As readers of Live from Occupied Palestine will be aware, Shurat HaDin has recently sort to target pro-Palestine supporters in Australia, most notably Professors Jake Lynch and Stuart Rees, who are outspoken supporters of the Palestinian BDS campaign. Shurat HaDin recently lodged a complaint against Lynch and Rees with the Human Rights Commission, citing the anti-Discrimination ACT. They have since ceased the complaint but according to The Australian newspaper, they are considering taking legal action via the courts.
For more information on Shurat HaDin and their lawfare attacks on BDS, Jake Lynch and Stuart Rees, please see my earlier blogs here and here
Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center (ILC) made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission last month against Jake Lynch, the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, over Lynch's support for BDS.
The ILC, set up in 2003, claims to be 'a fully independent non-profit organization, unaffiliated with any political party or governmental body.'
However, the organisation's director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, has privately admitted to taking direction from the Israeli government over which cases to pursue and relying on Israeli intelligence contacts for witnesses and evidence.
Darshan-Leitner made the comments in 2007 to diplomats from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, who reported the conversation in a cable leaked by Wikileaks four years later. It states:
The Bank of China Affair
Further details of the ILC's links with Israeli intelligence have emerged amid fallout from a case brought by the firm against the Bank of China. According to accounts in the Israeli press, officials from the National Security Council approached Darshan-Leitner, after identifying the bank as a conduit for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Darshan-Leitner found a suitable plaintiff to bring the case in the family of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old American citizen killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 2006. Yediot Ahronot reported,
The Wultz family has accused the Israeli Government of sabotaging the case, by failing to provide the documents it promised at the outset. The standoff is particularly embarrassing, because Daniel Wultz's mother, Sheryl Cantor Wultz, is a cousin of Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader in the US Congress.
Among the key documents at the centre of the case is an affidavit by Uzi Shaya, who may be the same person as 'Uzi Beshaya', the Israeli security official named in the 2007 cable as a contact of both Shurat Hadin and the US Embassy.
Another US cable describes Shaya as an officer of Israel's Shin Bet service, working in the Counter Terror Finance Bureau of the Israeli National Security Council alongside Udi Levi, Darshan-Leitner's other intelligence contact.
Meir Dagan's Lawfare programme
The National Security Council appears to be the central node in the Israeli Government's attempts to use deniable civil actions against alleged terrorist financing. According to veteran Haaretz intelligence correspondent Yossi Melman, this strategy was initiated by Meir Dagan when he headed the NSC in the late 1990s, before becoming chief of the Mossad.
In a 2007 article, Melman went on to suggest that Israeli intelligence was connected to a lawsuit brought against the Arab Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East.
The law firm which brought the Arab Bank case, Mann Mairone, moved into terrorism litigation around 2001, having previously specialised in taxation and commercial law. In the process, it acquired a roster of researchers and advisors drawn largely from Shin Bet and Israeli military intelligence.
Wikileaks cables show that the Arab Bank was a frequent subject of discussions between Israeli NSC officials and US diplomats during the case.
At one such meeting with US Treasury officials in 2005, ILC contacts Udi Levi and Uzi Shaya were prominent in defending the litigation, although vague as to the justification for it:
In 2007 Interpal had its account closed by Natwest, as the bank sought to avoid potential liability in a civil case. Darshan-Leitner claimed in her 2007 comments that the ILC had been involved in the action, and that Natwest itself now consulted with Israeli intelligence on Islamic charity clients.
Interpal was also targeted in 2007 by a British think tank, the Centre for Social Cohesion, as chronicled in Spinwatch's pamphlet, The Cold War on British Muslims. In their attack, the CSC cited 'allegations made by Israel and the USA', as well as a 2006 BBC Panorama documentary, which had also relied extensively on evidence provided by current and former Israeli security officials.
In 2009, an inquiry by the UK Charity Commission found that there was insufficient evidence to take action over claims that Interpal beneficiaries were supporting terrorism, because it could not verify 'the provenance or accuracy' of material provided by the Israeli government.
Udi Levi's comments suggest that such developments are in line with the wider strategy being pursued by the National Security Council.
If a firm that has received covert support from the Israeli government is now targeting BDS activists, does this mean that the Israeli government has widened its use of lawfare in a bid to silence its critics?
As we have noted firms like the ILC are prepared to take on the Israeli government over issues like the Bank of China case. Yet that case itself illustrates the extent to which they are nevertheless dependent on a government which is prepared to use and then abandon terror victims for cynical political reasons.
The fact that the Israeli Government is prepared to support organisations whose hardline stances are at odds with its own public positions, must also create doubts about how sincerely held those positions are.
The targeting of the Palestinian Authority in particular, in cases largely dependent on official Israeli sources, is surely inconsistent with any commitment to a genuine peace process.