Israel jails Orthodox Jew who offered to spy for Iran

Neturei Karta membersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Israeli citizen, who belongs to an Orthodox anti-Zionist Jewish group that rejects the existence of the state of Israel, has been jailed for offering to spy for Iran. Yitzhak Bergel, 46, a father of eight, who resides in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood, is a member of the Neturei Karta —which translates in English as “Guardians of the City”. The Jewish group opposes Zionism —the belief that a state-sanctioned Jewish homeland ought to be created in the territory described as “Land of Israel” in Jewish scriptural texts. The group, which was founded in the 1930s and has thousands of adherents in Israel, the United States and Europe, is one of several branches of conservative Judaism whose members believe that Jews are forbidden by the Torah to create their own state before the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Its members therefore oppose the existence of the current state of Israel and favor its dismantling as a Jewish state. According to his indictment, Bergel, who became religious 20 years ago, traveled to the German capital Berlin in January of 2011, intent on contacting Iranian diplomats. He walked into the Iranian embassy there and offered to collect intelligence on Israel on behalf of Iran, in return for regular payments. Israeli government prosecutors said Bergel remained in contact with his Iranian handlers until his arrest last summer. According to court documents, Bergel pleaded guilty to charges of contacting foreign agents with intent to commit treason and attempting to aid an enemy of Israel. Israeli media reports said the Shin Bet, Israel’s counterintelligence agency, questioned several people as part of its investigation into Bergel’s activities, including members of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community and public officials connected to Neturei Karta. According to evidence prepared by the Shin Bet, Bergel admitted that he contacted agents of the Iranian government “out of spite for Israel” and for “financial gain”. The court ruling, publicized on Tuesday, said “no damage had been caused to the state” of Israel by Bergel’s activities. The court sentenced him to four and a half years in prison, following a plea bargain between the defense team and the prosecutors.

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