Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Other Spies and Agents of Zionism

Alerted by this piece, I learned there's a new book out: ‘Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel’.

It treats the interesting chapter of Jews from Arab lands who enlisted in the Palmach's Shachar Unit. The unit was

the successor to the former Arab Platoon, sent, after the UN Partition Plan of November 29th, 1947, a number of teams behind enemy lines. Their goal: to gather intelligence in real time as to the future intention of the Arab neighbors.The unit was active inside Arab nations, as well as within Arab-controlled sectors within Israel.
One of the four spies Friedman deals with has described his childhood experience, when he was 12, that led him on his path

One day, in 1936, while I was working during the summer holiday in the Montefiore neighborhood, I saw three Arabs passing through a nearby field and a Jew walking in the opposite direction. They proceeded to stab him to death and as I watched the entire incident, I screamed my head off," Yakuba recounted about an incident that had a profound effect on him as a child.
I have blogged previously about one of his early operations, before the period which Friedman deals with, summarized here:

In 1943, Yakuba took part in the first operation in which the Arab Squad participated, which came to be known as "The Surgical Operation". It was a reprisal operation the objective of which was to castrate an Arab youth who had raped a Jewish girl. "The rape was shocking and the punishment also sounds shocking today. We were briefed by a physician in Afula, but encountered difficulties trying to anaesthetize the subject and the business became really nasty. Luckily, the 'operation' was successful and eventually the fellow even managed to recover," recounted Yakuba at the time. During the operation, he was assigned to guard the subject's family, while two of his comrades in arms, Yohai Bin-Nun (who subsequently became the commander of the IDF Navy) and Amos Horev (who later became the President of the Technion) "handled" the subject. Later on, Yakuba was involved in tracking, kidnapping and eliminating a sheik from Safed who had been accused of raping a mother and her daughter in Rosh-Pina.
But my point is that there were others, members of the Irgun and the Lechi, who also assumed he identities of Arabs to spy and even engage in offensive operations.

There even was an Arab from Tzfat who eventually converted to Judaism and fell in the line of duty. He was Baruch Mizrachi.

The Lechi hero, Elisha ("Shmuel") Ivzov (Hebrew resource) was killed in March 1948 on his way driving a truck bomb to the headquarters of the Arab Liberation Army led by Fawzi al-Qawuqji.

Their stories, and thos of others, deserve a good literary treatement.



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