Shin Bet, also known as Shabak, is the internal security arm of the Israeli government that works hand in hand with the Mossad and the Aman. The agency was founded by Isser Harel on February 8th, 1949. Shin Bet’s headquarters are situated in Park Hayarkon, Tel Aviv. Nicknamed the “The Unseen Shield”, Shin Bet is often linked to the Zionist paramilitary group that existed long before the creation of the nation of Israel. The current head of Shin Bet is Nadav Argaman who reports directly to the Prime Minister. This agency consists of three departments namely the Arab, non-Arab, and protective security departments.
Duties of the Shin Bet
The first role of Shin Bet is to protect Israel from threats of terror. To do so, the country has formed a specific counter-terrorism unit known as the Yamas. Consequently, Shin Bet is famous for having thwarted several potential counter-terrorist attacks over the years. Secondly, the agency is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the general security of the country, its citizens, and its secrets. This duty is related to Shin Bet’s role of offering personal protection of high-value officials in government and significant locations in the country such as research institutions, airports, and embassies. Thirdly, Shin Bet gathers intelligence to help safeguard the country’s borders at the Gaza Strip and West Bank from external attacks. Fourthly, the strict monitoring of political activity within the Arab population living in Israel is also part of Shin Bet’s duty. This role was undertaken after the Six-Day War that took place in 1967. The war exploded as a result of years of political tension between the Arab nations of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt; and Israel. However, aided by great intelligence, the young nation of Israel gained the victory that has shaped its relations with the Arab nations ever since. Thus, Shin Bet ensures that Israel is informed about the political activities and any threats by the Arab nations.
Criticism of Shin Bet
Shin Bet has received several criticisms related to its operations which have been seen as disregarding the Israeli laws as well as human rights. For instance, the agency has been condemned for claims that it tortures and kills its Palestinian detainees. The most popular form of tormenting its prisoners is psychological torture. Detainees are denied basic rights such as the right to legal representation for as many as 20 days after being arrested. Besides, the Palestinians living in Israel are denied freedom of expression and association. The United Nations has also expressed disapproval of the violent interrogation tactics applied by Shin Bet. Thus, many of the Shin Bet activities would not pass for regular police operations since they do not execute their work strictly by the law.