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Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about the Mossad



 Benny Morris, coauthor of Israel’s Secret Wars, is a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.Author Recommends Best Books About Famed Israeli Intelligence Agency

Gordon Thomas is a Welsh author who is renowned in Israeli literary circles for Gideon’s Spies: Mossad’s Secret Warriors, which was published in more than sixteen languages and has been heralded as one of the foremost books on Israeli intelligence. In a piece appearing in the Wall Street Journal on March 10, Thomas noted five books he believes give insight into the Mossad and its operations over the years. We thought our readers would enjoy learning about these books, so below you will find the five titles with a brief synopsis of Thomas’ take on the books and their central themes.

By: Munya M. Mardor
Few people know about the historical origins of the Mossad. In this illuminating narrative, writes Thomas, Mardor gives a first-hand account of his experiences as a member of the Haganah, the predecessor to today’s Israeli intelligence unit, and how he and his colleagues covertly aimed to combat Arab terrorism during the days of the British Mandate of Palestine. According to Thomas, Mardor and his colleagues employed methods during those days “that would become standard for Mossad.”

Israel’s Secret Wars
By: Ian Black and Benny Morris
Published in 1991, this book chronicles the efforts made by the Israeli intelligence community between the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the Gulf War. Thomas mentions a number of the stories explored and analyzed in the book: “Israeli agents hunting down Nazi war criminals; [the] killing [of] Hitler’s scientists who were working to produce rockets for Egypt; [the] rescuing [of] Israeli hostages from Entebbe airport in Uganda; [the] pinpointing [of] Iraq’s nuclear reactor for a surgical air strike; and [the] waging [of] war on the streets of Europe against Arab terrorists.” According to Thomas, the theme running through the narrative focuses on the interaction between intelligence and governmental officials and some of the challenging ethical questions posed to both cohorts during the aforementioned years.

Man in the Shadows
By: Efraim Halevy
This book similarly pivots on the idea that there is a constant interplay between intelligence and political interests in Israel and countries faced with similar situations, writes Thomas. Halevy, the director-general of Mossad from 1998 to 2002, discusses the erosion of confidence in the Israeli intelligence community following a couple of blunders overseas, and how he sought to fix this attitude during his tenure as leader of the Mossad during a few tumultuous years, where the country saw five prime ministers hold the post as terrorists grew increasingly influential. By focusing on how the Mossad resolves issues within a democratic framework, Halevy provides instructive messages that can be applied even nowadays, Thomas says.

By Way of Deception
By: Victor Ostrovsky
The Mossad is known for its reclusive nature and secretive engagements. In this book, Ostrovsky, a former agent for the intelligence agency, reveals a multitude of details about names, locations, and tactics he learned of while working for the Mossad. Because of the intimate nature of the facts given and the information disclosed, the Israeli government tried to prevent the book from being published, Thomas explains. It failed, and the book went on to alarm intelligence officials in Israel, the United States, and worldwide. Noting some of the controversial activities undertaken by the Mossad during his stint with the unit, Ostrovsky says that the damage incurred by his book would be far outweighed by the recurrent damages that result from the Mossad’s ability to operate away from public scrutiny.

By: George Jonas
For anyone who has seen either Sword of Gideon, or the Stephen Spielberg blockbuster Munich, this book will ring familiar. That’s because both films were based upon this book. In Vengeance, Jonas discusses efforts made by the Mossad to take down the PLO terrorists responsible for the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympics held in Munich in 1972. Thomas says that despite claims about the accuracy of various parts of the book, it still succeeds in shedding light on how the Israeli intelligence orchestrates assassinations which, as Thomas points out, may be still employed today in the displacement of Iranian nuclear scientists. The only difference, notes Thomas, is that Israel does not explicitly endorse the use of assassination by its covert operatives, as it did following the Munich incident.

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