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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 1989, Page 12, 43

Special Report

What Israelis Know and Americans Don't About the Drug Triangle: Colombia, the US and Israel

By Israel Shahak

It is well-known in the United States, indeed both the Administration and the media proclaim it from the housetops, that Colombia and Panama supply, directly and indirectly, a hefty part of the illegal drugs which have become the scourge of American society. What is still largely unknown to the US public-because most negative affairs concerning Israel tend to be covered up by the American media-is the extent of Israeli influence in those two Latin American states.

An example is the involvement of Israelis, who may have some Israeli government backing, in an important aspect of this hellish business, namely the laundering of US drug money back to the drug bosses of Colombia and Panama, despite all the well-publicized efforts of US authorities to intercept it.

Oddly, citizens of Israel are better informed about this because of two advantages they enjoy over citizens of the US: the Hebrew press, in spite of some recent decline in standards,, remains far more open and free to describe disgraceful affairs in which Israel, Israelis and American Jews are involved. Such peculiarly American institutions as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its allies do not enjoy in Israel the power that they wield in the US. The consequence is that much more of the truth about Israeli roles in the drug affairs of the United States, and the role of those American affairs in the Israeli economy, is known to Israelis than to Americans.

After direct US government financial support of about $3 billion a year to Israel, the single most important source of Israeli income derives from the export of weapons and so called "security knowledge" (including, for example, the efficient training of death squads). The value of such exports amounted officially to $1.5 billion in 1988. In reality, the sum is probably even larger.In 1988, fully one third of this Israeli "security support," worth half a billion dollars, went to one country only, namely Colombia.

With such quantities involved, Israeli "security exports" had achieved a near monopoly in Colombia by 1988, and this has continued in 1989. Nearly all of the weapons and "security knowledge" imported during the past few years into Colombia, from airplanes to azis, were made in Israel. During the same time Israeli influence was growing in Colombia, exports of Colombian drugs to the United States grew as well. One cannot avoid at least a suspicion that both phenomena are connected.

Noriega's Right-Hand Man

A similar situation exists with regard to Panama. The right-hand man of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and a person who apparently had a hand in putting Noriega in power, is asenior ex-Mossad man, Mike Harari, who has filled Panama with Israeli connections. Noriega has been accused by American authorities of drug trade on a large scale. One can assume that in a dictatorial regime like Noriega's, Harari is as involved in drugs as the dictator himself. But who stands behind Harari?

Since this is a case of a former senior operative of Mossad, it would have been reasonable to expect at least a verbal condemnation of Harari from at least one of the many Israeli ministers who make such frequent speeches about "the danger of the international terrorism" to American audiences. Yet none have ever found the time to condemn Harari, or discuss his alliance with Noriega, or Israeli involvement in Colombia, with their tame American interlocutors.

What is more, it has been reported in Israel, but not in the United States, that Harari, who often visits Israel and meets with many of the most important Israeli leaders, recently received, after US opposition to Noriega was well-known, the honorary rank of colonel from the Israeli army.

Recently, reports broke in Israel and the US about a whole group of well-connected former Israel officers who had provided "security advice" to one group of Colombian drug lords, whom the group described as farmers of right-wing opinions.

The head of the Israel group, kibbutz-born Colonel Yair Klein, serves, in addition to his Colombian capacity, as the active commander of the war room of the Israeli chief of staff.

I can predict that mainstream American media will not rush to print this, although it clearly would be of intense interest to the American public! It also is interesting to learn that Col. Klein was paid in the United States for his services in Colombia. He also was paid in cash. Although the sums involved were large (one report claimed it was $800,000), he did not put the money in a bank-one assumes that he had his reasons-nor did he contravene US laws by taking the cash out of the United States. Instead, he left the money with a member of a well-known network of ultra-pious Jews in New York, who transferred the money to Israel. The Hebrew press has voiced the natural suspicion that Yair Klein was paid with money obtained through the sale of drugs in the US by his employers. Was his the only such case?

Another network in the United States, headed by two Israelis, Adi Tal and Dov Feldman, was recently exposed in Edison, NJ, apparently more by chance than by design. It engaged in large-scale laundering of Colombian drug money on both the East and West coasts, routing in back to Colombia via Israel.

In this case as well, several members escaped to Israel. The trial of the remainder, according to the Hebrew newspaper Hadashot, presented some curious features.

Using American Jews

First, it became apparent that the Israelis who headed the gang secured the help of many otherwise respectable American Jews by telling them the money was intended for the work of Mossad in Panama and Colombia.

As a result, a rabbi in Seattle was convicted of receiving some of the money, depositing it in small amounts in many different accounts in Seattle, and then transferring it to a bank in a very small Israeli town, Kiryat Ono. From there, it was transferred to a well-known Colombian drug trader through a Panamanian bank.

When the gang was brought to trial, the New Jersey court permitted a lawyer from Tel Aviv to represent the accused. He did his job very well. Those of the accused who had not escaped to Israel received very light sentences. The rabbi from Seattle got off with one month of detention. The sum which he was convicted of transferring personally to Israel was $18,300,000, of which $13,600,000 found its way to Panama. The US media, apparently, was too busy covering "international terror" to report this case of Israeli laundering of drug money from the US to Colombia.

This is attributable to the fact that American political life is terrorized to such an extent by AIPAC and similar bodies, and to the continuous attacks by American Jewish organizations on the American media. Presumably readers of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, are familiar with the tremendous harm that this state of affair does to all human beings (including Israelis) in the Middle East, as well as American interests there.

Because the Israeli connection with Colombia and Panama, and the drug industry based in those countries, has such dire effects on the United States, it is not only the Middle East, but American society itself that is jeopardized by activities of the "pro-Israeli lobby" in the United States.

Dr. Israel Shahak, retired professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, is chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights. His monthly compilations of translation "From the Hebrew Press" are available at $25 a year to subscribers to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.