mossad michael bar-zohar nissim mishalMossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, 4/5

This book contains purportedly true stories that I would have thought only existed in the minds of spy-movie screenwriters.  The writing style isn’t very polished and there are lots of dates and foreign names floating around, but I appreciated the long list of sources in the back and the fact that the authors conducted numerous interviews with people who had first-hand experience with the events described in the book.

It’s one thing to enjoy a cool story involving spies, assassination, and intrigue, but when it involves real people and events, ethical issues arise.  I’m all for killing the baddies before they kill you, but car-bombing foreign scientists and their wives seems questionable.  As does hunting down and murdering war criminals without trial.  A couple times, the authors fell back on the Talmudic proverb: “If someone comes to kill you–rise up and kill him first,” but this seems weak justification, given Mossad’s tendency toward the preemptive.  In saying this, I am questioning, not criticizing, the ethicality of many of the missions described in this book.  I am in no position to understand Israel’s situation, surrounded by countries who actively desire to obliterate them.  The U.S.’s neighbors are more kind; perhaps I would be out assassinating Canadian scientists with no compunction if their country were developing nuclear weapons and intended to destroy us.

Ethical concerns about specific missions aside, it is clear from this book that Israel is a kickass nation and their saga of survival is almost beyond belief.

P.S. I just came across this relevant bit of humour in the film The Constant Gardener:
Tessa: “I thought you spies knew everything, Tim.”
Tim: “Only God knows everything.  He works for Mossad.”

[Why I read it: the title caught my eye while I was browsing in the library.]


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