Daily Israel Report

'Peace Now' Under Investigation for Espionage Activities

The left-wing "Peace Now" organization is being investigated after conducting aerial surveillance of Jewish communities and army bases in Jerusalem, Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), and the Golan.
First Publish: 5/20/2004, 10:25 PM / Last Update: 5/21/2004, 12:10 AM

"Peace Now" says its activities aim “to monitor settlement expansion,” but MK's and journalists suspect that the group - funded by Europe - engages in questionable activities which endanger Israeli soldiers and civilians. The Knesset Interior Committee held a special session this week to discuss the topic of foreign government funding of Israeli left wing movements.

According to investigative journalist David Bedein, documents that were shared with the Knesset Interior Committee confirmed that “Peace Now” received 50,000 Euros from the government of Finland to conduct the surveillance activity of Jewish towns in Judea, Samaria, the Golan, Gaza and Jerusalem.

The Knesset Committee examined a Peace Now grant application to the government of Finland, which indicated how Peace Now intended to use the grant. This included "regular bi-monthly ground surveys to be conducted with the purpose of documenting construction in Jewish communities."

Also included in the grant 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 stipulated that the grant of 50,000 dollars would be used in the following manner: "$17,000 Coordinator, $13,000 Jeep, $20,000 Aerial Surveys." The report stated that "funding is necessary to support the staff and rent the vehicles for aerial photography.

In the report given to Finland, Peace Now chose to define itself as an “educational foundation” and indicated that they also receive $100,000 from Americans for Peace Now and 150,000 Euros from “European Foundations” for their “settlement watch project.”

A spokesperson for Peace Now told Bedein 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,” said Bedein, “few of which have been favorable to Israel's plight in the war on terror. Far from being an indigenous Israeli organization, it is obvious that Peace Now 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.

“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,” Bedein warns. “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.”

Bedein went on to describe an extremely disturbing incident involving the “settlement-watch” team. “In late May, 2002 a settlement watch group organized by the ‘Christian Peace Makers Team’ reported to its e-mail list that it had successfully photographed the fence surrounding the Carmei Tzur settlement,” Bedein said. “The CPT proudly reported that it had shown several breaches in the fence. The next day, the CSM met with the Fateh (Arafat's mainstream terror group) in Bethlehem. Two days later, late at night, armed members of the Fateh infiltrated the Carmei Tzur settlement at the precise breach that the CPT had photographed. The Fateh used that breach to murder a civilian couple in their bed. The wife was eight months pregnant. “

A decision from the Knesset Committee is expected in coming weeks. “The decision will now rest with Israel's legal system,” concluded Bedein, “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.”