Sometime last year, I watched Christiane Amanpour interview Ronen Bergman on his book, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. In the interview,Bergman talked about how the Mossad (Israel’s CIA), the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security organ) and AMAN (Israel’s military intelligence) went about aiding perceived enemies of Israel cash in their chips early.
Bergman talked about a particular incidence. On the instruction of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Air Force had scrambled two F-15s to blow up a chartered plane thought to be transporting the hated Yasser Arafat. The F-15s circled the plane waiting for final confirmation orders to shoot it down. Turns out it was not Yasser Arafat on board but his brother, Fathi Arafat, a doctor. He was escorting thirty wounded Palestinian children to Cairo for treatment.
The intel was wrong. The strike was called off.
It was a gripping expose.
I was very angry: even if Yasser Arafat was onboard, that was a commercial flight, for Pete’s sake! They were going to blow pilots, crew; innocent passengers to blazes on account of one man?
Well, turned out Ariel Sharon didn’t give a hoot.
On no less than five different occasions had F-15s and F-16s been scrambled on his instructions to shoot down commercial airliners thought to be transporting Yasser Arafat. Only internal sabotage by his military officials, galled by the order and fearing war crime charges against Israel, ensured the missions failed.
Yes, your righteous indignation is in order.
By the way, when you pray for luck, pray for the the Yasser Arafat-type of luck. Given how badly Ariel Sharon had it in for him, that he died of natural causes is nothing short of a miracle. His mother was not sleeping in heaven.
I have always loved spooks stories. So I went out and bought the book.
Two words: don’t be an existential threat to Israel.
OK, that’s seven words. What I meant to say was: mind blown.
Assassination through poisoned toothpaste. Check. Assassination of nuclear scientists associated with Iraq and Iran’s nuclear programs. Check. Car bombs, letter bombs, photo bombs. Check. Sidling into hostile and friendly countries to eliminate, abduct or blow up targets. Check. Check. Check.
How the Israeli government allowed the book to be published is simply bewildering. The book gave details of many of Israel’s covert operations and the names of principal actors and agents involved in them, many of whom are still alive!
What’s the world coming to? Can’t secrets be secret anymore?
The book was a scintillating read for me. However, I doubt that families of the many dearly departed would find it so. Especially if you learned that your beloved was dumped into the Mediterranean from 30,000 feet.
The book was also a good history class on the crises in the Middle East. It delved into the creation of the State of Israel, Israel’s fraught relationship with its neighbours, the Intifadah, the emergence of the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah, the emergence of terrorism and its principal architects and proponents, the Iranian Revolution and how Iran came to be a force in the Middle East and a thorn in the flesh of Israel and the United States.
No doubt the very strong hand of Israel on its perceived enemies was borne out of centuries of Jewish persecution and presumably drives the state to ‘rise and kill first.’
“The Talmud says: ‘If someone comes to kill you, rise and kill him first.’ This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA.”
OK, let’s pause here. What does a spy book have to do with my travel through Europe? After all, that’s the title of this blog post “My Europe waka.”
Well, it sowed a seed in in my heart.
To understand a man you need to understand his past. So,I thought to myself:
“What if I visited some of the historic sites of Jewish and other human persecution in Europe? See for yourself the consequences of Nazism and Communism? You know how the saying goes; ‘better to see something once than to hear about it a hundred times.”
It was a very entertaining thought. I already had a US vacation planned and was going to fly through Europe anyway. Why not stop over for some gulag history and haunting memories on my way to divine cuisine in The Big Easy?
I liked the sound of the thought very much. So, I planned the trip and off I went.
Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, and Krakow. Six European cities in 9 days. Then I skipped over the Atlantic for some R and R with friends. New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans.
You can’t be broke if you don’t check your bank account.
Since most human beings suffer from the grand delusion that people are dying to read whatever drivel they write, I’m sharing memories of the trip in separate picture-laden blog posts. See links below. Maybe it might inspire you to have some sense and not travel, the consequence of which is some seriously expanded mind.
Hopefully, not from visiting coffee shops in Amsterdam.
Please click on cities below for account of each trip.