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Subject: 120-Shabak_&_Politics_4_93

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Report No. 120 Israel Shahak, 16 April 1993


Shabak's influence on Israeli politics


On Fridays Israeli TV summarizes the news of the week. The program is

considered politically the most meaningful of all TV broadcasts. On

Friday, April 2, 1993 its editor, Gad Sukenik, devoted about 10 minutes to

a discussion of implications of the recurrent scandals involving the Chief

of Shabak. As will be seen below, the program had its repercussions. It

was aired a week after the Shabak Chief's term of office was extended by

the Prime Minister for the sixth time. Sukenik was not allowed to mention

this fact which was disclosed only later. The entire Hebrew press

nevertheless kept commenting on his program for the next two weeks or so.

The debate on Shabak in general and on the qualities and qualifications of

its Chief has been lively, even if in my view still short of providing the

full picture. Scandals involving Shabak have cropped up since 1984. But

under its current Chief they have turned into an avalanche. This report

will deal with the scandals of the last 2 years and their implications.

On the evening the program was broadcast, Rabin was quick to declare his

"full support for the Chief of Shabak". He added that the (state-owned

Israeli) TV "should be condemned for scolding him", which by the way was

not true, because Sukenik refrained from evaluations. Shulamit Aloni, who

as the Education and Culture minister is responsible for the TV, didn't

hesitate to officially define the program as "not newsworthy", and

"motivated by somebody's desire to screw the Shabak Chief with all the

spite possible". She hurried to say it prior to the government meeting of

April 4. Other ministers and high officials echoed her insinuations

("Hadashot", April 4). At the weekly meeting of the Israeli government,

much of that government's precious time was spent on speeches condemning

TV in general and Sukenik's program in particular. The ministers,

especially Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, of Meretz, sought to outdo each

other in parroting Rabin's denunciations of TV. Rabin's adjectives were

"yellow", "disgusting" and other in the same vein. Shulamit Aloni

discovered that "the Israeli TV hurt Shabak's struggle against terror" and

announced that she "had summoned" the TV directors, in the first place the

News Department Director, in order to hear their explanations why did they

consider that program newsworthy, what professional reasons did they have

for broadcasting it and what possible "factors" may have prompted them to

broadcast it. However, Aloni's inquisitorial investigation, unprecedented

in Israel, didn't ultimately take place, since unexpectedly the affair was

taking its turn against the Chief of Shabak. In the first place, Likud

took advantage of it to posture as defenders of the freedom of dissent.

Its worst hawks, such as MK Michael Eitan, with justice accused Aloni of

"MacCarthyist practices", and said that "her claim that the Israeli TV

hurts Shabak's struggle against terror was patently absurd" ("Hadashot",

April 7). She was also denounced by some press commentators, but not by

any Meretz or Labor politicians ("Hadashot" and other papers, April 7).


Journalist friends of Shabak were quick to parrot the ministers. Ran

Edelist ("Hadashot", April 4), whose close connections with Shabak's Chief

will be yet commented on later, opined that Shabak should be immune from

criticism, because "terror must be quashed, peace process must go on, and

these two purposes now require an effectual and well-performing Shabak".

(In my view it is undeniable that Shabak is indeed advancing the "peace

process" as Israel conceives of it, by virtue of trying hard to recruit

respectable Palestinian collaborators.) For those urgent reasons, opines

Edelist, "the task of purging the Shabak must be deferred" until these two

goals are achieved. As mentioned in my report 116 and elsewhere, Shabak

claims that its ranks are comprised in majority of the adherents of

Zionist "left". In my view the claim is factually correct, except that it

needs to be explained by the impact of Stalinism upon those "leftists".

Edelist's call for deferring the "purge" of Shabak until its combats with

external enemies are crowned by victory resembles closely the usual

apologias in defense of Stalin's regime, in particular the apologias for

the crimes of Stalin's secret police. The typical argument then proffered

also was that a relaxation of the Soviet state terror must be deferred

until "the enemies of the revolution" are defeated.


Next, Edelist proceeds to outline the background of what he names "a

conspiracy" against the innocent Chief of Shabak which reached its

culmination in Sukenik's program. He admits that in the last two years,

"inter-departmental squabbles, blood vendettas, promotions and demotions"

have abounded in Shabak, but exactly as "they abound in any other Israeli

institution. The campaign against the current Chief stemmed from nothing

more than envy of two rivals of his, seeking to cut the ground from under

his feet. They intrigued with the internal Comptroller of Shabak, who

under their pressure produced a report, brought to the notice of the then

Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir". The words "brought to the notice" sound

pretty innocuous, but they help Edelist conceal another scandal. The

report was not forwarded to Shamir's notice through normal official

channels. What actually happened was at the time described by the press in

detail. One morning Shamir found on his desk a mysterious envelope placed

there "by persons unknown". After opening it, he found the report in

question, appended by some juicy but unsigned revelations about Shabak's

Chief. "Shamir consulted the retired Supreme Court Judge, Moshe Landau,

who had investigated Shabak's recurrent perjuries in the courts and the

official Committees of Inquiry, and who had approved the use of "moderate

physical pressure" (i.e. torture). "Landau found the contents of the

envelope disturbing enough" to make Shamir decide to appoint general

(reserves) Rafael Vardi to investigate the goings-on within Shabak. Not

much is known about Vardi's and other investigations; but what is known

will be discussed below. I have my doubts about the veracity of Edelist's

information that as soon as Vardi's report was completed, "the Chief of

Shabak appeared in Shamir's office professing his readiness to resign, on

the ground of being unable to hold on when his own organization was filled

with knife-stabbers eager to kill him". Shamir told him he will consider

his offer to resign, but he allowed the Chief of Shabak to "dismiss the

chief conspirator from the service" and to punish another "conspirator".

But his attempts to get rid of all his foes, the internal Comptroller

included, were foiled by what Edelist alternately calls "balance of fear"

and "powerful backing" the thus threatened individuals could mobilize.

Meanwile Shamir decided not to decide whether or not to extend the Shabak

Chief's term for another year. On taking over, Rabin decided to extend his

term on the ground that "what was right for Shamir will be also right for

himself as a continuator of Shamir's policies". According to Edelist "the

charitable attitude of both Shamir and Rabin towards the Chief of Shabak

had deep political reasons".


Such "political reasons" could in my view be only of the most sinister

kind. They nevertheless must have influenced not only Edelist but also

other Hebrew press columnists. All Hebrew papers of April 4 and 5 were

filled by articles reporting how the Chief of Shabak "was boiling with

anger" at the TV's temerity (Nahum Barnea, "Yediot Ahronot", April 4) or,

even more typically, praising him to the skies while scolding Gad Sukenik.

(The "Jerusalem Post" considered it more prudent to keep mum about the

affair.) In view of similarity of their contents to Edelist's arguments, I

will refrain from reporting them. But a backlash was coming, apparently

prompted by evidence of the sinister intercessions of political and

military figures in Shabak's favor. The first to reveal the extent of

those pressures and to denounce them was Orit Shohat ("Haaretz", April 7).

She wrote: "Right after the broadcast, the TV was flooded with phonecalls

from Shabak's Chief's friends. News Department found itself under pressure

to cancel the program from the moment it sought to gauge the reactions of

the Prime Minister and Shabak's Chief. Some vented their indignation in

direct phonecalls to Rabin, while others called the TV correspondent and

the News Department director, demanding his immediate response. Even

before the broadcast was over, somebody phoned the TV from the personal

office of the Prime Minister, announcing that the P.M. "supported Shabak's

Chief unconditionally". After the broadcast the outpour of declarations in

support was sped up. "The Housing minister [Ben-Eliezer, Labor] and the

Quality of Environment minister [Sarid, Meretz] both defended Shabak's

Chief by saying that `we know him personally so well'. The chairman of

Likud [Knesset] faction and other politicians, journalists and generals,

whether on active service or in reserves said approximately the same: `We

know that he is OK. You better trust us'".


Encouraged by Shohat's courage. some other journalists joined her in

blaming Shabak's Chief and his supporters. The Hebrew press of next

Friday, April 9, presented already the affair as controversial. Some

papers published anti-Shabak and pro-Shabak columns side by side. (The

exception was "Al Hamishmar" which stood fast in Shabak's support.) A pro-

Shabak point of view was presented in detail and lucidity by Edelist in

another article ("Index", "Hadashot", April 9) which deserves to quoted

extensively. "The reason for which the politicians behave as they do is

simple. Israeli politicians avoid antagonizing the Chief of Shabak.

Fullstop. They do so not on the ground of their knowledge of problems at

issue, but primarily out of other considerations. They don't know what

records the Shabak vaults may contain about them, or their relatives, or

their friends male and female, or their parties, or their real incomes.

Some may consider my words a joke. But the fact is that an [Israeli]

politician who would be amused on hearing them has not yet been born. The

name of the game is the accessibility of [Shabak's] files on individuals

not defined as targets of intelligence gathering. The files of those who

are so defined are for the most part computerized, so as to be accessible

when necessary with the permission of [Shabak's] department or division

head in charge. But the contents of files on Israeli citizens not defined

as targets of intelligence gathering are a case apart. In theory, the

signatures of two department heads are then needed. But since such files

are not computerized, there is no way of finding out in whose hands are

they kept, especially since there are no records showing by whom a given

file might have been inspected. This is why the politicians are afraid to

oppose [the Shabak]". For the first time ever such candid talk - in my

view perfectly accurate - has been allowed to appear in the Hebrew media.

I find it quite remarkable that in spite of a time lapse after Edelist's

article was published, his facts have been neither denied, nor allowed to

be discussed by other columnists. I tend to attribute it to Edelist's

special relationship with Shabak, to be yet described below, owing to

which he was in the position to influence military censorship. But an

alternative explanation is also possible. Perhaps Edelist's article could

see the light precisely because too many politicians and journalists and

other influential figures not defined as targets of intelligence gathering

feared those files deposited in "Shabak's vaults" and their potential use.

In order to make his "connections" implicitely clear, Edelist discloses

much from the contents of the above-mentioned report of general (reserves)

Vardi, which no one else was allowed to disclose. He boasts that "My name

figured in one section of this report. From a source other than Shabak's

Chief (and I hope I will be trusted on that score) I learned that when the

Shabak Chief had been interrogated by Vardi about my case, his answers

were not accurate, perhaps because he did not trust Vardi enough to tell

him the whole truth about all the intricacies of the system's pertinent

operations. But the Shabak Chief told the whole truth to Shamir, even if

not to Vardi. And Shamir accepted his clarifications for `professional'

reasons. I really have to apologize for telling my personal story in so

comically self-commiserating and cryptic a manner, but I have no other way

to disclose the information without risking to have the whole thing banned

by censorship". It should be recalled that Vardi was formally appointed as

an investigator with full powers by the Prime Minister, who is supposed to

be Shabak's superior. If Shabak's Chief considered his links with Mr.

Edelist too sensitive to be disclosed to Vardi (a consideration of dubious

legality), then those links must have been very close and vital. This does

not preclude the possibility that the Shabak may have had similar links

also with other Hebrew press commentators. In my long-standing view,

however, when compared to anyone else's, Edelist's connections have been

unrivalled in their intimacy. Fortunately, not all journalists desire to

have such connections, and some even oppose having them.


According to Edelist, "Vardi's report included the report of internal

Comptroller of Shabak, which listed the claims concerning Shabak's Chief's

conduct. The claims included prodigal spending, arbitrary use of the

[1945] Defense Regulations, and self-serving interpretation of rules

related to field security and to disclosures to the media". Edelist goes

into great length to demonstrate that all these accusations had their

origins in the genuinely democratic personality of Shabak's Chief, who

realized that the world was becoming more and more open and that Shabak,

himself included, had no choice but to follow suit. It can be seen that

Edelist does a snow job here. Other journalists have presented the

situation differently. Nahum Barnea ("Yediot Ahronot", April 9) who also

should be extensively quoted, wrote that "in the middle of 1991 Shabak was

involved in another affair, perhaps less sensational but no less

consequential. A year and half before, Khaled Sheikh Ali. 27, a [suspected

by Shabak] member of the Islamic Jihad, died in the Shabak section of the

Gaza prison. Two Shabak agents responsible for his death were subsequently

put on trial. In September 1991 the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal,

approving the sentence of each for 6 months of prison. As far as it can be

known, this was the first instance of sentencing the Shabak operatives for

prison term in Israel's history. The Supreme Court sternly rebuffed the

warning of Shabak's Chief, that a verdict of this kind could adversely

affect the quality of other operatives' performance. As soon as the two

operatives realized they would actually go to jail, they agreed to talk.

The Deputy Attorney General, Rachel Sukar, was appointed to investigate

the affair. Like Vardi, she interrogated Shabak's department heads. Her

investigation was confined to the affair of the death in the Gaza prison,

but she discovered that not only tortures, but also the `culture of lying'

had flourished as ever before. In other words, in spite of the [retired]

Supreme Court Judge Landau's condemnation of this `culture' in a report

submitted two years earlier, nothing has changed.


"The [Sukar] report was classified top secret, and shown only to 10

persons, among them the Prime Minister, the Head of the Judicial System

[i.e. the Supreme Court Judge Shamgar] and Landau. Shabak's Chief said

that he knew nothing about the affair, as the matter involved only a

single prison installation and two low-ranking operatives. The System

[i.e. those who really rule over Israel] got very angry, but the

explanation was nevertheless accepted. One of Shabak's seniors was demoted

from a very high post to a slightly lower one. Because of that, a group of

disgruntled troublemakers plotting intrigues against Shabak's Chief from

within grew by one memeber". Much of Barnea's information, including the

very existence of Sukar's investigation and the fact that Shabak's Chief

issued warnings to the Supreme Court, was previously unknown. Yet I trust

the accuracy of that information.


Still more interesting facts about the Shabak's Chief were disclosed by

Amnon Abramovitz (Maariv, April 9). As Abramovitz himself admits, he was a

zealous defender of Shabak and of its Chief until two years ago. Even

today he boasts that an article of his written about two years ago in

Shabak's Chief's defense convinced Shamir, "who, I was told, read it very

carefully", to retain Shabak's Chief in his post. Abramovitz's position

then was that, much as Shabak's perjuries to the courts or to the

government and its inquiry committees and investigators had been

unqualifiedly reprehensible, Shabak learned its lesson and wouldn't

perjure itself any more. He also firmly supported Shabak's use of torture

(under its official name of "moderate physical pressure") as needed not

only for fighting terrorism, but above all else, for reaching peace and

securing a withdrawal from the bulk of the Territories. He has always

advocated hawkish positions while fancying himself as a moderate. With

such a past, Abramovitz now has good grounds to criticize Shabak

mercilessly. He changed his views in the fall of 1992. His first attack on

Shabak, described in my report 111 dated October 4, 1992, became a

sensation of sorts. At that time he dealt primarily with sex life and

customary mendacity of people close to Shabak's Chief. Now he goes much

deeper. His unprecedented attack on Shabak deserves close attention.


Abramovitz says that he changed his views about Shabak's Chief after

hearing that the following persons formed negative opinions about the

Shabak's Chief after acquainting themselves with the Vardi report: Dan

Meridor, the Justice minister in Likud government, Yoseph Harish, the

Attorney General since 1987, Dorit Beinish, the General Director of

Justice ministry, and colonel Azri'el Nevo who served 20 years as the

military secretary of 4 successive Prime Ministers until he was recently

dismissed by Rabin, who sent him away by appointing him a military attache

in London. But more than by anybody else, Abramovitz says he was

influenced by the retired Supreme Court Judge Landau whom he indentifies

as "a judge who more than anyone else was ready to take into account the

security needs and requirements as a valid consideration in his verdicts.

Also in his famous report dealing with Shabak's interrogations, Landau

wrote that terrorists who do not recognize the State of Israel's right to

exist cannot expect that the State of Israel will respect their human

rights. He is security-minded to the hilt". Landau's low opinion about the

Shabak's Chief must have found its way to Abramovitz. Otherwise it would

be difficult to explain how could the latter know that the Shabak Chief

"had sent an enormous garland of flowers" to Landau precisely when he was

acquainting himself with Vardi's report; or how could Abramovitz know that

Landau "had the same day donated those flowers to a home for the elderly

in Jerusalem". Anyway, Landau reached the conclusion that "that individual

shouldn't stay in his post even one day more".


It is worth noting that since the time when Landau could be presumed to

have expressed this conclusion, he has been repeatedly accused of being

responsible for the Intifada and Shabak's failure to capture the Hamas

militants, due to his "handcuffing the Shabak" (a favorite phrase of some

pro-Shabak journalists) by refusing to give Shabak the green light to use

torture as deemed fit. The accusations of Landau in this vein are old

stuff, but in recent weeks they became rather vociferous and vicious. Such

slanders were also expressed in an interview by the Deputy Chief of Staff,

general Amnon Shahak (Maariv April 5) regarded, also by Abramovitz, as

Shabak's Chief's closest friend. The general's wife, Tal Lipkin-Shahak, a

journalist affiliated with "Davar", known to be on friendly terms with

Shabak's Chief and his current mistress, has been reputed to be the stage-

manager of the entire journalistic crusade against Gad Sukenik.


Landau, whom Abramovitz describes as "far from being a leftist", let it

be known that "he felt this week that he should do something to protect

that young and diligent TV correspondent, Gad Sukenik... But Landau needs

not worry, because the realities are much worse than Sukenik described in

his TV program". Abramovitz then proceeds to talk about "the astonishing

facts which have come to my attention, some of which I have managed to

convey to my readers obliquely. About how Shabak's Chief routinely

reported his private travels as travels on duty. About how a terrorist

suspect captured in the Jenin district [of West Bank], confessed under

interrogation of having been a good friend of Shabak's Chief. `What?'

asked the astonished interrogator. `I am Berri's friend' repeated the

suspect, without referring to [the leader of the Lebanese Amal movement]

Nabi'ah Berri. About how a car repainted at the cost of thousands of

Shekels, was then replaced by another, which looked exactly like the car

of the chief of a rival agency [probably Mossad]. About suspicious

characters who knew and used a top secret phone and a top secret notebook.

About those girls from his family who would use his office as if it were

their home. And about the director of his private office. And about all

his deceit in establishing links with the newspapers, in intriguing behind

the back of the politicians, in faking a right winger while talking to

right wingers and a leftist while talking to leftists. And the whole story

of Feisal Husseini's Institute. And so on and so forth".


Let me clarify some of those hints on the basis of open sources to the

extent that I can. Following the publication of Abramovitz's article, even

the pro-Shabak journalists admitted that the Vardi report and other

official documents had indeed implicated Shabak's Chief for being on close

terms with some highly suspicious Palestinians from the Territories, for

whom he would intercede in exchange for personal favors. The journalist

friendly to Shabak's Chief defended him on the ground that the

Palestinians involved were collaborators to whom he wanted to express

personal appreciation for their services. The explanation strains

credibility. Of course, the Shabak (like any other secret police) does

reward collaborators. Yet, however important the task may be, it can

hardly be a personal duty of a chief of the service. There has been no

answer whatsoever to the more damning allegation of Shabak's Chief's

friendly relations with some "suspected of terrorist acitivity", which

inclines me to believe that the allegation might have been true. I myself

had such suspicions since some time, along with several other persons

reputed for their competence in Israeli politics. Who wins and who loses

in such relations is a question which can be answered only in the future.


Such suspicions can only be enhanced by Abramovitz's cryptic reference

to "the story of Feisal Husseini's Institute". The residents of Jerusalem

who keep their eyes open may find this reference not quite so cryptic as

it looks at first sight. The Orient House which is used as the office of

the Palestinian delegation to the "peace talks" is being guarded by not so

few burly guards, who can be posted there only with Shabak's consent,

which is unlikely to be granted for free. Khaled Abu-Tu'ama reported

("Yerushalaim", April 2) that "Shabak's cars are often sighted as they

arrive in the Orient House; and when they do, the guards prevent throwing

stones at them by the passersby". But by saying it, Abu-Tu'ama discovered

nothing new: it could have been seen by anybody bothering to look also

before. Moreover, some highly placed Israeli security officials, i.e the

commander of the Allenby bridge on the Jordan river and the officer in

charge of the Erez barrier, the main checkpoint of the Gaza Strip, were

lately discovered to have received bribes from some Palestinians, already

for a long time. In view of such facts, it can be surmised that some

Israeli power figures suspect that some murky "connections" of Shabak's

Chief were not maintained to serve the security of the state.


But there has been more to Shabak's Chief's misdeeds than Abramovitz

reveals in the quotes above. For he also refers to an article published in

"Time" Magazine of February 22, which bore the title "Under Fire at the

FBI. Accused of abusing the perks of his job, the director fiercely

defends himself. But he has succeeded only in spreading a rebellion from

within". Abramovitz was allowed by the military censorship to refer to the

article and even to append a photo of its quoted English title to his own

column. But he was not allowed to translate it nor to report the nature of

accusations against the FBI Chief. He had instead to content himself with

quips and allusions. For example: "I have read and reread the `Time' story

of February 22, and I had to develop a theory of my own: namely that

Shabak's Chief during his recurrent visits in the U.S. works there as the

Chief of FBI". Or: "Israelis really curious about the Shabak Chief's full

story are advised to make an effort to obtain that issue of `Time'. The

effort is by all means worth making". Or he calls upon Sheves, the

influential Director General of the Prime Minister's Office; upon Eitan

Haber, the director of the Prime Minister's private office, and even upon

Leah Rabin to acquaint themselves with the "Time" article so as to be in

the position to persuade Rabin to read the article for himself. Abramovitz

seems to thus imply that even Rabin doesn't know the whole truth about

Shabak's Chief. I doubt if this is the case.


The remainder of Abramovitz's article can be summarized briefly. It

deals with the meeting of Shabak's Chief's supporters held at night in his

home right after the Sukenik broadcast. A number of ideas were voiced

there, some subsequently carried out. According to Abramovitz, the flood

of articles in Shabak Chief's defense which appeared in the newspapers

within the next two days stemmed from one of the meeting's decisions. It

seems that Abramovitz says that not everybody attending that meeting was

quite so friendly toward Shabak's Chief. This could be the reason why the

contents of that meeting were pretty extensively described in some papers

as soon as April 9, also by Abramovitz. He refers to Amir Oren of" Davar"

calling him the first journalist who dared write some truth about the

Shabak Chief. He also says that since then "Shabak's Chief divides the

Hebrew press journalists into three categories: the `pines' [Oren means

`pine' in Hebrew], those safely in his pocket, and others".


Apparently, the meeting in question resolved to accuse the already

mentioned Azri'el Nevo of leaking some incriminating information to the

press, and the journalists "safely in Shabak's Chief's pocket" diligently

implemented that decision. Abramovitz notes that hints againts Nevo

appeared in all papers, to the point that "after reading the last Sunday's

[April 4] papers carefully, I came to the conclusion that the goal was to

convey the impression that Vardi's report, Zuker's report and the report

of Shabak's internal Comptroller dealt with the person of Azri'el Nevo

rather than with that of the Shabak Chief". Needless to say, the "pines",

Abramovitz included, hurried to defend Nevo in the papers of April 9. They

stressed how much was Nevo trusted by four Prime Ministers he had served

under, how he had never been involved in any scandal, and how strenuously

had he tried to prevent the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, (as recounted in my

report 104). It was on this occasion disclosed that Nevo had once been

Shabak's Chief's supporter, but later quarreled with him and then did his

best to persuade Shamir not to extend the Shabak Chief's term of office.

Abramovitz informs that "a source in the Security System this week said

that had Azri'el Nevo indeed been behind the leaks, the revelations would

have been much more deadly than they were". Let me conclude those matters

by quoting Abramovitz's final sentences: "The present [Israeli] government

blundered badly when its ministers unanimously voted [in favor of the mass

expulsion] forgetting to ask any questions about whom, where and how many.

Perhaps, and I wish it to be the case, Shabak's Chief deserves all the

support he has received. Still, I expect that ministers like Amnon

Rubinstein [Meretz], David Liba'i [Labor] or Yossi Sarid [Meretz] acquaint

themselves with all the evidence before raising their hand to vote".


Abramovitz may now belong to the "pines" while Edelist sits deep in

Shabak's Chief's pocket. Yet Edelist's information about why the

politicians fear the Shabak is in my view more revelatory that anything

Abramovitz revealed.


The implications of the Shabak Chief's affair became also the subject of

some deeper reflection. Aware that Rabin would dearly like to suppress any

public discussion of Shabak, Yoel Markus ("Haaretz", April 13) recalls how

"between June and August 1991" he wrote a series of articles against the

Shabak demanding thorough changes within the agency and greater openness

in letting its internal affairs be accesible to public inspection. Markus

correctly observes that in spite of the sensational character of the

revelations, "very few people know about the Vardi report and even about

the report of the internal Comptroller of Shabak, which had shocked Shamir

uttterly... Not one minister, including the members of the cabinet [a

small body of ministers dealing with top-secret matters], was allowed to

see either report. Neither report has been brought to the notice of the

Subcommittee on Secret Services of Knesset Committee on the Foreign and

Security Affairs, which is regarded in Israel as the most knowledgeable

and secretive body that exists. Some even doubt whether Rabin himself has

read the two reports. His unconditional support for Shabak's Chief comes

from his heart, and those on intimate terms with him say that the press

must be mad if it preoccupies itself with such nonsense". On this score,

Markus argues against Rabin with firmness. He reminds him that the

contents of the two reports shocked even Shamir, let alone Landau, Meridor

and Vardi, and that even prior to Sukenik's TV program they became mulled

over with great concern in the circles of Israelis in the know. He says

that "in the Prime Minister's office it is being said that, since Rabin

has already made his final decision, no further investigations of the

affair will be undertaken, so as to let that affair fade away", with

military censorship helping in the process, one must assume. Markus hits

Rabin's entourage hard for holding such views. "Their assessment is both

wrong and blundering... The affair cannot be just strangled". His views

are shared by "Hadashot" editor-in-chief Yoel Esteron ("Hadashot", April

14) and other prominent commentators leaning toward the center of the

political spectrum, but not by any supporter of either Labor or Meretz.


Still more convincing explanations of the implications of the affair

have been offered by Ze'ev Tzahor and Ya'kov Shavit (both in "Hadashot",

April 11). Both are professional historians, and both see the affair

against the background of political and social history of Israel. Tzahor

perceives Shabak's role in corrupting Israeli politics, as sufficienctly

evidenced by the still partial information recorded in this report, as a

product of widespread corruption within Israeli body politic which

according to him has been rampant since the foundation of the State of

Israel in 1948. (I can only extend his time perspective, pointing to all

the corruption rampant also in pre-state Zionist institutions.) But Tzahor

is right in pointing out that Levi Eshkol, "whose task was to oversee the

entire apparatus of the state", first as Ben-Gurion's Finance minister and

then as the Prime Minister until 1969, "treated corruption as something

perfectly natural". More to the point, Eshkol and everybody in the Labor

movement, i.e the political ancestors of the present Labor and Meretz,

treated corruption as a useful tool of preservation of their power. Tzahor

doesn't say it, and he overrates Ben-Gurion's atttempts to stamp out

corruption from the Security System. But he rightly concludes that "Rabin

is guiding Israel back to periods when the political authorities closed

their eyes to corruption of their bureaucracy on purpose. In the cover-up

of Shabak's Chief's misdeeds three claims are being voiced which sound as

if they were borrowed directly from Levi Eshkol. The first claim is that

now is not the right time. This has beeen repeated for 45 years on and on,

as if the time could ever be right. The second claim is that Shabak's

Chief is implicated in nothing very terrible... The third claim is that

the whole thing is an old story over and over again, so why should you

bother? The last claim is particulrly disturbing. Even Rabin must know

that the stories about Shabak's Chief were not dug out of the blue only

because somebody in TV wanted to revive the affair by stealth. Filth

sticks to Shabak's Chief's reputation because he has for years been a

central topic of animated conversations at Friday evening parties... The

TV did no more than to shift that topic a little: from the Shabak Chief to

Rabin's reasons for covering up his misdeeds. Therefore, when the Prime

Minister professes his unconditional confidence in Shabak's Chief, he

strains my credibility by adding to my doubts about his integrity".


Shavit goes even farther. He excoriates a segment of the media no less

than the political authorities. He perceives the media as an integral part

of the Israeli power elite until the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in

1973, highly helpful in maintaining and concealing all the blatantly

corrupt practices of that time. (It is an insight which, I believe, any

Israeli with any integrity can only share.) The media then refused to

disclose anything inconvenient on the ground that "any such disclosure

might disrupt the peace process, or damage state security, or bring Likud

to power. But now", continues Shavit, "after the formation of the Labor-

Meretz government, things are not so simple. Now everybody is friends with

everybody, with the effect that the network of mutual friendships and

loyalties is intricate and pervasive enough to blunt public vigilance".

Shavit reminds the press that "after the Yom Kippur War it had no choice

but to acknowledge with shame the offense of its having stayed too close

to the reins of power", and he admits that it indeed distanced itself from

the establishment thereafter. "Under Likud in power this was easy. Now

they again find it difficult to be critical about the one regarded as `one

of us'. It looks like biting a hand which has showered benefits on you".

Shavit concludes that "the press strays in performing its primary duty to

disclose facts and to criticize", thus undermining its own credibility.

As a dedicated supporter of the present government, Shavit is afraid of

some still grimmer consequences of this state of affairs. "Rabin's

government will not be defeated by terror, nor by negotiations with Syria,

but it may be defeated as a result of its own insensitivity. They seem to

have never learned anything when they were in opposition. Leniency

accorded them on the ground of their being a `friendly' government cannot

last much longer, and their self-confidence stemming from their being the

public's darlings is bound to wane with time. But once this government

falls, its avowed policies which still command the great many to support

it, will fall alongside. It will then become clear not just that the press

strayed from performing its duty, but also that it thereby, most

deplorably, helped to bring this government down. The journalist `friends'

will then again be in the position to acknowledge with shame their

blunders". I take exception to Shavit's perception of Likud and Labor as

fundamentally different from each other. But I fully concur with his

anticipation that Shabak's Chief's affair may portend the coming fall of

Rabin's government, and with his indentification of that government's

insensitivity to criticism as one of the reasons of its possible fall.


But by far the best analysis of the affair has been provided by Yitzhak

La'or ("Hadashot", April 9). In addition to being a journalist, La'or is

one of the best Hebrew poets now alive. His poetic intuition might have

been helped him in crystallization of his insights; but what surely helped

him was the fact that, unlike Markus, Tzahor and Shavit, he stands in

opposition to Rabin's government, and disdains the journalists supporting

that government, calling them "a herd of flatterers". While other newsmen

have been preoccupied with Shabak's Chief's debaucheries and corrupt

practices, La'or explicitly mentions what everybody else knew without

mentioning: namely the Shabak Chief's responsibility for torturing the

suspects. He writes: "The connection between pain and pleasure is

pervasive. Maximizing pleasure to the utmost cannot but go together with

seeking power to do anything one would like, including doing anything to

others. Marquis de Sade already understood it long ago". This is why La'or

tends to perceive, for good reasons in my view, the Shabak Chief's affair

as having its roots in the period between the Israeli victory in 1967 and

the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Particularly toward the end of that period,

Israeli megalomania and the flattery of the army and intelligence by the

media reached their zenith. "We can reread old papers. For example we can

read about general Rehavam Ze'evi, then Commander of the Central Command

and his links with the underworld; about Moshe Dayan and his overt plunder

of the antiquities; about the dolce vita parties for the generals in Sinai

at which common soldiers acted as personal servants of the banqueteers. Do

you still recall how many journalists were then quick to defend the right

of the generals `to enjoy life'?". For good reasons, La'or sees the

phenomena of that time as already auguring the current apologias of

Shabak's Chief "produced by people as narrow-minded as Aloni or Sarid",

arguing that "he does not need to be a monk". La'or's conclusion is that

the Israeli elite "is comprised of people enchanted with power, which they

use in order to be able to cross its outer limits". In La'or's eyes this

is apparent both in their corruption and in Shabak's tortures.


"We should nevertheless ask ourselves", continues La'or, referring to

journalists supporting Shabak's Chief, "what is it that prompts so many

males to bow low to a male thug? Those crumbles of information which he

hurls at them? Possibly. Invitations to his parties? Possibly too. Their

desire to emulate him? Possibly again. But their willingness to flatter

him must have deeper roots. It reminds the Cabbala's notion of a descent

prerequisite for an ascent, a self-castration to be followed by

loftiness... This seems to be why the journalistic productions of the

sycophants so invariably invoke the motive of self-sacrifice. They always

tutor others to recognize that without such people at the helm, we would

be far worse-off than we are. This holds especially true now when, as that

big mouth of Israeli national kitsch, Shulamit Aloni, put it `we should

not attack the Shabak exactly when terrorism spreads'. In other words, an

idealistic excuse must be always at such times inserted to discussion of

debaucheries of a general or a Shabak agent, as if nothing had changed

since 1948. It is true that Likud had been in power for about 15 years...

It was then mandatory to detest Likud so as to show our superiority. But

what did we then do in attain superiority? Did we criticize the Security

System? It was unthinkable, because the Security System meant ourselves".

Indeed, the Security System is comprised mostly of Labor and Meretz

supporters, and the latter may well outnumber the former. Torture and

every conceivable variety of systematically inflicted brutality as devised

by the "experts" goes hand in hand with the professed wish to advance "the

peace process". Israeli Military Intelligence advises the youngsters

desirous to apply for its jobs to first attend the Givat Haviva Institute,

maintained by the Mapam party, a component of Meretz. And plenty of other

facts of the same type could be provided.


There can be no doubt that La'or's analysis, even though phrased in

poetic and introspective terms, contains a lot of truth. Israel has indeed

always been an utterly corrupt state. Even more to the point, although

Likud and the religious parties can be said to be corrupt enough, the core

of Israeli corruption is to be searched for in that segment of the public

which is politically represented by Labor and Meretz parties, and by the

Labor movement in general. Those two parties are both more totalitarian

and more racist than Likud. But to a much greater extent than Likud, Labor

and Meretz benefit from the support of the media. As Shavit observed, they

learned nothing when they were in opposition, and this is why they still

take it for granted that their slogan "only we can bring peace" can enable

them to do as they please and prevent rebellions in the ranks of their

supporters. But what held true in 1973 or even 1977, is not necessarily

true any more. Certainly, the conditions of the Palestinians in the

Territories have deteriorated rapidly under the government of Labor and

Meretz. But not only the Palestinians are now worse off. I don't wish to

compare: the hardships of Israelis bear no comparison with the horrors

which Rabin's government has inflicted upon the Palestinians. But an

Israeli government can be brought down only by the Israelis, in the first

place by Israeli Jews. As Shavit correctly views it, this government, for

all its eagerness to please the public by steps such as the mass expulsion

or the current seal-off of the Territories, is basically insensitive to

Israeli public opinion and to the deterioration in Israeli living

standards as well. This is why the Shabak Chief's affair can in my view be

regarded as an early warning signal portending the eventual fall of the

Rabin government, possibly prior to the 1996 elections.



Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1993 02:39:15 +0100


... I found the Shahak reports posted to p-net, as usual, extremely interesting.

With regard to the one about the Shin Bet, there is a minor detail that in fact

establishes a Palestinian connection of sorts with its current troubles: the

murder in the security wing of Gaza Prison in late 1989 of Khaled al-Sheikh Ali

and the subsequent, unprecedented jailing of two Shin Bet 'interrogators'.


The reason this murder was uncovered was because the Palestinian human rights

organisations Al-Haq and PHRIC, managed to act quickly enough and bring an

independent pathologist to the autopsy. This pathologist, whose name I do not

recall, then interviewed the two 'interrogators' concerned, who were completely

unaware who they were speaking with and therefore did not even try to give a

plausible story to cover up their crime. As a result it became 100% clear that

he had been murdered and this made it difficult for the prosecutor to ignore

the matter as usual, so instead they were charged with involuntarily

manslaughter or something similarly ridiculous and given the comparatively

severe sentence of several months.

Those interested in additional details should check Al-Haq, "A Nation Under

Siege: Al-Haq Annual Report on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 1989"

(Ramallah: Al-Haq, 1989), esp. the Intro and the sections on Autopsies and