South Africa busts Shin Bet operation, expels Israeli agent

The South African government has expelled an Israeli intelligence agent posing as an airline worker, after the discovery of a major Israeli undercover operation at the Oliver R. Tambo International Airport (OR Tambo International Airport) in Johannesburg. The operation was uncovered by Carte Blanche, South African television’s most respected investigative news program, based on testimony by Jonathan Garb, a former guard at El Al, Israel’s national airline, who became a whistleblower after being fired from his job.

Garb told Carte Blanche that El Al offices in South Africa and around the world have acted as fronts for Shin Bet (Sherut ha-Bitachon ha-Klali), Israel’s General Security Service, for a long time. He also told the program that Shin Bet officers in Johannesburg used their El Al employee cover status to infiltrate the airport and gather information on black and Muslim South African travelers to Israel. If true, Garb’s allegations suggest a violation of stringent anti-racial profiling laws in post-apartheid South Africa.

Sources in the South African government have said that Israel has dispatched “a team” of officials to the African nation, in an attempt to “defuse the diplomatic crisis”, after Israel’s ambassador to South Africa was told the government considered deporting all of El Al’s security staff. Relations between Israel and South Africa were close prior to 1994, but worsened significantly after the African National Congress’s rise to power, and have been at a low ebb since the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict.

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