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Israeli lawyer and author Nitsana Darshan-Leitner visited Landerhaven on June 21 and shared stories of how Israel has sought to defund terrorist groups by targeting the flow of money into the organizations.

Darshan-Leitner, who is the founder and president of Shurat Hadin – The Israel Law Center, recently authored “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters,” and discussed the book’s findings with the crowd.

She described the Israeli government’s program, code named “Operation Harpoon,” and the mission of its creator, Meir Dagan, who was the head of Mossad from 2002 to 2011.

“If he wanted to stop the terrorism, he had to stop the flow of the money,” Darshan-Leitner said of Dagan. “(‘Operation Harpoon’) had one mission: follow the money, target the money, kill the money.”

She said Dagan was asked by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon how to fight terrorism, and Dagan said Sharon had to go after the terrorists’ infrastructure.

“(Dagan) said it was time to separate (former Palestinian Liberation Organization President) Yasser Arafat from his money,” Darshan-Leitner said. “He sent Harpoon agents to a country in South America and opened up an investment fund.”

Darshan-Leitner said the Harpoon agents targeted an associate of Arafat, and convinced the associate to invest “hundreds of millions of Arafat’s money” in this company, hiring men in business suits and attractive receptionists to “work” for the company. They kept the facade up for a few months, and then “one day he called and no one answered.” Darshan-Leitner said the associate then traveled to the South American country to investigate and found that the company had disappeared, along with Arafat’s money.

Darshan-Leitner also shared stories of how Israel Defense Forces troops would visit banks suspected of housing terrorist organizations’ money, including a bank in the West Bank of Gaza, where they requested the bank shut down the accounts associated with the terrorists. She said the bank refused to listen, and this caused Dagan to have the IDF send “hundreds of soldiers, with tanks” to surround the bank. She said the unit commander walked inside, wielding a machine gun, and showed the bank manager a military order to take him to the safe of the bank and give him all the money associated with the accounts in cash. The unit commander gave the bank manager a receipt, according to Darshan-Leitner.

“The United States was furious at Israel for taking this step,” said Darshan-Leitner. “Former President George Bush told Sharon that ‘no democratic state goes and robs banks.’ But that was Meir Dagan.”

After her speech, Darshan-Leitner signed copies of “Harpoon.”

The Cleveland Jewish News was a sponsor of the event.