May 15, 2002



(See previous entry) It's actually kind of interesting to see how far our favourite writer had to stretch the truth of this DEA memo to "prove" Israeli culpability in Sept. 11.

Example 1: paragraphs 53-57 describe how the INS interviewed 3 Israeli computer programmers that flew into Dallas. One had a printout with the word "DEA" on it in his luggage. There was NO other connection between them and the rest of this story. Raimondo, however, describes them as "on their way to join their fellow 'art students'... something tells me these are no ordinary art students." Given that the only thing connecting them to the art ring was they were Israelis visiting the U.S at the same time, I suppose he's technically correct.

Example 2: One group of art sellers was apprehended (paras 76-82) when one girl knocked on an unmarked DEA office door in a Tampa bank building. To Raimondo, that's "a group [sic] of these "students" were apprehended trying to enter a locked, unmarked office." (The leader of the group had been depositing a lot of cheques recently... can't for the life of me think why a con man would have money like that, can you?)

Example 3: A wife of a DEA agent (para 135-7), had "virtually no dialog" with an individual selling art on her street and "immediately closed the door" on him. Raimondo: "One of the "students" tried to gain entry into [the agent's] home – no doubt, I am told, in order to plant a bugging device."

Example 4: One art seller was noticed while trying to enter a back door to a Richmond, Va DEA office (paras 131-32). Raimondo calls this a "break-in."

Example 5: Four sellers were picked up in Midwest City, OK, and held on visa violations (paras 175-77). Raimondo: they were "spies... nabbed... in the vicinity of Tinker AFB."

Example 6: Two Israeli tourists were picked up taking photos of a runway on a Wisconsin Air National Guard base (paras 178-82). One reacted angrily when asked if he'd ever been involved in the art ring. They asked to phone the Israeli embassy. Raimondo: "no doubt to receive further orders."

Example 7: The clincher for Raimondo, proving the art students' involvement in Sept. 11. Quoting another crackpot, he writes:

"An address for the Sept. 11 hijacking leader, Mohammad Atta, is 3389 Sheridan St. in Hollywood, Fla., only a few blocks and a few hundred feet from the address of some of the Israelis, at 4220 Sheridan."

Actually, that's not quite accurate. 3389 Sheridan Street is the address of a Mailbox Rentals store which was a mail drop for 4 of the other hijackers (Atta was not one of them). One (not some) of the Israeli art sellers apparently had an apartment on the same street around the same time. And according to Mapquest, the two addresses are about a kilometre apart, not a "few hundred feet."

There's Justin's smoking gun. That's the whole evidence trail, laid out before you, that has him crowing of proof positive that Israel was behind Sept. 11. The man's articulate: I can't believe the guy doesn't see how weak a collective body of evidence it is. But once you're on your "antiwar" horse, I'm sure it's devilishly hard to get off... maybe the only thing left to do is play the busted flush for all its worth. Either that or he's an anti-Semitic idiot. Your call.

PS: Okay, let's peek through into Justin's Bizarro world for a sec and assume for argument's sake that the 24 year-old Israeli "art student," Hanane Sarfati (also referred to in the memo as Hanan Serfaty), whose apartment was a kilometre down the street from where the 4 hijackers were picking up their mail, was actually a spy, keeping tabs on Atta and co (or as Raimondo suggests, giving the hijackers their orders). So why was he:
a. Driving around his team of 6-8 art students, all in their early 20s, in a red van in Tampa, conveniently for investigators with all his bank deposit records on him?
b. Having one of his team go knock on the door of a Tampa DEA office?
c. Having other members of the team selling art all day in office building lobbies in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale?
d. Being so conspicuous that his team is repeatedly picked up by the authorities and questioned?

Atta was controlled/being surveilled by this crew? Come on...

Posted by BruceR at 10:31 PM



The Israeli conspiracy theorists continue to look for evidence that Israeli intelligence is somehow connected with Sept. 11. The U.S. has long been concerned about transfer of U.S. weapons technology to third-parties by the Israeli arms industry, particularly to China. They also got a rude awakening when one of their own spies, Jonathan Pollard, turned his coat and gave secrets to the Israelis in the mid-1980s. Rumours of Israeli spying have hovered around the edges of American consciousness more and more in the last five years... in early 1997, Bill Clinton told Monica Lewinsky he believed a "foreign embassy" was bugging his phones, widely seen as an accusation directed at Israel. Carl Cameron of Fox News has singlehandedly created a cottage industry around collecting Israeli spying claims, none of which have stood up to much scrutiny.

Akin to those is the recent "Israeli art student" story. What the Washington Post describes as a "disgruntled" DEA employee leaked a 60-page memo he wrote compiling contacts between federal agents and self-proclaimed art students going door to door, both at their homes and offices, over the last couple years: apparently he believed it worthy of further investigation, but his superiors were not convinced. That memo is now available online, here, so everyone can draw their own conclusions. It's a fairly detailed summary of raw field reports, which added up seem really impressive, but likely aren't. There certainly does seem to be some kind of Israel-based fraud ring selling cheap paintings in the United States, using illegal immigrant labour... the suggestion however that these kids driving around in vans full of knock-offs are serious spies, or even targeting agents, have to be taken with a grain of salt. A revealing paragraph is this one:

94. [Student Nimrod] SIMKIN explained that they are part of a group of Israeli students who are working to earn money so that they may continue their education in Israel. All of the students travel to the United States on tourist visas and pay for their own airfare and living expenses. They remain in the U.S. for a period of four months then return to Israel. SIMKIN did not know how many students participate in this program but stated that in addition to himself and the three females currently with him there are three other students residing in Ft. Lauderdale. These students learn of this opportunity in Israel and they are put in touch with a several outlets where they purchase paintings out of pocket. The students then sell the paintings and they retain any profit for themselves.

Here's another one, in which a real Israeli intelligence officer tries to tip off American authorities while passing through:

125. On December 12, 2000, Shay ASHKENAZI, male, Israeli, DOB: 11-12-74, Israeli Passport number 6847902, arrived at the SEA TAC International Airport via Northwest Airlines flight 33 from Tel Aviv, Israel. He was referred for secondary inspection by the I&NS Inspectors. As reported by I&NS Intelligence officer Omar N. Nuri, ASHKENAZI stated he was a former Israeli intelligence officer, and was now traveling to "enjoy life". He claimed to have been in the U.S. in April 2000, when he was involved in a car accident in South Carolina. The purpose of this trip was to finalize the case with his attorney and to receive medical treatment. ASHKEHAZI volunteered information that a fraud scheme involving Israeli nationals was taking place in the U.S. He stated that young male and female Israelis are being recruited in Israel to enter the U.S. with B-1/B-2 tourist visas and be employed as door-to-door salesmen of paintings that are shipped to the U.S. from Israel. He claimed that one of the individuals involved in this is "Mikaeel" (sic) and is present in Texas operating this business.

Here's another:

127. On March 1, 2001, one male and one female purporting to be Israeli art students visited the home of a Special Agent from the Kansas City District Office. This Special Agent was TDY in Pittsburgh when this incident occurred. The two subjects made contact with the Special Agent's wife. The students were described as clean cut, 22 - 23 years of age, with a slight Middle Eastern appearance. They were carrying a large black portfolio and showed the Specia Agent's wife a painting of a church. The Special Agent's wife told the students she was not interested and the students departed. No vehicle was observed. When the Special Agent returned on March 5, 2001, he canvassed his neighborhood and found that the students had contacted some of his neighbors. One neighbor told the agent that the students claimed they were from the University of Jerusalem. None of the Special Agents neighbors are in the law enforcement field.

Come on. Does this sound like a spy ring to you? Or is it just likely that, given a year of selling door-to-door in major U.S. cities, possibly hundreds of Israeli student sellers might have just happened to have hit a lot of law-enforcement related addresses? And given the utter lack of any evidence of followup contacts, or attempts by the students to pursue any, what is it exactly people suspect they're doing? Seeing if your average DEA agent could afford nice drapes? Occam's Razor, people...

PS: The memo identifies the "spies'" ringleader as Michael Calmanovic of Irving, Texas. Phone no from Infobel: 972-252-4504... I suppose you could always phone him and ask him how he's planning to subvert the Drug Enforcement Agency, if you wanted. (Never let it be said I don't try to make journalists' lives easier.) But if it's true he's a nogoodnik and this was all it took to identify Israel's top spy in the United States, that would make this the worst. Spy Ring. Ever...

Update: Justin Raimondo says this memo is damning evidence that of course the Israelis knew about Sept. 11 in advance!

With the publication of "the ‘Israeli Art Student’ Papers," however, we are faced with only two possible explanations:
The Israelis knew, but didn’t tell us, and [Carl] Cameron’s surmise is confirmed, or:
The Israelis knew and did tell us, but the incompetence of the US government got in the way of effective preventive action.

Posted by BruceR at 03:49 PM

SO WHO WAS "Z"? Students


Students of Israeli journalism have their own little mystery, similar to the "Who Was Deep Throat?" mystery in the United States.

In 1982, at the height of the Lebanon war, well known Israeli writer Amos Oz published an interview in the journal Davar with "Z" (in some translations, "C"), which stunned Israel. Z is described as 50 years old then, "well known for his (military) actions... associated with famous operations" blond, stocky, affluent (with servants and plantations), with a scar on his neck; a heavy smoker. The interview caused a sensation: many at the time thought "Z" was Defence Minister Ariel Sharon.

Among Z's more famous quotes:

Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them... Even if it means blowing up one or two synagogues here and there, I don't care. And I don't mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal.

Recently, that quote in particular has repeatedly cropped up as a Sharon attribution. This is despite the fact that Oz, despite being a vocal opponent of Sharon and his policies as prime minister, has said Z was not Sharon, that he's never interviewed Sharon, and that Z himself died 11 years ago.

Which leads to the inevitable followup question: so who WAS this Z? One leading suspect is Mordechai "Motta" Gur, who commanded the brigade that took Jerusalem in 1967. However, Gur died of cancer in 1995, not in the early 90s as Oz suggested. Oz, who like Bob Woodward, has never revealed the name of his source, has never confirmed or denied any suggestion other than to say it was not Ariel Sharon.

Posted by BruceR at 11:58 AM