Iran’s Recruit to Spy in Israel: An Anti-Zionist Ultra-Orthodox Jew — Yes, Really

An ultra-Orthodox Jew — an Israeli citizen who’s part of a group that finds religious reasons to oppose the existence of the State of Israel — has been arrested for spying on behalf of Iran.

The way this Israeli was hired by the Iranians and run by his spymasters shows the low quality of Iran’s efforts to dig into the hidden secrets of Israel.

The man’s arrest has just been publicly confirmed by Israeli officials, but he is not being named. He is a member of the Neturei Karta sect. The men look like classic Hassidic Jews: with large black coats, beards, long sidelocks, and usually with large furry hats.

Neturei Karta visited Hamas’s leader in Gaza

Perhaps one would think that someone with such a “Jewish” appearance would be above suspicion — and therefore might be an excellent choice to be a spy. But Neturei Karta members have made quite a splash with their anti-Zionist activities such as visiting Iran and praising the Palestinian radicals of Hamas.

In any event, this man — while visiting Germany — offered his services to the Iranian embassy in Berlin. He had two motives, according to interrogators of Shin Bet (Israel’s domestic security agency): hatred for Israel, and financial rewards from the Iranians. He acted on his own — not sent by Neturei Karta colleagues.

At Jerusalem’s district court, officials said the accused is 47 years old. The charges against him include contact with a foreign agent and “intention to betray” Israel.

Prosecutors, based on what the man told Shin Bet, allege that he offered to “murder a Zionist,” if that is what the Iranians would want him to do. In an early misunderstanding, the Iranians thought he was asking for political asylum.

They also visited and embraced Iran’s Ahmadinejad

For some reason, when three Iranian diplomats — probably the embassy’s intelligence officers — engaged the wayward Israeli in conversation, he chided them for failing to defend their own country against “the Zionists.” He specifically needled them over the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran (a series of operations our book describes as Mossad missions).

One of the three Iranians, using the code name “Hajji Baba,” said he would be the Israeli spy’s point of contact. They gave him a password for a “dead e-mail box,” which the two sides can share without even sending e-mails to other addresses. That is where he would look for messages.

The man returned to Jerusalem and tried to communicate with his Iranian handlers from internet cafes and even from public phone booths.

It is worth noting that ultra-Orthodox Jews are forbidden by their religious leaders from using computers — one of the strictures meant to insulate them from “promiscuous” elements of modern, secular life.

In terms of tradecraft, the would-be James Bond was a rank amateur. Israeli officials say no damage was caused. He was arrested before he could provide the Iranians with any information — if he, in any event, was able to collect anything that a newspaper reader or TV viewer would know.

The indictment happens to mention what he was wearing when he entered Iran’s embassy in Berlin: white shirt, black trousers, long fringes (“tzizit”) from an undergarment visible from his midsection. Perhaps he himself provided that description — but it’s equally likely that Germany’s intelligence agency, BND, photographs the entrances of Iran’s embassy on a 24-hour basis. The BND has a long history of close cooperation with Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet.

The Iranian side behaved professionally. The “diplomats” didn’t reject him right away and gave him a coded means of communication. But they also seemed to be suspicious that he might be an agent of provocation sent by the Mossad or the BND. The Iranians were fairly cautious.

This was the third case in which an Israeli Jew initiated contact with Iran. The two previous cases took place in Turkey.

There also were a few cases in which Arab citizens of Israel were recruited by Iran — either by that nation’s own intelligence agency or by the Shi’ite Muslim radicals of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Luckily for Israel, all in all, Iranian intelligence coverage of the Jewish state is very poor.



August 2, 2013

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