No Way Out for Israeli Collaborators

A man records a protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, on his iPad in Srinagar, India on 20 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Danish Ismail)

By: Sanaa Kamel

Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gaza – Israel relies heavily on its Palestinian spies, but many collaborators driven by poverty to sell information to the enemy find themselves in danger of elimination from both sides.

Ashraf Ouaida, 30, was accused of collaborating with Israel and then executed by the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, on 15 November 2012, the second day of the Israeli war on Gaza.

His body was left on Jalaa Street in the center of Gaza City, with a sign declaring the Brigades’ responsibility for the execution and promising to go after other collaborators.

Ouaida was being detained in an Internal Security Forces prison affiliated with Hamas in Gaza, where he had confessed in a videotaped statement to his part in the assassination of 15 Hamas leaders. Ouaida said that he started spying for Israel in exchange for money, because he was poor and wanted to become wealthy.

The resistance leaders he shadowed included Abdul-Aziz Rantissi, Ismail Abu Shanab, Salah Shehadeh, Ibrahim Makadmeh, Massoud Ayyad, and Said Siyam, among others.

Ouaida also reportedly confessed to spreading misinformation in order to sow confusion in Gaza.

It is no secret that Israel would not be able to effectively carry out assassinations were it not for Palestinian collaborators. In fact, the only way the Shin Bet, Israel’s general security service, can target these individuals is through their spies.

Eliminating collaborators is considered vital to winning the battle against Israel, and has become a top priority for the resistance factions led by Hamas. Since seizing control of Gaza, Hamas has managed to seriously impede these spies’ ability to operate.

The Shin Bet uses many methods to ensnare and recruit collaborators, including exploiting the poverty of some Palestinians by offering financial incentives.

Once caught in the trap, these collaborators rarely escape it alive, according to Abu-Hassan, who once helped a relative turn himself in after he confessed to getting caught up in the Israelis’ web.

“My cousin was never an immoral person, but he was a victim of poverty and destitution,” said Abu-Hassan. “He could not tell us about what he was doing, nor could he break free from what he was involved in. He found himself getting sucked in deeper and deeper.”

“When the government in Gaza offered amnesty to repenting collaborators, he became fearful about becoming further entangled in spying for Israel, especially since he was not involved in any assassinations,” he continued. “He came to me and told me everything, seeking my advice. I told him immediately that he should turn himself in, and later went with him to the government where he gave himself up in return for amnesty.”

Abu-Hassan said his relative was sentenced to one year in prison, since he was not involved in any killings.

But the Israelis would not let their former agent be, and he was killed by an Israeli airstrike that targeted his home in the northern Gaza Strip.

Most Palestinians in Gaza agree on the need to root out all and any forms of collaboration with Israel, but they differ on what is to be done with those guilty of spying.

Shirine Khalifa, 30, did not hesitate to say that all those implicated as collaborators must not be kept alive, because those who betray their country can never be trusted again.

For his part, Hamdi Hamid called for enforcing the death penalty against traitors.

Taysir al-Biltaji disagrees, however, pointing out that while it is necessary to capture collaborators, he thinks they should be given the chance to repent, or be sentenced to life in prison if they have committed serious acts of treason.

According to Biltaji, the loss of life is a very sensitive matter, especially since Palestinian society blames collaborators for the death of the leaders whom they help track.

In the end, collaborators are never safe; they fear discovery by their fellow Palestinians and assassination by Israelis when they no longer have a use for them.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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