Newsletter : 13fx1224.txt
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US Spies Rent Jerusalem Hotel Suite to Watch a Secret Israeli Site
Many Israelis were scandalized when documents released by Edward Snowden revealed that
their best friend, America, had in 2009 targeted a former prime minister and defense
minister for secret surveillance.
But their political leaders were not surprised. For years, the United States has been
running a complex eavesdropping and surveillance web to spy on friends and foes alike,
including Israel. Satellites gather and transmit data to command centers, "informers"
operate in the field and the most fertile sources of all are not human but the instruments
which bug cell phones, tablets and social networks.
The US National Security Agency, NSA, exposed by Snowden, can monitor these devices
whenever it wants, just by beaming its instruments at a defined country, location, group
of people or topics. If, for instance, NSA electronically obtains a list of Israeli
servicemen, their cell phone numbers and credit cards, its monitors can keep each one
under constant surveillance. The same applies to the personnel of Israel's Air Force,
Aerospace industry and other high-tech military manufacturers, such as Elbit and Rafael.
Those lists may safely be assumed to be already in the agency's hands.
To collect videos and images, American spy agencies only have to pan through such data
gold mines as YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest, the last of which was recently
crowned Content Curation. This is because Pinterest does much of the intelligence
watchers' work for them by assorting the material according to subject and field of
interest and so unknowingly providing them with neat data packages.
The network catching on like wildfire of late is WhatsApp. It is also a favorite of
Israel's elementary schoolchildren for swapping their thoughts and news. A child may
explain he or she can't join the gang that afternoon because his or her father, an Air
Force colonel or captain of a naval vessel, is just home from Crete or Sardinia. This will
tell the eavesdropper that Israeli crews have been changed at those bases. An Israeli
officer driving his car only has to consult Waze for a short cut to his secret destination
to reveal it to a clandestine watcher. So who controls these armies of spies and directs
Those are murky waters which are virtually uncharted, as President Barack Obama implied
obliquely in the comments he made at his end-of-year news conference last Friday. To still
the uproar against indiscriminate spying on Americans, he promised a review and possibly
reforms of the NSA, adding tellingly: "Just because we can do something doesn't mean we
Snowden's revelations about the spies sitting on the phones of German Chancellor Angela
Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Roussef have got Washington into hot water. They also
revealed the negligence of their own security services. However, Israel, to our certain
knowledge, has lived with this unwanted American attention from its earliest days. In the
1980s, when the late Menahem Begin was prime minister, an odd-looking vehicle sprouting a
forest of antennae stood permanently and quite visibly beneath his office window in
Jerusalem. His staff identified it quite frankly as a mobile American listening station.
The measures used later were a lot more sophisticated. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak and other Israeli officials, in their turn, had their e-mails
But after 2009, Washington introduced a high-powered, multilayered system of
intelligence-gathering especially against Israel, about which neither Snowden nor
the Israelis have been forthcoming. This system had a single narrow focus: to pick up the
slightest murmur or clue suggesting that Israel was about to launch an attack on Iran's
nuclear sites, which it had threatened to do without prior notice to Washington.
Listening in on the laconic conversations Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held with
Ehud Barak was not enough. What the spies were told to look for was out-of-the-way
conduct, such as an order placed suddenly for a large quantity of aircraft fuel, or the
import of an unusual amount of emergency medical equipment.
At the high noon of this period of mistrust, US officers of the highest ranks began
dropping in on Israel with increasingly frequency. Every week to 10 days, some
many-starred general or fast-talking Pentagon official arrived for a visit. They were told
to ferret out any signs of Israel getting ready for an attack on Iran in time for
Washington to step in and stop it.
These emissaries had two directives: 1. To maintain a tight grip on the prime minister,
defense minister and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and other IDF generals and keep
them in sight at all times; 2. To pick up on their every nuance of speech or behavior for
signals of hidden activity too subtle for monitoring devices to register. The tempo of
these visits tapered off when Washington concluded that Israel had given up on a military
strike on Iran at that stage. However, the spying did not.
DEBKAfile's intelligence sources report that in recent months Israeli complained to the
Obama administration about hotel suites which undercover agents had rented in Jerusalem at
sites overlooking a secret military installation frequented by high Israeli officials for
their most private consultations. The Netanyahu government asked Washington to stop this
underhand surveillance. But meanwhile certain other - less friendly - Western spy agencies
had caught on and took suites at the same location.
The conclusion from these incidents is that US clandestine surveillance of Israel is
unlikely to stop in the foreseeable future and not just against key figures and
military personnel, but also involving economic and industrial espionage. To combat the
expanding exposure of its secrets, Israel has been introducing "sterile spaces"
impenetrable to illicit penetration as well as using tricks to misdirect attention.
However, the Americans and other interested parties keep on looking for holes in these
barriers - and so the contest goes on.
Israel Redoubling Bid for Pollard's Release, But US Firm on Refusal
By The Times of Israel
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reportedly embarking on a new push to free convicted
spy Jonathan Pollard from US prison, spurred on by reports Washington spied on Israeli
leaders. On Monday, Netanyahu met with Esther Pollard, wife of the Israeli-American spy,
and "updated her on the non-stop efforts to release Jonathan," according to a statement by
The meeting came on the heels of calls by several Israeli politicians for Washington to
consider freeing Pollard, after revelations over the weekend that the National Security
Agency had spied on a number of Israeli leaders. The White House on Monday said it had no
intention to let the convicted spy go free.
An unidentified source in Obama's office told Channel 10 that the president "stands
behind the things he said before he visited Israel [in March]. Pollard committed a very
serious crime, and [Obama] has no intention of releasing him."
However, Netanyahu was said to be pushing again for Pollard's release as part of the
wider terms for Israel signing a framework agreement with the Palestinians that Secretary
of State John Kerry is reportedly about to present to the two sides. Channel 2 cited
unnamed sources who suggested that Netanyahu will ask the US to exonerate Pollard after 28
years in prison in the context of Israeli concessions.
The report suggested Netanyahu could invoke the request to have Pollard freed as one of
his terms for signing the framework agreement, as Washington has requested before the end
of January; or in the context of Israel's ongoing four-phased release of 104 Palestinian
terrorists, the third phase of which is due to take place shortly; or in the context of a
possible release of six Israeli-Arabs imprisoned by Israel who Jerusalem has until now
refused to free as part of a deal with the Palestinians.
The Channel 2 report said Netanyahu would not raise Pollard's case in the direct
context of the new reports of US spying on Israel, but that the spying allegations may
have impacted the timing of the prime minister's new push on behalf of Pollard.
Pollard was convicted in 1987 on charges of passing classified information to Israel
while he worked as an intelligence analyst for the US Navy. He was given a life sentence
for the crime, launching decades of activism for his release by Jewish groups, and, more
recently, some high-profile US and Israeli officials.
Netanyahu opened the Sunday cabinet meeting with a promise that Israel would continue
working for Pollard's release. "We don't need a special incident to work for the release
of Jonathan Pollard," he said. "I have dealt with this [issue] with every US president [I
have met], including President Obama, at all periods, including at this time. I hope the
circumstances allow us to bring Jonathan home."
PLO Video Claims Jesus was 'Palestinian'
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has claimed that Jesus was "Palestinian" in a seasonal video message attacking Israel. http://youtu.be/l9_QyL_5piI
The video juxtaposes images of "Christmas magic" with numerous scenes alleging
"oppression" by Israelis. A figure revealed to be the Pope rides past scenes including a
Jewish man holding a gun next to an Arab settler and Arabs cordoned off by an IDF soldier.
As he walks off into a church courtyard, a message across the screen blares: "Stand up for
Hope, Peace and Justice in Palestine."
In addition, the description below the video reads: "Every Christmas Palestine
celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ." Jesus was in fact a Jew living in
Talmudic-era Israel. This is not the first time that the Palestinian Authority - the
national front for the PLO - has tried to incite worldwide anti-Semitic activity during
Christmas by claiming Jesus had a Palestinian identity. In 2010, Samih Ghanadreh, an
author from Nazareth, called Jesus "the first Palestinian martyr" on a PA national
television network. Ghanadreh claimed that the historical reference had first been noted
by PLO leader Yasir Arafat.
The move also comes just days after prominent Roman-Catholic cleric Fuad Twal used his
own Christmas address to slam Israel. "The Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in late July,
after three years of interruption, but the efforts are hampered by the continuous building
of Israeli settlements," Twal stated. In 2012, the cleric also claimed that the religious
holiday marked "the birth of the State of Palestine."
The PA and Hamas have a history of persecuting Christian Arabs; as a trend, Christians
have been migrating from the Middle East elsewhere in response to growing persecution -
with Israel currently the only country in the region whose Christian population continues
Israel to Abbas: No, Jesus was Not a Palestinian
Israeli officials reacted with bitter scorn to a Christmas message from Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he called Jesus a Palestinian and suggested
Israel was to blame for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. "He should have read
the Gospel before uttering such offensive nonsense, but we will forgive him because he
doesn't know what he's doing," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of
Israel on Monday. Abbas' statement is an "outrageous rewriting of Christian history,"
according to Palmor.
Earlier on Monday, Abbas published a lengthy Christmas greeting, calling Jesus "a
Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world."
Although he expressed his commitment to the peace negotiations with Israel, he expressed
harsh criticism of Israeli policies, including an accusation that Jerusalem is responsible
for the plight of Christians in the Holy Land.
"We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation," Abbas wrote. "This Christmas
Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to
worship in their homeland." He called the security barrier an "annexation Wall, which is
stealing [Palestinians'] land and dooming their future."
These rather unfriendly statements are "not exactly in the spirit of Christmas,"
Palmor, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said cynically. "Maybe he needs a hug from
Abbas also mentioned Palestinians "trapped under siege" in Gaza, and "those who are
prevented from worshiping in Bethlehem. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Al
Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Beirut, along with all of our Palestinian refugees
Christians and Muslims uprooted from their hometowns in 1948 and who, since that time,
have suffered the vicissitudes of a forced exile."
Abbas said more Palestinians will celebrate Christmas in Western cities than will do so
in the city of Jesus' birth. "To them we say that Bethlehem is their town and Palestine is
their country. We will continue working tirelessly to give them the freedom to decide
where to spend Christmas."
An Israeli government official took offense particularly with the suggestion that
Israel has caused Christians to leave the Holy Land. "The exodus of Christians from
Bethlehem turned into a flood the moment the PA took control," the official said.
But at least one Israeli official had some warm words for Abbas' holiday message: MK
Hanna Swaid (Hadash), an Arab Christian from the Galilee town of Eilaboun, backed up the
message, if not the facts, of Abbas' missive. "What President Mahmoud Abbas said describes
the real situation Palestinians, including Christians, are celebrating Christmas
and New Year's Eve under Israeli occupation. That's a fact," he said.
Abbas' Christmas message seemed to paper over the fact that Christians in the PA are
only a fraction of the Muslims living in the West Bank and Gaza. "Christians are not a
minority here: they are an integral part of the Palestinian people," Abbas wrote in his
Christmas message. "Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans,
Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free,
sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have."
According to the CIA World Factbook, Christians make up 8% of the population in the
West Bank, and 0.7% of Gaza. Swaid, 58, acknowledged that in reality Christians are a
minority among Palestinians, but noted that he appreciated Abbas' comments nonetheless.
"If the president of a country says so, he thinks and believes that to be the case," Swaid
said, adding that Abbas meant to emphasize that Christians are an "integral part" of
US Consultant Shezanne Cassim Sentenced to Year in UAE Jail for Posting Satirical
By NBC News
An American living in the United Arab Emirates was sentenced to a year in jail on Monday after a court ruled that a satirical video he posted on YouTube threatened national security, his family said. (See http://youtu.be/IUk5CB9kaB)
The family of 29-year-old Shezanne Cassim said they were "utterly horrified" and
"inconsolable" after he was given a one-year prison sentence and fined 10,000 U.A.E.
dirhams (about $2,700).
Cassim was detained in April under strict new cybercrime laws after posting the video
entitled "Satwa Combat School," a parody about affluent Dubai teenagers trying to adopt
Following the sentencing, his brother Shervon Cassim told NBC News: "We are utterly
horrified, and hurt, and outraged by this. "We do not see how he could have been found
guilty of any kind of crime by posting this video. Our mother is inconsolable. She is very
Cassim was convicted under federal cybercrimes law of endangering the U.A.E.'s national
security, family spokeswoman Jennifer Gore said. Both Gore and Cassim said they have had
"no explanation" from the Emirati government of why the video was a threat to national
security. They said there is no avenue for appeal but have vowed not to give up hope.
U.A.E. officials did not respond to NBC News' requests for comment on the case.
Gore said that on being arrested Cassim offered to immediately delete the video, only
to be laughed at by police who asked, mockingly: "How can you take down the video? YouTube
is a company in America." He was then asked to sign a statement in Arabic, which he does
not understand, Gore said. He was held for almost five months without being charged and
then transferred to a maximum-security prison in the middle of the desert, according to
Gore. She added that his sentencing has been postponed five times and he has never been
allowed to meet a lawyer.
The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi said Monday that consular personnel were at the court
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf discussed Cassim during a press briefing last
"We, both here at the Department of State and at the U.S. mission in the U.A.E., are
troubled by the prolonged incarceration of him," she told reporters.
No Bacon for You if Your Clerk is Jewish
Veteran British retailer Marks & Spencer confirmed that Jewish staff can refuse to
sell pork products to customers on religious grounds after earlier giving permission to
Muslim staff to decline selling pork or alcohol to shoppers. "We recognize that some of
our employees practice religions that restrict food or drink they can handle, or mean they
cannot work at certain times," a spokesman for the store was quoted as saying in a report
from the Jewish Chronicle on Sunday. In addition, Jewish staff could also opt out of
working on Saturdays, the spokesperson noted.
The ruling came the day after the Daily Telegraph reported that company policy allowed
Muslim staff to refuse to serve customers pork sausages, bacon rashers, seafood or alcohol
items and instead ask shoppers to join another checkout line.
However, the seasonal goodwill policy was unlikely to help calm the bitter response
from outraged customers who peppered the company's Facebook page with criticism over its
accommodation for Muslim employees at the expense of its customers. Many called for a
boycott of the chain in favor of competing retailers.
Marks & Spencer was founded in the late 19th century by Jewish immigrant Michael
Marks and Thomas Spencer. The company has over 700 stores across Britain, where it is a
household name, and hundreds more around the word.
Ayatollah Tops Jewish Slur List
The Simon Wiesenthal Center put Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the
head of its "Top Ten Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel List" for comments he made about the
Jewish state. The top 10 list cites Khamenei's reference to Israel as the "rabid dog of
the region," whose leaders "look like beasts and cannot be called human," as well as his
continued genocidal threats against the Jewish state, the center said in a statement on
Monday. The full list is to be published on December 30.
The center's listing referred to comments attributed to Khamenei as he spoke to a
November gathering of the Basij force, which is controlled by Iran's powerful
Revolutionary Guard. The Iranian leader referred to Israel "the Zionist regime"
as "the rabid dog of the region." Speaking to some 50,000 members of the
paramilitary volunteer militia, he also said Israel was ripe for collapse. "The (Israeli)
Zionist regime is a regime whose pillars are extremely shaky and is doomed to collapse,"
he said, according to French news agency AFP. "Any phenomenon that is created by force
Khamenei also said Europe felt pressed to make concessions to the Zionists "because of
their economic network." He said Israelis "should not be called humans," according to a
Channel 2 translation of his comments. The speech came as Western powers negotiated with
Iran in Geneva to try and hammer out an agreement on rolling back Iran's nuclear research
program to prevent it from producing nuclear weapons.
In November, the meetings resulted in an interim deal that included an agreement in
which Iran would pause progress on its nuclear program, including work on a plutonium
reactor at the Arak facility. The deal also called on Iran to neutralize its 20%-enriched
uranium stockpiles. Tehran has also agreed to intrusive inspections under the terms of the
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