Ameer Makhoul charged with espionage…
Richard Silverstein, 28 May 2010
[see also: We Accuse!,by Janan Abdu and Issam Makhoul, Ameer’s partner and brother]
Draconian repressive legislation planned in Israel]
Yesterday night, the Israeli secret police and their judicial subordinates announced the indictments of Ameer Makhoul and Omar Said. And I’m sorry to say both for the victims and the State of Israel that the bill of particulars is a laughingstock. Nevertheless, the Shin Bet, with these lurid, barely supportable charges has put blood in the water of the body politic. Now Israelis, prone to see “the Arabs” as a fifth column already, will be like sharks circling for the kill. Get them, burn them, hang them, expel them. You will hear all this and more from Israeli Jews.
You’ll see from the breathless account below, the news media (and Haaretz is unfortunately about as good as you’re going to get in the Israeli Jewish media) have convicted them both before trial or conviction.
But let’s let Jack Khoury, the Shin Bet’s reporter-stenographer, report it as the Shin Bet wants you to hear it:
…Ameer Makhoul, has been charged with secretly meeting Hezbollah agents in Denmark in 2008. There, prosecutors allege, Makhoul agreed to spy on Israel for the Shi’a Muslim group, which gave him specific missions and equipped him with computer programs to send encrypted information over the internet.
One task was to gather information on bases of the Shin Bet security service in the north of Israel.
In other missions, Makhoul was allegedly asked to supply details of security surrounding Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, a Mossad base in central Israel, a defense factory owned by state arms manufacturer Rafael and a Haifa site hit by Hezbollah rockets during its month-long war with Israel in 2006.
Makhoul is also accused of carrying out reconnaissance on an IDF base. Prosecutors say the suspected spy passed his Lebanese contacts a list of names of six Israeli citizens, marked as potential agents, as well as providing Hezbollah with analysis on trends in Israeli politics and society. The IDF’s information security unit claims Makhoul delivered high-value material to his Hezbollah handlers.
A senior Shin Bet official told Haaretz: “Part of the information that Makhoul transferred could be delivered by anyone with a pair of eyes and Google Earth.
For further entertainment read the breathless charges of treason by the Jerusalem Post’s security stenographer er, correspondent, Yaakov Katz. Note we’ve dispensed with alleged or purported or any language that presumes the possibility of innocence:
Makhoul was recruited as a spy for Hizbullah and transferred, via a specially-designed computer encryption system, strategic intelligence information on Israeli security services to the Lebanese guerrilla organization.
…During his interrogation with the Shin Bet…Makhoul confessed to having met a Hizbullah operative during a trip to Denmark in 2008. During the meeting, Makhoul agreed to become an agent for Hizbullah in Israel and to begin collecting what was described as “strategic intelligence” on Israeli security services.
He later received an encryption system so he could transfer the information by computer to Hizbullah.
Per request of his Hizbullah handlers, Makhoul, the Shin Bet said, transferred names and details of additional men and women throughout Israel who he believed could also serve as spies for Hizbullah.
Makhoul received a list of topics that he was asked to collect intelligence on. During his period of operations, Makhoul allegedly transferred details and the exact location on two Shin Bet facilities in the North, including the security arrangements surrounding them, reporting on security arrangements at Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin’s house as well. He also provided Hizbullah with details about the Rafael defense industry facility in the North as well as a Mossad office located in northern Israel.
He was also asked by Hizbullah to collect information on the security surrounding the convoys of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, although, according to a senior security official, he did not succeed.
Hizbullah also tried to use Makhoul to gather accurate information on the effect its rocket attacks against Israel had during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The group was mostly interested in the targets that were hit by the statistical Katyusha rockets of which it fired some 4,000 into Israel during the month-long war.
This was done as part of Hizbullah efforts to more effectively utilize its rockets in a future war.
During his interrogation, Makhoul said that the connection with the Hizbullah operative was made by Hassan Jaja, a Lebanese businessman who lives in Jordan and who he has been in touch with for a number of years. In 2008, Makhoul accepted Jaja’s proposal to meet with the Hizbullah operative in Denmark.
Makhoul said that he took extra precaution after a number of other Hizbullah agents were captured in Israel
If Makhoul met with a Hezbollah operative in Denmark, that country’s intelligence services should know about it. I’d much prefer hearing what they have to say about such a meeting, if it occurred. Further, the “senior Shin Bet official” himself conceded that a good deal of the supposedly secret information Makhoul collected for Hezbollah “could be delivered by anyone with a pair of eyes and Google Earth.” So what do they have? Evidence that Makhoul or someone in his family using Google Earth on his computer looked up a location in Israel that might have some security significance. Or might have passed such a location on the road once.
As for the “highly incriminating” information about top-secret espionage equipment, let’s hear from Israeli journalist Dimi Reider in his blog today:
It strikes me there’s a familiar feature running through the indictments of Rawi Soltani (a Balad activist who got 5 1/2 years for bragging to a “Hezbollah recruiter” [that] he worked out in the same gym as the Chief of Staff), Omar Said and Ameer Mahoul. All three are Palestinian Israeli activists, which means most tourists visiting Israel would have better access to state secrets than they do. Nevertheless…they are all approached by a “Hezbollah agent” who installs or tries to install an “encoding program” on their laptops. The laptops are then seized several months later.
Is it me, or could a set-up have been started a lot earlier than the “investigation” by the GSS?…Planting evidence on political activists – physical, forensic, digital or otherwise- is a secret police trick hundreds of years old, if not older; and the fact the Shin Bet already said it intends to subvert political activity and activists [who are] in favor of a less exclusivist “Jewish” Israel.
So to sum up, this sounds like an open and shut case. The evidence is overwhelming. The suspects have betrayed the State, their homeland. They are guilty. Guilty as sin. No doubt about it.
But let’s take a step back. What have the authorities proven? That they can tell a good story. Let us see evidence. And I don’t mean the kind of “evidence” secret police habitually offer in such cases. I mean real evidence. Evidence that could not have been tampered with. Evidence that proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I would place the likelihood of these two individuals being guilty of the crimes they’re charged with as being infinitesimal. It’s very important to note that Yuval Diskin publicly told Haaretz in 2007 that he would use EVERY MEANS AT HIS DISPOSAL to destroy the Arab nationalist movement in Israel. Every means. Not every legal means. Every means. And that is what he’s done here. These are the Israeli equivalent of Malcolm X’s ugly chickens coming home to roost. I have no doubt of it.
Returning to Israel’s yellow journalism in this case, it is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to refuse to carry any current statement from the accused in the face of such charges. Instead, Khoury makes do with this bit of rhetorical imprecision to describe the gag placed on the defense:
The sensitivity of the case has prevented the suspect’s lawyers, Hussein Abu Hasin…Hasan Jabareen and Orna Kohn of the civil rights NGO Adalah, from commenting on the matter in closed forums due to strict confidentiality limitations imposed by the courts.
NO, the “sensitivity of the case” hasn’t prevented the lawyers from speaking. It is the goons of the secret police and their accomplices in the judiciary who have taped their mouths shut. Let’s tell it like it is and not sugar coat things as Khoury does. The defense is gagged. They cannot defend their client properly either in court or in the court of public opinion. Not to mention Makhoul was subjected to conditions and treatment illegal even under Israeli Supreme Court rulings, let alone international law. This is a travesty. This is not democracy. This is what we expect in Iran or North Korea, not (or at least many of don’t) Israel.
As conservative an Israeli columnist as Matti Golan in the finance-economics internet portal, Globes, points out that what Makhoul is charged with is something that virtually any good journalist does regularly:
If all of these are considered crimes, we’d have to bring all the Israeli media to justice.
A final note on Omar Said’s indictment. Even the Shin Bet admits that when Said was alleged recruited to spy he refused to do so. So the Shin Bet is making do with criminalizing a meeting at which an Israeli citizen refused to betray his country. Yes, there is a claim that Said offered the names of others who might spy in his place, but as none of us were there, the Shin Bet can characterize a conversation any way it wishes. I’d like to hear the video or audiotape which the Shin Bet undoubtedly has of the occasion before accepting the secret police version.
Further, the Shin Bet alleges the meeting occured in August 2008! Why did it take nearly two years to charge Said with a crime when even the spooks confirm that he took no further action after the meeting that would lead them to believe he was willing to spy for Hezbollah?
We Accuse! by Janan Abdu and Issam Makhoul, 27 May 2010
Today is the 21st day since the arrest of Ameer Makhoul at his home in Haifa, Israel, under the cover of darkness, by the International Crimes Investigation Unit and General Security Service (GSS or Shabak) officers. The arrest was conducted in a brutal and terrifying manner. Our house was raided, its contents ransacked, and various pieces of equipment and objects of special value to us were confiscated. Violations of our fundamental rights to human dignity and privacy were committed, and physical, verbal and psychological violence were employed against us and in front of our two daughters. On this day we, Ameer’s family, announce that we are extremely worried about what is happening to him and about the conditions of his detention.
We know that Ameer has suffered and continues to suffer from acute pains in his head, his back and in both of his legs as a result of the severe torture he was subjected to, in breach of his most basic human rights. These include the rights to sleep, drink and eat, and the rights to dignity and not to be exposed to humiliating and degrading treatment. His complete isolation from the outside world, the control exercised over him by the GSS interrogators, and his interrogation for hours and days on end without sleep, while in shackles and bound by his hands and feet to a low chair in a way that did not allow him to move, causing him severe pain, from which he still continues to suffer now, all resulted in his losing his sense of time and ability to think and concentrate, and in his mental disorientation. These methods are illegal under Israeli and international law.
Until today, 26 May, the court refused to allow Ameer’s attorneys to read the medical report written by a doctor who visited him twice during the interrogation. It also refused to allow an independent doctor sent from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel to examine him, as demanded by Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. These refusals raise concerns and questions about the information that the GSS, with the backing of the court, wants to conceal regarding his conditions of detention and their methods of interrogation. What, we wonder, is the GSS hiding and why is it stalling? Is it in order to hide signs of the physical and psychological violence it has inflicted on him? And why has the court given its consent to these procedures?
What particularly worries us is that Ameer continues to complain of acute pains, and his eyesight has deteriorated, which has compelled him to ask for a stronger pair of glasses. The question is how and why this severely diminished eyesight was caused during his detention, and what the methods of interrogation were that led to this deterioration and to the pains he is complaining of.
The bigger questions are: What is the Israeli security establishment trying to cover up? Why is the court colluding with the GSS and concealing the conditions of detention and methods of interrogation/torture that have been used against Ameer?
Why did the court block the publication of the details of Ameer’s affidavit as it relates to the illegal methods of interrogation used against him, and which he spoke of before his lawyers in his initial meeting with them, held after around two weeks of being banned from access to legal counsel?
We appeal to the local and international communities and to individuals to continue to act quickly to put pressure on the Israeli government and legal system to open an independent investigation into the methods used by the GSS interrogators against Ameer, and to demand the indictment of those responsible for the use of torture against him. We also call on the local and international communities to consider any indictment by the GSS to have been fabricated and extorted under torture and gained solely by obstructing democratic freedoms and human rights. These acts are invalid and illegitimate, and in flagrant violation of international law.
We call for demands on the Israeli authorities to immediately call off this trial, which is based on an investigation in which Ameer was prevented from defending himself in any genuine manner. Ameer was denied the basic human rights to which he is entitled under Israeli and international law. The independence of the judiciary and democratic freedoms were dangerously subjected to the dictates of the GSS in this case.
We greatly appreciate the community, institutional and individual solidarity with Ameer, local and international, and all efforts to defend his freedom. We are aware of the importance of the role played by all political movements and political parties in challenging the circumstances of Ameer’s arrest, and this attack against the Arab public and its leadership, and on democratic freedom and human rights. We are also aware that the clear strategic choice of the Arab public in Israel has been and continues to be that of unyielding and legitimate political struggle.
The fact is that Ameer Makhoul does not belong to any specific political party. Rather, he reserves for himself an independent position, which is a clear indication that the main target of this attack is the Arab Palestinian public and their leadership, their rights and freedoms. Defending the freedom of Ameer and his rights as a detainee, and rejecting incitement against Arab citizens in light of his detention, are not an individual or class issue, but a national, democratic mission.
The real indictment is against the GSS and the Israeli establishment, which are trampling on democratic freedoms and human rights and resorting to illegal methods of interrogation and torture.
Janan Abdu, Partner of Ameer Makhoul
Issam Makhoul, Brother of Ameer Makhoul
26 May 2010