Several major international and Israeli human rights groups have recently issued reports calling Israel an apartheid state “from the river to the sea.” This means that Israel has devised a system keeping all non-Jews, whether inside the Green Line or outside (West Bank), under a racist system maintaining them in a state of perpetual oppression. Labeling this unified system as apartheid is an important step toward defining Israel itself as a pariah state in violation of international law and subject to criminal prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
An important tool used by Israel to perpetuate this system is its intelligence apparatus. Both the Shin Bet and Mossad target all attempts by Palestinians inside or outside the Green Line to organize for their national, political rights as hostile to the interests of the state. As far back as 2007, in response to plans announced by Israeli Palestinian NGOs calling for the transformation of Israel into a secular democratic state with equal rights for all citizens, then-Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said:
“The Shin Bet security service will thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish…character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law,”
Diskin…[also] described Israel’s Arab population as a “strategic threat.”
Shin Bet said that there was nothing wrong with the formulation of the [plans] “unless they reflect or encourage subversive activity,” and that the Shin Bet’s activity includes foiling such activity on the part of various groups “even if their activity utilizes democratic tools.”
In effect, the intelligence apparatus exposed its true nature in defending the state from true democracy and protecting the supremacy of its Jewish citizens. To do this, it drove national leaders like Azmi Bishara into exile. It arrested and imprisoned Israeli Palestinian leaders MKs like Basel Ghattas. It jailed Palestinian nationalist activist Ameer Makhoul for nine years on trumped-up charges of consorting with enemies of the state. It punished MK Haneen Zoabi for not toeing the line, by withholding perquisites guaranteed to Jewish MKs.
The Shin Bet does not see a difference between legitimate Palestinian political advocacy and terrorism. They are one and the same.
Israel’s Criminalization of Humanitarian Aid
A lesser-known, but equally important method of repression is the criminalization of all forms of humanitarian aid offered to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In the absence of a Palestinian state, a network of NGOs, both foreign and Palestinian, offer local residents vital forms of aid, including food, medical, employment and education. The Israeli intelligence apparatus views such organizations as threats to the interests of the Israeli apartheid state and its perpetual dominance over the Palestinian underclass.
The International Criminal Court will have much to investigate in its upcoming inquiry into Israeli war crimes since 2014. Apartheid is but one of many charges. To this list, it should add this intense and systematic campaign to destroy all Palestinian efforts to provide basic human needs, which the occupying power refuses to offer. This may not be as egregious as murdering 2,300 Gazans during Operation Protective Edge. But it is a criminal act nonetheless, in violation of international law.
A critical part of such a campaign has been a series of prosecutions over the years of both NGOs and their local staff, falsely accusing them of permitting funding to be siphoned away from genuine humanitarian projects to banned terrorist groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Hamas. Today’s post recounts a new case in which the Shin Bet offers unsupported claims that such funding was even used in a terror attack in which an Israeli woman was murdered.
Last month, I violated Israeli censorship to report that Juana Ruiz, a senior staff member of a Spanish NGO doing relief work in the West Bank had been secretly arrested and held incommunicado for two weeks without any charges filed or an indictment against her. The arrest had not been reported in English language foreign media. Only a single story in the Spanish El Pais, mentioned it.
The Shin Bet, at the time, offered vague claims that she had taken funds intended for her organization’s relief projects and directed them to the PFLP to fund its terror operations. The charges sounded ominous on their face. But even a cursory glance showed that they were flimsy and supported by little more than the claims of an infamous group, NGO Monitor, known for its flimflammery, whose data probably emanated from the Shin Bet itself.
A review of its website shows that it featured virtually all the charges mentioned in news reports about Ruiz’ arrest. In effect, NGOM had offered the Shin Bet a template for its future prosecution. Unless of course, the agency itself had leaked the charges to NGOM for just such an eventuality.
Why? Because the world automatically treats claims by spy agencies with skepticism. But when an NGO publicizes the same information, an unsuspecting public proves more amenable to believe it. I posed questions to the agency asking what its relationship with the group is; whether it had shared any of the evidence used against Ruiz and the Health Work Committees with NGOM. The source I consulted refused to respond.
Nor is this intelligence method unheard of for Israeli spy agencies. In fact, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of the lawfare organization, Shurat Ha-Din, boasted to US embassy officers that she launched it with the direct aid of the Mossad. Her book about her work, Harpoon, is even named for the Mossad unit which offered her much of the intelligence information she uses in her court cases. She and her team of ambulance-chasing terror attorneys have filed hundreds of cases against far-flung Arab banks and governments attempting to attach assets on behalf of her “victims.” She claims to have won $200-million in such assets, but she has offered no proof of this and she knows it would be exceedingly hard to verify. Her ultimate goal is to both aggrandize her own reputation as a terror fighter for Zion and to bankrupt Palestinian and Iranian political bodies. Shurat Ha-Din is to the Mossad, what NGOM is to the Shin Bet: they act as a force multiplier. These groups can speak more freely and even recklessly to the public. They can be quoted in the media as independent authorities on these subjects. Their claims are less likely to be questioned. And if they are, there is less at stake than if a state body were to level the same charges.
Yesterday, the State did file charges against Juana and they were equally unconvincing. I spoke with Juana’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, who said they had dropped the claim that she was directly aiding PFLP by funneling funds to it. Instead, the indictment charged her with raising funds in Europe and bringingt them into the West Bank without a required permit. This is laughable because no other groups in the West Bank are required to seek such permits. The regulation is being used selectively to prosecute Ruiz, and by extension to sabotage the work of her NGO. Who would ever think that the act of charity could become a criminal act?