This week, the Israeli “Peace Now” organization revealed that it has been conducting aerial surveillance of Israeli Jewish communities in Judea, Jerusalem and Samaria, to determine the extent of settlement expansion. At the same time, the Israeli Knesset Parliamentary Interior Committee held a special session to discuss foreign government funding of Israeli left wing movements
Documents shared with the Knesset Interior Committee confirmed that the Peace Now organization received a budget in the amount of 50,000 Euros from the government of Finland to conduct intelligence activity in the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, the Golan, Gaza and Jerusalem. Peace Now is a political organization in Israel with an IRS tax deductible affiliate in the United States.
The Knesset Committee examined a Peace Now grant application to the government of Finland, that indicated how Peace Now intended to use the grant. This included regular bi-monthly ground surveys to be conducted with the purpose of documenting the numbers of empty houses in settlements and ongoing construction in settlements. This work engages tens of volunteers, who travel around the West Bank in cars (armored if possible) tracking developments. “Settlements” has come to be used in the press now as a euphemism for Jewish communities and towns, no matter how big or developed.
Also included was a provision for aerial photography: Twice a month a light plane is rented in order to allow “settlement” watch staff to ascertain the extent of ongoing physical expansion in existing “settlements.” Once a baseline survey is completed, subsequent surveys can be used to measure expansion using GIS satellite positioning overlays. The document stated that this “mechanism will yield tangible graphic and quantitative data for the public.”
Peace Now defined its objectives to the government of Finland in the following manner:
“To monitor settlement developments on the ground, accurately and reliably; To make this information available to the Israeli and international publics; To advance the fulfillment of the Road Map.”
Peace Now identifies the “target groups” for the government of Finland as the “Israeli public, The Israeli political leadership, International Diplomatic Corps and Israeli and international press.”
Peace Now defined the “final result of the activities” for the government of Finland as “Regular and reliable reports, in real time, disclosing the situation of settlement construction; Regular and reliable reports, in real times, monitoring the dismantlement of outposts and settlements according to requirements of the Road Map; Contacts with diplomats, leaders and press in order to convey reliable information on all aspect of settlement issues.”
Peace Now further informed the government of Finland that it would use the $50,000 grant in the following manner: “$17,000 Coordinator, $13,000 Jeep, $20,000 Aerial Surveys.” Peace Now informed the government of Finland that “funding is necessary to support the staff and rent the vehicles for aerial photography.
Peace Now defineed itself for the government of Finland as an “educational foundation”. Peace Now indicated in that grant request that it also received $100,000 from the Americans for Peace Now and 150,000 Euros from “European Foundations” for its “settlement watch project.”
A spokesperson for Peace Now indicated that the “European Foundations” mentioned in their grant request to the Finnish government were actually funds from the European Union. In other words, from other foreign European governments, few of which have been favorable to Israel’s plight in the war On Terror. Far from being an indigenous Israeli organization, Peace Now it is obvious actually acts as an agent for foreign governments.
The Israel Penal Code for Espionage was distributed to Knesset Interior Committees. Clause 3 of that code defines “photography of sensitive areas of Israel for any foreign power” as an act of espionage, punishable by ten years imprisonment if convicted.
Dr. Yuri Stern, Chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee, announced that he would ask his legal counsel to examine the matter and report back to the committee if there were indeed grounds for application of the Israel Penal Code’s special clauses on espionage against Peace Now.
While the Knesset interior committee members from across the political spectrum carefully listened and examined the documents relating to allegations of felonious activity by Peace Now, the Peace Now lobbyist in the Knesset, Behira Bardugo, screamed at Committee Chairman Dr. Stern and accused the committee of not investigating those who financed the campaign to defeat Ariel Sharon in the recent referendum campaign over the Prime Minister’s unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza.
When Stern explained that there is a difference between funding from a private individual and funding that is received from a government, Bardugo reacted with surprise, and simply said that there is no difference.
The Peace Now settlement expansion maps do not only wind up in the hands of European governments and they do not only include the civilian expansion. The Peace Now settlement expansion maps also include military installations and the maps are featured in all PLO offices. Israeli army bases have been attacked and Israeli soldiers killed. These are the sons and daughters of Israel drafted to protect the country, not, for the most part, even professional soldiers.
The decision will now rest with Israel’s legal system whether and how to enforce the espionage clauses of the Israel Penal Code for those organizations who choose to photograph the most sensitive landscapes of Israel on the payroll and at the behest of foreign governments.