Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oops. Mossad needs to drill, baby, drill

Espionage requires skullduggery, at least enough to avoid drawing the attention of casual passers-by. Certainly in Tel Aviv, urban pedestrians tend to be on the alert.
The BBC reports about how a blundering trainee spook managed to close down the entire port of Tel Aviv on a training day gone wrong.(This coincided with a tourist helicopter crashing downin the Med outside Netanya. What's surprising is how quickly the chaos was righted)

A trainee spy for Israel's secret service agency Mossad was arrested by Tel Aviv police while taking part in a training operation, media reports say.

The young trainee was spotted by a female passer-by as he planted a fake bomb under a vehicle in the capital.

He was only able to persuade police he was a spy after being taken in by an officer for questioning on Monday.

The authorities have refused to comment on the story although Israeli media outlets have expressed their surprise.

'Just a drill'

Mossad does not tell local uniformed police about its training exercises.

The country's commercial Channel 10 said it hoped the agent's operatives were "more effective abroad", AFP news agency reported.

Niva Ben-Harush, the woman who reported the novice's suspicious behaviour to police, told Ynet News that 15 minutes after she made the call, Tel Aviv's port was closed and people evacuated.

She said police initially asked her to come with them and identify the suspect.

"But after a few minutes, they told me it was just a drill," she said.

Up to three agency employees were believed to have been suspended following the incident, Ynet reported.

It quoted the prime minister's office as saying it did "not respond to information about such activities undertaken by security agencies or attributed to them".

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ethiopian Israelis celebrate

Sigd Day pomp in Jerusalem draws Ethiopian leaders in full regalia to the Old City, to celebrate their day of fasting and prayer.
Nearly all of the Ethiopian Beta Israel community, comprising more than 119,300 people, now live in Israel under its Law of Return, which gives Jews and those with Jewish parents or grandparents, and all of their spouses, the right to settle in Israel and obtain citizenship. (Not to be confused with the Right of Return, the Palestinian notion that refugee families who were nudged out by fighting during the creation of the Israeli state should be welcomed back.) The Israeli government has mounted rescue operations, most notably during Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991) when civil war and famine threatened Jewish populations within Ethiopia. Immigration continues. Today 81,000 Ethiopian Israelis were born in Ethiopia, while 38,500 or 32% of the community are native born Israelis. An estimated half live below the poverty line.

Falasha Mura people are the descendants of Beta Israel who converted to Christianity. Some are returning to the practices of Judaism by living in Falash Mura communities and observing halakha. Beta Israel spiritual leaders, including Chief Kes Raphael Hadane, urge the acceptance of these Falasha Mura as full-fledged Jews. Israeli society plays a statistical demographic shell game - the goal is to keep the headcount of new immigrants high to counteract the Palestinian birthrate. More than a million Russian economic immigrants, many of whom came of age in a Godless Soviet society and have not inculcated many Jewish traditions, complicate the equation.
Inside Israel, Ethiopians usually rank lower in status than Russians because the melting pot philosphy is tricky amid the in-grown skin-tone snobbery. Ask a Misrahi or Sephardic Jew. Descent goes white, brown, black, and finally Arab.

Hat tip to the Beeb for this photo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

High Court Orders Military to Allow Student to Challenge Forced Removal to Gaza

This just out from GISHA, the Israeli activists. Perhaps it can be worthwhile to stand up against injustices. Let's see if the student's status can be resolved quickly enough for her to finish her degree:

· High Court justices criticized the violation of due process that led to Berlanty Azzam, a 21-year old student at Bethlehem University, being blindfolded, handcuffed, and removed by force to the Gaza Strip.
· Court ordered the military to conduct an administrative hearing next week in which Berlanty and her attorney can challenge the removal.
· Berlanty, who was to complete her BA in Business Management in just two months, is missing her studies with every day that passes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 – At a High Court hearing today in the case of a Bethlehem University student who was detained and forcibly removed to the Gaza Strip, the justices ordered the military to give the student, Berlanty Azzam, an opportunity to challenge her removal at an administrative hearing to be held next week. The court rejected the State's request to prevent her attorney, Gisha's Yadin Elam from being present at the hearing, affirming Berlanty's right to legal counsel. However, the court declined Gisha's request to allow Berlanty to return to her studies in the West Bank in the meantime. Berlanty has already missed two weeks of classes toward her BA in Business Management. She was to graduate in less than two months.

The military forcibly removed Berlanty to Gaza on Oct. 28, based solely on the fact that her address in the Israeli-controlled Population Registry is listed in Gaza. Berlanty had been living in the West Bank since beginning her studies in 2005 at the Vatican-sponsored university. The military makes no claim that she poses any security threat whatsoever.

In today's hearing, the justices criticized the procedure that led to Berlanty's removal to Gaza: despite an explicit promise by the Office of the Military Legal Advisor to Gisha that Berlanty would not be removed pending a meeting with her lawyer and an opportunity to file an emergency court petition, she was removed that very same night, after being blindfolded and handcuffed.

The State claims that Berlanty was present in the West Bank "illegally" and has refused to allow her to return. In the court petition written on her behalf, Gisha claims that her passage to the West Bank was done legally, via a permit issued by the military commander that attached no conditions or limitations.

Berlanty is one of an estimated 25,000 people, including those who have been living in the West Bank for decades, in danger of being forcibly removed to Gaza, just because their addresses are registered there. Israel controls the Palestinian Population Registry and since 2000 has not permitted address changes from Gaza to the West Bank. The Israeli Supreme Court has yet to rule on the larger question of the rights of Palestinian residents, originally from Gaza, to live in the West Bank.

According to Berlanty Azzam: “I had hoped that I could return to my studies after today's court hearing. Each day that passes is critical for my chances of completing my degree.”

According to Gisha Attorney Yadin Elam: "It is not clear what Israel gains by preventing this young woman from completing her degree. Israel must end this policy of tearing people away from their homes, jobs, schools and families – and preventing Palestinians from exercising their right to live in the West Bank."