Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ronen Bergman

Ronen Bergman is the author of Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: The big question I suppose everybody has is, did Israel need to have this kind of a lethal policy, targeted assassinations, to survive? Was this a crucial part of what Israel needed to do, or could it have done without it?

BERGMAN: Well, it's very hard to play counter-factual history, "what if." But I can tell you that Israel, from day one, had to use force. Even putting aside the trauma of the Holocaust, every decade they had one, at least one enemy, and a very important one, who calls for Israel's destruction -- Nasser of Egypt, the PLO, Yasser Arafat, who wrote in the "Palestinian Covenant" that all the Jews that came to Israel after 1917, meaning all of them, and their descendants should be expelled; Saddam Hussein, who threatened to burn half of Israel (inaudible) these countries and organizations took steps to annihilate Israel.

David Ben-Gurion, the most important Jew in the last 1,000 years, thought that Israel could not sustain long wars, so instead he established this very strong intelligence community that could bring an alert for preemptive attack, but not just that, that could launch, pinpoint, focused operation, way beyond enemy lines, destroy an installation, plant a virus in one of their computers, or kill an individual in order to prolong the time or even prevent the next war.

ZAKARIA: What about Arafat? What are the -- what are the most interesting stories about the Israeli war against the PLO?

BERGMAN: So, you know, Arafat was by far the -- the target for numerous attempts on his life. Some of them in retrospect look a little bit funny. One Israeli psychiatrist, military psychiatrist, said, "I looked -- I had watched the movie "The Manchurian Candidate." I could do the same. Bring me an Arab PLO prisoner and I will do to him -- I will hypnotize him and I will send him Jason-Bourne-style to kill Yasser Arafat." And they give him an installation with pictures of Arafat popping from the table so he would shoot it. He was fully hypnotized.

On a stormy night in September 1968, they helped him to cross the Jordanian river. The psychiatrist said, "He is fully hypnotized; he has the code word; he is going to kill Arafat," he was sure. The guy (inaudible) sent a message of a gun.

Only a few hours later Israeli intelligence learned that he went straight to one of the police stations in Jordan and said, "The stupid Jews thought they hypnotized me. I am loyal to Arafat. Here is the gun; here is the radio. I want to come and swear allegiance to Yasser Arafat."

But not all of them were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue