Noriega immediately began converting the National Guard from a loosely run corrupt organization into a closely held business. He renamed it the Panamanian Defense Forces at the suggestion of his business partner and adviser, Michael Harari, a former Israeli Mossad agent, who had regaled Noriega with tales about the Israeli Defense Forces.
Harari, a silver-haired man of military bearing, had been one of Noriega’s most eager friends and useful supporters. He would become Noriega’s most trusted adviser — aside from his own brother — now that he had to run the Panamanian military and, to a large extent, the country. Noriega also idolized the Israeli people and its military.The Mossad alumnus “may have eluded capture on the night of the United States invasion because he was warned to flee nearly six hours before American troops swept into the capital,” The New York Times reported on January 2. The following month, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs published an article titled “What You Won’t Read about Michael Harari, Noriega’s Israeli Advisor Who Got Away”, which elaborated on the doings of Noriega’s slippery “closest associate”:
For days it looked as if former Mossad hit squad chief Michael Harari, known to Panamanians as the “second most important person” in their country, was going to be totally ignored in US press accounts of the Panama invasion. Only NBC reported on two successive evenings at the beginning of the invasion that Noriega’s Israeli aide and confidant had made a rapid series of visits to Nicaragua, Cuba and Israel in the days preceding the US strike in an apparent attempt to prepare a Noriega escape route.
The Israeli press, which considered Noriega the second most important person in Panama after Harari, wasn’t so reticent as it speculated about how Israel’s master spy would manage the escape to Israel, and whether or not he would bring Noriega along.
Despite the early warning to Israelis in Panama, however, Noriega didn’t escape. US special operations troops disabled hidden planes and boats that would have been used, but at a cost in American lives. In the words of the Washington Times of Jan. 4: “Of the 23 soldiers killed in combat, 11 were special operations forces. Military experts considered this a high casualty count for special forces.” In other words, a lot of young American servicemen died at the hands of Panamanian elite units who apparently knew they were coming, possibly because of the action of one or more informants in the US government.
Americans won’t read much serious media speculation about who those informants might be. The numbers of people within the US government who can find reasons not to pursue any investigation that may lead to Israel literally have reached critical mass.
Truth no longer will out, unless it absolves Israel. That is why virtually nothing significant emerged from the congressional hearings on the Reagan administration’s arms-for-hostages dealings with Iran. Because every line of investigation led directly to Israel, no single line was pursued for long. The result is a near-total information blackout. Extremists in the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir count on it, and conduct themselves with total disregard for American public opinion.
But for the bizarre circumstances of his escape, the mainstream US media might never have revealed any of Harari’s key role in a Panama-based triangle that apparently helped put drugs from Colombia into the US, used the proceeds to buy arms (some captured from the PLO in Lebanon) from Israel or through Israeli brokers, and then sold the arms. They certainly went to US-backed contras and friendly Latin governments. They may also have gone to states like Cuba and Nicaragua, and to Marxist guerrillas like those in El Salvador and Peru.
There are reports that Harari slipped out of Panama on an Israeli plane just before US forces struck. Other reports say he was caught by US forces, and then released. Astonished Americans, from embassy personnel to GIs, who believe they witnessed parts of that drama leaked the story. Then the spin doctors went to work to explain that the Americans and Panamanians involved had confused Harari’s driver, a young Panamanian sergeant, with his Israeli boss, the often photographed, 62-year-old, second-most powerful man in Panama. […]
There are a lot of other things about Harari, Israelis in Panama, and their disastrous effect on the Jewish community there that Americans won’t be reading in their daily newspapers or hearing on the evening news much longer. Before Harari recedes into the shadows, however, here are a few facts that were reported just before and immediately after his unplanned moment in the international media spotlight.
The Israeli government keeps referring to Harari as “retired.” In the words of an official Israeli spokesman, “He is absolutely not connected in any way to the government.” However, even Halevy and Livingstone admit he came out of his 1979 retirement in 1980 to accept an assignment as Mossad’s director for Central America. Officially he was assigned to the Israeli Embassy in Mexico City. He spent most of his time, however, in Panama, where he had known since 1973 both Panamanian strongman Omar Torrijos, who was killed in a 1981 plane crash, and his successor, Noriega. Harari knew Noriega particularly well because, during the period “the Pineapple” was working as Torrijos’ intelligence chief, and moonlighting as a $200,000 a year informant for the CIA and for Cuba as well, he also had become an informant for Israel’s Mossad. […]
Noriega had undergone military and intelligence training in Israel, jumped five times with Israeli paratroopers, and-like Uganda’s deposed dictator Idi Amin-proudly wore his Israeli paratrooper wings on his uniform for many years afterward. Although critics say America “bought and paid for” Noriega, he was also an Israeli creation and a great admirer of the ruthless “Israeli way,” as was Amin, the most brutal despot in 20th century African history.
It was Harari who reorganized, renamed and trained the Panamanian Defense Forces when Noriega succeeded Torrijos. Harari also instructed Noriega’s personal bodyguard and his “Special Anti-Terror Unit.” Harari obtained advanced technical equipment and weapons for them, and there is no doubt he taught them how to anticipate and neutralize many of the attempts to monitor Noriega’s activities launched by American intelligence officers from their bases in the Canal Zone.
Panama’s strongman reciprocated. On one of his visits to Israel arranged by Harari in the 1980s, Noriega bought a seaside villa in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya. Back in Panama, he sent his children to the Jewish community’s prestigious Alberto Einstein day school and to an Israeli kibbutz one summer. Noriega also employed other Israeli security experts in the Harari-organized PDF, which in effect became the Noriega administration.
As for Harari’s ongoing connections with Israel, Panama’s new police commander, Eduardo Herrara Hassan, explains: “I was the ambassador to Israel but he was my boss. Everything I did had to be authorized by Harari.”
Another irony of the attempt to justify the U.S. invasion by painting Noriega as a New Hitler is that, according to Moises Mizrachi of the Panamanian Committee of the Anti-Defamation League, “in the three-day Panama City looting spree touched off by the US invasion, most of the hundreds of stores wrecked along 20 blocks of Central Avenue were Jewish-owned.” Mizrachi further stated that Noriega “was clearly evil […]
But a few said he was good for the Jews.”In addition to the “key role” Harari may have played in smuggling Colombian drugs into the United States, there are other Israeli connections to Colombia and to the Medellin cartel in particular. In August of 1989, NBC aired a videotape that showed Israeli mercenaries training Colombian drug cartel assassins. The Associated Press reported the Zionist embarrassment:
Retired Lt. Col. Yair Klein told reporters at police headquarters in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva he believed he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
“If I did break the law, a lot of other people did,” he said. […]
On Sunday, Klein said he would name high-ranking officers, including one now sitting in Israel’s Parliament, who were involved in training operations in Latin America.A Colombian judge issued an arrest warrant for Klein, who sought refuge in Israel, which had no extradition treaty with the Colombian government. A contemporary editorial published in the Kentucky New Era, after expressing the obligatory sympathy for their suffering at the hands of Palestinian terrorists, berated the Israelis for their involvement with Medellin:
Deeply troubling […] is the news that a retired Israeli army colonel trained Colombian drug terrorists, including their reputed paramilitary leader. A 48-minute videotape captured by the Colombian government shows retired Col. Yair Klein and other Hebrew-speaking instructors teaching 50 terrorists from the Medellin drug cartel. The men learned how to assault an armed emplacement, explode car bombs and shoot from speeding cars.
“I want vengeance, much vengeance!” the men shouted in unison on the tape. “I want blood, much blood!”
Colombia’s national police chief said he has evidence linking the people who received training from the Israelis to the murder of Colombia’s front-running presidential candidate, Luis Carlos Galan.
Combatting terrorism is a skill the Israeli military has developed to a science. It is a skill for survival. It is justified only as an act of protection. To sell terrorist tools to drug dealers is a heinous violation of the right of the Colombian people to live in peace.The Jewish Telegraph Agency published an article which, under the heading “Not only Israelis”, sought to minimize the scandal by pointing out that “numerous Americans and South Africans are involved in it”. A former Israeli ambassador to Colombia is quoted as whining: “We are used to the fact that the moment Israelis are involved in any matter, Israel is placed in the spotlight […] Even if a connection exists between Israelis and military training in Colombia, this is a far cry from drugs.” The article continues with unintentional humor:
[…] Klein and his associates have been most eager to give their version of events to the news media.
The story was, in fact, a media creation when NBC News broadcast a videotape on Aug. 22  showing armed men identified as a drug cartel “hit squad” being trained by a Hebrew-speaking officer.
Israel Television promptly identified the officer as Klein […]
He said his clients were farmers and ranchers who needed protection from guerrillas and cattle rustlers the Colombian authorities could not control. […]
As further proof that his clients were not the drug cartel, Klein said he was paid $40,000 for his services, a negligible amount to receive from drug traffickers. […]
Meanwhile, Eitan Coran, an Israeli in Bogota, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that Jews in Colombia have reason to fear reprisals from leftist guerrillas […]Jewish journalists, in more than one article published in the wake of the Klein controversy, attempted to turn Jews into the most vulnerable victims of the country’s narcotics-related atrocities:
Some […] don’t see a future in their native country, and have moved with their families to Miami. […]
No one who spoke with The Jewish Floridian knows of cases where Jews have been directly linked to the drug cartels, but there have been alleged cases which have linked Jews to the drug industry through the avenue of money laundering.
Jews have felt some backlash from those in Colombia who are attempting to battle the drug lords after an Israeli soldier, Lt. Col. Yair Klein, was shown training Colombian marksmen involved in the drug cartels. […]
Some former Colombian Jews say they feel torn because their families choose to remain in a situation that they see is as hopeless as the Europe of the 1930s.Be that as it may, the paper also interviewed “Roberto”, a Jewish land developer, who conceded that many of his people were reluctant to leave Colombia because “drug money has filtered into the [Jewish] community and benefited a series of businesses in general” and “they feel they have too much to lose in terms of lifestyle and money.”
The Wall Street Journal followed up with the Yair Klein situation a few months later:
In the nine months since this situation surfaced, Klein has continued to run what he brags is “the best team in Israel for small wars, anti-terror units and commando operations.” An official inquiry in Israel hasn’t led to a prosecution […]
The nation needs international sales to prop up its arms industry, and prosecuting him could open a window that Israel prefers to keep shut.Klein continued to operate despite also being publicly implicated in the “Guns for Antigua” scandal, which involved a plot to route Israeli arms to Colombian death squads indirectly, by way of an Israeli “melon farm” in Antigua. AP reported in May 1990:
Colombian authorities discovered a cache of Israeli-made Uzi machine guns and other weapons during a raid in February on a ranch owned by Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, who died in a gun battle with police in December.
After the weapons were found, Colombia filed a strong diplomatic protest with Israel. Israeli officials responded that the weapons were part of a shipment intended for the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
Investigators traced the shipment to Klein and another Israeli, Maurice Sarfati, whose name may be familiar to 9/11 researchers. At the time, however, Sarfati was primarily noteworthy for being sought by U.S. authorities after his Antiguan “produce company” defaulted on more than a million dollars in American loans. Humorously, “Klein said the weapons shipped to Antigua had been intended for a survival training camp being set up for Panamanian rebels seeking to overthrow Gen. Manuel Noriega.” Noriega’s affection for the Israelis was, it would seem, somewhat misplaced. As a result of this unsavory episode, Colombia suspended a longstanding treaty that had allowed Israelis to enter the country without a visa, furthermore requiring all Israelis already in the country to register with the government.
The New York Times gave further details on how the Israeli gunrunners were caught in a lie:
The mystery of how the Uzis made their way there [to Antigua] has set off a number of investigations, roiled the ruling family of Antigua, and posed a sensitive diplomatic problem for Washington and Jerusalem, U.S. officials said.
Israel has said only that it approved the arms for sale to the Antiguan government.
Antiguan officials say they neither ordered nor received the arms. […]
After the weapons were found, Colombia filed an unusually blunt diplomatic protest with Israel.
Israel responded that the exported arms were based on a November 1988 purchase letter from Antigua’s minister of national security to the government-owned Israel Military Industries.
There is no such Antiguan ministry, however, and Antiguan officials say they never ordered any arms.The Wall Street Journal, in a 1990 article titled “Israel Oversees a Shadowy Industry”, relates these interesting bits of information:
Arms are big business in Israel. At least one out of every 10 workers is involved in the arms trade […]
Some 40 percent of Israel’s sales go to the U.S. and Europe. But even a partial list of other past and current clients reveals the bizarre nature and the global reach of Israel’s arms trade.
Murky dealings in Latin America long predate Klein’s adventures. Israel has supplied arms and training to the military juntas of Chile, Guatemala and Argentina. It aided Nicaragua’s Anastasio Somoza until his fall, then aided the Contra rebels. […]
Israeli military advisors helped Idi Amin to power in 1971. Zaire’s dictator, Mobuto Sese Seko, trained as a paratrooper in Israel, had an ex-Mossad agent as a top adviser, and currently is host to eight Israeli officers as trainers for his army. […]
Israeli weapons sales occasionally have been undertaken as U.S. dirty work, to funnel military aid to domestically unpalatable regimes, but others fly in the face of U.S. foreign policy.
Has a more redundant statement ever been uttered?
There is at least one small morsel resembling poetic justice with which this screed of Israeli-Colombian misdeeds can be closed, and it comes from the January 25, 1990 edition of The New York Times. Arik Afek, one of the many Israelis connected to the training of the Medellin killers – in addition to being the proprietor of some U.S. “flower shops” – was found dead, his corpse stuffed into the trunk of a car at Miami International Airport. Arik, in death, lived up to his name, the Times reports: “The body of the slain Israeli, Arik Afek, who reportedly had a home near Miami, was discovered after the police had received complaints of an offensive odor coming from the car, which had been left at the airport’s parking garage.”