Archive | November 8th, 2016

How Israel Is Gradually Privatising Its Occupation of Palestine

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Author’s Note: My investigation in US magazine The Nation (print and online) about Israel privatising its occupation of Palestinian land. It’s co-written with the great, London-based journalistMatt Kennard. This work continues my years-long research into disaster capitalism globally.

It’s 4:30 am with the moon still high in the sky, but Palestinians from across the West Bank are already disembarking from buses outside the Qalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem. They’re about to begin a day’s work on the other side of the separation wall, in Israel.

Qalandia is one of the busiest checkpoints through which Palestinians with the required work documents can travel from the occupied Palestinian territories to Israel. With unemployment around 26 percent in the West Bank (in zaza, it’s far worse—among the highest in the world, according to the United Nations), it’s always extremely busy at this early hour, because Palestinians need work, which is more readily available in Israel, especially in construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.

Roughly 63,000 Palestinians have Israeli work permits, though it’s estimated that 120,000 Palestinians work for Israelis; 27,000 of them are employed in illegal industrial zones in the West Bank that are operated and owned by Israeli companies, and 30,000 of them work illegally in Israel because they’re unable to obtain the necessary work permits. Permits to work in Israel are routinely revoked for spurious “security” reasons, and Palestinians are rarely given a reason for rejection. Since the so-called “knife intifada” last October, Israel revoked thousands of permits, citing fears of Palestinian terrorism, and the Israeli government is currently discussing a sizable reduction in the tax breaks granted to Palestinian laborers in Israel, which would make a significant dent in their already-meager wages.

In the early hours of the morning, Palestinian men (and only a handful of women) rush to beat the long lines and frequent Israeli closures at the checkpoint entrance. Such activity seems incongruous in the predawn hours, when the stark neon lights of the checkpoint are the only illumination for these harried workers. Many smoke cigarettes as they wait in line; one man wears a T-shirt with the words “Chicken Revolution” on the back.

The warehouse-like checkpoint looks like a cattle pen on the inside: Metal bars on either side and above form a narrow chute, enclosing and herding the workers—many of whom have traveled from villages more than an hour away—toward the point where their documents will be checked by Israeli officials. They then wait on the Israeli side for transport from their employers.

For years, these checkpoints were manned by personnel from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli Border Police. But starting in January 2006, gun-toting private security guards joined the soldiers and police. Today, there are 12 checkpoints in the West Bank and two on the Gaza border that use such guards. Israel is slowly privatizing its occupation.

Many of the Palestinians we speak to are unaware of the changes. As far as they’re concerned, any Israeli with a gun and a badge is licensed to humiliate them. Day laborer Imad (like most Palestinians we interviewed, he didn’t want to give his last name) is standing in line at Qalandia and smoking a cigarette. He has slicked-back hair and wears a gray T-shirt. “If they are supposed to help, they don’t,” he says of the private security guards. “They are no different from the army.”

Just after 6 am, armed figures who initially look like Israeli soldiers start turning up; they’re wearing uniforms darker than the traditional olive green of the IDF, with a badge that reads “Ezrachi.” The company Modi’in Ezrachi is the largest security contractor currently employed by the Israeli government, and its personnel were among the first private guards the government used to staff its checkpoints. They can also be seen checking public buses in Jerusalem, protecting Jewish compounds in mostly Arab East Jerusalem (with the guards accused of terrorizing Palestinians and enabling settler violence), and standing watch at the city’s Western Wall plaza. Modi’in Ezrachi has repeatedly breached Israeli labor laws by underpaying its workers, along with other violations, but this has had no effect on its ability to get government contracts. This is a trend we’ve witnessed in many other nations, including Australia, Britain, the United States, and Greece, where governments and private security firms collude to avoid responsibility. (Modi’in Ezrachi did not respond to multiple requests for comment on its activities.)

When it comes to private security, the IDF, and the police, “we can’t differentiate between them,” says Reham, a 22-year-old medical and psychology student at An-Najah University in Nablus. Reham, who hails from Jerusalem, has six more years of study before she’s qualified to become a doctor. We speak to her and her friends just outside the chaotic Qalandia terminal.

“It’s miserable,” Reham continues. “Sometimes there are many people there, and you have to wait a long time. Sometimes you have to wait for an hour.” She was unaware that the checkpoints were being gradually privatized. “I haven’t noticed it. People take it [security] as a job.”

There’s a long history of humiliation inflicted on Palestinians at checkpoints. The Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem has released countless reports over the years documenting the abuse. The Israeli women’s organization Machsom Watch has been monitoring the checkpoints since 2001 and advocating on behalf of Palestinians whose work-permit applications are unfairly rejected.

Reham explains her own experience. “It depends on the individual soldier or policeman,” she says. “Sometimes they let you go; they don’t talk to you. Generally, girls are more mean than boys—I don’t know why that is.”

The Israeli NGO Who Profits, which tracks the private-­sector companies cashing in on the illegal occupation of the West Bank, released a reportearlier this year that lifted the lid on this trend. “In recent decades,” the report stated, “many military responsibilities were handed over to private civilian companies, turning the private security industry into one of the fastest growing industries in Israel.”

PRIVATE MUSCLE IN THE LAWLESS ZONE

As the sun rises on another hot August day, its rays hit the separation wall near the Qalandia checkpoint; on it, one can see ads for apartments in Palestine. Coffee sellers do a roaring business among those waiting in line. A wall near the checkpoint features a large painting of men—“martyrs” to locals—from Qalandia village who have been killed by Israeli security forces.

On one level, it’s a mystery why Israel feels it needs more muscle at these checkpoints. Palestinians passing through already face a maze of confusion, and another level of security bureaucracy hasn’t helped. But even if more muscle is needed, why not just send more soldiers? After all, Israel has a captive security labor force in its large conscript army, which requires three years’ service for men and two for women (and reserve duty is obligatory for men until age 51 and for women until age 24).

Iyad Haddad, a 53-year-old field researcher with B’Tselem for the past 15 years, has spent his whole career investigating Israeli human-rights abuses against Palestinians. “Before, the Israeli forces were clear, with a clear uniform,” he tells us in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. “Sometimes, before the second intifada [which began in fall of 2000], they used undercover units by using civilian dress. But in that period, I don’t remember that they used private groups. But after the second intifada, I started to notice that there is a different type of tactic: using private Israeli forces and companies at checkpoints, guarding the barrier, doing security on the barrier and in the jails. Also guarding the settlements.”

This move was part of a global trend, from Iraq to Colombia, in which private security and military companies increasingly began to assume state functions. Most companies started with more mundane operations but ended up carrying out those involving violence. In their 2016 report “The Invisible Force,” which compared private security in Colombia, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, the International Institute for Nonviolent Action found: “Outsourcing began with the delegation of non-military services such as catering, transportation and other logistic services, then continued with the construction of military systems, including the separation Wall, and finally included the delegation of some of its functions of maintenance of public order and security in the [occupied Palestinian territories].”

It has become more confusing for Haddad to figure out who has committed violations, as many Palestinians aren’t aware that they’re dealing with private security forces. “Sometimes, Palestinians describe to me forces that I can’t recognize,” he says. He believes this is one of the main reasons Israel has turned to these companies. “They use them to escape accountability, especially because the people can’t recognize them, and it becomes easier for them to use force when they want [to do so] without accountability. Instructions regarding Israeli or international law are easier to escape via private forces.”

Haddad’s hunch seems to be correct. At the Qalandia checkpoint this past April, two Palestinians—Maram Saleh Abu Ismail, 23, and her brother Ibrahim Saleh Taha, 16—were shot dead by Modi’in Ezrachi guards. It was one of the first high-profile killings carried out by private security guards at a West Bank checkpoint. The siblings, who witnesses said didn’t seem to understand instructions in Hebrew, were branded “terrorists” by the Israeli police because one of them, Ismail, allegedly threw a knife at officers. Not long afterward, the justice ministry announced that it was dropping an investigation into the killings without charging anyone. The Israeli defense minister’s office, the IDF, and Modi’in Ezrachi all ignored our questions about the incident.

In theory, these private security guards could be prosecuted in Israeli courts since they’re not protected under Israeli law in the same way as police and soldiers. However, an Israeli court placed a gag order on the case (partially lifted in October), making it impossible to see footage of the shootings and prove the security guards were at fault. The family of the victims were given no recourse to justice. In this way, privatized occupation enforcement serves the interests of the Israeli state.

In its 2014 report “The Lawless Zone,” the Israeli nonprofit Yesh Din wrote that private security forces “are equipped with IDF weapons, undergo military training, and are empowered to undertake policing actions, such as searches and detentions, and to use force.”

At the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, which is surrounded by Israel’s separation wall, we witnessed Ezrachi guards checking the documents of bus and car passengers, taking on many of the roles that used to be done solely by state security forces or police. When we approached the guards, they scowled at us and told us to leave. Black smoke from burning rubbish, collecting near the separation wall, wafted through the air.

When we contacted the Israeli Ministry of Defense for comment about its matrix of control across the West Bank, we were told that “some of the crossings receive assistance from companies specializing in security and protection.” The ministry advised us to speak to the IDF for further details, because “the crossing points around Jerusalem” are its responsibility. But the IDF told us, “The Ministry of Defense is the appropriate body to speak with on this subject.” It was a Kafkaesque dead end that gave us a small window into the impossibility facing Palestinians who seek justice for loved ones killed or injured by private security contractors.

THE ETHOS OF PRIVATIZATION

From its founding in 1948 until the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel was supported by much of the global left, which saw it as a socialist nation committed to social justice and equality. True, this was always a convenient myth that ignored the endemic and state-sponsored discrimination against the Arab minority (in fact, Israel’s Palestinian citizens lived under direct military rule from the end of the 1948 war until 1966). Until the mid-1970s, Israel had one of the smallest wealth gaps in the West (for Jews), with the welfare state providing decent support for its Jewish population. But by the mid-1990s, the gap between rich and poor had skyrocketed. Israeli academic Daniel Gutwein, who teaches at the University of Haifa, writesthat “Israel’s ethos of social solidarity has been replaced by an ethos of privatization.”

Of course, after Israel seized control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the state never considered granting universal welfare coverage to Palestinians in the newly conquered territories. Palestinians under occupation were subject to military rule, a policy that continues to this day.

From the late 1970s, right-wing governments in Israel, led by the Likud Party, argued that dismantling the welfare state was the best way to liberalize the economy. Simha Erlich, Israel’s finance minister from 1977 until 1979, boasted that hardline economist and privatization zealot Milton Friedman was his economic adviser.

Shir Hever, author of The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation (2010) and a graduate student at the Free University of Berlin who specializes in security privatization, says: “In 1985, as the World Bank and the IMF imposed ‘structural adjustment plans’ on developing countries struggling with debt, the Israeli government voluntarily adopted such a plan. The Israeli ‘Stabilization Plan’ of 1985 was a transformative moment in the country’s economy, marking the shift from a social-­democratic, planned market into a neoliberal one.”

Hever continues: “Actual privatization of large government-­owned companies started in the 1990s, and privatization in the defense sector followed later, first with the sale of factories out of government-owned arms companies, and later with massive outsourcing of security operations to private companies during the second intifada.” Israel was following the model set by Ronald Reagan’s America and Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Indeed, the US military industry encouraged the Israelis to privatize their weapons industry.

Hever argues that privatization in Israel was driven by the same factors leading the charge internationally: “Private-­sector investors used neoliberal ideology to claim that the government was inefficient in running businesses and were able to buy Israel’s telecommunications giant, its largest airline, its giant shipping company, oil refineries, and all but one of its banks at fire-sale prices.”

Health, labor, and education were targeted, and it wasn’t long before Israel’s middle class began to suffer from the brutal discipline of market forces. A calamitous drop in union representation and reduced regulations corresponded with falling living conditions. By the 2000s, membership in the Histadrut labor organization had dropped by two-thirds, from a figure of 2 million in the early 1990s. (Over the past decade, however, Israel has a seen a steady increase in union membership, as the country’s population struggles to survive financially.)

Today, the results of outsourcing are clear. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is committed to selling off billions of dollars in state assets, a policy he’s proudly championed for years and one he started during his first term in office in the late 1990s. But the Israeli public is paying a high price. Israel now has the highest poverty level among the nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. According to UNICEF, in 2016 Israel showed the highest level of inequality among children in the world’s 41 most developed states, with one-third living below the poverty line. In 2015, Israel’s National Insurance Institute estimated that there were 1.7 million poor people in the country, out of a population of about 8 million. The pay gap has also widened, and increases in the cost of living and high rents led to massive protests in 2011.

But not everybody is suffering. The country’s military establishment is both privatizing the weapons sector and selling this technology abroad. Israeli writer and activist Jeff Halper argues in his book War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and the Global Pacification (2015) that the occupation isn’t a burden for Israel but a “resource,” because it gives the Jewish state the opportunity to test weapons and surveillance in the field on Palestinians, along with assisting other states in their military and intelligence needs. Growing numbers of European and US officials have been visiting Israel in recent years to learn about its security and defense systems.

Take the Israeli company Magal Security Systems, which surrounded Gaza with fencing, assisted construction of the barrier along the Egyptian and Jordanian frontiers in recent years, and is bidding to build a wall on the Kenya-Somalia border to protect Kenyans from Al-Shabaab terrorist attacks. The company’s head, Saar Koursh, recently told Bloomberg that “the border business was down, but then came ISIS and the Syrian conflict. The world is changing, and borders are coming back big-time.”

This is just one way that Israel’s vast expertise in occupation, from militarizing borders to surveilling unwanted populations, has become a huge financial boon for one sector of the Israeli economy. It isn’t helping most of the population—poverty is rife, after all—and according to economist Hever, it’s not enough to insulate Israel from potential economic headwinds from the growing BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement. “BDS is not about the size of exports but awareness of international law,” he says. “Recently, BDS activists have made some advances in regards to the arms industry itself, starting a debate in the EU about the funneling of research funds into Israel’s arms industry and convincing key Brazilian politicians to reconsider arm deals with Israeli weapons companies.” Indeed, Hever questions the viability of Israel’s defense industry. “The arms sector in Israel is larger compared to the size of the economy than in any other country in the world,” he tells us, “but its relative share of the Israeli export market is declining.” In 2015, Israeli military exports were relatively flat, at $5.7 billion.

OCCUPATION INC.

Private companies have been invest­­ing for years in the settlement project. But that involvement, as well as the amounts of money being made, have increased dramatically in the past decade. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report, “Occupation Inc.,” that detailed how “Israeli and international businesses have helped to build, finance, service, and market settlement communities.” It added, “In many cases, businesses are ‘settlers’ themselves.”

For Israelis, the West Bank has become a kind of special economic zone, where settlements often provide more profitable business conditions—low rents, favorable tax rates, government subsidies, and access to cheap Palestinian labor—than in Israel proper. It’s a draw for Israeli companies, but also for the international market, and a lot of money is being made. Foreign direct investment in the West Bank and Gaza spiked from $9.5 million in 2002 to $300 million in 2009, before plateauing back to $120 million in 2015. The American computing behemoth Hewlett-Packard, for example, developed the biometric ID cards used by Israeli security forces at West Bank checkpoints.

HRW reports that there are 20 Israeli-administered industrial zones in the West Bank, covering about 1,365 hectares, with Israeli settlers overseeing the cultivation of 9,300 hectares of agricultural land. The researchers conclude that “by virtue of doing business in or with settlements or settlement businesses, [foreign] companies contribute to…violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.” This knowledge is beginning to have an effect.

This is one of the contradictions of privatization. While Israeli state transgressions of international law are generally ignored by its biggest benefactor, the United States (President Obama just gave Israel its largest-ever military-aid package), the BDS movement has claimed some key victories in terms of pressuring the private sector over affiliations with human-rights abuses in Palestine. For example, the French infrastructure firm Veolia announced in April 2015 that it was leaving Israel, while the British mobile-phone company Orange said just a few months later that it would terminate contracts with its Israeli partner.

This poses the question of whether the privatization of the occupation is making Israel more susceptible to international opprobrium, including boycotts. The security company G4S, the biggest private-sector security employer in the world, announced in 2014 that it was leaving Israel within three years and terminating its contracts with the Israeli prison system. (BDS claimed a victory, but when contacted by The Nation, G4S said that while it still planned for a full pullout by June 2017, “the decision to not renew the contracts was taken for commercial reasons.”) That system now holds 6,295 Palestinians as prisoners and security detainees (including, at the end of 2015, 116 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 15). In 2009, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that plans for fully private prisons were unconstitutional. But many of the systems and products used in prison—from cameras to doors to alarm systems—are made or managed by private corporations.

With the Middle East aflame, and Israel selling itself as an island of stability amid a region in conflict, there are few compelling reasons why the Jewish state won’t continue to market itself as a model in how to manage unwanted populations, with private companies the beneficiaries of this policy. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the colonization is increasing. Without massive inter­national pressure, it’s impossible to see how the outsourced occupation won’t become a permanent nightmare.

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Creating a legal precedent: Palestine considers suing Israel in international sports court

NOVANEWS
Israeli-Palestinian football war

By James M. Dorsey

The Palestine Football Association (PFA), in a first testing of Palestine’s ability to fight its battle with Israel in international courts, plans to go to the world’s top court for sports in a bid to force its Israeli counterpart to view Israeli settlements on the West Bank as occupied territory rather than an extension of the Jewish state.

The potential Palestinian move follows the Palestinian Authority’s campaign to isolate Israel in international organisations and challenge Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mixed results

Using football as a testing ground, Palestine’s efforts to confront Israel in international organisations has produced mixed results. While Palestine succeeded in joining various international organisations, the PFA last year failed to muster sufficient votes to persuade the world football body, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), to suspend Israel. The PFA argued that the policies of the Israeli government and the Israel Football Association (IFA) violated FIFA rules as well as international law governing the status of occupied territory.

The PFA has since been unable to push FIFA towards any punitive steps against Israel. Instead, FIFA opted to monitor developments and attempt with little success to negotiate a way out of the impasse. Palestine is expected to take legal recourse if FIFA fails to take more decisive action at its next council meeting in January.

The PFA’s focus since failing to get Israel suspended has been on banning six clubs that are based in Israeli settlements on the West Bank from playing in Israeli lower divisions. FIFA rules stipulate that clubs based in a recognised federation’s territory cannot play in leagues of another football association without the permission of the home federation. The PFA rejects the notion of granting permission because it believes that it would legitimise Israeli settlements and the occupation.

Israel sees the Palestinian demands and threat as strengthening the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS)…

PFA President Jibril Rajoub suggested that the PFA would take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after a seven-hour meeting earlier this month of a FIFA committee headed by Tokyo Sexwale failed to resolve the issue.

Mr Sexwale is scheduled to visit Israel later this month for a meeting with the Israeli sports minister, Miri Regev. The FIFA Council is scheduled to discuss the issue at its next meeting in January. The PFA is likely to prepare its case for the CAS, but wait with filing it until after the January meeting.

Israel sees the Palestinian demands and threat as strengthening the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) that sees penalisation as a means of forcing the Jewish state to alter its policies and ultimately withdraw from territory occupied during the 1967 Middle East war.

Condemnation of the Israeli occupation and settlements by the United Nations Security Council constitutes the legal basis for the PFA’s approach as well as potential challenges in international courts.

Gulf support for Israel

The Palestinian position has been weakened by changing Gulf attitudes towards Israel and Saudi and United Arab Emirates pressure on Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Gulf states, despite paying lip service to the Palestinian cause, have become more public about their informal relations with Israel based on common opposition to expanding Iranian influence in the region.

Writing in the kingdom’s controlled press, a prominent Saudi journalist went as far as calling for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. The UAE last year agreed to the opening of an Israeli diplomatic mission accredited to the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency rather than the UAE government. Bahrain, as part of an agreement to host next year’s FIFA congress, has consented to issue visas to representatives of the IFA. Israeli nationals are barred from travelling to Gulf countries.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been putting pressure on Mr Abbas to resolve his differences with Mohammed Dahlan, the controversial former Abu Dhabi-based Gaza strongman who is an arch-enemy of the Palestinian president. Mr Dahlan is widely seen as a successor to 81-year old Mr Abbas who would be acceptable to Israel.

Israel may be able to count on some degree of tacit Gulf support within FIFA but is likely nonetheless to ultimately have to be seen to be accepting some kind of compromise that throws a bone to the Palestinians.

Wider implications

The Palestinians’ focus on the Israeli West Bank teams has, however, raised the bar for Israel. An agreement between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter struck last year addresses many of the PFA’s grievances but not the issue of six the West Bank teams. Their status goes to the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the legal status of territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

Under the agreement, Mr Netanyahu proposed to give Palestinian players special identity cards and place sports liaison officials at crossings between Palestinian areas and those under Israeli control in a bid to eliminate obstacles to free movement that complicated the development of Palestinian football. Mr Netanyahu further suggested to create an escort service that would facilitate players’ travel between the West Bank and Gaza that are separated by Israeli territory.

Israel initially appeared to live up to its promises by granting, for the first time in 15 years, a West Bank team, Hebron’s Al Ahli, passage to Gaza to play a Palestine Cup final against the strip’s Al-Shejaia. Hopes that this signalled a new beginning were, however, dashed when the PFA cancelled the return match in Hebron after Israel agreed to grant passage to only 33 of the 37 players who were scheduled to travel. Implementation of the agreement has since evaporated.

The PFA, by putting the West Bank teams at the top of their agenda, has made it tougher for FIFA and Israel to work out a compromise that would not have implications for the future of Israeli-Palestinian peace making. Israeli is likely to want to avoid subjecting its policies to the scrutiny of an international court. Yet, that may be exactly what would best serve the Palestine Authority’s overall strategy.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Creating a legal precedent: Palestine considers suing Israel in international sports court

Did Canadian taxpayers foot Islamic State’s recruitment bill?

NOVANEWS
Kadiza Sultana

The horrifying case of Kadiza Sultana: are Western intelligence services spying on or aiding jihadist terrorists?
Tony Gosling writes:

Two days of national press coverage were given in August 2016 to the death of London schoolgirl Kadiza Sultana (pictured above), 16, who had travelled to Syria with two friends, reportedly to fight for the Islamic State (IS) group. Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, told BBC Radio 4’s flagship “Today” programme on 12 August that Sultana’s case must prompt a full review of the British government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, called Prevent”.

The allegation in all of the London media coverage of Kadiza and her two friends, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, 15, was that the schoolgirls chose to travel to Syria of their own free will after becoming radicalised online. Not a single London journalist, though, asked the burning question: Who got her to Syria?

There is no excuse in the internet age for not putting two and two together here because there are several reports from March 2015 quoting a Turkish police report on Syrian national Muhammad al-Rasheed, who says he met the girls after their flight from London Gatwick airport to Istanbul and took them to the Syrian border. He was subsequently arrested by Turkish police and gave them a full statement about who he had been smuggling and, more importantly, who he had been working for.

Two police officers escort Muhammad al-Rasheed following his arrest in Şanlıurfa in March

Two Turkish police officers escort Muhammad al-Rasheed following his arrest in Şanlıurfa in March 2016

He approached the Canadian government, he says, in 2013 who recruited him and provided him with a laptop, mobile phone and money. He promised to email details of all those he smuggled, to his Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) contact, “Matt”. Al-Rasheed told his Turkish interrogators that the CSIS promised to give him citizenship if he would gather information about IS and share it with them.

Al-Rasheed explained he met Kadiza, Shamima and Amira, in Istanbul’s Esenler coach station, bought their tickets, after and arranging meetings on WhatsApp, delivered them to one “Abu-Kaka” in Gaziantep, 40 miles from the Syrian border. According to Al-Rasheed, British national Abu-Kaka’s real name was Ilhami Bali and he took the girls the final 40 miles or so into Syria to join IS.

Ilhami Bali, the jihadist terrorists' go-between

Ilhami Bali, the jihadist terrorists’ go-between

Turkish police found a vast amount of evidence on Al-Rasheed’s laptop, including baggage tags, passport information and images, including several photos of the three London schoolgirls. His interrogators estimated that over the two years he had been working for the CSIS he had smuggled around 150 Britons, South Africans, Indonesians, Australians and Nigerians through Turkey down to Syria.

Austrian teenager Samra Kesinovic, 17, was used by IS as a recruitment “poster girl”, pictured with assault rifle surrounded by soldiers, but became revolted by their killings. She was reported “beaten to death” after being caught trying to flee the group in 2015. Apart from the occasional ceasefires and humanitarian corridors, those who want to leave IS are caught between a rock and a hard place; being ordered around by the proponents of a cause they have lost faith in or taking their chances and making a dash for what may be a hostile reception in no man’s land.

Kadiza was trapped. Anyone joining IS in Syria not only faces danger of death on or near to the front lines and air strikes from above, but also from within IS itself which, once you are in, functions like a chilling medieval or Nazi SS cult. Recruits like the London schoolgirls have to swear an oath  known as bay’ah to Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi which can only be broken by death. It can be a terrifying experience for an adult, let alone a 15-year-old as they give their life to AL-Baghdadi, the IS leader Barack Obama released from the US Camp Bukka in Iraq in 2009.

The crucial question in this horrifying tale is where does the legitimate spying and intelligence gathering end, and the complicity with those supposedly being spied on begin.

With Al-Rasheed’s confession nobody can see these girls as anything other than abused by their government and their media. Those that entrap, facilitate, assist and observe British Muslims joining IS should not expect their work will to stay forever secret under the veil of “national security”.

Pieces in the secret service puzzle, such as how the girls were persuaded to get on the flight to Istanbul and how Canadian intelligence knew where and when they would be arriving remain unanswered. And this systematic failure of London’s media to report the key facts in this story begs the question: why have we not been told the full story?

The crucial question in this horrifying tale is where does the legitimate spying and intelligence gathering end, and the complicity with those supposedly being spied on begin. It is quite clear from the Turkish police reports that Kadiza and her teenage friends would not have been able to get to Syria without the human and financial assistance of Canadian intelligence. With the number of people smuggled by Al-Rasheed topping 150, he was not simply helping NATO intelligence services fight IS, he was supplying the lifeblood of IS, its personnel, for two years.

It is not just the UK government’s “Prevent” strategy that needs a review. London’s thousands of journalists need to be taught how to do an internet search, and follow the international news. Perhaps the “Prevent” anti-radicalisation strategy should be aimed at unaccountable, publicly-funded intelligence officers in the NATO countries who hide behind the veil of national security, rather than domestic British Muslims.

Posted in Middle East, CanadaComments Off on Did Canadian taxpayers foot Islamic State’s recruitment bill?

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