DesertPeace will be offline at least until the 29th of March…. going for a much needed battery recharge.
In my absence, please keep up with the following sites …. (Click on links)
Happy Holidays to all of you!
In yet another attempt to silence the truth, Bloggers are now targeted …
About 30 bloggers and webmasters receive order to submit articles to the military censor for approval before publication.
Yossi Gurvitz thought he was being pranked. The blogger behind the Facebook page “Friends of George” recently received a message from the military censor demanding that he forward all material before it is published in order to get approval.
The skeptical blogger called the censor and discovered the message was accurate. In the past few days, chief military censor Col. Ariella Ben-Avraham has sent missives to about 30 bloggers and webmasters demanding that they seek approval for articles dealing with “subjects that obligate examination”, such as those dealing with the IDF, in accordance with emergency regulations.
Gurvitz was furious. “I have no intention of meeting this demand,” he wrote. “The meaning of this demand is the eradication of new media in Israel, whose core is the speed of the response. I am examining legal proceedings available to me.”
Sources in the military censor’s office said that its legally-defined authorities “apply to every type of publication relating to national security”. Ben-Avraham told Yedioth Ahronoth: “the censor’s office works to monitor public online pages. It began back under the previous censor. We do not intent to apply the instructions on private profiles, but only public pages that defined themselves as dealing with news.”
It should be noted that the IDF can demand that bloggers submit their posts to the censor, but if they refuse, its ability to delete them is severely limited by the fact that Facebook controls the information. That said, governments around the world occasionally contact Facebook with a request to remove illegal content.
The company considers the requests and does make illegal content unavailable – but only in that country, which in this case means it is of limited use. On the other hand, violating the censor’s rules could lead to legal proceedings.
In depth report HERE
The following reports were not newsworthy enough for the NY Times …. (Click on link to see reports)
This one is unbelievable …. the harassment has no limits
And this one was ignored by the entire Western Media
December 31, 2013 at 09:07 (Blogging)
Here is the Annual Report prepared by WordPress for this Blog. Thanks to all of our readers and friends for making 2013 the success that it was.
Here’s to 2014 …. with best wishes for good health and Peace!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 640,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 27 days for that many people to see it.
Special thanks go to …..
The top referring sites in 2013 were:
“Brian of London,” (center) with the Israeli army spokesperson Barak Raz (right) and the Jewish Agency’s Avi Mayer. (Source)
“I am pissed off that he’s being arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night for the umpteenth time. Because he should have been shot and killed already.”
This incitement to murder Muhammad Abu Hashem, a 17-year-old from the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar, appeared today on a prominent blog which has close ties to the Israeli army and functions as an outlet for its anti-Palestinian propaganda.
The incitement came in response to a New York Times article by Jodi Rudoren, which profiled boys in the village who throw stones at Israeli occupation forces and settlers who have forcibly taken much of the village’s land (the facts about Israel’s massive expropriations of Beit Ommar’s land are omitted from the article, which represents stone-throwing as a sort of Palestinian pathology).
The village of Beit Ommar and its people – especially children – are under constant violent assault from the Israeli army and settlers, as Mousa Abu Maria of the Palestine Solidarity Project told The Electronic Intifada in April.
Yet, Brian of London, who also uses the alias Brian John Thomas, added, “This kind of writing, humanising these damn savages with their rock throwing as if its some kind of noble endeavour, sickens me. The only reason they do this with rocks is they know we’d shoot them if they had guns.”
Brian of London had also posted similar incitement on Rudoren’s Facebook page, prompting Rudoren to comment publicly: “I asked Brian John Thomas to refrain from violent, threatening messages.”
Brian of London wrote his demand that indigenous children living under occupation be killed in cold blood for the benefit of illegal colonial settlers on the blog Israellycool, whose publisher David Lange is invited to special briefings with Israeli “security sources.”
Lange, a settler from Australia, goes by the pen name “Aussie Dave.”
Among the propaganda services the Israellycool blog has provided to the occupation isadvancing the baseless theory, fed to Lange by the army, that the 2010 death of Jawaher Abu Rahmeh, in the West Bank village of Bilin was due to a so-called “honor killing.” Abu Rahmeh, 36, died, according to witnesses, as a result of exposure to teargas that occupation forces fired at villagers protesting land confiscations.
Brian of London can be seen in the photo above, posted on Twitter by Israeli army spokesperson Barak Raz on 31 July, standing between Raz, who is on the right, and theJewish Agency’s social media propagandist Avi Mayer. Thomas also tweeted a photo of himself with Raz and Mayer on the same day.
This appears to be more than just a fleeting meeting, as Mayer, himself a former Israeli army spokesperson, had tweeted about meeting with Brian of London in February as well.
Brian of London/Brian Thomas also writes for the Times of Israel website and has helped to promote the Israeli electric car company Better Place, an occupation profiteer which is illegally building infrastructure in the occupied West Bank.
According to his Times of Israel profile, Brian of London became a settler from the UK in 2009, and as recently as today, according to a check-in, traveled to the colony of Alon Shvut in the occupied West Bank.
With thanks to Benjamin Doherty and Andrew Kadi for additional research.
What is the current listing status for desertpeace.wordpress.com/2008/03?
Site is listed as suspicious – visiting this web site may harm your computer.
Part of this site was listed for suspicious activity 1 time(s) over the past 90 days.
What happened when Google visited this site?
Of the 21 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 2 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2013-01-19, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2013-01-19.
Malicious software is hosted on 1 domain(s), including bbsnews.net/.
This site was hosted on 2 network(s) including AS22576 (LAYER3), AS13768 (PEER1).
Has this site acted as an intermediary resulting in further distribution of malware?
Over the past 90 days, desertpeace.wordpress.com/2008/03 did not appear to function as an intermediary for the infection of any sites.
Has this site hosted malware?
No, this site has not hosted malicious software over the past 90 days.
How did this happen?
In some cases, third parties can add malicious code to legitimate sites, which would cause us to show the warning message.
The Israel Police will pay NIS 62,500 in compensation to three Kahanist activists for their unlawful detention in 2008, under an agreement affirmed Tuesday by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
The incident occurred after the terror attack at Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva in March 2008.
In that attack eight students were shot to death by a Palestinian gunman, who was himself shot dead at the scene.
The three activists, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Noam Federman and Baruch Marzel, subsequently announced that they planned to patrol in the Arab neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber, where the murderer’s family lived.
Policemen were waiting for the three at the Armon Hanatziv promenade to head them off; they arrested and questioned them, then jailed the trio in the Russian Compound lock-up overnight.
The next day, the magistrate’s court released the three without any restrictions.
They filed suit against Israel Police, saying it had violated their rights, subjected them to false arrest, and jailed them under inhuman conditions.
The case dragged on over several years, but after hearing the evidence, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Vice President Irit Cohen advised the police to compensate the claimants.
During the hearings the judge had expressed wonder at why it had been necessary to detain the three of them overnight.
After negotiations between the parties, it was agreed that the police would compensate the Kahanists for their detention and court fees, for a total of NIS 62,500.
“I hope the officers of the Israel Police will absorb the message and stop arresting right-wing activists for no reason,” said Ben-Gvir.
“We had the right to demonstrate to demand that the mourner’s tent for the terrorist in Jabal Mukkaber be dismantled, but even if the police thought otherwise, its people have to internalize that you don’t change people’s opinions by arresting them.”
The program’s first volunteer was Sandrine Pitousi, 31, from Kfar Maimon, situated five kilometers from Gaza. “I heard about the project over the radio and decided to join because I’m living in the middle of the conflict,” she said.
Before hanging up the phone prematurely following a Color Red rocket alert, Pitousi, who immigrated to Israel from France in 1993, said she had some experience with public relations from managing a production company.
“During the war, we looked for a way to contribute to the effort,” the ministry’s director general, Erez Halfon, told Haaretz. “We turned to this enormous reservoir of more than a million people with a second mother tongue.” Other languages in which bloggers are sought include Russian and Portuguese.
Halfon said volunteers who send the Absorption Ministry their contact details by e-mail, at email@example.com, will be registered according to language, and then passed on to the Foreign Ministry’s media department, whose personnel will direct the volunteers to Web sites deemed “problematic.”
Within 30 minutes of announcing the program, which was approved by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday, five volunteers were already in touch, Halfon said.
December 31, 2012 at 12:10 (Blogging)
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 1,100,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 20 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!
Almost three weeks after the anonymous blogger “Eishton” was summoned for questioning by the police and military police, it appears that the episode is drawing to a close. As should have been clear from the start, Eishton is not a crime suspect. No indictment is expected against him, nor is there likely to be an indictment submitted against anyone connected to the blog’s report on suicides in the Israel Defense Forces.
The facts that the blogger was twice summoned for questioning, that law enforcement authorities took such drastic steps to locate him, and that threats were made against him, are worrisome. Even if the actions of the military and civilian police in this affair stemmed from genuine security concerns, it nonetheless appears that some figure of authority lost perspective and took steps that damaged democratic values of free speech, and freedom of the press.
That said, some bright spots can be gleaned in the affair. First, suicides in the IDF are once again a topic of public discourse. That the blogger was summoned for interrogation actually gave credence to allegations leveled in his report. In this respect, Eishton is the victor, and deserves credit. One can dispute his claims and findings, but the fact that the established media became engaged with the blog, even belatedly, forced authorities to respond.
That the IDF decided Wednesday to take advantage of a briefing given by its chief medical officer to reporters and provide data about the scope of suicides was no accident. The IDF claims that the number of suicides has decreased, from an annual average of 29 between 2002 and 2006, to an annual average of 22 between 2007 and 2011.
That trend is to be welcomed, but the number remains high. In addition, the precise number of soldiers who committed suicide remains unclear, since in some cases deaths may not be classified as such due to pressures exerted by family relations. Demonstrating sensitivity toward bereaved families is a laudable goal, but the need for transparency is no less worthy a consideration.
Incidentally, in the middle of the last decade, when the IDF started to deal much more seriously with this issue, its mobilization came as a response to newspaper reports written by Maariv’s Amir Rapaport, and my colleague Amos Harel in Haaretz. At the time, the IDF changed its procedures, and prohibited soldiers from taking rifles home with them on weekend furloughs.
The second bright spot is that the affair ultimately is likely to contribute to freedom of the press, and to strengthen the status of bloggers. The affair made clear that in Israel in 2012, a journalist is not solely someone who has a license issued by the government press office.
The defense establishment has yet to digest the changes which have occurred in the media world. It has yet to assimilate the fact that bodies such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous, alongside independent bloggers, are players which rank with the traditional media, and are sometimes even more important than it.
The affair showed that the security system’s monopoly on information is dwindling. Most of the information utilized by Eishton was accessible on the internet. On the other hand, the affair illustrated that Israel’s power structure does not fully heed democratic values such as transparency and public disclosure. The defense ministry continues, for instance, to withhold disclosure of the list of 126 fatalities in 2012.
The Eishton blogger also has to draw conclusions. Possibly, had he not made public copies of original documents that reached him, he would not have become embroiled with authorities. Even though the investigation against him was unjust, more prudent conduct on his part could have brought the affair to a close on its first day. In addition, it can be hoped that Eishton will forgo his cloak of anonymity. Should he do so, the credibility of his investigations will only be enhanced.
2. If you are on Timeline, put up a nice banner. Using the Palestinian flag as your profile picture comes in handy.
3. Post some articles on your wall about Palestine. This may take a little while, actually not long at all, if you have pro-Palestinian articles on your wall, you must be pro-Palestinian. Everyone with any brains knows that right?
4. To gain credibility choose some high profile activists to send friend requests to. These folks have thousands on their lists, certainly all those folks must be real right? You know this because you have heard of them other places OR they also have outward appearances of being pro-Palestinian. This is KEY to getting your foot in the door due to ……….. #5
5. The key is “mutuals”. You know how that one goes. If you have a whole lot of “mutuals” with someone, especially high profile Palestinian activists, then BINGO this person sending you a friend request must be legitimate. (hint hint, that high profile activist has no time for this sort of baloney, it’s “only facebook” and they’re so busy with all their real stuff they don’t have time to check anyone out, if they want to be their friend then that is really REALLY “nice”)
6. Once you get your foot in the door, the sky’s the limit. The more friends you make, the more friends you are able to make because gee whiz, if someone has that many friends they must be real!
7. Now what can you do once you are “in” as a pro-“Palestinian” FACEBOOK “activist”, gee whiz, I can’t think of anything at all harmful can you?
Now that you know the basics of “How to become a pro-“Palestinian” activist on Facebook, HAVE FUN. There’s a whole world out there for you to meander through. On any given day you can make more “friends”, join Facebook groups, hell you might even get made an administrator on some of these groups and then you are REALLY “in”. This last part is just a perk that may or may not occur. This may take some patience on your part but ya know that saying, who won the race, the tortoise or the hare?
Stay low, enjoy all your new friends just like they are enjoying you when they don’t even know who the hell you are! But you have Facebook friends and a whole lot of them too so you must really be somebody. Oh, one thing, make sure you at least try to continue to appear pro-Palestinian. Any cracks in your appearance and some of these “activists” may notice, but hey, not necessarily cuz to each their own who they friend on Facebook.
Thus is the land of Facebook activism. It’s “only Facebook” right?
A DesertPeace Editorial
In the early 60’s I shared an apartment in Lower Washington Heights/Upper Spanish Harlem with my best friend Tommy. It was mainly a Hispanic community at the time, quite lively and musical 24/7.
June 18, 2012 at 09:20 (Blogging)
Col. Sima Vaknin-Gil said that the new system will monitor visual and textual information on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, on blogs and on traditional news sites.
Speaking at the Digit 2012 conference at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Vaknin-Gil explained that the new system will examine information using key words labeled in advance. The system will be able to monitor information that was previously difficult to reach. “I think that you can’t try to catch everything,” she said, “because that will make the censor lose its relevance, and furthermore – its morality.”
Vaknin-Gil added that “as the chief censor, I have no intention of going into people’s personal diaries, and it important for me to note that we do not ‘sit’ on private Facebook accounts.”
Referring to recent incidents of censored information being published on social networks and blogs – notably by Jewish-American blogger Richard Silverstein – Vaknin-Gil said that “the censor is perceived as a body trying to control the Internet, to no avail. This is mistake – we try to operate within the Internet only in terms of elements related to us.”
“The censor cannot reject everything,” she added. “The censor can only touch things that are likely to harm the security of the state, and these incidents are few.”
They repeatedly told us how wonderful the Orthodox community is in Safed, how it is nothing like that in Jerusalem or Beit Shemesh, how it’s an open, peaceful, loving society. I found it a little odd that the Arab history seemed to have been erased (and the Arab quarter renamed the Artists’ Colony) but I didn’t say anything. This reminder really sheds new light on the situation and I will think twice before returning to Safed and spending my money there.
We can see from this comment that racism not only destroys lives, it rewrites history. It tries to justify its satanic evils by creating a history that never was and certanly one that will not last.
Go a step further, think twice not only before coming to Safed, but think twice before coming to Israel period!
A political boycott can be just as effective as a cultural one!
|A left-wing protest in Tel Aviv last year. Photo by: Tal Cohen|
Blogger and left-wing activist Yossi Gurvitz was questioned by Israel police two weeks ago on suspicion of incitement to violence. Gurvitz gave an update on the investigation in a short post published on his blog “Friends of George,” on Friday morning.
The investigation was opened following a decision by the deputy state prosecutor for special procedures, the lawyer Shai Nitzan, after the right-wing organization “The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel” presented a complaint in August last year.
Under the headline “A Short, Personal Message” Gurvitz wrote on Friday morning that he was being investigated again for incitement following a blog post he had published.
“This was a political investigation, which originated with a complaint by a political foundation, The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, whose goal is to keep mouths shut,” Gurvitz wrote.
“I did not commit any crime, and I am convinced the case will be closed. Until now I could not report on this, and I am unable to expand further on the matter because of police instructions and the advice of my lawyer.”
I spoke with Gurvitz on Friday afternoon in order to find out more. He politely declined to comment, explaining that he is not allowed to discuss the investigation.
“The questioning continued for a few hours in a pleasant atmosphere, and the investigator was very nice,” he told me. “After questioning I was asked to sign something declaring that I would not give any interviews or give details about the questions I was asked and answers I gave. This affects my ability to defend myself and to respond to the complaints against me, but these are the conditions the police presented me with.”
I approached The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel on Friday afternoon and they confirmed that they presented a complaint against Gurvitz as early as August last year. The Forum spokesperson, Shmulik Klein, also passed me a letter the organization received two weeks ago, which states that the decision had been taken to open an investigation into Gurvitz on suspicion of incitement to violence based on the article published on his blog.
The events started on July 21 2011, when The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel sent a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in which they asked that an investigation be opened against Gurvitz following the blog post in question, which he had published on his blog four days earlier.
In the post, under the headline “On Violence,” Gurvitz referred to an article he had written a decade earlier in which he argued that Israeli settlers were not Israeli citizens. He expressed regret over the things he had written ten years earlier, and expressed his opposition to violence against the innocent.
Gurvitz wrote that there are situations, “In which violence is required and justified, such as resistance to invasion or occupation. However, it is necessary to limit violence to people in combat roles or those who carry weapons, whether they are in uniform or not.”
This paragraph, together with Gurvitz’s response to a reader “talkback” on another blog post he published a few days earlier, are what led the organization to make the official complaint against Gurvitz. The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel claimed that, in response to the talkback, Gurvitz wrote that thesettlers are, “A legitimate target for Palestinian military operations.”
“His writing suggests that violence should be used against Israel Defense Forces soldiers and citizens of Judaea and Samaria who carry weapons,” The Legal Forum for Eretz-Israel wrote to the government legal advisor.
“Within two days 190 responses have been published, so that it looks as if many people have read Mr.Gurvitz’s article, and his influence is likely to be broad…we are convinced that what he wrote could be considered as incitement and sedition….the fact that the article was distributed via the internet, and received many responses within only a few days, means that there is a real possibility that it could lead to organized use of violence against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens.”
Responding to Gurvitz’s comments on Friday morning that the investigation against him is political and aimed at keeping mouths shut, The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel stated that, “Despite the importance of freedom of expression, and the importance of upholding it in a democratic society, it cannot be used as a cover and as a rationale for inciters and those who call for violence.”
Also see ‘I AM A BLOGGER, HEAR ME ROAR’
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz mysteriously removed from its website an article exposing atrocious Israeli racism against black people just hours after it was published.
The article by David Sheen – a copy of which was made by The Electronic Intifada beforeHaaretz deleted it – reported on a rally by Israeli Jews on Sunday in Tel Aviv against African immigrants, demanding that they be sent home because Israel is a “Jewish state.” The rally was addressed by Michael Ben-Ari, a member of the Israeli parliament from the National Union party which also favors expelling Palestinians.
The deleted article stated:
The demonstrators chanted “The people demand the expulsion of the infiltrators,” “We have come to expunge the darkness,” and “Tel Aviv is for Jews, Sudan is for Sudanese.”
Ben Ari criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu for allowing African migrants to remain in the county after they had already entered in recent years. He called Netanyahu’s cabinet “the blackest government ever for Tel Aviv.”
Video taken at the rally and posted on YouTube by Sheen, shows some of the vile racism, including by Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari.
Protesters can be heard chanting such slogans as, “Sudanese to Sudan, Tel Aviv is for Jews” and “Their place is in Sudan, not here. This is a Jewish state!”
Ben-Ari apparently referring to some nearby counter-demonstrators said: “I can see them over there, those who want to destroy our country. I see those who are setting up a welcome tent for the millions of Africans who are on their way here and I tell them it’s no use, our response is the Jewish nation lives!”
Ben-Ari and several protesters then broke into singing the nationalist refrain, “The Jewish nation lives.”
Ben-Ari then praised the mayor of the Red Sea port city of Eilat for his alleged harsh treatment of Africans. The mayor, Ben-Ari said, “is doing a great job with the Africans there. I only wish we did the same here in Tel Aviv. He doesn’t allow them to attend schools, he restricts their movements, he knows what to do.”
The handful of counter-demonstrators calling for an end to racism are confronted by some of the protestors and one woman shouts: “Disgusting! Why should my son go to school with 30 Sudanese in a class?”
The same woman adds, “Let’s see you take them back home to your neighborhood and then we’ll see you complain that your property values are dropping.”
It is very unusual for a publication to delete an article without explanation after it is published. Responding to my questions on Twitter, Sheen suggested it was because the article was no longer “newsy,” coming 24 hours after the rally.
While this may be what the Haaretz editors told Sheen, it is far from convincing. In a professional publication, such decisions are made before an article appears, not after.
by Adam Levick
The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland has evidently fully recovered from his jarring experience with vicious anti-Zionists at a debate on BDS in London with participants (including Omar Barghouti) who seek the end of the Jewish state.
According to The JC’s report on the debate, Freedland’s attempts to refute accusations that Israel is an “apartheid” state and that, therefore, BDS was a moral imperative were both repeatedly shouted down by pro-Palestinian activists, which led an evidently shaken Freedland to tell the audience:
“Tonight has been hugely revealing. I thought my disagreement with the boycott movement was because I want to see the end of occupation and you want to see the end of occupation and it was an argument about tactics.
“What has come through loud and clear is your motivation is not actually just the end of occupation but it’s with Israel itself – you have a fundamental problem with it.”
Just how revealing was Freedland’s jarring experience with rabid anti-Zionists? Well, not so jarring that he’s in any more predisposed to take on anti-Zionist such as Joseph Dana.
Joseph Dana, an American-Israeli, is a vocal BDS activist and proponent of the one-state solution, that is, the end of the Jewish state – a position which has endeared him to such vicious anti-Zionists as Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss. (In fact, Dana is a judge at something at Mondoweiss called the Mondo Awards – no doubt an award in great anti-Zionist achievements – a panel which includes Omar Barghouti)
Dana once wrote, “Why anyone, Jew or Arab, would want to see this [Israeli] state continue in its present form is really beyond comprehension.”
Recently, Jonathan Freedland Tweeted the following to his friend Joseph Dana (who Tweets under “ibnezra”)
The article Freedland links to, in Ha’aretz, reports on a group of settlers who vandalized an Israeli Army base as part of a “price tag” for the IDF’s recent demolishing of an outpost in Migron. While the destructive actions of the settlers are of course indefensible, the shallow implication of Freedland’s Tweet encouraged me to respond in kind.
Beyond the Tweet itself (which was, interestingly, re-Tweeted by Seumas Milne), it’s dispiriting to say the least that Freedland has apparently learned nothing from his encounter with the anti-Zionist crowd in London.
In an essay about his experiences at the debate, published at the Zionist Left site, Engage, Freedland wrote the following:
“What [the debate] confirmed out loud was that the hard core of boycott campaigners do not merely object to the post-1967 occupation- even if that dominates their public rhetoric – but to Israel as Israel.”
Speakers from the floor repeatedly returned to the alleged ills of pre-1967 Israel and of Zionism itself. Indeed, Naomi Foyle, the activist who had acted as a “volunteer consultant” to the South Bank in organising the debate, later blogged a concise response to my claim that the boycott campaign was anti-Israel rather than anti-occupation: “Damn right.”
By finding common cause with one-state solution proponents who vilify Israel and her supporters at every opportunity, such as Joseph Dana, it’s clear Freedland – like many who maintain soft support for Zionism yet don’t want to get their hands dirty in the fight – is not willing to sacrifice alienating those in his progressive political circles for the sake of Israel’s survival.
While I’m a big believer in the idea of “Big Tent Zionism”, the key word in that phrase is, of course, “Zionism”.
Viciously written FOR
WASHINGTON — When Shamai K. Leibowitz, an F.B.I. translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year for leaking classified information to a blogger, prosecutors revealed little about the case. They identified the blogger in court papers only as “Recipient A.” After Mr. Leibowitz pleaded guilty, even the judge said he did not know exactly what Mr. Leibowitz had disclosed.
Now the reason for the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the Obama administration’s first prosecution for leaking information to the news media seems clear: Mr. Leibowitz, a contract Hebrew translator, passed on secret transcripts of conversations caught on F.B.I. wiretaps of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Those overheard by the eavesdroppers included American supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress, according to the blogger, Richard Silverstein.
In his first interview about the case, Mr. Silverstein offered a rare glimpse of American spying on a close ally.
He said he had burned the secret documents in his Seattle backyard after Mr. Leibowitz came under investigation in mid-2009, but he recalled that there were about 200 pages of verbatim records of telephone calls and what seemed to be embassy conversations. He said that in one transcript, Israeli officials discussed their worry that their exchanges might be monitored.
Mr. Leibowitz, who declined to comment for this article, released the documents because of concerns about Israel’s aggressive efforts to influence Congress and public opinion, and fears that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran, a move he saw as potentially disastrous, according to Mr. Silverstein.
While the American government routinely eavesdrops on some embassies inside the United States, intelligence collection against allies is always politically delicate, especially one as close as Israel.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation listens in on foreign embassies and officials in the United States chiefly to track foreign spies, though any intelligence it obtains on other matters is passed on to the C.I.A. and other agencies. The intercepts are carried out by the F.B.I.’s Operational Technology Division, based in Quantico, Va., according to Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence writer who describes the bureau’s monitoring in a book, “Intel Wars,” scheduled for publication in January. Translators like Mr. Leibowitz work at an F.B.I. office in Calverton, Md.
Former counterintelligence officials describe Israeli intelligence operations in the United States as quite extensive, ranking just below those of China and Russia, and F.B.I. counterintelligence agents have long kept an eye on Israeli spying.
For most eavesdropping on embassies, federal law requires the F.B.I. to obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret at a federal courthouse in Washington. If an American visiting or calling an embassy turns up on a recording, the F.B.I. is required by law to remove the American’s name from intelligence reports, substituting the words “U.S. person.” But raw transcripts would not necessarily have undergone such editing, called “minimization.”
Mr. Silverstein’s account could not be fully corroborated, but it fits the publicly known facts about the case. Spokesmen for the F.B.I., the Justice Department and the Israeli Embassy declined to comment on either eavesdropping on the embassy or Mr. Leibowitz’s crime. He admitted disclosing “classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States,” standard language for the interception of phone calls, e-mails and other messages by the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency, which generally focuses on international communications.
Mr. Leibowitz, now in a Federal Bureau of Prisons halfway house in Maryland, is prohibited by his plea agreement from discussing anything he learned at the F.B.I. Two lawyers who represented Mr. Leibowitz, Cary M. Feldman and Robert C. Bonsib, also would not comment.
Mr. Silverstein, 59, writes a blog called Tikun Olam, named after a Hebrew phrase that he said means “repairing the world.” The blog gives a liberal perspective on Israel and Israeli-American relations. He said he had decided to speak out to make clear that Mr. Leibowitz, though charged under the Espionage Act, was acting out of noble motives. The Espionage Act has been used by the Justice Department in nearly all prosecutions of government employees for disclosing classified information to the news media, including the record-setting five such cases under President Obama.
Mr. Silverstein said he got to know Mr. Leibowitz, a lawyer with a history of political activism, after noticing that he, too, had a liberal-minded blog, called Pursuing Justice. The men shared a concern about repercussions from a possible Israeli airstrike on nuclear facilities in Iran. From his F.B.I. work from January to August of 2009, Mr. Leibowitz also believed that Israeli diplomats’ efforts to influence Congress and shape American public opinion were excessive and improper, Mr. Silverstein said.
“I see him as an American patriot and a whistle-blower, and I’d like his actions to be seen in that context,” Mr. Silverstein said. “What really concerned Shamai at the time was the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, which he thought would be damaging to both Israel and the United States.”
Mr. Silverstein took the blog posts he had written based on Mr. Leibowitz’s material off his site after the criminal investigation two years ago. But he was able to retrieve three posts from April 2009 from his computer and provided them to The New York Times.
The blog posts make no reference to eavesdropping, but describe information from “a confidential source,” wording Mr. Silverstein said was his attempt to disguise the material’s origin.
One post reports that the Israeli Embassy provided “regular written briefings” on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza to President Obama in the weeks between his election and inauguration. Another describes calls involving Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington to discuss the views of members of Congress on Israel. A third describes a call between an unnamed Jewish activist in Minnesota and the Israeli Embassy about an embassy official’s meeting with Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who was planning an official trip to Gaza.
Mr. Silverstein said he remembered that embassy officials talked about drafting opinion articles to be published under the names of American supporters. He said the transcripts also included a three-way conversation between a congressman from Texas, an American supporter of the congressman and an embassy official; Mr. Silverstein said he could not recall any of the names.
At his sentencing, Mr. Leibowitz described what he had done as “a one-time mistake that happened to me when I worked at the F.B.I. and saw things which I considered were violation of the law, and I should not have told a reporter about it.”
That was a reference to Israeli diplomats’ attempts to influence Congress, Mr. Silverstein said, though nothing Mr. Leibowitz described to him appeared to be beyond the bounds of ordinary lobbying.
Mr. Leibowitz, 40, the father of 6-year-old twins at the time of sentencing, seems an unlikely choice for an F.B.I. translation job. He was born in Israel to a family prominent in academic circles. He practiced law in Israel for several years, representing several controversial clients, including Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader convicted of directing terrorist attacks on Israelis, who Mr. Leibowitz once said reminded him of Moses.
In 2004, Mr. Leibowitz moved to Silver Spring, Md., outside Washington, where he was a leader in his synagogue. Mr. Silverstein said Mr. Leibowitz holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.
In court, Mr. Leibowitz expressed anguish about the impact of the case on his marriage and family, which he said was “destitute.” He expressed particular sorrow about leaving his children. “At the formative time of their life, when they’re 6 years old and they’re just finishing first grade, I’ll be absent from their life, and that is the most terrible thing about this case,” he said.
While treated as highly classified by the F.B.I., the fact that the United States spies on Israel is taken for granted by experts on intelligence. “We started spying on Israel even before the state of Israel was formally founded in 1948, and Israel has always spied on us,” said Mr. Aid, the author. “Israeli intercepts have always been one of the most sensitive categories,” designated with the code word Gamma to indicate their protected status, he said.
Douglas M. Bloomfield, an American columnist for several Jewish publications, said that when he worked in the 1980s for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, he assumed that communications with the embassy were not private.
“I am not surprised at all to learn that the F.B.I. was listening to the Israelis,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a wise use of resources because I don’t see Israel as a threat to American security.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 7, 2011
An article on Tuesday about a leak prosecution involving the disclosure of transcripts of F.B.I. eavesdropping on the Israeli Embassy in Washington gave an outdated location for the secret court that approves such wiretaps. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court moved to the federal courthouse in Washington in 2009; it is no longer at the Justice Department.
Needless to say, the apology was not sufficient for the zioterrorist supporters at the Post, and the ‘pink slip’ remained in tact. This could turn into a blessing in disguise as he might find a new desk in the offices of HaAretz, bringing along with him scores of disillusioned readers from the JP.
I can’t say I agree with his original statements regarding terrorism. I have always maintained that acts of terrorism against civilians is wrong. But, I look forward to continue reading whatever he has to write.