😎 I’m the guy who made the whole of the UK look like a bunch of pathetic, lying, deranged, mentally ill, gang stalking cult! 😂🤣 Maybe I was working for the Mossad, maybe I wasn’t. Maybe everything that happened since 2008… Cuba, Booz Allen, Panama Papers, Astana, Hydrino energy… Maybe it was all for the State Of Israel… … You’ll never know!” 😄
One thing I do know… everywhere! Middle East (obviously), Europe, South America, Central Asia… Like fucking ghosts!
by Sean Durns | October 03, 2019
The Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, is in foreign territory in more ways than one. One of the world’s most secretive organizations is a genuine pop culture phenomenon. In recent years, Israel’s intelligence operatives have been the subject of bestselling books, movies, and shows, receiving precisely what spies seek to avoid: attention.
As the journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman note in their 2014 book, Spies Against Armageddon: “Just as the Statue of Liberty and McDonald’s became snappy synonyms for America, ‘Mossad’ has become an internationally recognized Israeli brand name.” And so it has.
At the moment, Netflix alone has more than a half-dozen shows and movies on Israeli spies, some of them — namely The Red Sea Diving Resort starring Chris Evans and The Spy with Sacha Baron Cohen — attracting big names from Hollywood. Author Daniel Silva has written more than a dozen bestselling novels centered on a fictional Mossad agent and art restorer, Gabriel Allon. And on Twitter, the Mossad Elite Parody Division account has, at last count, attracted nearly 120,000 followers for its ability to mock those “who blamed Israel’s intelligence agency for all sorts of bizarre things,” the Jerusalem Post reported in 2018.
All this publicity would come as a surprise to those who founded Israel’s intelligence agencies. Indeed, the Mossad’s origins were nothing if not humble. And the history of the spy agency offers the first clue as to its current pop culture success.
As the Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman recounted in his 2018 book, Rise and Kill First, the Mossad’s precursor was launched on Sept. 29, 1907, in a “stifling one-room apartment overlooking an orange grove” in the town of Jaffa, then part of the Ottoman Empire. That group, initially called Bar-Giora and later renamed Hashomer, was formed “as the nucleus for a future Jewish army and intelligence service,” which its founders saw as defending a future Jewish state. Among its early actions, Hashomer assassinated a Bedouin policeman named Aref al-Arsan, who had helped Ottoman Turks torture Jewish prisoners seized by the empire during World War I.
It was during that war that the British issued the Balfour Declaration on Nov. 2, 1917, calling for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in their ancestral land. The construction of the budding Jewish state, known in Hebrew as the Yishuv, necessitated the expansion of its defenses. The failure of British authorities to protect the growing Jewish population from frequent attacks by Arabs spurred the growth of Hashomer, known after 1920 as the Haganah.
In the 1930s, the Haganah’s intelligence arm, Shai, cooperated with other organizations of the Jewish underground, smuggling refugees from Europe and stockpiling weapons for a future war of national liberation. During Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, the nation’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, ordered Shai and similar, sometimes rival, networks to formalize a new intelligence structure. Shortly after that, the respective agencies were announced: military intelligence (Aman), a domestic security service analogous to the American FBI (Shin Bet), and its foreign counterpart, officially known as the Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad).
Born in war and surrounded by Arab nations seeking the Jewish state’s destruction, Israel’s spies had to be both innovative and daring. The very nature of the country’s security predicament demanded as much.
The nation’s intelligence community, Raviv and Melman note, “reflects the Israeli condition: a small country, vastly at variance from its neighbors in religion, culture, and values; with neighbors who do not accept its right to exist.” Accordingly, “Israeli intelligence developed a style that is bold” and “willing to take risks.”
Israel’s spies had to be good. Jewish history showed there was little room for error.
Even in its early years, the exploits of the nation’s operatives were ready-made for Hollywood.
A 1956 operation resulted in the capture and dissemination of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s “secret speech” denouncing Stalin. The act greatly impressed the CIA and helped strengthen U.S.-Israeli defense ties. In 1960, Israeli intelligence captured the infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. The Mossad drugged Eichmann and disguised him as an airplane pilot to sneak him out of the country to stand trial in Jerusalem.
One Mossad officer, Eli Cohen, who is the subject of The Spy, managed to get so close to the Syrian regime that he was reportedly offered the post of Syria’s deputy defense minister before he was caught and executed in 1965. Israeli intelligence even managed to convince an Iraqi defector to fly a sophisticated Soviet jet, the MiG-21, to Israel, helping to build “the Mossad’s image” in the West to “unachievable mythology,” Melman and Raviv observe.
It was heady stuff for a nation less than two decades removed from its creation.
In the 1960s, the Mossad’s campaign to assassinate and intimidate Nazi scientists working to develop ballistic missiles for Egypt showed that “more than other Western intelligence agencies, Israel’s secret agents were willing to pursue and assassinate targets almost anywhere,” Raviv and Melman note. The agency even managed to recruit a former Nazi commando, Otto Skorzeny, to help with the operation. In exchange, the Mossad promised not to do to Skorzeny what it had done to Eichmann and other Nazis.
Soon, Israeli operatives had a “reputation for decisive action and hyperactivity,” Melman and Raviv note, which “inevitably led to a mystique: that it is all-powerful, all-knowing, ruthless, and capable of penetrating every corner of the world.” Adding to the mystery, Ben-Gurion refused even to acknowledge that the Shin Bet or the Mossad existed. It was illegal to so much as mention the agencies’ names in public until the 1960s.
All of this made for good copy. And some of Israel’s spies seemed to recognize as much. Many of those involved in the plot to snatch Eichmann, officially known as Operation Finale and later made into a 2018 movie of the same name, broke official policy by writing books and memoirs detailing their respective roles.
When, in 1961, a freelancing Shin Bet operative named Zvi Aldouby decided to try to seize Leon Degrelle, a Waffen-SS officer hiding in Spain, he hired a famous Israeli novelist and playwright named Yigal Mossinson to accompany him on the operation so he could write a film script. Spanish police captured both Degrelle and Mossinson, but not before the men had received an advance payment from a major magazine interested in the story.
This history explains the vaunted reputation of Israeli intelligence: a nation with “super spies.” But it doesn’t fully explain the Mossad’s current celebrity.
As Alexis Albion, the lead curator for the International Spy Museum, told me, “The interest in spies in pop culture comes and goes over the decades.” Albion cited the spy craze of the 1960s, with its James Bond films and spy novels, as one example. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, that interest has been rekindled. What makes the current phenomenon different is its interest in “other countries spy agencies,” embodied, for example, in the hit FX show The Americans, which revolves around KGB agents in the 1980s.
Timing is everything. And the Mossad is the right spy agency at the right time.
Events in the Middle East have dominated the news for the last two decades. As Islamist terror has replaced Soviet communism as the West’s greatest foe, the hero has shifted as well, from a martini-drinking Sean Connery to a hummus-eating Lior Raz, the star of the show Fauda and the movie Operation Finale.
The agency’s American counterpart, the CIA, has had some well-publicized failures in the past two decades, but Israel’s spies have retained their luster. As Albion pointed out, “The Israelis still have that myth of real expertise. No one has been able to find that chink in Mossad’s armor, and maybe we need to know that someone is doing a good job.”
The CIA and the British secret services may appear fallible in the so-called “age of insecurity,” but Israel still has “super spies” with a seemingly untarnished history.
In reality, of course, Israeli intelligence has had plenty of significant screw-ups, from missing the warning signs leading to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, to mistakenly assassinating a waiter in Norway thought to be an arch-Palestinian terrorist in July of that same year. In 2010, Mossad officers carrying out a hit on Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel left a trail of evidence, including closed-circuit TV footage of them changing disguises. Nonetheless, the image of Israeli spies as superhuman and unusually competent has persisted.
Another critical factor to the Mossad’s pop culture ascent can be found in the success of Israeli shows. The Jewish state, Commentary magazine highlighted in June 2018, has become a “television powerhouse.” Both major networks and providers such as Netflix are broadcasting numerous Israeli shows or, as in the case of the spy thriller Homeland, remaking them for English-speaking audiences. While not every show involves spies — indeed, most don’t — it’s hardly coincidental that the Mossad has gained greater fame in an era in which Israel has had unprecedented success on screen.
The journalist and author Matti Friedman, among others, famously observed that the small Jewish state is a subject of excessive attention, be it from the press or policymakers. It’s no wonder that the country’s spy agency would also be a subject of fascination.
Regrettably, the Middle East looks certain to produce more inspiration for espionage flicks. But nothing, we’re told, that the Mossad can’t handle.
Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for the Washington, D.C., office of CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.