From David to Goliath
Israel's reputation for almost limitless imagination and bountiful creativity is in no way surfeited.
From irrigation to solar power, optics, biotechnology, medicine and much more, as well as the creation of excellent weapons such as the Iron Dome defense system, Merkava MBT, Ghalil assault rifle and Uzi SMG, Israel's many high-tech inventions and innovations has advanced it to the fore amongst nations.
“The command-and-control systems, the war rooms, the methods of information gathering and the technology of the pilotless aircraft, or drones, that now serve the Americans and their allies were all in large part developed in Israel,”
- Ronen Bergman, Rise and Kill First
In intelligence circles as well as in the popular imagination, Israel's external secret service's reputation for courage, derring-do, genius planning and resounding successes is also well deserved. The Mossad's many achievements are the stuff of legends, unfortunately stealing a bit of the thunder from the Shin Beth, Israel's internal secret service, and other special ops services.
Most people have heard about the famous Raid at Entebbe and some have probably even seen the movie.
Also, there was Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, who was a principal designer and executor of the “final solution of the Jewish question.” After the war, with the help of ODESSA, the underground organization that spirited away ex-Nazi leaders, he started a new life in South America. The way Mossad operatives kidnapped him from Argentina and brought him to Israel to stand trial is still talked about and examined by intel professionals today. That daring 1960 mission was recounted in the American TV movie 'The Man Who Captured Eichmann.' Before his execution and eventual cremation, Eichmann was even said to have praised the Mossad for perfectly carrying out the operation that would result in his hanging.
Herr Eichmann was a stickler for procedures.
Also, possibly coming soon to a theatre near you: the hair-raising story of a Mossad commando's burglary of an Iranian repository of documents that allegedly prove that Iran kept right on developing nuclear weapons, even after it agreed to halt all such activities by signing a denuclearization treaty. Get ready for split-second suspense and brave agents thinking on their feet and not afraid of going to plan B.
Ronen Bergman is an intelligence correspondent for Tel Aviv's Yediot Aharonot newspaper, and he interviewed a lot of people who work in Israeli intelligence. He then wrote “Rise and Kill First”, where he tells us that Israel has carried out at least 2,700 assassination operations since its inception 70 years ago. The book's title comes from the Talmud and all those assassinations are rationalized as a way for Israel to avoid all out war with its many enemies. The book also suggests that Yasser Arafat might have been killed by radiation poisoning, Russia style.
The author of “Rise and Kill First” says that Israeli secret services opposed resistance to him and his writings and are said to have warned their agents never to talk with him. Still, the book is a real font of information.
Israel's kill list of targeted killings, they say, prevented their regional enemies from having sophisticated nuclear missiles pointed at them right this minute. Its targets come mainly from what it calls the Radical Front: Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. These targets may be high ranking officers or foot soldiers, technicians or politicians; just as long as they harbour enmity to Israel and work at attacking it, especially with missiles. Those “wet” operations are always carried out with an eye towards exacerbating tensions between different enemy religious groups. This loose anti-Israel coalition is likened to James Bond's arch enemy, the fictional SPECTRE organization.
Here are just a few examples
Hassan Lakkis was shot four times in the head and neck while arriving at his home in a Beirut suburb. He was in charge of weapons development. Of course, Israel has denied any involvement in the matter.
General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, nicknamed "Hezbollah’s Q," was head of missile development for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and responsible for exporting missiles to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad. He was blown up with 16 of his men at a missile depot near Tehran.
There's Imad Mughniyeh, who was offed on a Damascus street by a car bomb as he walked by, in a CIA and Mossad joint operation. He was deemed responsible for the Beirut US barracks and embassy bombings, as well as a whole slew of assassinations of western targets.
“Both bin Laden and Mughniyeh were pathological killers. “...” But there was always a nagging amateurishness about bin Laden — his wildly hyped background, his bogus and false claims.… Bin Laden cowered and hid. Mughniyeh spent his life giving us the finger.”
- Milton Bearden, 30-year veteran CIA officer
Also General Muhammad Suleiman, a Syrian Army Brigadier, head of secret special projects, procurer of strategic weapon, including the building of a nuclear reactor and the man in charge of Syria’s ties with Iran and Hezbollah. He was reported to have been taken out in Tartus, Syria. This city is home to the only Russian naval base on the Mediterranean sea and, fittingly, Suleiman was taken out in the most spy movie-like fashion: he was shot in the head from afar in a sniper hit with a long-range silenced weapon, probably by the Israeli Navy Special Forces.
Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief, said that Assad really misses Suleiman.
But there's always a dark side, isn't there?
A dark side to all these assassinations would be... the assassinations that were attempted but failed, we guess. And they did miss a few. Saddam Hussein and Otto Mengele come to mind, and we've also found some more failed killings. Here is just a sample, but indicative that, if nothing else, nobody's perfect.
It's a given that any intelligence organization has a few failures that it wants to hide, but the Mossad relies heavily on its sterling reputation for efficiency as a deterrent, and it's probably safe to infer that they keep as tight a lid as possible on those missteps. In fact, a lot of what we know about their failures became common knowledge when those actions were brought to light by creating a diplomatic incident, as in the case of the attempted assassination of Khaled Meshaal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Meshaal killed in retaliation for the Mahane Yehuda Market bombing in Jerusalem, Israel, which killed 16 and left 178 injured. He was thus ambushed by two Mossad agents who poisoned him as he emerged from his office in Amman, Jordan. But the agents were caught and confessed. Jordan's then-King Hussein immediately called Netanyahu and demanded the antidote to the poison, but the Israeli leader refused. King Hussein threatened to have his two agents executed and, along with then-US president Clinton's intercession, Netanyahu was persuaded to relent. He sent the antidote to Jordan and the victim survived.
Operation Wrath of God
After the Munich Olympics terrorist attack, Israeli secret service assassins were sent on the trail of those responsible for this act of terrorism. This operation was dubbed Wrath Of God and sought to take out the members of Black September, the Palestinian armed terrorist group responsible for the attack. Operation Wrath Of God wasn't a total failure but things sometimes got hairy. Agents killed unrelated victims, went off-reservation and took unsanctioned initiatives, generally made a bloody mess of things and one of them even managed to get seduced and killed by a female assassin in his own London hotel room. They finally got their main target in Lebanon, but killed four innocent bystanders in the process.
Ronen Bergman said in an interview about operation Wrath of God :
"This campaign stopped most PLO terrorism outside the borders of Israel. Did it help in any way to bring peace to the Middle East? No. Strategically it was a complete failure."
- Ronen Bergman
The Lavon Affair
Remember the part about “operations are always carried out with an eye towards exacerbating tensions between different enemy religious groups?” Well, this one was supposed to be victimless, but all about poisoning middle-eastern relations with foreigners.
A group of Israelis and Egyptian Jews were sent on a false flag mission to place bombs in Egyptian, American, and British owned cinemas, cultural centres and libraries in order to pass this attack off as a Muslim Brotherhood, communist or malcontent mission, hence the false flag designation. They went so far as to plant evidence behind implicating Arab nationals. The bombs were to go off when there was no-one about, for the idea was not to kill innocents but to create a climate where the Egyptian-American relations would be harmed and the British would decide to remain in their colony of Egypt. Then one of the bombs detonated prematurely and things went awry from there.
Eleven of the thirteen agents were caught. Some of the agents swallowed their cyanide capsules or whatever it was they had. Others were caught, interrogated, tried and executed. Six went to prison for a long, long time. Forever was the effect on Egyptian Jews and other Jews living in Arab countries. Because of this disastrous action, they were henceforth regarded with deep suspicion, even by their next-door neighbours, and in some countries, extra measures were taken against them, like freezing their bank accounts.
This fiasco became known as the Lavon Affair after the defence minister who had to resign because of it. More importantly, the scandal led to the downfall of the Ben Gurion government.
But before Lavon's resignation, in Israel, this incident had been called the "The Unfortunate Affair" or "The Bad Business". Israel denied responsibility, but in 2005 it honoured the surviving agents.
However, it is interesting to note that the Germans sometimes referred to the Nazi era as “The Unpleasantness” in the post-war years.
The gallows, Israel, 1962 and beyond
Way back in 1962 on the gallows, Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann said something to Rafael Eitan, the Israeli intelligence officer who had been in charge of the mission to abduct him and bring him to Israel. He mumbled, “I hope you will all follow me.” That was mere seconds before he was hung,
Fifty-seven years after the Eichmann hanging the very same Rafael Eitan did the unexpected and unacceptable. He praised a neo-Nazi linked German right wing party, the AfD, for their anti-immigration stance. And this on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less.
Eichmann's wish certainly turned out to be true, in the court of public opinion at least, as Rafael Eitan's pro-Nazi, anti-immigration comment drew widespread condemnation. Also in the court of public opinion, Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians is certainly not to everybody's taste. This pitting of geopolitical imperatives against common human decency is very far from garnering a favourable consensus, even amongst Jews. The current Israeli government is chipping away at what were once the core values of Zionism and leaning heavily in the very restrictive, stifling, even destructive Orthodox direction.
It looks like there's a cultural and societal, even religious war brewing between those who might be called “Ordinary Jews”, and those who might be called “Purer Breed Orthodox Jews”. This in spite of the fact that the vast majority of the world's Jews are non-Orthodox.
These kinds of things never end well...
The president of the World Jewish Congress had this to say in a recent New York Times article :
“So when members of Israel’s current government unintentionally undermine the covenant between Judaism and enlightenment, they crush the core of contemporary Jewish existence, (...) If present trends persist, young Jews might not acquiesce to an affiliation with a nation that discriminates against non-Orthodox Jews, non-Jewish minorities.”
- Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress
The president of the World Jewish Congress ends his article by stating that :
“This is not who we are, and this is not who we wish to be.”
From David to Goliath.
Regrettably, let us end our article by simply saying :
“Let the chips fall where they may.”