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Israel’s global death squads

Israeli forces shot a Palestinian woman at Qalandia checkpoint [ Issam Rimawi/Anadolu]
Israeli forces shot a Palestinian woman at Qalandia checkpoint [ Issam Rimawi/Anadolu]

Israel’s Mossad spy agency has long had a reputation for brutality. Its agents have a history of travelling the world using stolen and fake passports of supposedly allied states, and kidnapping, torturing and murdering Israel’s enemies.

In 1972, for example, the Mossad murdered the Palestinian Marxist and novelist Ghassan Kanafani. A famed intellectual and author in the Arab world, Kanafani was also an activist with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). An Israeli car bomb in Beirut blew him up along with his 17-year-old niece.

While most of its victims are Palestinians and other Arabs, in 1986 the Mossad drugged, kidnapped and interned the Israeli dissident and whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. A former nuclear technician, Vanunu exposed to the world Israel’s cache of nuclear weapons. He gave the evidence to the Sunday Times in London, which eventually printed the story. Unfortunately, he also passed the story to the Mirror, whose then owner, Robert Maxwell, had close ties to Israeli intelligence; the Israeli embassy in London was tipped-off about the story about to be published. Vanunu was enticed by a female Mossad agent “honey trap” to Rome, where he was kidnapped and whisked off to Israel. There, a kangaroo court sent him to jail for 18 years, 11 of them in solitary confinement. The oppressive Israeli regime still refuses to let him leave the country.

Kanafani and Vanunu are just two examples of what Mossad gets up to. There are many more. Last year, Israel’s global death squads went about their routine business as usual, the cold-blooded murder of Palestinian resistance fighters and unarmed activists alike.

In December, Mossad agents assassinated aviation engineer Muhammad Zouari in Tunisia. Zouari had headed the drone programme of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, Palestine’s Islamic Resistance Movement.

Israel’s racist “defence” minister Avigdor Lieberman all but confirmed Mossad’s role in the murder, replying to a question about the killing during a US speaking engagement by saying that, “We will continue to do in the best possible way what we know how to do — that is to protect our interests.” Earlier this month, Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi confirmed that the government suspects Israel of being behind the murder.

Zouari was shot to death outside his home in Sfax on 15 December. Essebsi has faced popular protests in Tunisia against the murder, with talk that the government is not doing enough to investigate it or bring all the killers to justice. The murder reportedly involved guns fitted with silencers and the theft of incriminating CCTV footage (a lesson learned, perhaps, after the Mossad killers of Hamas commander Muhammad Al-Mabhouh were caught on camera in Dubai in 2010).

A recent article in Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz boasted about how the murder was the latest in a line of such extra-judicial assassinations by Israel in recent years. The paper made the rather discreditable claim that Israel’s policy was “that strikes against terrorists are meant to thwart future attacks, not settle scores.”

In fact, such a claim is totally undermined by the killing of Omar Nayef Zayed, a former activist with the Marxist PFLP. He had not stepped foot in occupied Palestine for more than 25 years, but that did not prevent him from being found dead in the grounds of the Palestinian Authority’s embassy in Bulgaria in February last year.

His family stated at the time that Mossad had been responsible and his brother told the Ma’an news agency that they “threw him out of the embassy’s balcony, killing him.” Zayed had sought refuge in the building after Israel had suddenly sought to have him extradited from Bulgaria, after years of living there peacefully; he had been a visible part of the Palestinian diaspora community in the country for more than two decades. The back story is that Zayed escaped from an Israeli prison in 1990 after he had been accused in a military court in 1986 of the killing of an Israeli settler.

The PFLP accused the Mossad of murdering Zayed but also blamed “the Bulgarian government and security forces who pursued Comrade Nayef Zayed for arrest and imprisonment for over three months.” There was also talk of Palestinian Authority collusion. Zayed’s brother Hamza told PFLP publication Al-Hadaf that the PA ambassador in Sofia had told Zayed that they would kill him by poisoning his food and that a plane would be waiting to return him to Israel.

Israeli media at the time made unsubstantiated insinuations that Zayed had committed suicide. It was reported in Haaretz, for example, that perhaps he “fell from a high floor.” However, according to the American journalist Richard Silverstein, the murder was actually ordered as part of a personal vendetta by the new Mossad director, Yossi Cohen. Cohen was a European theatre chief for Mossad at the time of Zayed’s escape and was livid that he had “got away from Israeli justice under his watch.” Cohen assumed his new position in January 2016, only a month before Zayed was found dead. The Bulgarian authorities have now ordered a new investigation into his death.

Israel likes to project its image as that of a peace-loving democracy when, in reality, it is anything but. The murderous activities of the Mossad are testament to that fact.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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