WE have a new Israeli ambassador, Zeev Boker, and signs are he’ll be just as controversial as his predecessors.
At least that’s the message to be taken from a recent Irish Examiner interview with him in which it was made clear that Israel could give no guarantee that its secret service would not repeat its meddling in the lives of Irish citizens. Six years ago, as part of a heinous plan to murder a political rival, Mossad assassins stole the identities of eight Irish people for use in the manufacture of counterfeit passports.
The phony passports enabled the Israeli agents to enter Dubai under the guise of being Irish visitors. They and others then slaughtered a Mr Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in his hotel room. The killing was particularly brutal.
First, they injected their victim with a strong sedative (succinylcholine) and then smothered him with a pillow. Mr Al-Mabhouh would have been conscious but unable to struggle while he slowly suffocated.
Boker’s disclosure that he could not guarantee that Irish passports would not be used to facilitate other killings shocked many people, as did his contempt for Irish sovereignty.
He suggested the Irish should put the identities-theft behind them as the incident ‘had happened many years ago,’ telling the Irish Examiner (as reported on October 10th, 2016) that ‘what has been discussed in the past has been discussed,’ and that ‘we cannot guarantee about everything. I’m a diplomat. I cannot guarantee. I work in a foreign ministry.’
His attitude was astounding in the sense that he seemed to suggest that murderous thugs acting on behalf of the Israeli government are entitled to ignore the laws of this land if they want to.
And, on the basis that the Israeli Embassy did not find fault with the Examiner headline, ‘No guarantee over fake Irish passports being used by Israeli secret service again,’ it seems unlikely that Boker’s comments were inaccurately reported.
Also disturbing was his lack of concern for Irish passport holders. Generally speaking, border police are favourably disposed to people carrying Irish passports – probably because of this country’s neutral image. But now, thanks to the ambassador’s comments, a cloud of suspicion will continue to hang over our citizens when travelling abroad, especially in the Middle East.
That’s not good enough, if for no other reason than the fact that passport faking in this country is a criminal offence. For instance, last March, a clerical officer, who counterfeited five passports for foreign nationals, was jailed for two years. And yet Israeli agents can waltz into Ireland, do the same thing, literally get away with murder, and have their activities endorsed at ambassadorial level!
Indeed Israel’s abuse of its diplomatic privileges is mindboggling. While planning the Dubai murder, the Mossad hoodlums were unsure as to how authentic the phony passports would look. So, just a month before the killing, the Israeli Foreign Service asked the Department of Foreign Affairs if a small team could be sent to the Passport Office’s plant in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, to examine a new biometric security feature that was being built into passports. The request was refused.
In a subsequent Seanad debate on the theft of Irish passport identities, politicians demanded a Garda investigation into how the address of a vacant Dublin property, once owned by a brother of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, was given as the home address of one of the gang members.
‘At the very least,’ said Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, ‘there’s an unfriendly act involved here. It is not the normal practice for friendly states to abuse each other’s sovereignty in this way. It could also be a very dangerous situation in the context of security and protection of Irish citizens.’
The response of the then Fianna Fáil government was pathetic: Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin was reluctant to believe that a state-sponsored execution squad had been operating in this country and, at first, he tended to swallow the line that there was no evidence to link the killing to Israel. He warned that the government needed to be cautious in drawing conclusions, ‘particularly in terms of terrorism and all of that. I think we need to put it in perspective.’
As for the Israeli embassy, predictably it pulled down the shutters, refusing to make a comment other than that it had no part in the Dubai assassination. Zion Evrony, the ambassador, refused to attend a meeting of an Oireachtas committee that was discussing the use of forged Irish passports.
He said he would not be able to shed any light on ‘the issue in question’ and therefore it would be of no use for him to participate. His action was perceived as a calculated snub to the Irish parliament.
Fianna Fáil ruled out sanctions on Israel. However, six months later and despite Israel persisting with its ‘no case to answer’ attitude, Britain expelled a senior Israeli diplomat, believed to be the Mossad station chief in London. (As well as holding fraudulent Irish passports, the Dubai murder gang included members who had fake British, German, and Australian passports).
Martin, plucking up courage, followed suit and he too demanded the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat. The embassy acceded to the request and sent home a low-ranking minion.
Curiously, some years earlier, the New Zealand government also had problems with Mossad agents who had stolen the identities of two girls with cerebral palsy. The Kiwi government came up with a practical solution.
It threw the goons into jail. It also suspended high-level visits to and from Israel, declined permission for Israel’s president to visit New Zealand, implemented visa restrictions on all Israeli government officials, delayed Ministry of Foreign Affairs consultations with Israel and indefinitely barred the appointment of a new Israel ambassador. Within a year Israel’s foreign minister apologised.
Role of embassy?
Inexplicably, our current Foreign Affairs Minister, Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan, has failed to comment on Ambassador Boker’s threat. Could it be that Flanagan’s buckos in Iveagh House never read ‘De Paper’ or is it that they treat its ‘exclusives’ with as much derision as the Israeli Embassy treats Minister Flanagan?
Certainly, Flanagan gives the impression (probably erroneous) that he doesn’t give a toss about Boker’s attitude to Irish sovereignty.
Which raises this question. What precisely is the Israeli Embassy’s role in Ireland: a training camp in identity theft and the manufacture of counterfeit passports?
If its function is something else – and we sincerely hope such is the case – then it is incumbent on the ambassador to tell us. He also must give a public assurance that Israel will never misuse Irish passports again. If he fails to do that, the conclusion for many will be that did not come to this country as a friend, and he should be asked to leave.