Why Harvey Weinstein Turned to Israeli Intelligence Veterans to Suppress His Sex Abuse Accusers
In a bid to suppress some of the revelations of his flagrant acts of sexual harassment and abuse, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein contracted a private Israeli intelligence firm called Black Cube to spy on his accusers. Black Cube arranged for a female former Israeli soldier and actress named Stella Penn Pechanac to trick actress and alleged Weinstein victim Rose McGowan into a private meeting. Pechanac secured the tete-a-tete by posing as “Diana Filip,” a women’s rights advocate employed by a bogus investment firm called Reuben Partners.
With an offer of $60,000 to serve as the face of a women’s rights campaign, Pechanac, as The New Yorker reported, successfully tricked McGowan into disclosing details of her memoir, which apparently contained details about Weinstein’s abusive behavior. Pechanac also posed as a Weinstein victim named “Anna” in a failed attempt to elicit information from journalist Ben Wallace, who was planning to expose Weinstein’s sexual harassment for New York Magazine. (Wallace’s report never appeared, leading to speculation that Weinstein applied pressure to magazine higher-ups.)
Weinstein has also been a close ally of the pro-Israel lobby that carries sway from Hollywood to Capitol Hill, trading heavy donations for awards that burnished his reputation within Jewish communal circles. In the heart of the world of Israeli advocacy, where Weinstein said, “we are gonna have to get as organized as the mafia,” he was set up with a private spying network that specialized in protecting powerful miscreants like himself. He was introduced to the Black Cube intelligence firm by none other than former Israeli Prime Minister and accused war criminal Ehud Barak.
“I’m an Israeli in my heart and mind. I love that country, I love what it stands for,” Weinstein proclaimed this September.
Weinstein made those comments during an interview at the “Jewish 100” gala for Algemeiner, a right-wing pro-Israel publication that has routinely demonized advocates of Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic.
“We are gonna have to get as organized as the mafia"
Weinstein has also been publicly honored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a right-wing pro-Israel group that publishes an annual list of “anti-Semitic incidents.” Like its close affiliate, Algemeiner, the Wiesenthal Center wantonly exploits accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry to tarnish advocates of Palestinian human rights.
In 2015, the Simon Wiesenthal Center bestowed Weinstein with its “Humanitarian Award.” Introduced at the organization’s annual gala as “a nice Jewish boy” by Jeffrey Katzenberg, a fellow film producer and prolific Democratic Party donor, Weinstein launched into a tirade against the forces he believed were arrayed against the Jewish world.
First, Weinstein expressed panic over an article published in the Atlantic by journalist and former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg entitled, “Is it time for the Jews to leave Europe?”
Weinstein warned: “It's like, here we go again, we're right back where we were [before the Holocaust]. And the lessons of the past are we better stand up and kick these guys in the ass,” the serial sex abuser told his audience.
"While we must be understanding of our Arab brothers and our Islamic brothers," Weinstein continued, "we also have to understand that these crazy bastards are also killing their own—they're killing neighbors, they're killing people from all sorts of different races.”
Finally, Weinstein declared that “we are gonna have to get as organized as the mafia… as they say in The Godfather, 'back to the mattresses,' and back to the idea that we will not ever forget what happened to us.”
This year, after revelations of Weinstein’s serial sex abuse emerged, the Simon Wiesenthal Center balked at pressure to remove Weinstein from its roster of honorees. Days later, the group condemned the disgraced film producer and rescinded its award, which it had given Weinstein after tendering $100,000 in donations from him over the years.
The ex-Mossad “organized crime group”
By the fall of 2016, Weinstein sensed that his ugly history was beginning to catch up with him. He reached out to his friend, Ehud Barak, for help in contacting a vaunted business intelligence firm based out of Tel Aviv called Black Cube. Barak “was asked by Weinstein if he knows about an Israeli security firm that Weinstein had heard about and can help him deal with business issues he's currently facing,” according to a statement by the former Israeli prime minister’s representatives. They added that Barak “transferred to Weinstein information that allowed him to reach out to them on his own.”
Israeli Channel 2 reported that Weinstein invited Black Cube’s founder and Barak to a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. Weinstein was among Clinton’s most dedicated contributors, having bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars for her political campaigns and those of her husband, Bill, since the 1990s.
On its website, Black Cube describes itself as “a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.” As journalist Ali Abunimah noted, Black Cube’s advisory board is comprised of Israeli military-intelligence honchos from the late former Mossad chief Meir Dagan to the ex-general Giora Eiland, who has explicitly urged Israel’s military to wage war on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The firm’s board is also occupied by “E.J.,” a former Israeli intelligence operative who still conceals his identity while serving as “director of corporate affairs in one of the biggest industry groups in Israel.”
In April 2016, Black Cube’s co-founders Dan Zorella and Avi Yanus—both former Mossad agents—came under criminal investigation in Romania along with two other Black Cube operatives, who were arrested. According to Romania Insider, the Israeli private spies had “set up an organized crime group that harassed and carried cyber-attacks on Romania’s chief anticorruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.” Kovesi accused Black Cube of waging “an unsuccessful intimidation attempt” against her, possibly on behalf of powerful business interests she was investigating.
To extract private information from Weinstein’s accusers, Black Cube deployed an expert in velvet glove methods of subterfuge. She was Stella Penn Pechanac, a former Israeli air force officer and aspiring actress who had made a cameo appearance in a 2010 music video by Israeli pop balladeer Rudi Saada. (The video depicted Saada seducing another woman, then sawing her to pieces and stuffing her dismembered body parts in a trash can.)
As journalist Allison Deger reported, Pechanac was awarded an Argov hasbara fellowship in 2015 by the Israeli university, IDC Herzilya. The program was designed to train youthful, English-speaking Israelis to propagandize on the country’s behalf, and specifically to defend its grisly military campaigns against the Gaza Strip. “This cadre—which will work in both the public and private sector—will provide a wellspring of talent able to effectively present Israel’s case to the international community,” the program’s founder, Gideon Argov, explained.
Before long, Pechanac was pipelined from Israel’s global propaganda apparatus into the world of private spying.
Israel’s rape culture
Why any self-respecting 38-year-old woman would pose as a feminist champion in order to help an ultra-wealthy serial sex abuser intimidate his victims into submission is difficult to explain. Without a doubt, Pechanac’s work was heavily compensated by her client, but her own experiences might have also factored into her motives as well. After all, she had served in the ranks of a military where sexual harassment had been virtually normalized, and where female conscripts were often expected to satisfy the urges of their male superiors.
A 2003 survey provided to the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Israeli Army found that one out of three female soldiers had been sexually attacked during her service, and that at least 80 percent had faced sexual harassment. Shlomo Benizri, a right-wing former member of Knesset, referred to new female army recruits as “fresh mattresses,” while ex-Israeli president Ezer Weizman said of his country’s air force, “The best men to the cockpit, the best women to the pilots.”
Countless Israeli political leaders have been accused or convicted of sexual assault and related violations. They range from former president Moshe Katsav, who was convicted of rape and the indecent assault of female subordinates, to Yitzhak Mordechai, the ex-army chief of staff convicted of sexually assaulting two female soldiers working in his office, to Silvan Shalom, who resigned as Interior Minister in 2015 after accusations came to light that he sexually harassed 11 women.
A 2016 study by Israeli Channel 2 found that 28 of 32 female members of Israel’s Knesset complained of sexual harassment. “When I was younger, right after I immigrated to Israel, there was a period when I wouldn’t go outside because of all the harassment,” member of Knesset Ksenia Svetlova said. Overall, one in four Israeli women has reported being sexually assaulted, according to a study by Abigail Moor, the head of the women’s studies program at Tel-Hai College in northern Israel.
It is no coincidence that Weinstein looked to Israel for help in suppressing his accusers. Among the veterans of the country’s military-intelligence apparatus, he found experts in subterfuge that were willing to carry out their duties without moral limits—“organized as the mafia,” just as he said he sought.