JERUSALEM — Israeli agents married Muslim women and even had children with them as a way to infiltrate Israel's Arab communities, a newspaper reported Sept. 29.
Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency sent agents into Arab towns in the years after the 1948 creation of the Jewish state because it questioned the loyalty of the Arab minority.
About 1 million of Israel's 6 million residents are Arabs. Despite full citizenship, they complain of continued discrimination.
The agents sent to the Arab villages assumed false identities. Several succumbed to social pressure and started families to avoid suspicion, the Haaretz daily reported.
"We were meant to use these agents in case of violent action on the part of the Arab minority," Amos Manor, who headed Shin Bet at the time, told the Israeli newspaper.
After seven years, when the special unit broke up, so did many families. Some women took the abrupt revelation in stride, converted to Judaism, and stayed with their husbands.
The unit's first commander, Shmuel Moriah, told Haaretz that the idea was a mistake that eventually wreaked havoc on the agents' personal lives.
As late as the 1980s, the Shin Bet was dealing with problems involving some of those families, he said.
Israeli security forces have carried out other undercover operations, but usually involving agents who assumed disguises for a brief period.
During the 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising, the Israeli army ran undercover squads in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with agents disguising themselves as Palestinians in order to track down fugitives.