Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A History of Israeli Espionage | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A new Israeli spy ring has been uncovered by Egyptian security forces, and the preliminary reports reveal that the defendants were attempting to “inflict significant damage on the Egyptian economy…by kidnapping tourists.” This accusation by the Egyptian judiciary has diplomatically embarrassed Israel, resulting in the Israeli ambassador [to Egypt] and his wife leaving Cairo for Tel Aviv. This newest chapter in the history of Israeli espionage against Egypt comes as no surprise, for this is the 72nd spy ring uncovered by the Egyptians over the past 20 years, since the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.

This period has seen both Israeli and Egyptian figures being brought to justice; there has been Egyptian figures like Sharif Filali [Israeli spy who died in prison], Mohamed Sayed Saber Ali [Egyptian nuclear engineer who was convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment], and Mohammed al-Attar [an Egyptian-Canadian convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment], as well as the Druze Azzam Azzam who expressed his love for then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after he was freed as part of a prisoner exchange with the Egyptians. Israeli espionage does not solely target Egypt, and Lebanon has also seen a number of figures arrested on charges of spying for Israel, the most recent of which was a senior figure and prominent politician General Fayez Karam, who was a member of the Aounist trend. In addition to this, a number of people working for Lebanese telecommunication companies were also arrested on charges of spying for Israel, and this seems to be an important target, for telecommunication employees were also arrested in Egypt on similar charges.

The history of Israeli espionage against the Arab world is old and well-known, for there is the story of Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy who infiltrated the Syrian Ministry of Defense under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabeet; he was eventually discovered and sentenced to death.

There has also been a strong presence of spy stories in the Arab entertainment industry, particularly those based upon true stories, whether this is in television, such as the famous Egyptian television show “Raafat al-Haggan” [based upon the Egyptian spy who spent 17 years working undercover in Israel], “Tears in Shameless Eyes” [which tells the story of Egyptian spy Ahmed El Hawwan] and others, as well as films such as “Falling into the Abyss” and the “Depth of Treason” and others. This is just a small sample of the films and television shows based upon true spy stories. Whilst Israel is proud that it has been able to place its spies in some foreign embassies in some Arab countries, which is something that has been revealed in more than one book by former Mossad spies.

The history of Israel espionage is not confined to Arab states, but this is something that has even been practiced against its own allies, and particularly against the US, which has arrested a not insignificant number of spies working for Mossad. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the case of naval intelligence officer Jonathan Pollard who was caught sending a huge amount of confidential information to Israel. He was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison; a number of different Israeli administrations have unsuccessfully attempted to secure his release, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made renewed efforts through the Israeli lobby’s strong influence in Washington to get Pollard released, taking advantage of the new make-up of the US Congress following the recent mid-term elections. They are broaching this issue from a “humanitarian” stand-point, implementing a clever PR campaign to stir up emotion and sentiment and ease the criticism of Israel.

The history of Israeli espionage is a fundamental issue that is related both to the identity of Israel, and its survival. Israel is aware that it is a rogue state that must rely upon circumventing the security and stability of its neighbors in order to survive.