Have Israeli Spies Infiltrated International Airports?

South Africa Deports Airline Official after Investigation

South Africa deported an Israeli airline official last week following allegations that Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet, had infiltrated Johannesburg international airport in an effort to gather information on South African citizens, particularly black and Muslim travellers.

The move by the South African government followed an investigation by local TV showing an undercover reporter being illegally interrogated by an official with El Al, Israel’s national carrier, in a public area of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport.

The programme also featured testimony from Jonathan Garb, a former El Al guard, who claimed that the airline company had been a front for the Shin Bet in South Africa for many years.

Of the footage of the undercover reporter’s questioning, he commented: “Here is a secret service operating above the law in South Africa. We pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. We do exactly what we want. The local authorities do not know what we are doing.”

The Israeli foreign ministry is reported to have sent a team to South Africa to try to defuse the diplomatic crisis after the government in Johannesburg threatened to deport all of El Al’s security staff.

Mr Garb’s accusations have been supported by an investigation by the regulator for South Africa’s private security industries.

They have also been confirmed by human rights groups in Israel, which report that Israeli security staff are carrying out racial profiling at many airports around the world, apparently out of sight of local authorities.

Concern in South Africa about the activities of El Al staff has been growing since August, when South Africa’s leading investigative news show, Carte Blanche, went undercover to test Mr Garb’s allegations.

A hidden camera captured an El Al official in the departure hall claiming to be from “airport security” and demanding that the undercover reporter hand over his passport or ID as part of “airport regulations”. When the reporter protested that he was not flying but waiting for a friend, El Al’s security manager, identified as Golan Rice, arrived to interrogate him further. Mr Rice then warned him that he was in a restricted area and must leave.

Mr Garb commented on the show: “What we are trained is to look for the immediate threat – the Muslim guy. You can think he is a suicide bomber, he is collecting information. The crazy thing is that we are profiling people racially, ethnically and even on religious grounds … This is what we do.”

Mr Garb and two other fired workers have told the South African media that Shin Bet agents routinely detain Muslim and black passengers, a claim that has ignited controversy in a society still suffering with the legacy of decades of apartheid rule.

Suspect individuals, the former workers say, are held in an annex room, where they are interrogated, often on matters unrelated to airport security, and can be subjected to strip searches while their luggage is taken apart. Clandestine searches of their belongings and laptops are also carried out to identify useful documents and information.

All of this is done in violation of South African law, which authorises only the police, armed forces or personnel appointed by the transport minister to carry out searches.

The former staff also accuse El Al of smuggling weapons – licensed to the local Israeli embassy – into the airport for use by the secret agents.

Mr Garb went public after he was dismissed over a campaign he led for better pay and medical benefits for El Al staff.

A South African Jew, he said he was recruited 19 years ago by the Shin Bet. “We were trained at a secret camp [in Israel] where they train Israeli special forces and they train you how to use handguns, submachine guns and in unarmed combat.”

He added that he was assigned to “armed security” in the early 1990s. “Armed security is being undercover, carrying a weapon, a handgun and at that time as well, sounds crazy but we carried Samsonite briefcases with an Uzi submachine gun in it.”

Mr Garb claimed to have profiled 40,000 people for Israel over the past 20 years, including recently Virginia Tilley, a Middle East expert who is the chief researcher at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council. The think tank recently published a report accusing Israel of apartheid and colonialism in the Palestinian territories.

“The decision was she should be checked in the harshest way because of her connections,” Mr Garb said.

Ms Tilley confirmed that she had been detained at the airport by El Al staff and separated from her luggage. Mr Garb said that during this period an agent “photocopied all [her] documentation and then he forwarded it on to Israel” – Mr Garb believes for use by the Shin Bet.

Israeli officials have refused to comment on the allegations. A letter produced by Mr Garb – signed by Roz Bukris, El Al’s general manager in South Africa – suggests that he was employed by the Shin Bet rather than the airline. Ms Bukris, according to the programme, refused to confirm or deny the letter’s validity.

The Israeli Embassy in South Africa declined to discuss evidence that it, rather than El Al, had licensed guns issued to the airline’s security managers. Questioned last week by Ynet, Israel’s largest news website, about the deportation of the airline official, Yossi Levy, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said he could not “comment on security matters”.

A report published in 2007 by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Nazareth-based Arab Association for Human Rights and the Centre Against Racism, found that Israeli airline staff used racial profiling at most major airports around the world, subjecting Arab and Muslim passengers to discriminatory and degrading treatment in violation both of international law and the host country’s laws.

“Our research showed that the checks conducted by El Al at foreign airports had all the hallmarks of Shin Bet interrogations,” said Mohammed Zeidan, the director of the Human Rights Association. “Usually the questions were less about the safety of the flight and more aimed at gathering information on the political activities or sympathies of the passengers.”

The human rights groups approached four international airports – in New York, Paris, Vienna and Geneva – where passengers said they had been subjected to discriminatory treatment, to ask under what authority the Israeli security services were operating. The first two airports refused to respond, while Vienna and Geneva said it was not possible to oversee El Al’s procedures.

“It is remarkable that these countries make no effort to supervise the actions of Israeli security personnel present on their territory, particularly in light of the discriminatory and humiliating procedures they apply,” the report states.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. b99 said on November 23rd, 2009 at 11:25am #

    Anybody who has flown El Al knows their violations are routine procedure. What goes on in South Africa also goes on at Kennedy International in NYC.

  2. Shabnam said on November 23rd, 2009 at 1:41pm #

    Of course they have. Many western airports are run and directed by Israel ‘security team.’ To carry out 9/11, Israelis and Bush administration relied on Israeli’s spies to carry out to be able to FRAME MUSLIM COMMUNITIES in order to wage Zionist war for the interest of Israel and expansion of American empire. According to many sources and a lot of evidence on the ground, including result from the test done on ashes from the site where was carried out by the scientists makes this view more credible that 9/11 was an inside job. To carry this kind of operation, Israelis spy were needed.

  3. B99 said on November 23rd, 2009 at 2:06pm #

    9/11 was carried out by al-Qaeda. They had the capability and the motive and it is to al-Qaeda that the preponderance of evidence leads. It’s likely that Israel had prior knowledge of its general outlines but preferred that it happen.

  4. Shabnam said on November 23rd, 2009 at 2:21pm #


    To have prior knowledge and told it only zionists who were working in at the WTC, who later claimed on TV t they did not go to work in the morning of 9/11, or actually carried it out themselves, are the same to many people.

  5. B99 said on November 23rd, 2009 at 2:34pm #

    Shabnam – So you don’t think Middle-Easterners are capable of such a complex feat? Or is it that Middle-Easterners aren’t angry enough to carry it out. Or maybe they are pacifists and it would be against their ideals? What is it, besides your desire to concede all power on the planet over to Zionists?

    And the original charge was that Israel told Israelis in the WTC not to go to work that day – not Jews, nor Zionists – Israelis.

    And yes- Osama is dead – long dead.

  6. balkas b b said on November 23rd, 2009 at 3:11pm #

    The people who drove the two planes into two towers shld have thought that such an terrorist act wld only make things worse for all muslim countries.

    If i had been a palestinian or saudi and knew of it, i wld have quickly got in touch with US and inform them.
    And i think every muslim who wld muse about that act long enough and conferred ab it with others, wld cry in anguish eve at the thought of doing that.
    Terrorist acts on the whole are of no strategic values nor lead to peace, fairness, justice, etc.
    In case of serb black hand which carried out assasination of duke ferdinand of austria, it lead to ww1 and ww2.
    Terrorism in n.ireland had been effective in the main because most irish had justified grievances against protestants and US never dared take a stand against irish terrorrism.

    I’m with shabnam. US invents enemies. US chooses own enemies. And no one dares take stand against it. tnx

  7. B99 said on November 23rd, 2009 at 3:29pm #

    As far as al-Qaeda goes, they understand that before things get better they must get worse. And that the deeds the US has done against the Middle East must not go unpunished.

    You would be foolish to try to warn the US against such an attack. What details would you know? Why would they take you serious?

    US can invent enemies and it can create enemies. In the case (or many cases) of the Middle East, it has created enemies.

    Terrorism in Northern Ireland is against the British occupation and the quisling Northern Ireland government. That its victims are usually Protestant is only derivative.

  8. Shabnam said on November 23rd, 2009 at 3:53pm #

    If you had followed the research done by Danish scientists, they you would not have accepted official story. First of all, Osama Bin Laden was a CIA agent and had extensive connection with the CIA. He was living in a cave and was not in a position to carry out such a sophisticated operation. If you read Robert Fiske’s comment on Bin Laden and his followers who said: “they did not have access to regular newspapers and were happy to read old issues of his newspaper when he wanted to interview them” then you realize that this operation was carried out by the states.
    Danish scientists tested dust from the 9/11 site and they discovered Active Thermitic Material in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center where have been found in Israeli’s laboratory.
    Most of the terror in the world is carried out by Mossad and CIA and their puppet, Saudi Arabia. Majority of the terrorist activities are blamed on fake enemy of the United States, however, later prove to be not true. Example: bombing of Discotheque in Germany blamed on Libya, later revealed to be a CIA and Mossad operation.


  9. B99 said on November 23rd, 2009 at 5:06pm #

    Osama’s efforts in Afghanistan against the Russians were subsidized by the CIA. That was a marriage of convenience for both sides, no further loyalty required. Osama may have lived in a cave part of the time – that does not mean he and his deputies cannot by plane tickets. The rest is conjecture. Who knows what the dust really means – if anything.
    If we count state terrorism, then surely most is carried out by US and Israel. The German discotheque bombing may very well have been Israel. That does not mean Israel did 9/11.

  10. kalidas said on November 23rd, 2009 at 5:58pm #

    Andreas von Bulow, the former German defense minister said Al-CIA-duh did it.

    FORMER ITALIAN PRESIDENT, Francesco Cossiga: 9-11 Was Planned and Realized by CIA and Mossad..(Al-CIA-duh)

  11. B99 said on November 23rd, 2009 at 7:42pm #

    Kalidas – I guess that settles it – the words of these two fine gentlemen who have never before given us reason to doubt them.

  12. brian said on November 24th, 2009 at 4:56am #

    Some points worth noting:
    a south african jew employed as a spy by israel is an eg of a SAYANIM…what israel does is to endanger all jews as potential 5th columnists, perhaps hoping the antisemitic charge will come to their aid.

    Lockerbie plane flew from London airport, where:

    ‘There had been allegations of a break-in of Pan Am facilities at Heathrow Airport, which might have provided the opportunity for placing a bomb aboard Pan Am 103. Yet the Court failed to question Isaac Yeffet (formerly with Israel’s El Al Airlines), a citizen of Israel, whose responsibilities included advising Pan Am on security worldwide, including at Heathrow, from which Pan Am 103 departed on its ill-fated last flight.

    Yeffet’s Alert Management Inc. employees had full run of Heathrow, from which they might have been expected to detect the unaccompanied bag bearing the bomb, if the prosecution’s claim that it originated in Valetta, Malta is correct. ‘

    Given all these israeli security types and sayanim at airports, a simpler explantion for Lockebie is that it was an israeli operation…the bomb being planted on the plane in London by Shin bet agents

  13. legend said on November 24th, 2009 at 7:59am #

    what has a black south african gotta do with the intifada or palestinian affairs, just pick on the black guy for fun because these israelis are dumb, as a south african and as a quarter jew this makes me really mad especially like a country like ours and these people who dont look to light themselves pick on black people because they think they are ‘terrorist’, stupid fascist nation!!!guys you guys must give me a reason for this?

  14. Shabnam said on November 24th, 2009 at 2:01pm #

    {what has a black south african gotta do with the intifada or palestinian affairs,…}

    People are so illiterate that do not know there are many Jews in South Africa who are not ‘black.’ This group is a small minority but like in the United States they have strong influence over South African foreign policy, similar to the united states, due to their economic power. They are strongly pro Zionist state and support Israel war criminal activities to steal Palestine through killing and destabilization policy of Israel in the region which is supported by the puppet president in the United State, might be Clinton, Bush or Obama now.

  15. kalidas said on November 24th, 2009 at 4:11pm #

    Are there diamonds there?
    Is there gold there?
    Are there many precious metals there?
    Are there communists there?
    Well Duh.

  16. Annie Ladysmith said on November 25th, 2009 at 12:39am #

    This is really confusing…, i thought Osama Bin Laden was the same person (but with different garb on and minus the long beard) as Barack Hussein OBAMA. What did i miss? How could one of them be dead and the other not so dead…?????? something is fishy in Copanhagen.