The full implications of the latest scoop from Al Jazeera's investigative unit are still being digested, and the story is not over quite yet. But the leaked documents published so far, culled from the recent archives of the State Security Agency (SSA), are a damning indictment of both Israeli criminality in the African continent, and of the complacency of the South African intelligence services when it comes to Israeli spies.
In 2012, a group of hackers, claiming to be former Israeli spies, threatened Pravin Gordhan, then the finance minister, with a massive cyber attack on South Africa's banking and financial sectors. They demanded "discontinuation of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and the removal and prosecution of some unidentified individuals linked to BDS," according to the leaked reports. The hackers claimed to have worked on the Stuxnet and Flame cyber-warfare software (which were jointly developed by the US and Israel).
BDS South Africa said in a statement Thursday said the leaked "details of Israeli cyber terrorism show the desperation of the Israeli government and its supporters," condemned the Israeli plot (as well as the leak itself) and called for an increase in boycott campaigns against Israel.
A more comprehensive 55-page report into the Mossad and its history and modus operandi includes a section detailing the day-to-day operations of an Israeli spy in South Africa, as noted by counter-intelligence agents. They followed him, and noted that he kept close contacts with the Jewish Board of Deputies, a major pro-Israel lobbying organisation in the country. He also maintained a network of informants in the South African police – who had not disclosed such ties to the intelligence services.
As such, the documents show that the South Africans deeply distrusted the Israelis, and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils (an ANC and Communist party anti-apartheid struggle veteran, and a well-known Jewish supporter of the Palestinian cause) ordered an audit of all information exchanged between the two sides. Speaking to Al Jazeera, however, Kasrils said that although he had wanted nothing to do with Mossad during his time in office, he would not comment on operational details.
In one leaked file, a Mossad operative is described as "extremely arrogant" and "prone to be manipulated" due to the large amount of information he freely boasted about. His agency is dubbed a "difficult and insistent service," which often broke protocol by pulling cheap tricks (which were presumably supposed to impress or scare the South Africans) like calling the head of the SSA unannounced and demanding meetings out of the blue.
One liaison officer meeting with a Mossad agent wrote that the Israeli was "extremely arrogant" and had "no respect for the SSA's way of doing things … a liaison relationship on this basis is doomed before it even started."
In some cases, South African counterparts gave Mossad spies a dressing down, but they were apparently allowed to carry on with their operations unhindered. This is most concerning when you read about the dangerous and violent things Mossad gets up to in Africa.
There are indications in the documents that Israel may have been involved in, or was plotting to create, false flag events against Israeli targets in the country in order to create fear which would increase political pressure for more South African protection of the Israeli embassy and Israeli businesses.
A South African agent investigated one such incident. A man made several bomb threats to the embassy, ultimately walking into the embassy and repeating the threat. The investigating agent wondered: "did he actually walk-in at the Israeli Embassy or was this staged to ensure more protection … was the bombing incident also staged to attract more attention to safety at the Israeli Embassy and other Israeli Companies?" The latter point refers to a petrol bomb attack on an Israeli firm in June 2001.
In 2009, Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman made a nine-day trip to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya. But secret assessments by South African intelligence called the trip "an exercise in cynicism" which aimed to foster arms deals.
The report states: "Israel's military, security, economic and political tentacles have reached every part of Africa behind a philanthropic façade." The Israelis are "instrumental in arming some African regimes and allegedly aggravating crises among others, including Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and South Africa."
They are even guilty of "fuelling insurrection," "appropriating diamonds" and sabotaging Egypt's water supplies — despite the fact the two countries are supposed to be at peace.
"A few Israeli military pensioners are on the lookout for job opportunities as trainers of African militias," the report says, "while other members of the delegation were facilitating contracts for Israelis to train various militias."
South Africa is being used as a staging post for Israeli subversion and destabilization throughout the continent of Africa, as well as against legitimate and peaceful groups like BDS South Africa within the country itself.
The evidence in the documents is overwhelming: South Africa should expel all Israeli spies from the country immediately, and urgently review all diplomatic relations with the apartheid state of Israel.
An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.