Opinion |

It Was Israel That Fell in the Candy-bar Trap

The Tortit trick against Barghouti was essentially a struggle over awareness. The Palestinians dismissed it and were disgusted by the low point the occupation had sunk to

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan providing a prison with Tortit candy bars.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan providing a prison with Tortit candy bars.Credit: Amos Biderman
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

In an address to the Anti-Defamation League last week just a day before he was dismissed, FBI Director James Comey said his organization makes its agents visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington. There they are meant to learn about the Holocaust and understand how normal people who thought they were doing the right thing can be dragged into committing the most evil atrocities.

Comey also said that one of the most significant moments in his life was when he examined the investigation file of Martin Luther King Jr., who was under FBI surveillance.

In 1964, before the wonders of the Tortit candy bar were known, a letter was sent by FBI agent William Sullivan, who pretended to be an enthusiastic supporter of the civil rights movement. In an unsigned letter, he warned King that if he did not commit suicide within 34 days, he would expose King’s infidelities. “You are done,” the letter read. “There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

A decade after this blackmail occurred, the incident was exposed, and 50 years later, in 2014, The New York Times published the “suicide letter” in full. They say Comey had on his desk a copy of the original instruction ordering King’s home and office wiretapped. Apparently this was what Comey meant when he referred to his agents learning about what humanity is capable of.

One could say that non-Jews aren’t the only ones who learn lessons and act to prevent their people from being dragged into evil acts. They do great work in Israel, too. And if they don’t have any embarrassing incidents with which to tar Palestinian leaders, thank heaven there’s Tortit. They hid a Tortit in the bathroom to tempt the leader of a prisoners’ hunger strike, and like every good PR agent they ran to post the video for the whole world to see, in the spirit of the first rule of PR – if you did something and didn’t tell everyone, it’s as if you did nothing.

In the United States, even 50 years ago, they were ashamed by the King incident. Legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was embarrassed to have his name linked to it. But in Israel everyone’s celebrating the Tortit miracle. Cheers to those who triumphed over the hungry. If in the near future they give an award for evil acts, lots of people will be vying for the crown, including publicists who keep telling the Jewish people about the ingenious Jewish mind. Once the Jewish mind gave us the theory of relativity; now it comes up with the Tortit sting. Indeed, every era has its own heroes and symbols.

Martin Luther King didn’t take the agent’s advice and continued his struggle. Nor did the miserable Tortit collapse the Palestinian wall of unity, despite the effort to embarrass the leader. Too bad that whoever planned this trap wasn’t familiar with the hadith of the Prophet Mohammed: “The believer is not bitten from the same hole twice.” After all, the Palestinians aren’t fools and won’t fall into every Israeli trap. What’s more, the weapon of humiliating their leaders has been tried for decades and has failed.

Palestinian citizens of Israel have also had this rusty weapon used against them. I remember when I was in high school in Nazareth, some poor collaborator said the leaders of the Communist Party were all agents of the Shin Bet security service. I responded, “If they’re collaborators like you, why are you exposing them, you traitor to Zionism.” He was dumbstruck.

The Tortit trick was essentially a struggle over awareness. The Palestinians dismissed it and were disgusted by the low point the occupation had sunk to. Unfortunately, what fell into the trap was Israeli public opinion, which registered new levels of apathy. Here was yet more proof of what German philosopher Georg Hegel said: “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”