Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Pearlman Affair

The GSS (General Security Services), or the Shin Bet, is the Israeli intelligence service apparatus devoted to the formulation and the execution of policies designed to perpetuate the repression against Palestinian Arabs, especially in the occupied Palestinian territories. However, the Palestinian Arabs, citizens of Israel, who comprise a fifth of the Israel’s population, are also objects of the GSS attention.

Israeli expansion, annexation and expropriation have been at the heart of government practice since the establishment of Israel in 1948. Even so, there have always been dangerous, extremist circles which operated to the right of the government. These circles constantly attacked the various governments for not being consistent in ousting the Palestinians. The settler right argued that the ruling circles do not have the courage of their Zionist convictions. In short, the government was faulted for hesitating to carry out the full maximum program – a land of Israel, without Arabs.

Since 1967, there has been a consistent increase in the numbers and varieties of right-wing extremist groups. Their main base is in the settlements, where they are routinely issued guns and other military equipment, for the ostensible reason of “fighting terror.” Some of them are distinguished writers and academics while there is no shortage of activists who are clearly as nutty as a fruit cake. Many are “nice” souls trying to implement values with which they have been imbued from childhood. But, the main point is that they are all convinced that full redemption is just around the corner - if the regime and the citizenry would only dare to get on with the job.

There are two matters that require our attention at this point. Firstly, the settlement framework means that there are literally thousands of gun toting fanatics who believe that the redemption is right around the corner. Most of them are deep within the interstices of the IDF and the settler communities. They are not law abiding citizens but an angry constituency who fears that even Netanyahu could sell them down the river. Secondly, what they are saying is not too far from the core beliefs of Israeli society. There may be tactical differences with the establishment, but the settlers have a surefire technique how to easily overcome mainstream hesitation. The settler vanguard knows that in case of any serious clash between the Arabs and the settlers, the majority of Jews will ignore the real causes, as they line up with their Jewish brethren fighting the good fight for “our” land.

Now, any government that does not want the settlers to be the ones to set the time to embroil it into a major confrontation is advised to keep its eyes and ears open. This is why we are all protected here in Israel, in addition to our nuclear devices and our NATO size army, by the GSS in general and specifically by its Jewish division (GSS-JD). In order to feel really secure and safe, let us recall that it was the criminal negligence of the security pros in this unit who "guarded" Yitshak Rabin in a fashion that made him easy prey for assassination by a right wing fanatic back in 1995.

Ha’aretz military correspondent, Amir Oren, informed his readers this week that the current head of the Jewish division of the GSS makes his home in a settlement on the east side of the green line.

This helps me to illustrate that there may be differences between the GSS detachment monitoring the Jewish extremists in matters of form, and style and discourse, but there is a lot of spiritual symbiosis between the Jewish division and the objects of its attention. It is this mutuality of goals and aspirations that is at the heart of the inability of the Jewish division to function with a semblance of efficiency. Again and again, their operations tend to end up in a farce and a debacle.

The main strategy of the ultra-right is to find and exploit every opportunity for violence, open or hidden, to attack, maim or even murder Palestinians who are guilty of being Palestinians. So the announcement at the end of last week that the GSS was holding one, Chaim Pearlman, for a number of murders and attempted murders might have been greeted with some satisfaction. But it became clear right from the start that the GSS-JD just cannot get anything straight. Pearlman it turns out is fully prepared for the arrest. He has the services of on call legal counsel and his experienced buddies have prepared him with a bag of tricks to counter attack. Chaim, it appears, is well known to the GSS. He has worked for them, and received money. His line of defense is ready; he is being persecuted and falsely charged because he has rejected GSS overtures to continue to work for them.

Pearlman’s backers, the well known Meir Kahana disciples, Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir, began immediately to distribute videos to the media. They had in their possession a lengthy video of a GSS representative, disguised as a right wing militant, trying to convince Pearlman to perform specific acts of violence. Pearlman, aware that everything was being taped, lectures the GSS-JD agent about how he restricts himself to legal political work. At one point, the representative of the GSS, unaware, of course, that he was being filmed and staring right into the camera, tries to convince Chaim to carry out a joint project with him in which they would assassinate Sheikh Ra’ad Saleh. Saleh just happens to be the head of the northern section of the Islamic movement and probably the most influential individual in the Palestinian community in Israel.

The media are still sitting on this bombshell and waiting to see if the GSS will get an indictment. This is quite a technique that the GSS is employing. You try and entrap a terrorist suspect by enticing him into murdering a prominent Palestinian figure who enjoys the respect and admiration of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Pearlman was free and on the loose at the time of the interview and could have conceivably tried to do something important for the cause. And the GSS feeds Pearlman with the idea of a project to murder a prominent Israeli Palestinian Islamic leader.

At this point Pearlman is being held on the basis of a court order, remanded while the GSS lawyers work on an indictment. But the clumsiness and ineptitude of the GSS has made the whole operation seem ridiculous. One can evaluate GSS efficiency from the fact that the three murders ascribed to Pearlman occurred as far back as 1998! There were, it seems some more murders and attempted murders between 1998 and 2004. The GSS which fell down on the job for years and years is now made out to appear vindictive since the arrest comes after Perlman refused to go to work for them and simply stated, the fascists are having a field day making a mockery of the GSSJD.

The left, for its part, is hardly surprised that the regime is so confused and disorganized when it comes to imposing the rule of law against the ultra-right. There is simply no clear line between principles commonly held by the extreme right and between the core political beliefs of many ranking GSS officers who are, supposedly, combating their illegal activities. In their arguments with the GSS apparatus, the theorists of the radical right sense that they hold the moral high ground. It is not hard to understand why the armed settlers roam the occupied territories with the sense that “God is on our side!” Unable to employ the brutal methods that are standard operating procedure against Palestinians, the Jewish Division flounders and bungles on with inefficiency and deadly negligence.

There are reliable accounts to the effect that the GSS has violated constitutional rights of many of the right wing activists. In principle, the left could deem itself obliged to denounce such violations as, per example, the denial of the rights of the defendant to meet with his or her lawyer. The same methods and many more are commonly used against Palestinians. The difficulty lies in the fact that more often than not, the clash between the radical right and the GSS is a chapter in an ongoing sham. We do not have even the most minimal information on the active network of connections and ongoing manipulation that characterize the constant large scale cooperation and mutual understanding between the two forces who work together against the Palestinians and their most basic rights. In this nether world of hatred and oppression first and foremost against Palestinians as Palestinians, much of what transpires as antagonism between the right and the GSS is far from being what it appears to be. The overall impression is that any crack down by the GSS, when and if it occurs has something to do with settling accounts. Though civil rights people will find it necessary to condemn certain high handed and even brutal practices, employed here and there against the radical right, it would be naïve to believe that we have the full and complete picture that would enable us to determine exactly the sources of these clashes. But both these operations are different arms of the same ruling regime. The GSS and the organized fundamentalist radical right thrive on deceit and prosper on lies. And more often than not their resources are pooled in coordinated efforts. Very few, if any, democratic principles are involved.