News / Middle East

Israeli Military Lifts Veil on Iran Listeners

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan.  5, 2014.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 5, 2014.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Iranian-born immigrants to Israel are drafted to its military intelligence units in disproportionately large numbers, an official report said on Thursday, reflecting high demand for Farsi speakers to monitor the Jewish state's arch-enemy.
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees a mortal menace in Iran's disputed nuclear program and has long hinted his country was waging a covert campaign to track and foil it.
 
Those efforts, security sources say, have been stepped up since world powers and Tehran agreed an interim nuclear deal in November. Netanyahu condemned the accord as cover for Iran to pursue projects with bomb-making potential.
 
A story in the official Israeli military journal Bamahane included rare personnel data showing that, enrolling for mandatory national service, one in five Jewish immigrants from Iran go to intelligence units due to their native Farsi.
 
Describing this selection rate as “significantly higher” than the overall average among conscripts from other backgrounds, Bamahane quoted an Iranian immigration organizer as saying Farsi fluency was key.
 
“Bringing Iranian natives with a command of Farsi into the intelligence corps is a priority,” the organizer, Adi Bublil, said. “They have an advantage, as Farsi is not a common language among young men and women in the State of Israel.”
 
Israel's military intelligence corps is well-funded and staffed. Its Unit 8200 specializes in electronic eavesdropping and is often likened to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) or Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
 
Military intelligence's civilian Israeli counterpart Mossad is widely assumed to have carried out more aggressive actions like sabotage in Iran, which denies seeking the bomb but whose often secretive nuclear projects stir Western suspicions.
 
According to Bamahane, “dozens” of Iranian-born Jews join the Israeli military each year. Immigration from the Islamic republic - whose Jewish minority numbers around 25,000 - to Israel is conducted discreetly and on a relatively small scale.
 
Last September, Israel's top-rated Channel Two TV aired footage of military intelligence soldiers in a Farsi class.
 
According to that report, Iranian-born troops were included in the language program, which lasts seven months and twins comprehension of technical terms with Farsi songs and Persian folklore designed to improve eavesdroppers' colloquial skills.
 
“We need to know everything [about Iran], from combat doctrines to weaponry to operational routines to slangs and codes,” said the training academy's commander, a lieutenant-colonel whose name was withheld under secrecy regulations.
 
Iran and the European Union were scheduled to resume nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday. The negotiations have been overshadowed by a dispute over advanced Iranian research into centrifuges used to purify uranium.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid