Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Every Spy a Prince

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Every Spy a Prince

Article excerpt

By Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman. Houghton Mifflin. 466 pp. List: $24.95

Each country's intelligence service is the "mirror of the society it serves." The British see intelligence as a game, with the lottery of birth deciding which side you're on. America sees spying as "big business" and is more interested in electronics than in battles of wits. Israel's secret services, like the country itself, were the creation of humorless Russians and Poles. So Mossad and Shin Bet, like the Cheka and OGPU, are "primarily a tool for preserving the regime." That involves plenty of torture and murder at home and abroad, and more mischief than analysis.

So say the authors of this book, which is also appearing in London under their preferred title, The Imperfect Spies, which better sets the theme.

Significantly, Mossad sees its best achievements as the kidnapping by 23 people of an old Nazi called Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, and the seizure of remote Entebbe airport in 1972, an intelligence challenge about on a par with Britain's police operation in Anguilla in 1964. But the agency failed to notice the buildup of forces that led to the Ramadan War of 1973, or to Iraq's attack on Iran in 1980 or on Kuwait a decade later, and it was taken by surprise by the intifada.

Raviv and Melman, Israeli journalists with impeccable sources, offer above all a gallery of characters going back to the legendary Russian, Isser Harel, and the diminutive Pole who plotted the successful murders of Count Bernadotte and Lord Moyne -- Yitzhak Shamir. From the start, the authors show, Israel's secret services ran rogue operations, stealing money from the Swiss accounts of Hitler's victims, bombing a synagogue in Baghdad during prayers in 1951 to scare Jewish Iraqis into moving into tent villages in Israel, and bombing British and American offices in Cairo in 1954 (the "Lavon affair") to discredit the Nasser regime.

Using American funds provided for other purposes, the Mossad bribed its way across Africa and Latin America. The authors assert that the late dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceaucescu -- who edged Sadat toward Jerusalem and Camp David -- received about $30 million from the agency.

Israel's spies exploited Kurdish and Christian minorities in the Arab world. Elsewhere, they threw in their lot with established power, however autocratic: Iran (where they trained the SAVAK secret police in interrogation methods), Zaire, Chad and other African countries, Singapore, Sri Lanka (where they helped the Sinhalese go after Tamils), South Korea, South Africa (where Israel aided the birth of nuclear weapons), and Argentina (supplying arms during the Falklands War). They helped Morocco capture and kill an opposition leader, Mehdi Ben Barka, in Paris. In Beirut, they murdered Palestinians and blew up MEA Caravelles at the airport. During the 1967 war, they protected the disinformation communications which brought Jordan into the conflict by directing the attack on the US spy ship Liberty, an action in which 34 Americans were killed and 171 wounded.

At Lillehammer, Norway, in 1973, a Mossad team murdered Ahmed Boushiki, a Moroccan waiter, in front of his pregnant Norwegian wife, after mistaking him for a Palestinian leader of the Black September terrorist group. The woman responsible for that, Sylvia Raphael, a South African, got her come-uppance in Limassol, Cyprus, a decade later, along with two colleagues -- all killed by a Palestinian hit team. …

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