The case of murdered Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai has become a global story. Perhaps the likely culprits (Israel?) are happy about this – after all, the Hamas man is dead – but I doubt it. The Jewish state is once again in the spotlight, its blatantly illegal actions throwing light on the country’s behaviour.
Australian journalist Paul McGeough, author of the book Kill Khalid, about the failed Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Khalid Mishal, provides some historical context for the Mossad essentially harvesting fake passports to carry out its activities:
Now what happened when I came across in researching the Khalid Mishal incident was that quite often what the Israelis do is they borrow the details of a passport, either as a traveller who is going through Immigration.
Or they you know on a Kibbutz or somewhere like that, several of these people are living on Kibbutz’s. They get a friendly operative within the Kibbutz to borrow the passport or simply to purloin it and (inaudible) the details and then they use it to their own end.
Now the Mossad runs what they call their passport factory, Victor Piotrowski, the Canadian-Israeli former Mossad agent wrote graphically about this in his book where he saw thousands of passports from all different countries around the world stockpiled in the passport factory where they could be called upon as need be.
The Israeli press has been having a field-day with this story. Yossi Melman in Haaretz essentially becomes a spokesman for the Mossad itself:
Unless dramatic evidence is found to definitively prove an Israeli connection, it is likely that the State of Israel will emerge from this affair unblemished and the Mossad will continue enjoying a reputation of fearless determination and nearly unstoppable capabilities.
This story in Haaretz is perhaps the strangest of all (from a journalist on the paper who looks very similar to one of the alleged suspects of the killing):
Between the tomatoes and eggplants in my local supermarket yesterday, just as I finished loudly blowing my nose and cursing my recent allergy attacks, an elderly woman approached me and tapped my shoulder. “Good for you,” she said. “You showed those Arabs.”
I nodded in agreement, quickly put away the tissue and straightened my back. After all, my new position as a high-ranking Mossad agent requires a certain dignified mien.
The first phone call came at 8 A.M., when my mother asked gently if I had recently been abroad. Then others called, congratulating me on the outstanding cover story I’d chosen as Haaretz education correspondent, and asking why I hadn’t brought them cigarettes from the Duty Free in Dubai.
Walking the streets, I noticed people were looking at differently – or at least that’s what I told myself.
My wife, of course, was less impressed by my appearance in newspapers the world over as “Kevin Daveron,” a supposed Irishman named by Dubai police as commander of the assassination squad sent to eliminate Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at his hotel in the emirate.
As usual, Gideon Levy provides the moral heart of the incident:
Only a few weeks have passed since the finest security pundits were wallowing in well-orchestrated magazine cover stories and articles of appreciation for the head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan. These pieces almost totally ignored his dark past in Gaza and Lebanon and adulated his adventurism. We have long forgotten that the Mossad is supposed to be an intelligence-gathering organization, not one that sows death, and that a lawful state does not operate hit squads. To the roars of approval by the pundits, Dagan has just been given another year on job, his eighth. Why? Partly because he’s a specialist at liquidation.
But we shouldn’t complain about Dagan. He has the right to propose reckless operations to his heart’s desire, of the kind that will earn him and his organization compliments and budgets. The responsibility for liquidations lies with the person who approves them, namely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who learned nothing from the Khaled Meshal fiasco in 1997 and has struck again (if indeed Israel did it) – yet another margin note for the debate about whether Bibi has changed, whether there’s a “new Netanyahu.”
We can believe that the Mossad actually carried out everything that has been ascribed to it, and we can even agree that Mabhouh deserved to die. It’s also possible to understand the desire to take revenge and punish him, as well as the need to combat weapons smuggling into Gaza. We can also continue ignoring, as is our wont, the motive for terrorism: the Israeli occupation. But after the liquidation of Mabhouh with a pillow, we are left in a country that not only dispatches assassins, but in which no questions are asked afterward.