The State of Israel does its best to defend those who help protect Israel’s national security interests, especially those with whom they have worked behind enemy lines.
Often this means providing witness protection-like arrangements for the safety of a Palestinian deemed a “collaborator” and his family. In the Palestinian territories, collaborators with Israel are often considered traitors and are sentenced to death — sometimes even without a trial.
Over the last two decades, Israel has made provision for these people official through the Security Aid Administration, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Shin Bet. The process includes a rescue mission, housing, financial assistance, professional guidance, educational programs, employment training and help to arrange their legal status and new life in Israel. It’s a complicated process that is adapted and modified to each situation.
Ynet News magazine published an article about one such collaborator and his family who not only escaped their former life as Muslims in Gaza, but now live within Israel and identify as ardent Zionists. It’s a family drama complete with contradictions and juxtapositions, secrets and revelations, painful separations and joyful reunions, loneliness and belonging.
The article keeps the family members’ identities protected as readers learn about the family’s ailing grandmother, escorted by the IDF across the Israel-Gaza border into her son’s loving embrace, to visit her long lost family. She saw her grandsons in Israeli army uniform, gave her deathbed blessings to her family and returned to Gaza.
Years prior, her 53-year-old son collaborated with the Shin Bet in Gaza. Afterward, he was smuggled him into Israel with his wife and young son where they received new identities. Following their escape, around-the-clock armed protection, Hebrew language studies and a few moves, it’s in a Jewish community on the Gaza border that the man and his family now make their home. The Gazan born man patriotically declares, “I am a Muslim Arab and an Israeli Zionist, and I love the Jewish people.”
The work he did is still highly confidential, but it is clear he has completely immersed himself in his new identity. He wears a map of Israel medallion and a Magen David (Star of David) around his neck, as do his sons. All of them have Hebrew names. One is a sergeant in the IDF and the other a corporal. They all say they have no other country but Israel. In fact, the article says that all three sons are in the process of formally converting to Judaism.
The Shin Bet says that the State of Israel has a moral obligation to people who have helped Israel. Their motto is, “We don’t use people and throw them away.” For security reasons they cannot provide details of other families that they have rehabilitated and integrated into the Israeli society, but they do consider this family a success story.
The Shin Bet collaborator acknowledges that in Gaza he would be labeled a traitor. He disagrees and says that he sees himself as a human being who is against bloodshed.
“I am proud of being from Gaza and I don’t kill small children. I am an Arab, a Muslim, an Israeli, a Zionist,” he said. “I am against terror and against bloodshed. I believe in both people living a good life together. I don’t believe in the thing called ‘blood.’ I believe in the Jewish existence. I believe in the Arab existence. I am an Israeli Arab believer who loves the Jewish people.”