Centre for Research on Globalisation

 Israel's Shin Bet agency:

Shin Bet is at the forefront of Israel's assassination policy

 

BBC  News, 30 January 2002
Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca , April 2002

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Shin Bet, also known as the General Security Services or Shabak, is Israel's domestic security agency. It is believed to be at the forefront of undercover operations against Palestinian militants.

The agency is said to run a network of Palestinian informers and to have a key role in the Israeli assassination policy against alleged militants.

(...)


Agency structure

Shin Bet is believed to have three operational wings:

Arab affairs department:

Responsible for anti-terrorist operations related to alleged Palestinian and Arab terrorists. This department is believed to have an undercover detachment, popularly known as the Mista'arvim (Marauders) who work to counter the intifada.

Non-Arab affairs department:

Formerly divided into communist and non-communist sections. Concerned with all other countries, including penetrating foreign intelligence services and diplomatic missions in Israel.

Protective security department:

Responsible for protecting Israeli Government buildings and embassies, defence industries, scientific installations, industrial plants, and the national airline. Israeli security experts say that Shin Bet has a large number of fluent Arabic speakers, able to pass themselves off as Palestinians and go freely about the West Bank.

New recruits to these elite units are said to have to pass a test by going to a Palestinian market and talking to shoppers without raising any suspicions.

Tarnished reputation

Like Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, Shin Bet's reputation has suffered in recent years.

In 1984, two detained Palestinian hijackers were beaten to death by agents in what became known as the Bus 300 Affair. A government report later revealed that the Shin Bet chief at the time, Avraham Shalom, had ordered the two Palestinians killed and them attempted to cover this up.

In 1987, Shin Bet was found to have lied in court and extracted a false confession of espionage from an Israeli army officer Izzat Nafsu, who had been in prison for 18 years.

Shin Bet's reputation was further compromised by its failure to prevent the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin in 1995 by a right-wing Israeli extremist. The agency's head, Karmi Gillon, resigned as a result of the assassination.

Interrogation methods

Shin Bet's interrogation methods, especially of Palestinians, have always been controversial and criticised by Israeli and international human rights groups.

Human rights groups have alleged that many prisoners died at the hands of Shin Bet or were left paralysed after a period of detention.

An actor shows an Israeli inquiry how prisoners are allegedly bound and hooded during interrogation

In 1999, the Israeli high court ruled that there was no legal basis for violent shaking of prisoners, depriving them of sleep and forcing them into painful positions for long periods. The court ruled that Shin Bet's methods should not differ form the Israeli police.

One of the most severe interrogation methods, regularly practiced during the 1988-92 intifada, left handcuffed prisoners stretched backwards over stools, with sacks over their heads and loud music blasting into their ears.

Shin Bet denied that these interrogation methods constituted torture, and insisted that what was termed "moderate or increased physical pressure" could be employed, notably in so-called "ticking bomb" cases, where prisoners are thought to have information about imminent terrorist attacks.


Israel's undercover assassins

 

BBC  News, 1 August, 2001
Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca , April 2002

Israel's "assassination policy" has enraged Palestinians

Paul Wood reports from Jerusalem on the shadowy activities, including "targeted military actions", or assassinations, of Israel's security services. Inside a Palestinian courthouse on Wednesday a crowd gathered, cheering and shouting "God is Great" as three men were sentenced to death for collaboration with Israel.

They had been convicted of helping Israel's security services assassinate a leading Palestinian activist last year.

Such killings are carried out by the Israeli army, or by Shin Bet, Israel's security services, known to Israelis as the Shabak.

A Palestinian bomb expert gathers Israeli rocket parts

The Shabak is thought to have a large network of Palestinian agents on the West Bank.

This allows Israel to identify those it says have carried out, or will carry out, "terrorist bombings".

"Targeted military actions" - what the Palestinians call assassinations - are the result.

Other methods

Sometimes this is tank fire, or rockets fired from helicopter gunships, as happened in Nablus recently when eight Palestinians, including two children, were killed.

There are other methods. In Bethlehem, eyewitnesses said a local Islamic Jihad commander had a narrow escape when four men threw off Arab disguises and opened fire with Uzis. The four were assumed to be from Shin Bet.

In another operation, an Islamic militant on the West Bank died when the headrest in his car blew up. Explosives had been placed inside by someone assumed to be a Palestinian agent of Shin Bet.

Collaborators are crucial to Israeli intelligence gathering

Israeli security experts say that Shabak has a large number of fluent Arabic speakers, able to pass themselves off as Palestinians and go freely about the West Bank.

New recruits to these elite units are said to have to pass a test by going to a Palestinian market and talking to shoppers without raising any suspicions.

Detained spies

The Palestinian Authority says Israel has carried out at least 60 assassinations since the intifada, or uprising, began 10 months ago. The PA says it has foiled many more attempts by Israel's secret services to kill senior Palestinian officials.

Khaled al-Qidra, attorney-general for the Palestinian security courts, said a number of "spies" had been detained. He said Israel provided collaborators with sophisticated equipment to track down Palestinian activists.

An Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman, Yarden Vatikay, said: "Israel has no policy of assassination, but will continue to arrest and attack those who pose a threat to Israeli lives."

The Israeli security cabinet met on Wednesday and decided to continue with the policy of "pin-point military strikes". The alternative, some Israelis say, would be all-out war with the Palestinians.

Threat to Arafat?

In recent weeks, a rising tide of newspaper leaks has revealed a debate within the Israeli Government and the highest reaches of the army and Shin Bet.

The attacks have claimed civilian lives too

The question is: Should Israel launch a devastating military attack aimed at destroying the Palestinian Authority and ejecting Yasser Arafat?

Early in July, the Israeli newspaper, Maariv, even published excerpts of what it called a top-secret Shin Bet document presented to the Israeli Prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Some interpreted the document as a call for Yasser Arafat himself to be assassinated.

According to Maariv, the security agency concluded: "Arafat the man is a severe threat to the security of [Israel]. The damage from his disappearance is less compared to the damage from his continued survival."

Avoiding war

Others within Israel's security agencies argued that any attempt to dislodge Mr Arafat could backfire, resulting in an even more radical Palestinian leadership, possibly run by Islamic militants.

According to accounts of a key Israeli cabinet meeting last month, Mr Sharon has firmly rejected talk of attacking the PA or removing its leader.

"You're all big heroes with all your advice," he's supposed to have told right-wingers clamouring for an all-out military assault.

"At the end of the day, the responsibility is mine. This region is not going to war."

For the time being, that means the policy of assassinating Palestinian militants will continue - and that means a pre-eminent role for the for the Shabak and their agents.


Copyright BBC 2002. Reprinted for fair use only


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