Acts of ul­ti­mate reprisal

Rise and Kill First com­mends a deadly in­ves­ti­ga­tion. en­joys classy wit

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - By Ro­nen Bergman

John Mur­ray, £20

Re­viewed by Ahron Breg­man

IN THE Baby­lo­nian Tal­mud, Trac­tate San­hedrin, Por­tion 72, Verse 1, it says that if some­one comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first. And this has al­ways been the guid­ing phi­los­o­phy of Is­rael’s armed forces and its in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly the Mos­sad, which has re­sorted to tar­geted as­sas­si­na­tions to thwart what they per­ceive to be threats to the state of Is­rael.

Ro­nen Bergman is one of Is­rael’s lead­ing in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists and, in Rise and Kill First — sub-ti­tled “The Se­cret His­tory of Is­rael’s tar­geted as­sas­si­na­tions”, he traces Jewish-Is­raeli use of se­lec­tive killings from pre-state­hood to the present. In Bri­tish Man­dated Pales­tine, for in­stance, Jewish un­der­ground or­gan­i­sa­tions, notably that known as the Stern Gang, of­ten as­sas­si­nated Bri­tish per­son­nel. And, in post-Sec­ond World War Europe, “The Avengers”, a group of Jewish assassins tar­geted for­mer Nazis in Europe and killed them, of­ten by stran­gu­la­tion.

In the 1950s, Is­rael’s Mos­sad dis­patched en­velopes con­tain­ing ex­plo­sives to kill Ger­man sci­en­tists build­ing rock­ets for Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser’s Egypt. Later, in Septem­ber 1972, af­ter the Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist group Black Septem­ber took 11 Is­raeli Olympic team mem­bers hostage and killed them in Mu­nich, the Mos­sad — then led by Zvi Zamir — em­barked on a cam­paign of as­sas­si­na­tions of those linked to the killing of the ath­letes.

The num­ber of as­sas­si­na­tions, par­tic­u­larly of Pales­tinian ac­tivists, grew dra­mat­i­cally as a re­sult of the sec­ond Gaza, Fe­bru­ary 2003: Pales­tinian mass gath­er­ing that in­cluded Ahmed Yassin, who was as­sas­si­nated the fol­low­ing year

Pales­tinian in­tifada of 2000, when Is­rael re­sponded to the Ha­mas cam­paign of sui­cide-bomb­ing at­tacks on Is­raeli cities by tar­get­ing, mainly from the air, its ac­tivists, of whom the most notable were Ha­mas’s leader Ahmed Yassin, killed in March 2004, and his suc­ces­sor Ab­del Aziz al-Ran­tisi, as­sas­si­nated a month later.

In re­cent years, Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been the main tar­gets of Is­raeli as­sas­si­na­tion oper­a­tions. Oth­ers, notably mem­bers of Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah, Syr­ian of­fi­cials and Ira­nian nu­clear sci­en­tists, were also tar­geted across Europe and the Mid­dle East. Since the Sec­ond World War, Is­rael has prob­a­bly as­sas­si­nated

more peo­ple than any other coun­try in the West­ern world.

All of the above oper­a­tions, and many more, are cov­ered in Bergman’s page-turn­ing ac­count of Is­rael’s suc­cesses — and fail­ures. Bergman also con­sid­ers the moral and eth­i­cal dilem­mas faced by those car­ry­ing out the mis­sions.

Ex­e­cut­ing those in­di­vid­u­als iden­ti­fied as di­rect threats to Is­rael’s na­tional se­cu­rity, as Bergman puts it, sends a clear mes­sage that, “if you are an en­emy of Is­rael, we will find you”.

The Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity guards its se­crets jeal­ously and there­fore Bergman should be com­mended for pro­duc­ing such a thor­ough study,

based on thou­sands of never-be­fore­pub­lished doc­u­ments. His book also in­cludes hun­dreds of in­ter­views with par­tic­i­pants, from Is­raeli prime min­is­ters (the only peo­ple au­tho­rised to green-light as­sas­si­na­tions) to high­level fig­ures in the IDF, Mos­sad — and Cae­sarea, a unit within Mos­sad that has car­ried out many of the as­sas­si­na­tions.

Well-writ­ten and in­for­ma­tive, Rise and Kill First is the best book so far writ­ten on this dra­matic sub­ject.

Ahron Breg­man is the au­thor of ‘The Spy Who Fell to Earth: My Re­la­tion­ship with the Se­cret Agent Who Rocked the Mid­dle East’

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.