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Israel’s Cover-ups

Israeli soldiers taking position during clashes with Palestinian students from Bir Ziet university, February 19, 2013. (EPA/ATEF SAFADI)

We are usually highly critical of Arab governments, accusing them of being outdated. We also blame them for their rigid commitment to policies of suppression and silence. But then we witness a country, such as Israel, displaying traits that are just as bad as those we have been criticizing. We typically assume Israel is a modern and strong country that can deal with everything in a transparent manner. It has larger universities, larger research centers and more advanced media institutes than us. This story, however, concerns Israel’s “Prisoner X”, who is believed to have committed suicide in his cell after being held secretly in prison where he was given the above code-name to conceal his identity. After an Australian television channel exposed Prisoner X’s fate, the Israeli security apparatus rushed to muzzle the local media by bringing together Israel’s journalists and warning them against publishing this news. This move only increased the British and other international media’s longing to investigate and uncover the “crime.” For comparison purposes, let’s revisit the exposure of the last significant Israeli “secret” when Dubai police chief Dhahi Khalfan surprised the world with the substantial quantity of images and information about the Israeli cell that infiltrated the country and assassinated Palestinian leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in early 2010. Khalfan showed images of 27 people who had arrived in Dubai from six different countries using fake Western passports. This scene was unprecedented; photos, passports, places and a map showing the sequence of events. In this world of modern technology and communication, the fake passports, wigs and disguises did not help the agents because their faces were uncovered and revealed to the world. The faces of these agents would have been seen across the globe, rendering them useless for any future operations.

Prisoner X, who the Israelis claim committed suicide, may not be one of Mabhouh’s killers; the Australian media began investigating this mysterious detainee 6 months before the Dubai murder took place. Following the scandalous muzzling of the Israeli press Tel Aviv has shown that it is primarily a security and military-based regime, adhering to out-of-date concepts in a world that is full of super-fast ways of reporting the news. Israeli writer Ronen Bergman tells an old story about the basement in Beit Sokolov (headquarters of Israeli Journalists Association), quoting an expert on military censorship. The military expert revealed, “Forty years ago, we had listening devices on phone lines belonging to foreign journalists. They used to call their colleagues, and we used sit and listen to their calls from the basement. Every time a journalist revealed more information than they should have, we would interrupt on the line and shout for them to stop. If that did not work, we would simply terminate the call. I think those rushing to conceal this story are still living with a ‘basement mentality.’” He relates a similar story regarding the policy of concealing truth under the pretext of security requirements, when in fact this is nothing more than covering up the murder of an Israeli agent, committed by the Israeli security forces more than half a century ago. He reveals that the victim’s son had lived for decades, believing that his father had fled to Brazil and abandoned him and his mother. The security services continued to lie to his family until a journalist, fifty years later, revealed that his father was a secret agent who was killed by an anesthetic dose during his abduction to return him to Israel. In order to hide the crime, they decided to throw his body in the sea and claim that the man fled to Brazil.

Maybe they were able to hide political crimes in 1952, but how can they do so in this day and age? The Dubai video tapes prove that deception is possible, but not forever as the truth will eventually come out. When Israelis claim the Arab press is not free, and that in Israel, they can throw rotten tomatoes at the prime minister, we agree with them. However at least we are aware that the press is not free and are accordingly unhappy about this fact, whereas they are collective partners in these deceptions and lies.

This is a new era that is being ruled by out-of-date minds, not just in terms of journalistic dishonesty, but also politics. Israel’s leaders believe the occupation of the Palestinian territories is guaranteed and permanent, as long as there is enough cement and bullets. However one day they will find themselves out of time and out of land. The occupation may last for a century, but it will remain an occupation, something that requires all of Israel’s potential and production, until Israel’s factories fall silent.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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