Jewish group offers 007 Middle East 'missions'
It's billed as the 'Ultimate Mission' -- an eight-day, James Bond-style quest behind the scenes of Israel's conflict with Palestinian militants.
Reuters Published: 10.11.06, 19:12
For a little less than USD 2,000 and a donation to a center that sues countries and groups it accuses of militant links, participants are promised briefings from Israeli spies, a visit to a West Bank checkpoint, tours of the Lebanese frontlines and trips in light aircraft over northern Israel.
"Experience a dynamic and intensive eight-day exploration of Israel's struggle for survival and security in the Middle East today," reads the promotional material for the tours.
Highlights listed on the organizer's Web site include:
- "Inside tour of the Israel Air Force unit that carries out targeted killings"
- "Meeting Israel's Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence"
The trips are organized by the Israel Law Center, which describes itself as a "Jewish legal rights institute." It says it is not affiliated to any branch or agency of the Israeli government.
- "Meetings with senior cabinet ministers and other key policymakers"
Headed by a 32-year-old lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the group uses the funds it raises to pursue cases against Palestinian and international organizations it suspects of funding Palestinian militant groups.
Among others, Darshan-Leitner has sued Iran and the European Union for their suspected role in funding Palestinian groups.
"We file cases against those who help to fund terrorism or deal in terrorism," she told Reuters. "It's helping the terror victims to fight back against those who ruin their lives."
As well as the USD 1,895 cost of the trips, participants are asked to make a tax-deductible donation of between USD 500 and USD 5,000 to the Israel Law Center to support its work.
Darshan-Leitner won't say how much has been raised since she started the tours in 2003, but the next trip, scheduled for November 6-13, will be the 11th.
Each one attracts between 30 and 50 participants, she says, with visitors from the United States, Canada and Europe.
Participation is not restricted to sympathizers with Israel, though most are. There are no meetings with Palestinian officials to present their viewpoint on the uprising since 2000.
Palestinian lawmakers said they were aware of the work of the Israel Law Center but surprised at its method of raising funds.
"You wonder about the safety and the legality of what they are up to," said a senior member of Fatah, a group that has been the target of some of the Israel Law Center's probes.
As well as the adrenaline-pumping parts of the tour, there are also opportunities to relax, with a moonlight boat cruise on the Sea of Galilee, a cook-out barbecue and a visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall also included in the price.
Despite the price tag, participants have raved on the Web site about some of the earlier "missions."
"There is simply no comparable way to experience Israel in these trying times," wrote Menashe Frank of Miami, Florida. "On a judicial, military, cultural and religious level, the mission delivered every time."
Added Daryll Mills of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina:
"I am very honored and humbled to have been, albeit for a very short time and in a very indirect way, present and part of the situation," he wrote. "I hope and trust that my country stands by yours in your time of need."
Info on the organizers: http://www.israellawcenter.org/template.php?section=AU