Israel’s brave whistle-blowers

17 Sep


Alastair Sloan, Middle East Monitor, 16 September 2014

It is the whistle-blower’s dilemma: follow the official internal complaints’ procedure and risk the truth being buried, or take it straight to the press, and risk improvised prosecution by a bitter government resentful that you did right and exposed its dirty tricks. The forty-three Israeli whistle-blowers of Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim, Israel’s equivalent of GCHQ or the NSA, opted for the latter.

These bold citizens have been rewarded by the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon denouncing them as criminals; an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) spokesperson claiming that their allegations have been fabricated; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing, “I know that these accusations are baseless, and will not harm the important work done by others for the security of Israel.” The lady doth protest too much, methinks, not least because, in the same breath, Netanyahu declared the IDF to be “the most ethical army in the world”.

According to the whistle-blowers, Unit 8200’s surveillance activities amount to political policing. The Israeli military have been collecting dirt on ordinary Palestinians, including sexual preferences, infidelities, family illnesses and financial problems, matters totally unconnected to the armed resistance movements. This information is used to humiliate people; to turn the unfortunate victims against their own communities and force them to collaborate with the Israeli occupation; and to blackmail them on pain of public exposure and embarrassment.

Given that Hamas tends to execute collaborators, and the back foot upon which the Palestinian people existentially find themselves on, this isn’t exactly fair play, especially from “the most ethical army in the world”.

Worse still, the whistle-blowers claim that politicians abused the snooping abilities of Unit 8200 to service their own Machiavellian objectives. “The information was almost directly transferred to political players and not to other sections of the security system,” they claimed. And members of the unit are reported to swap intercepts of “sex talk” between the ordinary Palestinians they snoop on, for their own schoolboy satisfaction. The most ethical army in the world?

The revelations have caused a momentary stir in Israel. Haaretz is doing its best to wake Israelis up to their government’s perversions, though the lapdog “journalists” of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are sure to be beating the drum for whistle-blower punishment over the coming days. The hubbub will, in any case, soon die down.

I thus hold little hope that the whistle-blowers’ allegations will have a lasting negative effect on pro-Israel Westerners. They are the lobby fodder, remember, who believe the media myth that Israel is surrounded by enemies that want to destroy it; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation born out of bloodthirsty anti-Semitism; that Israel is a tiny defenceless nation struggling to hold out against the Muslim hordes; and that Intifadas are organised by senseless, ungrateful Palestinians who don’t know how lucky they are to live under Israel’s occupation.

Much is said of the Western media’s pro-Israel bias in reporting of its frequent wars against Palestinians. The accusation of bias is justified; the newsrooms of America and Britain do little to call Israel out on its militarised bullying, but there is a greater crime than misreporting the wars. There is the deliberate and calculated turning of a collective blind eye to what happens in-between the wars. There is the crime of downplaying, ignoring and under-reporting the daily humiliation of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation by the IDF and the master bullies in Tel Aviv; the humiliation that Unit 8200 is complicit in wreaking. Little is reported about this by the media and so, when war does flare up, we focus on the explosions and forget the context.

Not much explodes when Israeli soldiers raid a refugee camp at 3am, break into a house, throw the belongings of men, women and crying children out onto the street, then leave with no explanation. But there is plenty of humiliation.

Not much explodes when Palestinians queue for six hours to get through the apartheid wall, just to get to and from work.

Not much explodes when the Palestinians of Jerusalem must learn Hebrew to have any chance of a decently paid job, or when four out of five live below the poverty line. Humiliation a-plenty, but little media coverage in the West.

Not much explodes when a family of eighteen are confined to a tiny home on the outskirts of Ramallah, their new residence since foreign invaders stole their farm in 1948, holding a piece of paper from an unknown foreign organisation and claiming that the land is theirs because of a book the farmers can’t read and wouldn’t believe anyway. Humiliating beyond belief – but how often do you hear about the invasion and ethnic cleansing of 1948 in the Western media?

Not much explodes when a Palestinian mother has to explain to her naughty children that if they run down into the valley that separates their pitifully small hovel from the luscious suburban Israeli settlements on the hill, an IDF boy or girl is authorised to shoot them dead.

Not much explodes when the refugee agency sends a Palestinian housewife a text, a simple text, saying that her food ration won’t be arriving any more, and that her family will now go hungry unless she or her husband is lucky enough to find a job.

Not much explodes when the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons of over five thousand Palestinians in Israeli prisons wonder if their loved one is being blackmailed, beaten or tortured again.

Not much explodes when a Palestinian closet homosexual is approached by a plainclothes Israeli soldier, from “the most ethical army in the world”, remember, and says that his conservative Muslim family will be told of his sexuality unless he snitches on his best friend, with information provided by Unit 8200. An uncompromising humiliation for which pro-Israel Westerners believe there should be no retaliation.

So if you want to know why stuff occasionally explodes in, over or under Israel, consider the above list of humiliations. This is not to justify Hamas targeting civilians; that is just one tactic amongst many that they could choose and they should reconsider their tactics. It does, though, explain in part why angry rockets fly, why rocks are thrown, why under-educated and under-employed young men find themselves resorting to violence in a world that seems to have forgotten them.

Unless the Western media begins to report the in-between, to scrutinise every aspect of this daily humiliation, to report on the explosions but also the humiliations, then the coverage of the wars in Gaza is worthless.

Humiliation is at the root of everything in Palestine, and without reportage, day-in, day-out, the Western media is neither a newspaper nor a TV channel; it is an integral part of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.


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