Psychological warfare intensifies between Shin Bet and Jewish extremists
The arrest last week of alleged Jewish terrorist Chaim Pearlman marks a peak in the mind games played between Shin Bet and Jewish settlers.
Audio recordings released last week of meetings between right-wing Jewish extremist, Chaim Pearlman - who was arrested for allegedly killing two Palestinians and attacking others - and a Shin Bet agent marked the peak of the psychological battle between Pearlman's rightist allies and the intelligence agency.
Students of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg from the settlement of Yitzhar, along with Noam Federman and Itamar Ben-Gvir from Hebron and Kiryat Arba, respectively, have invested great efforts over the last few years to expose the Shin Bet's actions and impede investigations of Jewish terrorism allegations by harming its ability to recruit and preventing suspects from speaking during interrogation.
For example, Ginsburg's student's are involved in the publication of right-wing publication "Hakol Hayhudi," (SOS Israel), in which Yitzhar resident and Jewish extremist Ephraim Ben Shohat writes features on the Shin Bet's attempts to recruit informants.
The features describe the Shin Bet's various methods: Emotional and psychological pressure, offering perks such as mobile phones free of charge and even offering to help fulfill childhood dreams. The feature always ends with the recruit's heroic denial and insistence to be left alone.
The potential recruits also make concerted efforts to record Shin Bet agents in action. Sometimes they manage to tape conversations with agents on their mobile phones and then release the recordings. Other times they try to take photographs of the agents patrolling the area.
Once they managed to take a photograph of head of the Shin Bet's Jewish division patrolling Hebron. (The photograph, meanwhile, is banned from publication by law). As a result of several such instances, the Shin Bet now allows agents to delete photographs from phones or cameras if agents appear in them.
Yet most of the Jewish extremists' activities focus on training their men to withstand Shin Bet investigations: They analyze every incident of questioning by the Shin Bet, trying to understand their behavioral patterns.
In the case of alleged Jewish terrorist Jack Teitel, rightists claim that had he kept quiet, the police would have only have succeeded in linking him to two explosive devices and distributing flyers, but not to the murders he is alleged to have committed.
The Shin Bet's many methods
In the early 1990s, Noam Federman published a pamphlet called "Know Your Rights," which is something of a guidebook for those undergoing police or Shin Bet questioning. In it, Federman describes some of the methods used by the Shin Bet, including using fake notes, purportedly written by other prisoners, to lure suspects into writing incriminating notes that are ultimately passed to the Shin Bet. In one such case, a prisoner is taken to shower, finds a note in his shoe supposedly written by a colleague, and responds to it not realizing it was planted by the agency.
Another method Federman outlines is the use of fabricated news items. In one case, a "fake" newspaper published a story about how a suspect's friends confessed and agreed to testify against him. He got angry and talked to the Shin Bet. In another case, the agency enlisted the help of a famous radio broadcaster to fabricate a news story to which the suspect listened and assumed was real.
A third method listed entails multiple suspects being transferred under close watch to prison, when an "unexpected event," such as a flat tire, occurs causing the Shin Bet to leave the suspects alone, in the hopes they will talk and incriminate themselves. The agency is known to have invested much effort into the fake production.
The Shin Bet, however, has been forced to change its ways. The agency now prefers to gather as much evidence as possible prior to making an arrest, assuming that suspects will not cooperate. In Teitel's case, for example, they used multiple interrogation methods and also engaged in prolonged surveillance in order to gather evidence before questioning him.
In Pearlman's case, the Shin Bet enlisted an agent to try to get him to talk and incriminate himself, but Pearlman ended up turning the tables on the agent and exposing him instead.
Ironically, the exposure of the Shin Bet's methods has in reality created a deterrent power: Instilling the feeling that the Shin Bet and its sources are everywhere and all-knowing has prevented some rightists from committing violent acts.
A senior defense establishment official pointed out in the case of recent attacks, including an arson attack on a mosque, in the Palestinian village of Yasuf, that even if there is no indictment, "the people who committed the crime know we know they did it, and they are being cautious."
In fact, veteran rightists pointed out this week that, aside from Teitel, no significant terror activities have been carried out in recent years. And in the Pearlman transcripts, he also says that the Shin Bet is always everywhere.
One right-wing extremist summed up the situation by saying, "It seems that the settlements are split in to: Half are informants and half are targets."