeking to “protect” them. Which could have many meanings. One of which is protecting them from recruitment by Shabak. Another could be protecting them from protests and opprobrium from human rights activists like those who’ve protested against Lev Leviev, Ahava & Sodastream.
Further, Marker notes specifically that the Chinese refusal could be seen as part of the international boycott campaign.
A Reader says
Dear Mr. Silverstein, the image you posted is looking for a veteran of a combat unit with high Chinese language skills, not for a “Chinese agent”.
Richard Silverstein says
@a reader: My Israeli intelligence source, who’s quite familiar with this matter, says Shabak has recruited Chinese assets among these workers.
It’s quite possible the agent the ad was recruiting was to be the Israeli control for all these Chinese assets Shabak is recruiting. That would make sense.
Haaretz article states specifically “condition… is due to safety concerns rather than politics”.
What is more natural for a country than to have some Chinese speaking analysts? The fact there might be thousands of Chinese workers coming in, making it even more necessary especially with all the different allegations of Chinese espionage.
I doubt Chinese worker will be good spies b/c –
1. As you said, they will stand out and don’t speak Hebrew.
2. Foreign construction workers work on big projects of multiple floors buildings. Those happen in the big settlements or Israeli neighborhoods is East Jerusalem which are not known for extremists, and not in the smaller ones where Shin Bet might want some people followed.