Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service
Mossad or "the institute" – if translated literally, is that formidable Israeli Secret Service which needs no introduction. And this is the first time that 21 of its greatest missions have found their way to the public domain.
Apart from the lone story of capturing the infamous Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann, this reviewer too, didn't know almost anything about the other missions. Each of the missions has been described in the fashion of a suspense story. Pick any one, and it can be guaranteed that you won't be able to put the book down until it's finished. The book's core strength is: earth- shattering real facts of the Mossad has been exposed through glib investigative journalism by authors Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal.
In the world of international espionage, intelligence, and covert "Black-Ops" it's not Fleming's James Bond but the agents of Mossad that truly functions with the 'Licence to kill '. May be fictitious, but the difference here is that Bond had to be officially recognised with the licence and the Mossad agent inherits it – as if a birthright.
Impeding and slowing down the Iranian nuclear programme while killing its scientists, obtaining Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech; assassinating the PLO leader Ali Hassan Salameh; employing Gamal Abdel Nasser's son-in-law as a double agent; stealing a Mig-21fighter jet from Iraq some ten months prior the Six-Day War; blowing up Syrian nuclear reactor; laying honey traps and assassinating Hezbollah leaders in foreign countries – all speaks of a terrifying secret organisation –Mossad. Its boundary is not restricted and it's also devoid of ethics or any form of morals. Having read all the missions, it became clear: Mossad's ultimate goal is to crush anything that's anti-Zionist in nature. In times, propagate falsehood and create intrigue. And also, if necessary, destroy peace.
This reviewer unhesitatingly envied some of Mossad's creative techniques in the field of Intelligence and Special Operations. He was also shocked when he discovered how Mossad has been granted an 'unauthorised impunity' by many western democratic nations. An exciting feature of the book is that it analyses and details Mossad's leadership in all of the chapters. The Mossad chief is usually referred as the Ramsad. In the list of Ramsads Meir Dagan is perhaps Mossad's most successful director in recent times. Held office from 2002- 10, Dagan was responsible for intelligence, counter-intelligence, and counter-terrorism activities outside of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. He is widely believed to order the killings of Arabs, anti-Jewish subjects and terrorists on foreign soil. It needs be known that, the state of Israel functions in a contradictory situation of not having a law for awarding death penalty, so it allows itself to target suspected Arab terrorists and anti-Zionists outside its borders. It's Dagan who subscribed and had begun to operate in line with this thinking. So By November 2004, at least four foreign terrorists as reported by Israel had already been killed in its operations while three major terrorist attacks planned against Israeli civilians abroad had been foiled.
However, among the chapters it's the story of Elie Cohen, an Egyptian Jew in chapter nine titled our man in Damascus that appeared the most revealing about the functions of an Israeli spy in the 60's. Cohen's tactics to build relations with Syrian high-ranked politicians, military officials, influential public figures and local foreign diplomatic community, had been carefully masterminded by Mossad. It even beats the suspense of the most well crafted spy thriller.
Cohen provided considerable amount of intelligence data to the Israeli Army over a period of four years (1961-1965). He transmitted intelligence to Israel by radio, secret letters, in person, and also secretly by travelling to Israel three times while stationed in Syria. His spying success peaked when he toured the Golan Heights. Cohen collected military installation reports there. Faking sympathy for the soldiers for being exposed to the sun, Cohen had trees planted at every position. The Syrians obeyed but trees were actually used as targeting markers by the Israeli military during the Six-Day War which enabled Israel to capture the Golan Heights in just two days.
In an attempt to identify the high-level mole (Cohen) within the government, the Syrians deployed Soviet-made tracking equipment operated and assisted by hired Soviet experts. In order to track illegal radio transmissions a period of radio silence was observed when Cohen was busy transmitting. Thus, he was caught. After a trial before a military tribunal, he was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to death under then Syrian martial law. He was repeatedly interrogated and tortured. Israel even staged an international campaign for clemency, hoping to persuade the Syrians not to execute him but all went in vain. On 18 May 1965, Cohen was publicly hanged at the Marjeh Square in Damascus. Spying is indeed dangerous business.
However, in tune with the Israeli President Shimon Peres " This book tells what should have been known and isn't—that Israel's hidden force is as formidable as its recognized physical strength." But what Peres forgot to add is that "the book is heavily prejudiced." Most of the stories not only vilifies Muslims as terrorists but says nothing of Israeli atrocities on Palestine and indirectly justifies many of the killings carried out by Mossad. Nevertheless, most of the missions covered in the book are against the surrounding Muslim states and with much regret there isn't a 'well managed and ruthlessly efficient Muslim Intelligence agency' capable to counter the Mossad. Perhaps the lesson should be drawn from here.
It's not in the book but read somewhere how the Mossad had come to alert our late President Zia-ur-Rahman about an approaching military coup in Bangladesh while he was on a state visit to Egypt. This was to give an idea about Mossad's far-flung awareness about its operations in Muslim countries spread across the globe.
Read, enjoyed and envied to know about the world's most eminent intelligence agency. Apart from intelligence aficionados our intelligence community too can obtain valuable information from it. The book also contains a set of colour and black and white photos relating to some key missions and Mossad functionaries. Published by HarperCollins the 388 page book sadly hasn't reached our stores as yet but is available in most bookshops in India. It's priced at RS 999.
The reviewer is a journalist