Carmi Gillon (born January 1950) (Hebrew: כרמי גילון) is an Israeli politician and a former Israeli ambassador to Denmark and head of Shabak, the internal General Security Service (GSS; Israeli Security Agency, ISA) of Israel.
He graduated from the National Security College. He has a B.A. in political science from the Hebrew University, where he was recruited into the Shin Bet. and an M.A. in public policy from the University of Haifa. He is also a graduate of the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School, and completed management training at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
Gillon was born in Jerusalem. His mother, Saada Gillon (née Frumkin), was born in Palestine. Her ancestors had come to Palestine from the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Gillon's maternal great grandfather was Israel Dov Frumkin, a pioneer of Hebrew journalism in Palestine who had moved to Palestine from Russia in 1859. His maternal grandfather, Gad Frumkin, was one of the first trained attorneys in Palestine, who was the only Jewish judge on the Supreme Court of Palestine during the British Mandate era and was also a member of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Board of Governors from the 1930s until his death. His grandmother, maternal Chana Frumkin, was the daughter of Aharon Eisenberg, a pioneer of the First Aliyah who was one of the founders of Rehovot, and was the President of B'nai B'rith in Jerusalem. His mother served as Deputy Attorney General. His father, Colin Gillon, was born Colin Gluckman to a Jewish family in Johannesburg, South Africa, and immigrated to Palestine in 1937. Gillon's paternal grandmother, Katie Gluckman, was a prominent activist in the Zionist movement in South Africa. Colin served as State Attorney, and Hebraized his name from Gluckman to Gillon at Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's insistence.
Gillon studied at high school in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia, and at the Academy of Music. He began his military service in the Israel Defense Forces in the Armored Corps, but was transferred to the Artillery Corps. He was wounded in action in the War of Attrition, and was discharged from the IDF in 1971. In 1972, he began studying political science and public administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Shin Bet career
In 1972, Gillon was recruited by Shin Bet during his university studies. He initially worked as a bodyguard for senior staff. From 1982 to 1987, he was chief of the Shin Bet Jewish Department. From 1987 to 1989, he attended the National Security College, serving in a number of senior positions during his studies for an MA in political science and public administration. From 1989, he was chief of the Training Division. From 1990, he was chief of the Shin Bet Northern Command, a position in which he was responsible for Shin Bet activity in Lebanon. From 1993 to 1994, he was chief of the Administrative Division, responsible for HR, finances, and logistics. For four months in 1994, he was Shin Bet acting director during Yaakov Peri’s academic leave.
From March 1995 to February 1996, Gillon was the director of Shin Bet. B'Tselem, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organizations have criticized his oversight. "During his tenure, and until the Israel High Court of Justice ruled against such methods in 1999, GSS interrogators were officially sanctioned to use 'moderate physical pressure' on detainees (the vast majority of them Palestinians)," according to Amnesty International. From October 1994, when a suicide bomb killed 23 people, they were allowed to use "increased physical pressure". Secret government guidelines set down what "moderate physical pressure" and "increased physical pressure" allowed; according to court testimonies of GSS members themselves, this included subjecting detainees to sleep deprivation, prolonged shackling in painful positions, hooding with filthy sacks, being forced to squat like a frog (gambaz) and violent shaking (tiltul). During Carmi Gillon's period of service with the GSS such methods of interrogation were used against several hundred Palestinian detainees every year, many of whom were later released without charge.
In 1995, the Shin Bet's VIP protection unit failed to prevent the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin. Gillon had been in Paris at the time of the assassination, and upon returning to Israel, immediately submitted his resignation to Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who rejected it. Nevertheless, he resigned the following year. The Shamgar Commission was critical of the Shin Bet under his tenure.
After leaving the service, Gillon served as general manager of the Avner Insurance Company (1997–2000) and then as director general of the Peres Center for Peace (2000–2001). He also studied at Harvard Business School.
Ambassador to Denmark
From 2001 to 2003, he was the Israeli ambassador to Denmark. When he was nominated for the position in 2001, Human Rights Watch called for the Danish government to reject his appointment and for Israel to withdraw his nomination, while Amnesty International asked the Danish authorities to investigate him for torture, and if there was enough evidence for a prosecution, to detain him under the UN Convention against Torture, and to either try him or extradite him to a state willing to try him. Danish Justice Minister Frank Jensen initially said that Gillon could be arrested and prosecuted under the terms of the Convention after he admitted using "moderate physical pressure" on Palestinian detainees, but later backed down, acknowledging that as an ambassador, Gillon was protected by diplomatic immunity.
Gillon defended the use of torture as a means of "self-defense against terrorism." He told Danish media that Israel might have to re-introduce "moderate physical pressure" when interrogating suspected Palestinian terrorists. "We banned this form of interrogation in Israel in 1999 because of the peace process. Unfortunately, it looks like we may have to start using it again," Gillon said. One member of parliament, Centre Democrat leader Peter Duetoft, called opposition to Gillon's appointment "hypocritical" because Yasser Arafat, "the biggest terrorist", had recently visited Denmark without there having been similar objections.
In January 2014, Gillon arrived in Denmark to attend the Copenhagen Film Festival for a screening of The Gatekeepers and to deliver a lecture. After a Danish anti-torture NGO reported Gillon to the police for torture, Gillon left Denmark on January 10. The Prosecutor's Office subsequently rejected the complaint due to lack of evidence.
Politics and other activities
Gillon has been a member of a number of boards of directors, including the Tahal Group, Danker Investment, and the Arab Israel Bank. From 2014, he was chairman and CEO of Carmi Gillon Inc., chairman of CYTEGIC, and external director of the Dan Hotels chain.
Over the years, Gillon has written several books and a range of articles on the subjects of foreign affairs and security. He has also been an active current affairs commentator in the electronic media in Israel and overseas.
Gillon is married to Sari and has three children.
In 2012, Gillon was featured in a documentary film, The Gatekeepers, and discussed the main events of his tenure in Shin Bet.
- Rabin Assassin Seeks Early Release, CBS News 30 October 2005
- Carmi Gillon
- Amnesty International calls on Denmark to fulfil its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture Archived November 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. 14 August 2001, AI Index MDE 15/074/2001 - News Service Nr. 143
- Letter to Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mogens Lykketoft, Human Rights Watch 18 July 2001
- Sharon 'preparing war crimes defence', BBC News 26 July 2001
- Something rotten in Denmark Archived August 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., by Ellis Shuman, Israel Insider 26 July 2001
- Tortur Anklaget Eksdiplomat forlader Danmark, Politiken, 11 January 2014
- Carmi Gillon -- CV, http://www.carmigillon.com/#!resume/galleryPage, accessed 5 May 2015