If anyone needs any further proof that the long shadow of the Holocaust continues to inform some of Israel’s most self-destructive behavior, they have only to read this suggestive story in the Times of London providing inside color from supposed Mossad sources about the run-up to the Dubai assassination. In it, Uzi Machnaimi describes the motivations that inform Meir Dagan, the bloodthirsty Mossad chief responsible for the Dubai fiasco:
The tone of his directorship is set by a photograph on the wall of his modest office in the Tel Aviv headquarters. It shows an old Jew standing on the edge of a trench. An SS officer is aiming his rifle at the old man’s head.“This old Jew was my grandfather,” Dagan tells visitors. The picture reflects in a nutshell his philosophy of Jewish self-defence for survival. “We should be strong, use our brain, and defend ourselves so that the Holocaust will never be repeated,” he once said.
From what I know of the Holocaust era, I find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone would be able to pinpoint a specific picture that showed their grandfather about to be shot by the SS. So it seems likely to me that Dagan is using the photo as an archetypal Jewish morality lesson: “You see, this is what we are as a people. This is what we must ensure never happens again.” But the fact that Dagan is likely making a fraudulent personal claim in order to dramatize the lesson is instructive: after all he is Mossad chief and one of his stock in trades is deception and fraud for a “higher” national purpose.
But even more importantly, this story shows us how the Holocaust continues to infect Israeli consciousness and contributes to pathological behavior. If we are to believe Dagan and the Times reporter, he killed al-Mabouh because he was little different than that SS officer holding a gun to his “grandfather’s” head. You see where this leads? It leads to every enemy Israel has being no different than the Nazi genocidaires. It leads to many Israeli critics being labelled Kapo (as I have regularly been) or collaborator with Nazis.
We must finally put a stake through the heart of the Holocaust as justifier of Israeli policy. This historical event should be precisely this and nothing more. It must not be allowed to become a template for current or future Israeli behavior. To the extent it does, Israel will never become a normal nation and always live within a nightmare of its own making.
On a related matter, I was shocked to read that Germany reports that, unlike the other European nations whose passports were cloned fraudulently, an Israeli claiming the name Michael Bodenheimer actually did apply for and receive a genuine German passport. This “Michael Bodenheimer” assumed the name of a real Israeli Orthodox Jew who studies at a yeshiva and seems entirely incapable of espionage.
This part of the story provides a further disgusting abuse of the Holocaust by the Mossad. Germany allows former German Jews and their descendants to regain German citizenship under humanitarian provisions of its immigration law as a form of compensation to Jews for the suffering they endured. So what does the Mossad do? It exploits this to gain a German passport for a future killer. Why should Germany continue to be so solicitious of German Jews when its largesse is abused by the Mossad? This is yet another example of Israel cynically exploiting the Holocaust for partisan political gain. Whoever within the Mossad thought of doing this act should be prosecuted.
The Sunday Mirror also reports that the UK is convinced that the British passports used in the assassination were secretly copied at Ben Gurion airport by Israeli border police:
Diplomatic sources have told the Sunday Mirror they are convinced officials at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport took away and copied the passports of six Britons who unwittingly became involved in the assassination plot.
…A senior British diplomatic source revealed: “We believe the innocent British citizens involved had their passports taken away and copied when they were going through the airport.” The disclosure came during debriefs of the Britons who revealed how they had recently had long waits at Ben Gurion while their passports were taken away for checks.
The hit squad did not alter the names and numbers in the passports, but the photographs were switched.
This again goes to the absolute hubris of the Mossad. Did they believe that these Israeli citizens wouldn’t recall such treatment and recount it as soon as the killing was discovered and traced back to them? Did it even care?
There are also reports of future material that may be in the offing from the Dubai police which sounds tantalizing:
The UAE-based al-Bayan newspaper reported Sunday that according to Tamim, Dubai’s police have additional information which has yet to be released, “especially about diplomatic passports used by some of the criminals in order to enter Dubai.”
Bad enough that Mossad abused individuals and their countries by stealing their identities and passports, but to have done so using diplomatic passports, if this is true, ratchets up the drama and offense to any government so victimized.
Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist who has literally written the book on the Mossad, has reported quite acutely on the killing in the Wall Street Journal:
…Did Mabhouh constitute an immediate threat? Was eliminating him worth violating international law and risking the ire of so many states…? No country that faces the threat of foreign terrorism on the scale that Israel does can afford to entirely renounce the use of targeted assassinations, despite the ethical and legal problems that such executions raise. But such acts need to be extremely rare. In the case of Israel, such operations require the explicit approval of the prime minister, and they are authorized only after the political risks are carefully weighed. In the case of Dubai, it seems that this did not occur. Either the risks were not explained to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, or he made a serious miscalculation.
Bergman adds an intriguing and tantalizing question which I raised here earlier, that is: given the remarkable achievement on the part of the Dubai police in ferreting out voluminous amounts of documentary evidence of the killing in a very short period of time–could there be another country’s intelligence agency which knew what the Israelis were doing and wanted them to be unmasked?
How did the Dubai police manage all this? Did they have help? For now, it remains a mystery. But in any case, misjudging the ability of the Dubai authorities so spectacularly is evidence of a serious intelligence failure on the part of the organization that sent out the squad.
Here is another tantalizing tidbit from Bergman on the looming transparency of such so-called covert operations in the advanced surveillance age in which we live:
…This past week was the end of an era in undercover operations: It is no longer possible to carry out assassinations without leaving a trace. The Dubai hit squad chose to carry out their mission in a hotel room, no doubt because they believed the setting provided them with the greatest degree of protection. But technology has turned hotels into centers of electronic surveillance, and it is safe to assume that in the future terrorists will regard the comfort of top-of-the-line hotels as safe havens.
In addition to closed circuit TV systems and the ability to track cellphone and computer users, advanced biometric identification systems and online coordination across borders are becoming more and more widespread. Soon it will be much easier to identify and detain suspects in public places such as airports in real time. The technology isn’t quite there yet, but it is close…
These advancements should be welcomed; they make the war on terror a lot more efficient. The problem is that the same technological tools we use to thwart terrorists can also be used against the people whose job it is to stop them.
Of course, what is missing here is Bergman’s sensitivity to the fact that some of those whose job it may be to stop terrorists adopt the latters’ tactics and so become terrorists themselves, albeit of the state variety. Hard as it may be for Bergman to believe, it may actually be a good thing to prevent all people, including intelligence agencies from engaging in assassinations.
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Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.