Open online discussion of Israel’s first “Arab” spies for Mossad


British Jews interested in the formation of the Mossad and how Mizrahi Jews were first undercover even before the State of Israel was proclaimed were invited to learn more in an English-language discussion online Wednesday evening. .

The virtual event, which will review declassified Israeli newspapers, will be held to celebrate the launch of the Russian edition of a book on the intelligence unit known as the “Arab Section” by Israeli-Canadian journalist Matti Friedman.

Much of the action and intrigue is set in early 1948, when the British mandate on Palestine was about to end, Friedman shows how Jews of Arab descent had already been sent undercover to gather intelligence and plan detours.

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“The Jewish intelligence service had traditionally relied on networks of paid Arab collaborators willing to work with Jews for money or for a chance to harm their political enemies,” Friedman explains, but the information was “expensive and often unreliable.” – hence the error Arvim unity, or Arab section, was born.

Matti Friedman

Winner of the Natan Book Award 2018, the book – ‘Spies of No Country’ – tells the stories of four Jewish Mizrahi spies who, in effect, “found themselves not belonging to either side of the conflict … the first spies Israelis, the roots of what later became the Mossad, operating even before the birth of the country ”.

Friedman is himself an Israeli military veteran with a subsequent life experience in Arab lands, having been a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press for several years, based in countries such as Morocco, Lebanon and Egypt.

He will speak with the Israeli literary critic Benjamin Balint at an event hosted by the Moscow-based educational initiative Eshkolot with the support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG).

Eshkolot director Semyon Parizhsky first met Friedman while investigating the “Aleppo Code” – a 10th century manuscript of the Hebrew Bible approved by Maimonides, saying, “It embodied our ideal approach of ‘oral non-fiction’.”

Parizhsky said: “We invite all our speakers to present their work without simplification for the uninitiated. We expect them to transform their research and logic into a narrative, a story, a research. Matti is a perfect example, an author who tells a story of his investigation like a thriller. You want to know how it ends. “

Friedman’s latest book was “another tour de force,” Parizhsky said, and “not quite what it seems … You gradually begin to discern that the 1948 spy book is actually about Arab identity paradoxes. Jews that define the social fabric of contemporary Israel ”.

GPG CEO Marina Yudborovsky said the event “embodies many of the reasons we support Eshkolot: an under-explored topic that connects Jewish history with modern realities, esteemed speakers who can provide true insight and an accessible format. “.

He added: “We hope that many around the world will benefit from this unique opportunity.”

Those who wish to participate as a member of the virtual audience can register here.

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