In my post of yesterday, I forgot to include a Black Cube client at least as oily and disgusting as Harvey Weinstein. I was reminded of this by the video sent to me by an Israeli of a protest led by anti-oligarch activist, Barak Cohen, at Black Cube’s Tel Aviv headquarters yesterday (see Hebrew video). The demonstration is brilliant: they use a megaphone to challenge the staff to open their blinds and windows to the sunshine, so that the rest of Israel can see the harm it’s doing to innocent victims around the world, on behalf of their oligarch clients. For a comprehensive look at Black Cube methods and operations, read this Globes profile.
Israeli billionaire blood diamond merchant, Beny Steinmetz is under investigation in multiple jurisdictions (Guinea, Romania, Israel) for various corrupt schemes. Police in Israel investigated and arrested him. In Romania, the special corruption prosecutor had him in her sights for dubious property deals. Though it’s not known on whose behalf Black Cube was hired in this matter, a former Romanian intelligence chief is reputed to have hired the firm to break into the office and files of the prosecutor (hacking her e-mail account as well) in order to either see or steal evidence against the Israeli oligarch.
But there was only one problem: two Black Cube operatives were caught snooping around and arrested. It aroused a furor inside Romania because general political corruption is a huge problem and campaign issue. The two spooks were
charged. One was sentenced to hard labor for his role in this escapade. A plea bargain on behalf of the second spook was rejected by the court. Later the two were released and returned to Israel. All this didn’t cause much of a ripple in Israel, which is used to its intelligence agencies engaging in outrageous stunts on behalf of the nation. Remember the 27 agents caught on Dubai CCTV stalking and assassinating Mahmoud al Mabouh? In that case, the video evidence caused an uproar. But not so much inside Israel, where it was business as usual. Outside however, multiple countries expelled their local Mossad station chiefs for their involvement in the black ops operation that went bad.
Black Cube today released a statement in which it “apologized” (sort of) for the role it played in the Weinstein affair. But the person it chose to represent it before the media, Tel Aviv University business professor (and board member), Asher Tishler, was telling: a middle-aged, paunchy, bearded white male economics wonk. In other words, someone looking very much like the predators themselves with which Black Cube does business. Apparently, no one thought that a professor of ethics or a woman might present a more appealing image. In fact, image doesn’t appear to be in the firm’s vocabulary, even in protecting its own.
Tishler told Israeli TV that the assignment the firm accepted was “justified.” But that when it found out there was a “problem” it stopped its work. This of course flies directly in the face of Ronan Farrow’s reporting that Black Cube worked for Weinstein well after the NY Times and New Yorker stories were published. It also expressed sorrow for the damage it did to Weinstein’s victims. Sorry, too little too late. You should’ve thought of this damage before you took the $1.3-million fee Weinstein dangled in front of you.
Oh, and magnanimous fellas that they are over there at Black Cube, they’re giving the fee to charity. Or to be more precise, they’re giving the “profits” they earned from the job. It would’ve been nice had they said they were giving the entire fee to charity; and given it to charities fighting against sex abuse or fighting against the types of unethical business behavior in which they specialize. Instead, he said the funds would be donated to “women’s groups.” Can anyone imagine that this company gives a crap about women or sex abuse or women’s rights, unless there’s a fee to be earned from it?
There is a reason the worst slime in the world turns to Israeli intelligence operatives to ensure their sins don’t see the light of day. Israel is a country, alas which specializes in suppressing its own dirty deeds and keeping them from the prying eyes of the world. It does this by the dirty tricks of ministries like Gilad Erdan’s Strategic Affairs, which uses scores of ex-intelligence agents to ferret out dirt on BDS campaigners inside Israel and outside it. It uses foreign political-intelligence assets like Lord Polak in the UK to arrange secret meetings with a British minister in Israel leading to a proposal to offer UK development aid to the Israeli army in its efforts to tend to the needs of al-Qaeda fighters it’s promoting inside Syria. All this, despite the fact that the UK does not recognize the Golan, the enclave where the aid would be dispensed, as Israeli territory. That little episode led to a minister’s resignation.
Israel and its various agents and assets value secrecy and opacity above all. That’s why Erdan won’t reveal what he’s doing, who he’s recruiting, who he’s targeting as victims. It’s why firms like Black Cube can thrive in the shadows and do the bidding of the world’s worst men. We must demand transparency. We must expose these surreptitious plots against innocent victims, whether they be sexual abuse victims like Rose McGowan or Palestinians.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.