Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda

Article excerpt

The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda

By Victor Ostrovsky. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. (New York) 1994, 315 pp. List: $24; AET: $18 for one, $24 for two.

Reviewed by Andrew I. Killgore

Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky was in Larnaca, Cyprus in 1980 on an operation involving cooperation with Belgian authorities to halt shipments of arms by leftist Belgians to Palestinians. One night in the hotel he decided, on his own, to strike up an acquaintance with a Palestinian businessman from Amman who had just arrived from Libya.

To Ostrovsky's surprise, the Palestinian described to him a Mossad scheme to force down a plane flying top Palestine Liberation Organization leaders from Tripoli, Libya, to Lebanon. The Israeli intelligence agency's plan to capture PLO leaders would fail, the Palestinian businessman told Ostrovsky, because the PLO was aware of the Mossad's plan. Ostrovsky tried to warn his superiors that the Palestinians had knowledge of the plan, but failed to reach them in time to halt it.

The Palestinian, as it turned out, was right. When Israeli aircraft forced the small plane to land in Israel, the PLO leaders were not aboard, and the Israeli act of aerial piracy over international waters caused it great embarrassment.

Somehow the blame for that embarrassment fell on Ostrovsky, however, because he had broken Mossad rules in cultivating the Palestinian. His superiors chose to believe that his conversation with the Palestinian was the reason for their failure.

From that day forward, Ostrovsky was a marked man within the Mossad. At that point in his plummeting career as an Israeli spy, according to Ostrovsky's own account, he agreed to work with higher ranking Mossad officers (whether they were still in or outside the agency is hazy) to thwart hard-liners within Mossad who were planning, among other things, to arrange the assassination in southern Lebanon in 1982 of a relatively moderate Mossad directordesignate to prevent his taking office.

That's how Ostrovsky, whose first book about life within the Mossad was By Way of Deception, begins his second book, The Other Side of Deception.

The author and his co-conspirators set out to discredit the Mossad-as-is by revealing its dirty tricks to the intelligence services of other nations, and to replace it with something less repulsive. They walk a fine line between hurting Mossad without harming Israel. In fact the conspirators seem dedicated to Israel, although the Canadian-born author eventually describes Israel, where he was raised by his grandparents, as "a nightmare of prejudice, wallowing in racism and waving the white and blue flag of oppression."

The Israeli government inadvertently boosted sales of Ostrovsky's first book by attempting, in vain, to suppress its publication in Canada, to which Ostrovsky had fled and where he had gone into hiding. The grisly picture of Mossad dirty tricks painted in his second book by Ostrovsky's almost novelistic writing style, plus a human reluctance to accept that anybody could be that bad, may leave the reader wondering, "Can all this really be true?"

For this reviewer the answer was supplied by Ostrovsky's account of Mossad's assassination of a German politician named Uwe Barschel. The account in his book, completed early in 1994, was confirmed in chilling detail in a January 1995 Washington Post article datelined Berlin and based upon German, Spanish and Swiss police investigations of the murder, and the possible motives for it.

According to Ostrovsky, Barschel, the premier of the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein, adamantly refused in 1987, during the Iran-Iraq war, to allow Israeli arms for Iran to be shipped from Schleswig-Holstein ports. Subsequently, he was accused, falsely it now appears, by one of his press aides of authorizing dirty tricks against his political rivals. Although Barschel asserted his innocence, he was forced to resign, leaving his career in ruins. …

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