Meir Dagan's Lawfare Programme
"The National Security Council (NSC) 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:
Levi said the bank had stopped all transactions to the territories after it was sued in US court. He cautioned, however, that the bank is 'playing with evidence, cleaning the records, and deleting accounts' to cover its tracks. Shaya said that the GOI had unspecified proof that the Arab Bank is still dealing with Hizballah in Lebanon.
"Levi went on to suggest further litigation:
Levi called INTERPAL and other European groups that channel funds to Hamas 'a problem we do not know how to solve,' but added that lawsuits similar to the ones filed against the Arab Bank might help. He suggested that another option to restrict funding would be to prevent INTERPAL from clearing dollar donations through New York.
"Interpal, a British charity focused on Palestine, had been a source of friction between the Israeli and British governments for several years. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported in 2004 that Foreign Minister Jack Straw had refused a request from his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom to put an end to Interpal's activities. Significantly, Haaretz noted that even if the Israeli intelligence on Interpal were made public, it would not necessarily meet the threshold for banning a UK charity and that 'it is therefore not at all certain that even if the evidence were to be revealed, it would lead to a curbing of Interpal in Britain.'
"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 actions 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 NSC.
"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."