Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dubious in Dubai

Dubious in Dubai


Uri Avnery



FROM TIME to time I ask myself: what would happen if

the world's governments decided to abolish all their

spy agencies simultaneously?


True, it would be a great blow to the authors and movie

producers who make their living from secret service

stories. Their products would lose their appeal.


It would be a disaster for the huge army of fans which

gobbles up spy adventures, the enthusiastic consumers

of books and movies about superhuman heroes like James

Bond and super-devious geniuses like John La Carre's Smiley.


But what would be the real damage if Washington stopped

spying on Moscow and Moscow stopped spying on

Washington, and both on Beijing? The result would be a

draw. Immense sums of money would be saved, since a

large part of the efforts of every spy agency is

devoted to obstructing the intrigues of the

competition. How many diseases could be overcome? How

many hungry people fed, how many illiterates taught to

read and write?


The popular books and movies celebrate the imaginary

successes of the intelligence agencies. Reality is much

more prosaic, and it is replete with real failures.


THE TWO classic intelligence disasters occurred during

World War II. In both, the intelligence agencies either

provided their political bosses with faulty

assessments, or the leaders ignored their accurate

assessments. As far as the results are concerned, both

amount to the same.


Comrade Stalin was totally surprised by the German

invasion of the Soviet Union, even though the Germans

needed months to assemble their huge invasion force.

President Roosevelt was totally surprised by the

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, even though the bulk

of the Japanese Navy took part in it. The failures were

so fantastic, that spy aficionados had to resort to

conspiracy theories to explain them. One such theory

says that Stalin deliberately ignored the warnings

because he intended to surprise Hitler with an attack

of his own. Another theory asserts that Roosevelt

practically "invited" the Japanese to attack because he

was in need of a pretext to push the US into an unpopular war.


But since then, failures continued to follow each

other. All Western spy agencies were totally surprised

by the Khomeini revolution in Iran, the results of

which are still hitting the headlines today. All of

them were totally surprised by the collapse of the

Soviet Union, one of the defining events of the 20th

century. They were totally surprised by the fall of the

Berlin wall. And all of them provided wrong information

about Saddam Hussein's imaginary nuclear bomb, which

served as a pretext for the American invasion of Iraq.


AH, OUR people say, that's what's happening among the

Goyim. Not here. Our intelligence community is like no

other. The Jewish brain has invented the Mossad, which

knows everything and is capable of everything. (Mossad

- "institute" - is short for the "Institute for

Intelligence and Special Operations".)


Really? At the outbreak of the 1948 war, all the chiefs

of our intelligence community unanimously advised David

Ben-Gurion that the armies of the Arab states would not

intervene. (Fortunately, Ben-Gurion rejected their

assessment.) In May 1967, our entire intelligence

community was totally surprised by the concentration of

the Egyptian army in Sinai, the step that led to the

Six-Day war. (Our intelligence chiefs were convinced

that the bulk of the Egyptian army was busy in Yemen,

where a civil war was raging.) The Egyptian-Syrian

attack on Yom Kippur, 1973, completely surprised our

intelligence services, even though heaps of advance

warnings were available.


The intelligence agencies were totally surprised by the

first intifada, and then again by the second. They were

totally surprised by the Khomeini revolution, even

though (or because) they were deeply imbedded in the

Shah's regime. They were totally surprised by the Hamas

victory in the Palestinian elections.


The list is long and inglorious. But in one field, so

they say, our Mossad performs like no other:

assassinations. (Sorry, "eliminations".)


STEVEN SPIELBERG'S movie "Munich" describes the

assassination ("elimination") of PLO officials after

the massacre of the athletes at the Olympic Games. As a

masterpiece of kitsch it can be compared only to the

movie "Exodus", based on Leon Uris' kitschy book.


After the massacre (the main responsibility for which

falls on the incompetent and irresponsible Bavarian

police), the Mossad, on the orders of Golda Meir,

killed seven PLO officials, much to the joy of the

revenge-thirsty Israeli public. Almost all the victims

were PLO diplomats, the civilian representatives of the

organization in European capitals, who had no direct

connection with violent operations. Their activities

were public, they worked in regular offices and lived

with their families in residential buildings. They were

static targets - like the ducks in a shooting gallery.


In one of the actions - which resembled the latest

affair - a Moroccan waiter was assassinated by mistake

in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. The Mossad

mistook him for Ali Hassan Salameh, a senior Fatah

officer who served as contact with the CIA. The Mossad

agents, including a glamorous blonde (there is always a

glamorous blonde) were identified, arrested and

sentenced to long prison terms (but released very

soon). The real Salameh was "eliminated" later on.


In 1988, five years before the Oslo agreement, Abu

Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir), the No. 2 in Fatah, was

assassinated in Tunis before the eyes of his wife and

children. Had he not been killed, he would probably be

serving today as the President of the Palestinian

Authority instead of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). He

would have enjoyed the same kind of standing among his

people as did Yasser Arafat - who was, most likely,

killed by a poison that leaves no traces.


The fiasco that most resembles the latest action was

the Mossad's attempt on the life of Khalid Mishal, a

senior Hamas leader, on orders of Prime Minister

Binyamin Netanyahu. The Mossad agents ambushed him on a

main street of Amman and sprayed a nerve toxin in his

ear - that was about to kill him without leaving

traces. They were caught on the spot. King Hussein, the

Israeli government's main ally in the Arab world, was

livid and delivered a furious ultimatum: either Israel

would immediately provide the antidote to the poison

and save Mishal's life, or the Mossad agents would be

hanged. Netanyahu, as usual, caved in, Mishal was saved

and the Israeli government, as a bonus, released Sheik

Ahmed Yassin, the main Hamas leader, from prison. He

was "eliminated" by a hellfire missile later on.


DURING THE last weeks, a deluge of words has been

poured on the assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud al-

Mabhouh, another senior Hamas officer.


Israelis agreed from the first moment that this was a

job of the Mossad. What capabilities! What talent! How

did they know, long in advance, when the man would go

to Dubai, what flight he would take, in what hotel he

would stay! What precise planning!


The "military correspondents" and "Arab affairs

correspondents" on screen were radiant. Their faces

said: oh, oh, oh, if the material were not embargoed.If

I could only tell you what I know.I can tell you only

that the Mossad has proved again that its long arm can

reach anywhere! Live in fear, oh enemies of Israel!


When the problems started to become apparent, and the

photos of the assassins appeared on TV all over the

world, the enthusiasm cooled, but only slightly. An old

and proven Israeli method was brought into play: to

take some marginal detail and discuss it passionately,

ignoring the main issue. Concentrate on one particular

tree and divert attention from the forest.


Really, why did the agents use the names of actual

people who live in Israel and have dual nationality?

Why, of all possible passports, did they use those of

friendly countries? How could they be sure that the

owners of these passports would not travel abroad at

the critical time?


Moreover, were they not aware that Dubai was full of

cameras that record every movement? Did they not

foresee that the local police would produce films of

the assassination in almost all its details?


But this did not arouse too much excitement in Israel.

Everybody understood that the British and the Irish

were obliged, pro forma, to protest, but that this was

nothing but going through the motions. Behind the

scenes, there are intimate connections between the

Mossad and the other intelligence agencies. After some

weeks, everything will be forgotten. That's how it

worked in Norway after Lillehammer, that's how it

worked in Jordan after the Mishal affair. They will

protest, rebuke, and that's that. So what is the problem?


THE PROBLEM is that the Mossad in Israel acts like an

independent fiefdom that ignores the vital long-term

political and strategic interests of Israel, enjoying

the automatic backing of an irresponsible prime

minister. It is, as the English expression goes, a

"loose cannon" - the cannon of a ship of yore which has

broken free of its mountings and is rolling around the

deck, crushing to death any unfortunate sailor who

happens to get in its way.


From the strategic point of view, the Dubai operation

causes heavy damage to the government's policy, which

defines Iran's putative nuclear bomb as an existential

threat to Israel. The campaign against Iran helps it to

divert the world's attention from the ongoing

occupation and settlement, and induces the US, Europe

and other countries to dance to its tune.


Barack Obama is in the process of trying to set up a

world-wide coalition for imposing "debilitating

sanctions" on Iran. The Israeli government serves him -

willingly - as a growling dog. He tells the Iranians:

The Israelis are crazy. They may attack you at any

moment. I am restraining them with great difficulty.

But if you don't do what I tell you, I shall let go of

the leash and may Allah have mercy on your soul!


Dubai, a Gulf country facing Iran, is an important

component of this coalition. It is an ally of Israel,

much like Egypt and Jordan. And here comes the same

Israeli government and embarrasses it, humiliates it,

arousing among the Arab masses the suspicion that Dubai

is collaborating with the Mossad.


In the past we have embarrassed Norway, then we

infuriated Jordan, now we humiliate Dubai. Is that

wise? Ask Meir Dagan, who Netanyahu has just granted an

almost unprecedented eighth year in office as chief of

the Mossad.


PERHAPS THE impact of the operation on our standing in

the world is even more significant.


Once upon a time it was possible to belittle this

aspect. Let the Goyim say what they want. But since the

Molten Lead operation, Israel has become more conscious

of its far-reaching implications. The verdict of Judge

Goldstone, the echoes of the antics of Avigdor

Lieberman, the growing world-wide campaign for

boycotting Israel - all these tend to suggest that

Thomas Jefferson was not talking through his hat when

he said that no nation can afford to ignore the opinion

of mankind.


The Dubai affair is reinforcing the image of Israel as

a bully state, a rogue nation that treats world public

opinion with contempt, a country that conducts gang

warfare, that sends mafia-like death squads abroad, a

pariah nation to be avoided by right-minded people.


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