By Michael Gillespie*
An ongoing investigation by the Dubai Police force into the assassination of a high-level Hamas official in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in January has drawn back the curtains of secrecy and deception to reveal yet again the contours of Israel's massive and ever-expanding espionage operations in the United States.
The murder of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in his room at the Al Bustan Rotana, a 275-room five-star luxury hotel, in Dubai on January 19 has been widely perceived to be a Mossad operation involving, by the most recent count, 27 suspects traveling on fraudulently obtained and falsified European or Australian passports. In late February and early March, the plot thickened suddenly and significantly when major US media outlet reports connected the crime and many of those involved in it to the USA and to corporations based in the USA and Israel and revealed that some of the suspected assassins, apparently members of a Mossad kidon team, had entered the USA after leaving Dubai.
ABC News reported on February 24 that Dubai police had identified 15 new suspects as part of a ring that killed Al Mabhouh.
"Fourteen of the suspects purportedly used credit cards from META Bank, a regional American bank, to pay for hotel rooms and travel arrangements. … Dubai police linked META Bank to a New York-based company called Payoneer, which provided prepaid MasterCard credit cards issued by META Bank. According to its Web site, Payoneer has a research and development center in Tel Aviv," reported ABC.
The TV network report noted that some of the additional suspects played a central role in the crime while others were accused of "'providing prior logistical support and preparations to facilitate,' making a series of trips to Dubai in advance" of the assassination.
The New York Times reported on March 1 that, "At least two suspects in the killing of a Hamas official in a hotel here in January traveled to the United States afterward, according to a person familiar with the investigation."
"One suspect traveling on a British passport arrived in the United States on Feb. 14; the other used an Irish passport and arrived on Jan. 21, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case. He did not say where the men entered the country, and added that there was no known record of their leaving," wrote Robert F. Worth in a story filed from Dubai.
Worth's report noted that if the suspected assassins who entered the U.S. presented foreign passports, they would have been photographed and finger printed upon arrival.
The Wall Street Journal's Chip Cummins filed a similar report from Dubai on the same day attributing the information to "people familiar with the situation" and "records shared between international investigators." In many previous news reports from Dubai information about the investigation had been attributed to Dubai's Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim.
Neither report explored the rather remarkable news that the suspect carrying a British passport in the name Roy Allan Cannon was confident enough to travel on the falsified document more than three weeks after the assassination and to present it upon arrival in the USA, where passport controls are generally assumed to be most stringent.
"At one time it was possible to produce false identity documents with little or no regard for what is referred to as backstopping as data bases at national points of entry were unsophisticated and were generally unlinked to any central sources of information. That has all changed in the past eight years. European and American passports in particular can all be verified from central data bases that include information that is also drawn from other public record sources," wrote former CIA officer Philip Giraldi in a February 25 column for Antiwar.com.
On March 3, Al Jazeera TV reported that Tamim, "said he would ask the Dubai prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the head of Mossad [Meir Degan]."
Tamim's investigation, which has been described by Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble as "thorough," has seriously inconvenienced and embarrassed the Israeli government and its espionage organization.
The Money Trail
The Independent Monitor contacted MetaBank's corporate headquarters in Storm Lake, IA to ask why an Iowa bank would provide credit cards to 14 suspected members of a death squad.
MetaBank's Lisa Binder, Vice President for Investor Relations and Corporate Communications responded via telephone and e-mail with a statement saying, in part, "The Meta cards in question were issued in conjunction with a Meta Payment Systems program, not at a retail bank location. Meta Payment Systems, which has issued more than 150 million prepaid cards, markets its payroll cards through various Program Managers─in this case, Payoneer─to offer reputable US companies network branded payroll cards with which American companies can pay expatriates, employees and contractors of their company who live in the US and in foreign countries. The cards in question were 'loaded' by the companies using direct deposit for payroll, disbursements, and other compensation."
The Independent Monitor attempted to contact Payoneer offices at 410 Park Avenue in New York City but found that the only phone answered at Payoneer headquarters was a customer support line for Payoneer's Birthright Israel customers.
Birthright Israel provides first time educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. The program sends "thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift in order to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants' personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people," according to the organization's website.
Funding for Birthright Israel is "provided by our partners: private philanthropists through The Birthright Israel Foundation; the people of Israel through the Government of Israel; and Jewish communities around the world (North American Jewish Federations, Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency for Israel). …
"Taglit-Birthright Israel requires that all participants pay their deposit through Payoneer. … If you lose your Payoneer card while in Israel, it can be immediately blocked and will be replaced with a new card within 24 hours. … You will not need to contact your bank back home or worry about making many calls. One call to our Customer Support center and you are all set," says the www.birthright.payoneer.com website.
Payoneer's Birthright customer support center declined to provide the Independent Monitor with contact information for Payoneer founder and CEO Yuval Tal or for Payoneer corporate communications/media relations personnel.
"Since the assassination, Tal has been shielded by a wall of public relations representatives and does not respond to media requests for comments. … Tal's public relations representatives in New York have refused to comment on his past and relations with Israel's intelligence agency Mossad," wrote Abbas Al Lawati, a staff reporter for Gulf News.com on March 3.
"Tal is referred to by his associates in Israel as 'an outspoken Israeli patriot' despite having lived in New York for over ten years. In a 2006 Fox News interview about Israel's summer war on Lebanon, Tal was presented as a 'special ops commando' on Fox and Friends, and stated that 'this is a war Israel cannot (afford to) lose,'" wrote Al Lawati.
Payoneer's website proclaims that the company is "a registered MasterCard Merchant Service Provider (MSP), and partner with MetaBank or Choice Bank Limited to deliver our services. Privately held, our funding partners include Greylock Partners, Carmel Ventures, and Crossbar Capital."
The Independent Monitor found that all three of Payoneer's funding partners are venture capital firms that have offices in or strong connections to Israel.
Charlie Federman, Managing Partner of Crossbar Capital, previously co-founded BRM Capital in 1999, headed its New York office, and served as a Managing Director of the Israel and New York based fund until 2007. BRM Group, headquartered in Herzliya was founded by Nir Barkat, mayor of occupied Jerusalem.
Carmel Ventures is also headquartered Herzliya. Greylock Partners, founded in 1965, "operates in a number of global centers of innovation, including Boston, China (Beijing), India (Bangalore), Israel (Herzliya) and Silicon Valley. … Current Greylock portfolio companies include Data Robotics, Digg, Facebook, Imperva, LinkedIn, Palo Alto Networks, Pandora, Picarro, Redfin, Workday and ZipCar," according to the firm's website. Greylock's investment activities in Israel were launched in 2002 by partner Moshe Mor, who "served six years in the Israeli Army as a Captain in the Military Intelligence branch."
Tal almost certainly possess information that could be of value to U.S. law enforcement and counter-intelligence investigators, but whether their political masters, many of whom have been effectively co-opted by Israel, will allow U.S. investigators to pursue any sort of meaningful investigation is an open question. Thus far there has been little to indicate that U.S. officials are seriously interested in investigating the funding of travel expenses and hotel accommodations of suspected Israeli assassins through U.S. corporations, despite the reported entry of at least two of the suspects into the U.S. on fraudulent, falsified passports.
When the Independent Monitor contacted the Department of State (DoS) for comment about the news reports, a DoS press officer declined to comment and referred questions to the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press offices. A DoJ press officer also declined to comment and referred questions to a DHS press officer who has not responded to an e-mail message sent on March 5.
The Sayanim Network
Any substantive U.S. investigation of the suspected Dubai killers' connections to the USA would likely focus on members of the Mossad's worldwide network of sayanim, diaspora Jews who provide a wide variety of services to the Israeli intelligence and special operations agency. In his books, By Way of Deception (1990) and The Other Side of Deception (1994), former Mossad field officer or katsa Victor Ostrovsky described the sayanim network.
"Sayanim─assistants─must be 100 percent Jewish," wrote Ostrovsky in 1990.
The Mossad's helpers, chosen because they are well placed, willing, and able to provide valuable assistance to Israeli agents, are businessmen, doctors, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, police officers, intelligence officers, politicians, government bureaucrats, university professors and administrators, media professionals, information technology specialists, any occupation, profession, or position in which a sayan might prove useful in support of Israeli espionage operations.
Though they do not live in Israel, their first loyalty is to Israel. They do whatever Mossad officials, field officers, or assassins ask of them in behalf of Israel against the enemies of Israel or those who are seen as opposed to Israeli policies.
"Often the loyalty of sayanim is abused by katsas who take advantage of the available help for their own personal use. There is no way for the sayan to check this," wrote Ostrovsky.
"The one problem with the [sayanim] system is that the Mossad does not seem to care how devastating it could be to the status of the Jewish people in the diaspora if it was known. The answer you get if you ask is: 'So what's the worst that could happen to those Jews? They'd all come to Israel? Great,'" wrote Ostrovsky.
"A sayan will rent a car or pass money to a kidon with no questions asked," said Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad (1999) in a report by Alun Palmer of the Mirror (UK) on February 18. Thomas, who has estimated that there are at least 20,000 sayanim in the US and Great Britain, writes that all Mossad assassinations are authorized by the office of the prime minister of Israel.
The illegal use of U.S. banks and credit card companies to fund the movements and other expenses of a Mossad death squad in the Middle East indicates an alarming expansion of Israeli espionage operations on US soil and reveals to an unprecedented extent the foreign intelligence agency's penetration of major U.S. financial institutions, developments that limn the breadth, depth, and success of the Mossad's desperate efforts to expand and consolidate Israel's malignant influence over the Washington foreign policy establishment and sway within a broad range of U.S. institutions, despite growing popular opposition to Israel's the brutal and patently illegal occupation of Palestine and the punishing siege of Gaza.
The Myth, Cult, and Culture of Redemptive Violence
The supposed clash of civilizations, the conflict between the putatively modern Western Judeo-Christian tradition and radical Islam, the Bush administration's Global War on Terrorism later rebranded by the Obama administration as Overseas Contingency Operations, and the suppurating wound that is Israel's long-running illegal occupation and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine are evidence of a retrograde social and political dynamic that now threatens the continued progress and future of human civilization. That dynamic is epitomized by the myth, cult, and culture of redemptive violence.
"The myth of redemptive violence defends the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace. It is one of the oldest stories in the world. It misappropriates the language, symbols and scriptures of Christianity. Its God is the tribal God worshipped as an idol. Its offer is not forgiveness but victory. Its good news is not unconditional love of enemies but their elimination. Its salvation is not a new heart but a successful foreign policy. It is blasphemous. It is idolatrous. And it is immensely popular," writes Dr. Walter Wink, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.
Wink might have added that while Christian scripture is tainted by the myth of redemptive violence, the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures, attached at the spine of the Holy Bible to the New Testament, are Christianity's primary source of the pernicious mythology of redemptive violence. Only about 10 percent of the New Testament is devoted to Jesus' teachings about the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, the kingdom of Heaven, the happiness of peacemakers, and forgiveness and mercy as moral and spiritual imperatives.
True religion opposes violence as a technique of social evolution, but many Christians have been and are today all too willing and ready to embrace Hebrew Old Testament teachings that glorify war and the wholesale slaughter of innocents and ascribe such acts to the commands of a wrathful God that is both vengeful and violent. The popularity of the myth of redemptive violence in the West and the attitudes and policies it engenders in political and economic spheres of activity severely undercuts the supposed moral superiority of Western modernity and culture in relation to other traditions and cultures.
U.S. leaders often attempt to justify their wars with self-serving declarations that they are fighting for peace.
"One day the Iraqi people will understand that we came in peace," averred Secretary of State Colin Powell in March 2003 as U.S. troops advanced on Baghdad after a devastating and enormously destructive "Shock and Awe" air assault on the city.
If the status of a civilization can be accurately gauged by the fairness of its courts and the integrity of its judges, resort by national leaders to extra-judicial killings conducted by intelligence agency death squads is emblematic of the West's glorification of war and ruinous reversion to militarism─autocratic, cruel, and savage. Rigidly ultranationalistic Israel, more an army and an espionage agency with a country than a country with an army and an espionage agency, clearly intends to be the West's model and instructor in this regard.
A feature article by Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman published in the Washington Post on March 4 quoted Jonna Mendez, who worked for the CIA for 27 years and became the agency's chief of disguise. Mendez "believes the Dubai perpetrators took the fallout into account, all of it: the TV footage, the blown aliases and the head shots. The agents, she said, clearly knew they were under surveillance─they had simply decided it was unavoidable and a price worth paying.
"'You can be sure they knew they were being surveilled. Likewise, they would assume that the documents they were using would be made available after the fact,' said Mendez. 'What does this mean? It means it didn't matter. The faces and the documents that were captured by the cameras will probably never be seen again.'
"The fact that the perpetrators had to take the identities of real people rather than simply invent false identities is a symptom of the new world facing modern-day spies, one of databases and traceable passport information, she said.
"The real agents likely don't resemble the faces in the photos, she said … And if they do, plastic surgery, dental implants and hair grafts can ensure they are unrecognizable afterward.
"'Steal the identity, disguise the participants, be ready on the other side with another set of identities and documents, and embrace and conceal the protagonists on their return,' she said.
"'With that goal in mind this may, in fact, be the operation of the future,'" wrote Friedman.
Thinking Americans have an increasingly clear choice.
They can join the cult of redemptive violence, kneel before a Zionist tribal God of vengeance, and watch their country and its culture revert to the law of nature as militarism runs amok and Israeli spies and assassins, protected by corrupt and co-opted political leaders, roam America at will.
Or they can embrace and actively support not the savagery of assassins but the rule of law. They can cultivate the wisdom, insight, and foresight that are indispensable to the endurance of nations. They can persevere in their efforts to elect honest, wise, and progressive leaders. And they can continue to strive to live up and into the noblest ideals of their religions.
* Michael Gillespie, in addition to his regular freelance work for Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, is also a contributing editor and the Des Moines, IA correspondent for The Independent Monitor, the national newspaper of Arab Americans, published by Sami Mashney in Anaheim, CA.