Israeli misuse of Canadian passports goes unchecked
By Faisal Kutty — Catch your child with his hands in your pocket stealing cash and you will probably forgive him after a scolding. Catch him a second time and you will undoubtedly punish him. Would you let him go without any punishment when you caught him for the third time? Probably not. Yet this is exactly what Canadian authorities did with Israel earlier this month.
The whole fiasco started when a Mossad assassination squad attempted to carry out a murder in broad daylight in Amman, Jordan. The intended target was none other than the political chief of Hamas, Kalid Meshal. The failed mission on the territory of Israel’s closest Arab friend had the blessings of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who accepted “final responsibility” for the decision.
The murder bid became an important issue in Canada after word got out that the assassins carried Canadian passports, and reports began filtering back from the Middle East of Canadians encountering difficulties. Until that fateful September 25, 1997, a Canadian passport was considered one of the safest travel documents. This may have changed forever. How could it not when a Canadian passport is clearly the preferred travel document of your friendly neighborhood Mossad agent?
The passport fiasco become a media issue after Leslie Lewis, a Canadian Jewish immigrant to Israel, reported that his passport was taken from him by Israeli agents. The former Vancouver accountant who went to Israel about seven years ago handed over his travel documents to the Mossad. Lewis was told that his papers would be used to help repatriate Jews from enemy states. He went public upon learning that the passport was used in the failed assassination attempt.
After the botched murder bid, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy reacted quickly by recalling Canada’s ambassador, David Berger. It seemed like a great show of disgust at the time. It is clear now that it was just that — a show. David Viveash, Canadian charge d’affaires in Tel Aviv, had said at the time that the whole affair “raised a number of questions for Canada.” None of these concerns apparently mattered that much to Canadian authorities as Israel was forgiven within a week.
According to Viveash, Canada had “protested vigorously” the use of Canadian passports by counterintelligence agents for more than thirty years. Interestingly, in apparent contradiction with their own charge dÕaffaires, the government claimed that this was the first time they had heard of the problem for a long time. Israel, it appears, quite accurately concluded that the protests did not apply to the Mossad.
The ensuing investigation by journalists unearthed that Canadian emigrants to Israel were routinely asked to turn over their passports for Mossad use. In fact, Norman Spector, the first Jewish Canadian to serve as ambassador to Israel (from 1992 to 1995), confirmed this and then also alleged that Canadian authorities were aware of the practice and in fact encouraged it by turning a blind eye. Moreover, Spector suggested that Canada’s intelligence service, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), actively cooperates with Israeli agents. He told the Toronto Star that “there has been an attempt to sort of cover up all of this right from the beginning.”
Spector, who was publisher of the Jerusalem Post at the time, claimed in numerous media interviews and in his columns in the Jerusalem Post and the Globe and Mail that he knew from experience that there was extensive “active” cooperation between Mossad and the CSIS. Even charge d’affaires Viveash admitted that the CSIS is “in touch” with its Israeli counterpart and cooperates with it in combating terrorism, drug traffic and other crimes.
Arab and Muslim Canadian groups had complained for some time about the cozy relationship to no avail. In fact, Immigration Canada still reportedly uses information supplied by Mossad, who some accuse of planting misinformation for political purposes, in considering refugee and immigration claims from Israel and Palestine. Spector confirmed this in one of his Globe and Mail columns right after the botched assassination:
Israel has supplied information in the past that allowed Canadian authorities to uncover spies operating in Canada. Israeli operational agents have been given to understand that the use of Canadian passports is the quid pro quo.
Foreign Minister Axworthy, who is on record as stating that CSIS shares information with Mossad about terrorism but does not undertake any operations overseas, publicly brushed aside Spector’s comments as irresponsible and threatening the safety of Canadians abroad. But Spector, who had also served as former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s chief of staff, continued his charges, claiming that the cooperation went beyond information sharing. He insisted that there were joint operations. In fact, he wrote that there was a CSIS operative working for him at the Tel Aviv embassy and that he was a witness to “a lot” of CSIS activities.
Some Canadian commentators suggested that the former diplomat’s aim was to embarrass the current government and sell his newspaper, which had a circulation of 30,000. The first charge arose from the fact that he was removed from his post as ambassador to Israel by the incoming Liberal government to make room for its own appointee. Spector counters that his objective in “coming out” was to ensure that Foreign Minister Axworthy did not get away with “pulling the wool over Canadians’ eyes.” He told the Toronto Star that he was driven by his new vocation as a journalist to expose and write about important issues. Whatever his motivation, the fact remains that a former diplomat made some serious allegations that would have been looked into if it was any other country.
Interestingly, the Amman incident was not the first time that Israeli agents were caught using Canadian passports. In the 1970’s the Mossad used a Canadian passport to carry out an assassination in Lillehammer, Norway. After its agents shot the wrong person, Israel assured Canada that Canadian passports would never be used again.
A number of analysts as well as the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), a watchdog agency set up to monitor the activities of CSIS, called for an investigation into the allegations by Spector and Lewis. In fact, Ron Atkey, a former head of SIRC, said that if Spector’s allegations that CSIS participated in “overt” operations with the Mossad are true, then CSIS had acted illegally.
Yet despite these charges and the calls for an investigation, all was forgiven quickly after Israel promised, yet again, to stop the practice. The ambassador was returned to Tel Aviv and business continued as usual. In no time, it became clear that Israel was let off the hook too easily. In fact, it appears that even the Mossad went back to business as usual.
In November 1998, Axworthy acknowledged that Lewis approached Canadian authorities for a second time claiming that he was solicited again for passports. An “investigation” was launched right away to determine whether Israel had broken its earlier pledge.
Thanks to friends in places it probably did not even know existed, Israel appears to have gotten off Scot-free again. First of all, no hue and cry was made about the fact that none of the serious allegations by Spector were looked into. And now to top off the icing on the cake, this month the government quietly closed the “investigation” into Israeli abuse of Canadian passports. The government says the file was closed because there was no evidence to prove that Israel went back on its word. But intelligence sources told the Globe and Mail that the investigati,on was a farce from the beginning. According to the paper, the sources claimed that the investigation was shoddy, half-hearted and that it was shelved to save Israel from embarrassment.
If Canadian authorities have any sense of self-respect, they should reopen the investigation into the misuse of passports and thoroughly investigate the allegations by Spector.
Faisal Kutty is a Toronto lawyer and writer and is also a columnist for the Washington Report On Middle East Affairs
Note: First Published 9/15/1999 – Political – Article Ref: IV9909-611
Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/yj7kz56