Will the news that Yitzhak Rabin OBM's own secret service was behind the most inflammatory activity associated with the Nationalist camp stop the international campaign to defame the Right? Only time will tell. So far we know that the head of the extreme Right Wing organization, Ayal, Avishai Raviv, was an agent of the GSS ("Shabak"). Last week Rabbi Bennie Alon first made the charge public. By Sunday all the papers confirmed the story. The 19 November issue of "Haaretz" reports that "Security sources said last night that Raviv was drafted by the GSS to serve as an agent two years ago." His code name was "Champagne".
Israel Television reporter, Nitsan Chen, revealed in an interview on Israel Radio's program "Hakol Diburim" on 19 November that Avishai Raviv distributed the infamous handbill/poster of Rabin in Gestapo uniform during the rally in Zion Square. Raviv gave a copy of the handbill to reporter Chen and returned later to make sure that the poster had been broadcast on television. Chen noted that demonstrators near Raviv begged him not to hand out the handbill or to give it to the reporter.
The poster/handbill has been the focus of attacks against Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu because he participated in the rally where the GSS operative handed them out. These handbills eventually transformed in some reports into "effigies of Rabin in SS uniform". The immediate response of the government to this bombshell came from Minister Amnon Rubenstein, who suggested that no one say anything until the investigation of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin OBM be completed.
It should be noted that the GSS operative Raviv's Ayal organization also took "credit" for the Halhoul murder. The Rabin government used the murder, which later turned out to having been committed by Arabs, to attack the Right for almost a week. In that case, the government led anti-Right propaganda continued even after the GSS had solved the murder. In fact, it continued up until the moment that the news services were authorized to reveal who the murderer really was.
For the last two years the GSS agent's "Ayal" organization was a media favorite, providing a continuous supply of activities which defamed the nationalist camp.
Likud MK Michael Eitan told Israel Radio's "Hakol Diburim" on 19 November, that he was witness to one such action by GSS operative Raviv. He was attending an event which featured a speech by Arab MK Hashem Machameed. Raviv stood up and began disturbing the speech with catcalls. MK Eitan came over to Raviv and told him to sit down and be quiet and that his actions were hurting the nationalist camp. Raviv smiled at Eitan and then continued his disturbance.
How deep is the government's involvement in such activities? It is still too early to know. Consider the following possibilities:
* An Israeli not known by any other activists participated in the first few meetings of Raanana activists planning demonstrations in the area. He urged the group to take more radical action. The phone number which he left the group turned out to be disconnected and he was never seen again after the third meeting.
* The first protester arrested in Raanana Junction when it was blocked as part of the nationwide "Zo Artzeinu" sit-down was a young man who claimed that he had finished serving in a crack Golani unit only the month before. With his long blond hair, this ex-kibbutznik looked like a picture postcard image of a typical member of the Leftist Meretz Youth. He resisted arrest and the police responded by hitting him back. Other demonstrators tried to intervene and they were also arrested. When I interviewed him afterwards, he refused to identify himself. He explained that he had never participated in a demonstration before in his life. He was on a bus from Haifa going South and saw the demonstration in progress and decided to join in. At the time it sounded like an indication of a change in the public atmosphere. After the Raviv story who knows?
* Three men approached one of the first demonstrations of Bar Ilan students on the pedestrian bridge which crosses Highway 4. The unknown men urged the demonstrators to come down and block the highway. After a few minutes they gave up, walked away, took off their kipot and../...stepped into a police van.
Did Yitzhak Rabin OBM know that the GSS was behind the campaign to defame his opponents? Who gave the orders? The government wants to freeze the story for three to four months but it is simply so hot that even the government controlled media can't hold themselves back.
It will be interesting to see if the leadership of the American Jewish community and other friends of Israel who have attacked Netanyahu and the Nationalist camp since the assassination will be sophisticated enough to realize that they have been manipulated by the GSS and honest enough to do something about it.
The first test of American Jewish leadership will be at the rally planned in New York in memory of Rabin OBM and in support of the "peace process". Jews who want to mourn the death but not support the government have been told to stay home. One can only hope that the leadership rejects GSS manipulation and opens its arms to the entire Jewish community.
For as MK Ariel Sharon said today, it is perfectly legitimate for the GSS to plant agents in radical groups to keep tabs on their activities. But it is not acceptable for a government to use its intelligence operations to carry out dirty tricks against its opponents.
Dr. Aaron Lerner is the Associate Director of Independent Media Review & Analysis.