[News] Poisoned toothpaste and exploding phones: Israel linked to 2, 700 assassination operations in 70 years

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 29 11:39:55 EST 2018


  Poisoned toothpaste and exploding phones: Israel linked to 2,700
  assassination operations in 70 years

Ethan Bronner - January 27, 2018

Poisoned toothpaste that takes a month to end its target’s life. Armed 
drones. Exploding cell phones. Spare tires with remote-control bombs. 
Assassinating enemy scientists and discovering the secret lovers of 
Islamic holy men.

A new book chronicles these techniques and asserts that Israel has 
carried out at least 2,700 assassination operations in its 70 years of 
existence. While many failed, they add up to far more than any other 
Western country, the book says.

Ronen Bergman, the intelligence correspondent for Yediot Aharonot 
newspaper, persuaded many agents of Mossad, Shin Bet and the military to 
tell their stories, some using their real names. The result is the first 
comprehensive look at Israel’s use of state-sponsored killings.

Based on 1,000 interviews and thousands of documents, and running more 
than 600 pages, “Rise and Kill First” makes the case that Israel has 
used assassination in the place of war, killing half a dozen Iranian 
nuclear scientists, for instance, rather than launching a military 
attack. It also strongly suggests that Israel used radiation poisoning 
to kill Yasser Arafat, the longtime Palestinian leader, an act its 
officials have consistently denied.

Bergman writes that Arafat’s death in 2004 fit a pattern and had 
advocates. But he steps back from flatly asserting what happened, saying 
that Israeli military censorship prevents him from revealing what – or 
if – he knows.

The book’s title comes from the ancient Jewish Talmud admonition, “If 
someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” Bergman says a 
huge percentage of the people he interviewed cited that passage as 
justification for their work. So does an opinion by the military’s 
lawyer declaring such operations to be legitimate acts of war.

Despite the many interviews, including with former prime ministers Ehud 
Barak and Ehud Olmert, Bergman, the author of several books, says the 
Israeli secret services sought to interfere with his work, holding a 
meeting in 2010 on how to disrupt his research and warning former Mossad 
employees not to speak with him.

He says that while the U.S. has tighter constraints on its agents than 
does Israel, President George W. Bush adopted many Israeli techniques 
after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and President Barack 
Obama launched several hundred targeted killings.

    If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first

“The command-and-control systems, the war rooms, the methods of 
information gathering and the technology of the pilotless aircraft, or 
drones, that now serve the Americans and their allies were all in large 
part developed in Israel,” Bergman writes.

The book gives a textured history of the personalities and tactics of 
the various secret services. In the 1970s, a new head of operations for 
Mossad opened hundreds of commercial companies overseas with the idea 
that they might be useful one day. For example, Mossad created a Middle 
Eastern shipping business that, years later, came in handy in providing 
cover for a team in the waters off Yemen.

There have been plenty of failures. After a Palestinian terrorist group 
killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israel sent its 
agents to kill the perpetrators – and shot more than one misidentified 
man. There were also successful operations that did more harm than good 
to Israel’s policy goals, Bergman notes.

Bergman raises moral and legal concerns provoked by state-sponsored 
killing, including the existence of separate legal systems for secret 
agents and the rest of Israel. But he presents the operations, for the 
most part, as achieving their aims. While many credit the barrier Israel 
built along and inside the West Bank with stopping assaults on Israeli 
citizens in the early 2000s, he argues that what made the difference was 
“a massive number of targeted killings of terrorist operatives.”

One of Bergman’s most important sources was Meir Dagan, a recent head of 
Mossad for eight years who died in early 2016. Toward the end of his 
career, Dagan fell out with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu partly 
over launching a military attack on Iran. Netanyahu said intelligence 
techniques such as selling the country faulty parts for its reactors – 
which Israel and the U.S. were doing – weren’t enough.

Dagan argued back that these techniques, especially assassinations, 
would do the job. As Bergman quotes him saying, “In a car, there are 
25,000 parts on average. Imagine if 100 of them are missing. It would be 
very hard to make it go. On the other hand, sometimes it’s most 
effective to kill the driver, and that’s that.”

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