The Irgun: Bombing of the King David Hotel

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Re: The Irgun: Bombing of the King David Hotel

Postby admin » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:20 am

Israel Military Intelligence: The Lavon Affair
by Jewish Virtual Library
Accessed 10/20/17



The Lavon Affair is a spy story in Israel's early years that left a nasty mark on the young state, with reverberations for the following 20 years. It's name derived from Israeli Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon, though it is also referred to as "Esek HaBish" or "The Mishap".

Revolving around nearly a dozen young Egyptian Jews who agreed to spy for Israel against their home country, the affair taps into a story of idealism and self-sacrifice as well as abandonment and an unwillingness to take responsibility.

Due to strict censorship in Israel in the early 1950's, few knew that in the year 1954 Israeli underground cells that had been operating in Egypt were uncovered by the Egyptian police. A number of young Jews were arrested and forced to undergo a show trial. Two of them - Yosef Carmon and Max Binnet - committed suicide in prison due to the brutal interrogation methods of the Egyptian police. Two more - Dr. Moshe Marzouk of Cairo and Shmuel Azar of Alexandria - were sentenced to death and hanged in a Cairo prison. Israel glorified them as martyrs. Their memory was sanctified. Neighborhoods and gardens were named after them in Israel, as were dozens of children born in the year 1955. At the same time it was not publicly conceded that they died in the service of Israel. The other six heroes of the "Esek HaBish" were far less prominently known. They were sentenced to long jail terms, where they languished for years. Two of them, Meir Meyuhas and Meir Za'afran, were released in 1962, after having served seven year jail sentences. Shrouded in secrecy, they reached Israel where their arrival was not made public, and journalists were not allowed to interview them. Sworn to silence, they reconstructed their lives to the best of their ability, far from the spotlight.

That left four more "Zionist spies," as they came to be called in Egypt. Marcelle Ninio, a woman, and Robert Dassa, both sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, and Victor Levy and Philip Nathanson, who were sentenced for life. Marcelle Ninio was kept on her own in the women's prison in Kanather. The men were jailed together for fourteen years, mainly in the Tura prison.

Why would such young Jews risk their lives for an Arab country in which they were born, for a country - Israel - which until 1952 they had never seen? And why would Israel decide to open up a cell of native Jews to spy for them?

For Israel, sources of information were drying up in Egypt after the War of Independence of 1948. Perhaps more than half of Egypt's approximately 80,000 Jews had left for Israel by mid-1950. Egyptian Muslims were more openly hostile and distrustful of those Jews who remained, which led many Jews to sever any connection they had with Israel. Israel thus needed sources of information. More than that, by the early 1950's Egyptian nationalist agitation against the British presence in Egypt and especially in the Suez Canal Zone was intensifying. Britain was speaking openly about leaving Egypt as she had from Palestine a few years before, in 1948. British troops in the Canal Zone were living in similar conditions to those in Palestine by the end of the Mandate - behind barbed wire in protected zones.

The Israelis, meanwhile, did not want the British to leave. The British presence guaranteed a buffer of sorts to an attempted Egyptian invasion of Israel. With the British gone, there would be nothing to stand between Egypt and Israel but the vast wastelands of the Sinai.

Thus the Israelis approached a number of native Egyptian Jews, who recruited others, usually from among their own social circle. These Egyptian Jews were ready to spy against Egypt because they never regarded themselves, nor did others regard them, as Egyptians. They attended Jewish schools, their social contacts were limited almost exclusively to Jews, and most of them did not even hold Egyptian citizenship.

Unlike other Middle Eastern Jewish communities, the perhaps 80,000 pre-1948 Egyptian Jewish population had shallow roots. Many Jews had arrived in Egypt only in the second half of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th. Some settled in Egypt while on the way to Palestine from Yemen or North Africa. Others were former Ottoman Jews, hailing from all over the pre World War I Ottoman Middle Eastern Empire.

Egypt even became somewhat of a haven for Jews expelled from Palestine by the Turks during World War I. David Ben-Gurion was one of the many Palestinian Jews who spent time in Egypt during the war years of 1914-18. After the war, some Jews even came from Eastern Europe, fleeing from the Communist revolution. While many of them would have preferred to go to America or Palestine, they were unable to so they remained in Egypt. Like other foreign colonies, such as the Italians and Greeks, the Jews lived in Egypt without really striking roots. They lived mainly in their own neighborhoods in Cairo and Alexandria (as well as in a number of cities close to the Suez Canal), they attended their own schools, and spoke their own languages. As many of them were fairly well educated, they spoke French, the language of culture, and English, the language of Government. (The British remained in Egypt from 1882-1956, and ruled for much of that period). Many of them could not even read or write in Arabic, and spoke only a very basic Arabic.

Moshe Marzouk, an extremely bright young man studying to be a doctor when he entered the spy ring, was born in Cairo to the Karaite sect. The Karaites are a Jewish sect founded in Persia in the 8th century CE, recognizing only the written Bible - meaning the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Karaites reject the oral, Talmudic tradition and thus the authority of the rabbis to interpret Jewish Scripture. "The movement flourished between the 10th and 12th centuries, spreading to Palestine, from there to Egypt and Syria, and into Europe by way of Spain and Byzantium." In their rejection of the Oral tradition, the Karaites are similar to the Samaritans, a tiny sect living on Mount Gerizim in the West Bank (or Judaea and Samaria). The Samaritans accept only the Five Books of Moses, rejecting the Prophets and Writings.

The Karaites in Egypt regarded themselves as Jews, as did the Egyptian Jewish community as a whole. The Karaite quarter bordered the Jewish Quarter of Cairo's Old City and was part of it. Like other Jews, the Karaites dreamed of Israel and took part in Zionist activity, whether legal or illegal (as it often was in Egypt by the 1940's). At the same time the Karaites mixed more with the Egyptian population as a whole, and Arabic was their first language. They were thus more integrated than other Jews. Some even bore Arabic names.

Moshe Marzouk's family came to Egypt from Tunisia at the beginning of the 20th century. His family retained their French citizenship, which was very common practice for Jews living in North African countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1948, during Israel's War of Independence, there were attacks and even bombings by Egyptians on the Jewish sections of Egyptian cities. Moshe Marzouk was approached about organizing Jewish self-defense in Cairo in 1948, which he agreed to. Later, he worked helping Egyptian Jews emigrate to Israel.

Shmuel Azar, Victor Levy and Robert Dassa were born in Alexandria, a much more cosmopolitan city than Cairo. One could hear French, Italian and Greek as much as Arabic in Alexandria's broad, straight thoroughfares lined by French style buildings.

All three boys were born in Egypt. Robert Dassa's family was one of those that settled in Egypt on the way from Yemen to Palestine. In his pictures in prison, Robert, with his jet-black hair, dark complexion and mustache looked the most Egyptian of all.

Victor, Robert, and Philip Nathanson (another member of the spy ring) were all 16 in 1948, and all involved in Zionist activity. Shmuel Azar was four years older and not really part of their social group until later.

The espionage story began in the very early 1950's when the Israelis sent an undercover agent to Egypt by the name of Avraham Dar. He went by the name John Darling, posing as a British citizen of the island of Gibraltar. He taught the Egyptian Jewish spy ring about underground organizations and conspiratorial tactics. They learned how to make delayed action devices, letter bombs, and the intricacies of photography. In early 1952 most of them came to Israel - secretly, of course - in order to learn sabotage and underground techniques. Most of them fell in love with Israel and vowed to do whatever they could to help.

At a farewell party for the small number of Egyptian Jews who participated in the course, they decided to call what they would be called upon to do "Operation Susannah." It was partly in jest, named after Victor Levy's fiancee, whose name was Susan Kauffman. She went with him to Israel and stayed. The spies were to return to Egypt, and they would know when to go into action when they would hear an Israel radio broadcast of the American song "Oh! Susannah."

Victor Levy left for Egypt in August 1952. On the way back to Egypt he first stopped off in Paris and then other locations in France in order to learn more about manufacturing explosives and some photography.

An Israeli agent by the name of Avraham Seidenberg was sent to take over the organization of the spy ring from his predecessor, Avraham Dar. Seidenberg was a good choice for such a dangerous mission - taking into account that he was an Israeli unlike the Egyptian Jews, and thus had more of a chance of his cover being blown. Yet he had little to lose. He had been caught looting Arab property during Israel's War of Independence and had never been able to rehabilitate himself in public life. His marriage, too, was on the rocks, and thus he was quite happy to be offered something that could lead to new vistas and opportunities.

Seidenberg was first sent to Germany to establish a false identity as a former SS officer by the name of Paul Frank. He successfully infiltrated the ranks of the underground former Nazi network. He set out for Egypt in early 1954, his new identity established. "He chalked up a number of successes, uncovering the underground route by which wanted Nazi war criminals slipped through to the Arab states, as well as supplying the first reports about Egyptian efforts to establish an arms industry with the help of German experts." Once he arrived in Egypt he began recruiting further members of the Egyptian Jewish community. Marcelle Ninio was one of those who were captivated by his show of confidence and by the fact that he was an Israeli. The other members of the cell - who all knew each other, which was an unfortunate portent and a major mistake in terms of organizing espionage operations - agreed to work for him as well. On July 2, 1954, they went into action. They first blew up some post offices and a few days later, the American libraries in Cairo and Alexandria. These operations were to "make it clear to the whole world that Egypt's new rulers were nothing but a group of foolhardy extremists, unreliable and unworthy of taking charge of an asset as important as the Suez Canal. Furthermore, it was to be demonstrated that their grasp on power was uncertain, that they faced powerful internal opposition, and, consequently, they were unworthy of being counted upon as a dependable ally."

Robert Dassa was one of the first of the spies to be caught. Philip Nathanson was caught soon after when, on the way to blow up a cinema in Alexandria, the bomb he was carrying in his pocket ignited and then exploded. What was a particularly alarming factor was that outside of the theater a fire engine was waiting, as if expecting them. Philip had the distinct feeling he was being watched. It turned out that he had been.

As Philip lay on the ground, he saw startled and frightened faces looking down at him. While somebody shouted "Take care! He may have another bomb!" Philip heard a police sergeant say "Don't worry, don't worry. We were waiting for them. These are the people who set fire to the American library." He was taken by ambulance to a hospital. After being lightly treated, he was interrogated by members of Egypt's military intelligence, the Muhabarrat. The others were caught soon after - Shmuel Azar, Philip Nathanson, Robert Dassa, and Marcelle Ninio. None of them had been prepared by their Israeli handlers for this eventuality.

They refused to implicate one another. At first, they didn't even admit to the bombings. When the police brought Philip Nathanson to his house with incriminating material, which were sure to implicate him, Philip continued to maintain that he was innocent of all charges. As he recalls being brought to his house: "'The house was overflowing with policemen and detectives in and out of uniform. They took me straight to the garden, and to the workshop in the garden hut. This too was so crowded there was no room for me, and I remained standing on the threshold… The policemen had piled the table with Vim cans, chemicals, and the fine scales I used for weighing them. With each item they found, they asked me: 'What's this? What's it for?'"

'I told them I was manufacturing dyes.'

'Sure,' said the governor sarcastically. 'There's a good market for them, praise be to Allah.'"

The police took everything they could from his house, even a fork and a spoon, to be used as evidence against them. Victor Levy, Robert Dassa and Philip Nathanson held up to the persistent questioning, threats, and occasional beatings. They maintained that they were Communists who wanted the British imperialists out of Egypt. This even earned them the admiration and respect from the Egyptians, who also wanted the British out. That is, until Shmuel Azar, who was constitutionally incapable of telling a lie, admitted that they were Jews and Zionists working on behalf of the State of Israel. Thereafter, the whole network was rounded up and arrested by August 5, 1954. "Paul Frank", or Avraham Seidenberg, meanwhile, did nothing, and left Egypt only on August 5, when Meir Meyuhas and Moshe Marzouk were arrested.

In Israel, Seidenberg got a hero's welcome as the only member of the network who had gotten away. Meanwhile, Marcelle Ninio waited nervously, not knowing what to do, wishing to leave, but unable to do so. Seidenberg never got back in contact with her, and in fact appeared to be very relaxed about the whole ordeal. He had even encouraged the Egyptian Jews to stay put before they were arrested. It was only years later that they began to question Seidenberg's role in the story. Israeli Intelligence began to suspect him much earlier.

The "Zionist spies," as they came to be called, hadn't been well treated before they admitted they had been working on behalf of Israel. But it was bearable. That all changed after their association with Israel was known. Marcelle Ninio was arrested and beaten mercilessly on the soles of her feet, she was threatened with sexual abuse, and it didn't let up. The torture became so unbearable that at one point she threw herself out of a window and nearly died. She only just managed to survive. She was taken to a hospital where she was allowed to heal.

The men were transferred from Alexandria to Cairo, where the prison guards were known to be even more savage than their Alexandrian counterparts. They were taken to the Sigan Harbi, a prison notorious for its cruelty - a reputation the guards there very much wanted to maintain. When they were marched down the stinking and decrepit hallways, in chains, they could hear cries coming out of the other cells. In the near future those cries would sometimes be of their friends. This went on day and night. Treatment was something akin to a medieval torture chamber. Moreover, there were rivalries between the police and prison guards on the one side, and the Muhabarrat (military intelligence) on the other. Both sides wanted to prove that they could extract more information than the other.

The prison guards would sometimes hang the prisoners up with their arms tied behind their heads, and beat the prisoners savagely until they fainted, and sometimes even died. The truth is that this treatment was not only meted out to the Jewish spies - Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who were fierce opponents of Nasser's secular, socialist, military regime - received exactly the same treatment, and sometimes even worse. At one point one of the higher level prison guards, after savagely beating a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, called in Robert Dassa. The guard told him to beat the Moslem Brother. "Now, I am going to let a Jew beat you."

Robert refused. The Moslem Brotherhood member's eyes, cringing with fear, softened a little. The guards turned on Robbie savagely and told him to beat the prisoner or else. He wouldn't. A gang of guards then set upon Robbie, savagely beating him, while the Moslem Brother pleaded with the guards to stop beating Robbie. As long as he could, Robbie stoically refused to cry out and give the guards any kind of satisfaction.

After months of this kind of treatment they were finally brought to trial. The verdict was predetermined from the start, a fact which was known as long ago as 1956. The sentences were a compromise between the extremists of the new government, who wanted all of the spies put to death, and those more moderate members of the government, "who preferred to win the world's sympathy for their regime by a more humane approach. This is confirmed by the court's presiding judge, Gen. Fuad el Digwi, when he fell into Israeli captivity during the 1956 campaign. At the time he was the military governor of the Gaza Strip. He told his interrogators: 'The verdict was dictated to me by my supervisors, who decided how many were to be sentenced to death, how many to imprisonment, and for what terms.'"

The trial went on for two weeks. As a show trial, it was staged for two purposes. "Abroad, it was to stress the story that 'Israel tried to undermine Egyptian-American friendship'; at home, it would show that the regime's severity was not confined to the Moslem Brotherhood alone." As we discussed above, the Nasser regime treated the Moslem Brothers as badly as the Jewish spies.

The trial was given "unusual publicity." The press emphasized again and again how dangerous the 'Israeli' spies were to Egypt, and demanded severe punishment. Naturally, the press pronounced the Jews guilty before the court did. Such intensive and ongoing press coverage had a deeply demoralizing effect on the families of the imprisoned Jewish spies. In court, however, they showed smiles of encouragement from the spectators' gallery, as did the spies themselves. Marcelle Ninio was completely healed by then - it is unlikely they would have permitted her to be shown to the outside world in any other way.

Moshe Marzouk publicly took responsibility for the group and everything that they had done. The presiding Military Judge, General Digwi was taken aback by the admission. On only one point did Moshe concede to his companions' pleas not to reveal more about their activities; and that was not to admit that they had undergone military training in Israel.

After the trial the men were transferred to Tura Prison. Moshe Marzouk and Shmuel Azar were sentenced to be hanged. Massive world pressure was applied on the Egyptian Government not to hang the two condemned men. American President Eisenhower intervened, as did the Indian President Nehru - and even the Pope. The Egyptians, aware of the American hangings of the Rosenbergs, Jewish Americans who had spied on behalf of the Soviet Union, responded; "Egypt (will) treat its spies in precisely the same manner adopted by the United States." Moshe Marzouk and Shmuel Azar were hanged in early 1955.

Marcelle Ninio was sentenced to 15 years in the women's prison of Kanather - the longest sentence ever for a women political prisoner in Egypt. The previous high had been 8 years.

After the hangings of Moshe Marzouk and Shmuel Azar, relations between Egypt and Israel considerably worsened. Palestinian infiltration from Gaza into Israel, with Egyptian connivance, considerably increased, as did Israeli retaliatory raids. Border tensions were reflected in the prison. The Egyptian guards frequently incited the Moslem prisoners against their fellow Jewish prisoners. When the prisoners were sent out to the quarries to undergo grueling, back-breaking labor cutting and hauling rocks, the "Zionist spies" were under constant threat of falling rocks loosened by ill-intentioned fellow prisoners. The Jews did have an advantage, however: Robbie was known in their old prison (the Sigan Harbi), as someone who had helped the Moslem Brothers who had been tortured by the prison authorities. They saw that he refused to beat a fellow prisoner and had been beaten in return. He also helped many other prisoners beaten so badly that they could hardly walk to get back and forth to the bathroom when they needed to.

In theory, while the Moslem Brothers should have hated Robbie and his fellow Jewish prisoners, they recognized what he had done for them. When he was transferred to Tura, word was passed that Robert had helped the Moslem Brotherhood, and that henceforth he was to be treated as one of them. In fact, Robert and the other Jewish prisoners formed friendships with men whom, on the outside, they would have been bitter enemies with.

It is almost touching to see how the Jewish prisoners, in jail, formed relations with other prisoners who were fully aware of the fact that they had been caught and sentenced for spying for Israel. Although tensions heated up during the 1956 war, after it many Moslem guards and prisoners told the Jewish prisoners that they had every reason to be released in a prisoner exchange, and wished them the best.

It seemed logical that they would be released; Israel held 5000 Egyptian prisoners after her conquest of the Sinai. But they traded them all back for one Israeli pilot. Israel didn't even ask for the spies. It is not clear why this was the case. Either Israel did not want to ask, and thereby admit their involvement in the affair (which could have endangered Israel's relations with the United States); or else the Israelis simply didn't want to get involved. Many of the Israelis originally involved in the "Lavon Affair" or "Esek HaBish" had been forced out of office and no longer wanted anything to do with it. They didn't raise their voices in protest over the abandonment of the spies; they simply didn't bring the subject up. Whatever the case, the spies continued to languish in prison, long after the last of the Egyptian prisoners returned home.

One person who became convinced that something had gone amiss, and that people in Israel were to blame - was David Ben-Gurion. In a Commission of Inquiry into the Affair published in December 1960, Pinhas Lavon, (the Defense Minister at the time of the capture of the spies in 1954) was declared not guilty of authorizing the operation. All the ministers in Ben-Gurion's accepted this ruling except for Ben-Gurion himself. A bitter debate ensued which subsequently went on for years. But by then most of those involved in the affair had been removed from their posts. Motke Ben-Tzur, head of a section of Military Intelligence in 1954, had been dismissed in October of that year. Pinhas Lavon resigned from the post of Defense Minister on January 2, 1955. Binyamin Gibli, the Director of military Intelligence, was replaced as well.

The only man to emerge unscathed was Avraham Seidenberg, alias "Paul Frank," alias "Robert", who was subsequently referred to in Israel as "the Third Man". He had given the order to the cell to act - and he was the only one who escaped. As we saw, he returned to a hero's welcome in Israel, his role in the affair unquestioned at the time. Israeli Intelligence even sent him on another mission to Germany.

Isser Harel served as head of the Shin Bet and the Mossad from 1952-1963. He became a giant in early Israeli intelligence, responsible for the capture of Adolph Eichmann and many other operations, as we shall see in a few weeks. Isser Harel was known to act on his instincts - which often proved him correct. He began to suspect Seidenberg. He ordered Seidenberg back from Germany, and then removed him from Intelligence in October 1956. But Seidenberg was still not arrested or even accused of anything at the time.

To soften the blow, Seidenberg was asked to write reports on his activities in Egypt and Germany. He was given access to archives, and years later, it was discovered that he took some of the top-secret documents he then had access to. He served a short prison term, but after his discharge, his father in Austria became ill and Avraham Seidenberg went to visit him. In fact he went several times. He was, however, forbidden from entering Germany. He went anyway, and he made contact with Nuri Otman, an Egyptian. Seidenberg let it be known that he was prepared to sell important information to Egypt for a sizable payment.

Isser Harel started checking on Seidenberg. He confirmed that Seidenberg was not authorized to go to Germany or to make contact with a foreign agent. "'We came to the conclusion' said Harel, "that his unlawful contacts with Nuri Otman - as deputy commander of military intelligence and head of the Egyptian Army's security services - had been in direct charge of investigating the activities of the 'Zionist network' in 1954.'" This meant that Seidenberg might very well have been a double agent working for Egypt as well as Israel. By implication this meant that he might have turned over the Jewish spy network to his Egyptian handlers, and permitted them to be caught and then jailed while he got away.

Isser Harel tricked Seidenberg to come back to Israel by offering him a nice position business-wise, while maintaining a connection with Intelligence. Seidenberg did come back to Israel at the end of 1957.

A senior Intelligence officer interviewed Seidenberg about a new position, while two other senior Intelligence officers concealed themselves "in the neighboring room with the door slightly ajar… When Avraham Seidenberg settled in his chair, the interviewing officer presented the first question: 'Tell me, Avry, could you swear by everything holy that you have never spied against the state of Israel?'

Avry hesitated for a brief moment before launching on his predictable string of denials. That moment sealed his fate." Under interrogation he denied everything. Many investigative committees were appointed. They concluded that not only had he committed perjury, but that the heads of Intelligence services had induced witnesses such as Seidenberg to commit perjury, they had lied themselves and had committed forgeries in 1954.

Investigations in his home turned up bundles of illegal, highly sensitive intelligence material. He went on trial for that and was convicted. (Nevertheless, a committee was unable to find sufficient legal material to try Seidenberg for betraying his colleagues to the Egyptian police in 1954). He claimed that the whole Intelligence Services was conspiring against him and only he was telling the truth. The court did not accept that and he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.

After serving his ten years as an exemplary prisoner, he was released, and briefly sold television sets in Tel-Aviv before emigrating to California in 1972, still denying everything.

All of the political rumblings were reported in the Egyptian press. From there the news filtered down to the prison. Guards and prisoners once again became hostile to them. This treatment did not last long as they went on an 11-day hunger strike, which led to better treatment. In general, they were well liked and respected, even in those tense times, by the rest of the guards and prisoners.

They had many skills that they put to good use in prison - such as photography, gardening, painting, playing basketball - and raising animals. When one of the guards saw one of Robert's paintings, he wanted one. Soon enough all the other guards did as well. In return, they would do favors for him. When they saw Victor or Philip gardening, they wanted gardens in front of their own workplaces as well. It is rather bizarre, knowing of the often vicious nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict, that one finds the status of the Jewish spies so high in Egyptian prisons. Their raising of ducks and parakeets within the prison particularly impressed the prison administration.

The duck farm was a rather amusing story in itself. Once one of the ducks began hatching eggs, they decided to ask the notoriously cruel administrator to give them an incubator. The Mudir (administrator), Immara - was enthusiastic about the project. Victor gave him a mother and three little ducks, and Immara would go every day "to feast his eyes on them." Moreover, he supported Victor's project wholeheartedly. "Anything I requested for the ducklings was provided. No sooner did I see that a rearing house was needed than carpenters were summoned and the structure went up before my very eyes. Two convicts were placed at my disposal, to grind up the food scraps from the kitchen. When the ducklings grew feathers and their time came to leave the rearing house, Immara ordered the orchestra to vacate the two rooms behind the amphitheater where it used to hold rehearsals. The rooms were converted into duck runs." Victor continued: "After a year or two, the duck farm ran the whole length of the prison wall." There was a school building attached to the prison, but "Immara ordered the pupils out and placed three of the classrooms at my disposal, to serve as rearing-rooms, this time, equipped with electric stoves. The incubator hut was now fitted out with three up-to-date incubators operating simultaneously. The kitchen scraps no longer sufficed, but Immara did not hesitate to requisition the convicts' bran to feed the ducks.'"

Immara was a very strange character. The spies knew him from another prison, ten years before, where he had been notoriously brutal, savage and cruel to the prisoners. When he came to Tura he was determined to prove himself again. He took away the accumulated belongings most prisoners had accrued in their cells. When he first arrived at Tura and saw the spies' cell, he smiled, asked how they were, didn't seem bothered by the birds twittering around in their cell, and moved on. He didn't conduct a search or confiscate a thing.

Soon after he made everyone vacate their cells and move into new ones with the exception of the Jews. Other prisoners questioned his behavior. The Jews didn't know what to make of him themselves. For a long time they assumed he showed favoritism to them because they acquired Swiss medicines for him from the outside, which were unavailable in Egypt. But this was not the only reason. "Only years later, on the eve of his release, when Victor went to Immara to say good-bye, did the Mudir reveal a further reason for the change in his attitude towards them. His brother-in-law, while serving as an army doctor at El Arish, had been taken prisoner during the Sinai campaign, and was treated well by the Israelis. 'To this day, he tells me how well your people behaved toward him.' Immara took it upon himself to repay in kind."

Immara grew to have complete confidence in Victor in particular, mainly because of the duck farm. "Matters reached such a point that even guards punished by the Mudir for some offense would plead with Victor: 'He docked me ten days' pay and I don't have enough to feed my children as it is. Please, do something for me.'" With Robert Dassa running the prison basketball team, Victor in charge of gardening and the duck farm and gardening, and Philip Nathanson holding several important posts, they all "enjoyed a position of exclusivity, with considerable freedom of movement." Their renown extended far outside the prison walls. "In Cairo's Sigan Misr, which served as a transit station for prisoners sentenced to hard labor, old lags would advise (new) prisoners on their way to Tura: 'When you get there, try to contact the three Jewish spies. They're the mukhtars (headmen) of the prison. If they want to, they can be of great help to you." It brings to mind the story of Joseph, thrown into Pharaoh's dungeons, rising to become the headmen of his prison in Egypt more than 3000 years before.

Comparatively, Marcelle Ninio did well for herself as well. People who liked her supplied her with a radio and books. She obtained writing paper and envelopes and tried her best to keep in contact with the males in the Tura prison. She also made some real friends in the prison, particularly among the nurses.

Near the end of their imprisonment the Israeli spy Wolfgang Lotz was thrown into Tura with them as well. Everyone, including the Jew, thought he was a German who had spied on behalf of Israel. After he revealed the truth to them, they took him into their inner circle, as they had done with a select group of other prisoners. Lutz, even though he had been convicted of spying for Israel, won over the guards and prisoners at Tura, just as Robert, Victor, and Philip had.

As tensions increased during the countdown to the 1967 war, there were rumors that the Jewish prisoners might be harmed. Immara made sure that didn't happen.

Israel achieved a tremendous victory in 1967. This time, Israel didn't forget her spies. Although it took months, they were finally released in February 1968. The prison guards, administration, and even many of the prisoners wished them well. They all built new lives for themselves in Israel - albeit quietly, with little fanfare. It was only some time after President Nasser's death in 1970 that the Jewish spies came forth publicly to tell their story.

[Ed. In March 2005, nearly 40 years after their release from Egyptian prisons, Marcelle Ninio, Robert Dassa, and Meir Zafran were given military ranks in the IDF in recognition of their service to the State of Israel. They are the last three surviving members of Operation Susannah, and are finally receving awards for their years of suffering. It took several years for Israel to acknowledge that it had trained a group of Egyptian Jews to carry out espionage activities in Cairo and Alexandria. The group was released in February 1968, but was unknown to the Israeli public until 1971 when Golda Meir announced she would attend Ninio's wedding. Dassa believes that his rank is the culmination of the wishes of his deceased comrades, who wanted the survivors not to rest “until the State of Israel recognizes all of us.”]



The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1992-2005, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente. This material may not be republished without the permission of the copyright owner.

1) Ian Black and Benny Morris - Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services

2) Aviezer Golan - Operation Susannah

3) Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman - Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community.
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Re: The Irgun: Bombing of the King David Hotel

Postby admin » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:00 am

The Lavon Affair: How a false-flag operation led to war and the Israeli bomb
by Leonard Weiss
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
July 1, 2013



Leonard Weiss is a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. For more than 20 years, he worked in the US Senate as Sen. John Glenn’s staff...

The Lavon Affair, a failed Israeli covert operation directed against Egypt in 1954, triggered a chain of events that have had profound consequences for power relationships in the Middle East; the affair’s effects still reverberate today. Those events included a public trial and conviction of eight Egyptian Jews who carried out the covert operation, two of whom were subsequently executed; a retaliatory military incursion by Israel into Gaza that killed 39 Egyptians; a subsequent Egyptian–Soviet arms deal that angered American and British leaders, who then withdrew previously pledged support for the building of the Aswan Dam; the announced nationalization of the Suez Canal by Nasser in retaliation for the withdrawn support; and the subsequent failed invasion of Egypt by Israel, France, and Britain in an attempt to topple Nasser. In the wake of that failed invasion, France expanded and accelerated its ongoing nuclear cooperation with Israel, which eventually enabled the Jewish state to build nuclear weapons.
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Re: The Irgun: Bombing of the King David Hotel

Postby admin » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:08 am

The Lavon Affair: Is History Repeating Itself?
Accessed 10/20/17



In 1954, Israeli agents working in Egypt planted bombs in several buildings, including a United States diplomatic facility, and left evidence behind implicating Egyptian Muslims as the culprits. The ruse would have worked, had not one of the bombs detonated prematurely, allowing the Egyptians to capture and identify one of the bombers, which in turn led to the round up of an Israeli spy ring.

Some of the spies were from Israel, while others were recruited from the local Jewish population. Israel responded to the scandal with claims in the media that there was no spy ring, that it was all a hoax perpetrated by "anti-Semites".

Honorable Chairman, members of the Knesset. The trial that started two days ago in Egypt against 13 Jews is disturbing everybody and brings about an emotional turmoil and deep bitterness in the country [Israel] and in the whole Jewish world. Indeed, it must cause concern and anxiety in the hearts of all justice-seeking people around the universe. The Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security has alreadv dealt and will further deal with this serious issue. But at this stage I feel obliged to make a short announcement. In my speech in the Knesset on November 15 1 said "The uncontrolled behavior of' Egypt . . . does not indicate . . . that its leadership . . . is seeking moderate approaches and peace. How far Egypt is from this spirit [of moderation and peace] can be learned from the plot woven in Alexandria, the show-trial which is being organized there against a group of Jews who became victims of false accusations of espionage, and who, it seems, are being threatened and tortured in order to extract from them confessions in imaginary crimes." This gloomy assumption was verified and was revealed to be a cruel and shocking fact, by the declaration of the accused Victorin Ninyo in the military court in Cairo that was published this morning. [According to this declaration] she was tortured during the interrogation which preceded the trial and by that torture they extracted from her false confessions to crimes which did not happen. The government of Israel strongly protests this practice, which revives in the Middle East the methods used by the Inquisition in the Middle Ages. The government of Israel strongly rejects the false accusations of the general Egyptian prosecution, which relegates to the Israeli authorities horrible deeds and diabolic conspiracies against the security and the international relations of Egypt. From this stand we have protested many times in the past persecution and false accusations of Jews in various countries. We see in the innocent Jews accused by the Egyptian authorities of such severe crimes, victims of vicious hostility to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. If their crime is being Zionist and devoted to Israel, millions of Jews around the world share this crime. We do not think that the rulers of Egypt should be interested in being responsible for shedding Jewish blood. We call upon all those who believe in peace, stability and human relations among nations to prevent fatal injustice.

But as the public trial progressed, it was evident that Israel had indeed been behind the bombing. Eventually, Israeli's Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon was brought down by the scandal, although it appears that he was himself the victim of a frame-up by the real authors of the bombing project, code named "Operation Susannah."

It is therefore a fact that Israel has a prior history of setting off bombs with the intent to blame Arabs for them.

This is not the only example of a "False Flag" operation designed to trick the United States into attacking Israel's enemies. According to Victor Ostrovsky, a Mossad defector now living in Canada, Ronald Reagan was tricked into bombing Libya by means of a radio transmitter smuggled into Tripoli by the Mossad, which broadcast messages designed to fool the United States into thinking Libya was about to launch a massive terror attack on the west. On the basis of this fake evidence, the US bombed Libya, killing Khadaffi's daughter.

The Jews of Iraq is a story by a Jewish writer revealing yet another false flag operation where Israelis used bombs and planted the blame on Arabs

More recently, Captain Ward Boston, who served as senior legal counsel for the Navy's Court of Inquiry into the Israeli attack on USS Liberty, has come forward to report that the Court of Inquiry was ORDERED to conclude that the attack was an accident by President Lyndon Johnson. In hindsight, given the use of unmarked aircraft and boats by Israel during the actual attack, it appears that Israel intended to sink the US ship and frame Egypt for the attack, tricking the US into the war against Egypt.

So, with this established history, it is now time to re-examine some facts about the World Trade Towers:

1. There is no proof at all of who was actually on the hijacked airplanes last 9/11. Even the head of the FBI admits that the only hard evidence are the names used by the hijackers on faked IDs. At least 7 of the men whose names were on those IDs have since turned up alive. Another had died back in 1999. None of the names of the alleged hijackers were on the passenger lists of the four aircraft. We do not know who was on those planes, only that we are supposed to think they were Arab Muslims.

2. The night before the attacks on the World Trade Towers, men using those stolen identities visited bars and strip clubs, making sure they would be noticed and remembered by all they met. Students of Islam will confirm that no Muslim devout enough to be willing to commit suicide would spend the night before he was to meet Allah violating so many of Islam's laws regarding alcohol and nude women. This suggests the planting of a false trail ahead of time, doubly so because we know the identities were stolen. Coupled with the deception of the faked Osama "confession" video tape , it is beyond question that deception and fraud exists in the World Trade Towers case.

3. Contrary to early reports (including a statement by George Bush) of large numbers of Israelis being killed in the 9-11 attacks, only two Israelis died, both passengers on the airplanes. No Israelis working in or near the World Trade Towers died. The foreign press has long rumored that Israelis were given an advance warning not to go to work on 9-11, and in the case of Odigo, an Israeli company with offices located near the World Trade Towers, the existence of a warning message sent before the four aircraft had even left the ground is an established fact. That someone in Israel knew of the attacks ahead of time is beyond question.

4. There is an Israeli spy ring. As in the Lavon Affair, Israeli assets have been trying to dismiss the spy ring story (apparently with the FBI's help) while accusing those who refuse to be silent of "anti-Semitism". The lesson from the Lavon case is that Israel's strident denials and smear campaigns are a sure sign that something is indeed being covered up, even as the "art students" continue to be deported. And, as a US Official stated in Carl Cameron's suppressed story on the Israeli Spy/Bugging Ring, evidence does exist that links the arrested Israeli spies with 9-11, but that this evidence has been classified by the United States Government, probably to keep from looking like total idiots at having been so easily fooled for the Nth time.

The United States has been deceived before by Israeli covert operations with the intention of harming American relations with the Arab nations. Israel has never hesitated to kill Americans (USS Liberty) or allow Americans to be killed (The bombing in Beirut that killed 241 American Marines) when it serves a purpose. And, the fact remains that Israel has exploited 9-11 from the instant when Ehud Barak appeared on the BBC moments after the attacks on the World Trade Towers (holding a prepared speech) to the aggression against the Palestinian people which has escalated non-stop ever since 9-11.

Who is responsible for the World Trade Towers attacks? We truly do not know. What we do know beyond all doubt is that someone went to a great deal of effort to provide an easy and at times all-too-obvious a target to blame. Our nation was fooled by that stunt before. The result was that our money and the blood of our children was spent to attack someone else's enemies.

There is an old saying that goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on ME!"

There is another saying, "We won't get fooled again!"
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Re: The Irgun: Bombing of the King David Hotel

Postby admin » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:27 am

What if they are innocent?
April 17, 1999



A decade after Lockerbie, the West has at last got its men: two Libyans who London and Washington say planted the bomb that killed 270 people. But the case is not that open-and-shut, says Russell Warren Howe. Look at the facts, and you enter a murky world of espionage and double-bluff. Palestinian ‘terrorists', the Iranian government and Israeli intelligence each had motives for blowing up Flight PA103. So who had the most to gain?

Do spies kill spies? The answer seems self-evident -- spies killing spies is the raison d'etre of spy fiction and spy movies, from 007 to the Good Shepherd. However, what is readily believed when cast as fiction, seems just as readily rejected when proposed as an explanation for real-life events. Take the Pan Am 103 bombing -- can the fact that five secret agents were on board, accompanying a DEA drug mule, on a flight that was mysteriously half-full, a mere four days before Christmas -- be devoid of significance? When the Soviets downed KAL 007 in 1984, the presence of Larry McDonald, President of the John Birch Society, among the dead, was considered to have great significance. But five dead spies aboard Pan Am 103 provoked no similar concern. When Pan Am was sued for "willful misconduct" by the families of their dead passengers, its lawyer James M. Shaughnessy subpoenaed the CIA and DEA to obtain information relevant to the case, but never obtained a single page of evidence or a word of testimony, because the Department of Justice argued, and the trial judge agreed, that disclosing the information would endanger national security. The official investigators thus had no access to those sources of information either, and completely ignored the presence of these five international intelligence and security agents, i.e., spies, in attempting to determine the purpose, method, and perpetrators of the bombing. Here are their names and occupations:

Gannon, Matthew Kevin, foreign service officer, 34 years, born August 11, 1954, Los Angeles, California, seat number 14J. (Beirut CIA Station Chief)

McKee, Charles Dennis, army major, 40 years, born December 3, 1948, Arlington, Virginia, seat number 15F. (Defense Intelligence Agency)

LaRiviere, Ronald Albert, 33 years, born November 19, 1955, Alexandria, Virginia, seat number 20H. (Special Agent, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service)

O'Connor, Daniel Emmett, U.S. diplomatic service, 31 years, born September 22, 1957, Dorchester, Massachusetts, seat number 25H. (Special Agent, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service)

Curry, Joseph Patrick, army captain, 31 years, born March 21, 1957, Fort Devens, Massachusetts, seat number 44K. (Captain, U.S. Army Special Forces)

-- Spy vs. Spy, by Charles Carreon

More than ten years after the fatal crash of a Pan Am airliner on the Scottish village of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, two Libyan Air officials who ran the airline's office in Valletta, Malta, are to go on trial before a Scottish court in Holland. They are accused of putting, or allowing to be put, into possibly unaccompanied luggage a barometrically-fused bomb that later exploded over Lockerbie.

After laborious personal intervention in Libya by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan - as well as his Swedish chief legal counsel, Hans Corell; Jakes Gerwel, director of President Nelson Mandela's private office; and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US - Libya's often eccentric leader, Colonel Muammar Gadafy, finally consented to the extradition of Abd-el Basset Megrahi and Lamin Khalifa F'hima. The word was passed by Libya's UN envoy to Annan, to whom Britain and the US had assigned the task of negotiating with Gadafy.

The notion of creating a Scottish court on a mothballed Dutch Nato base is Libyan - and original, as is the Scottish judiciary's decision to replace the normal Scottish jury of 15 persons with a three-judge bench. It was thought that to send 15 Scots (plus reserve jurors, in case of illness or death) to live in a Dutch hotel for a year or more would be an unreasonable imposition.

Once the Scottish court in exile gets organised, the trial will be lengthy, in part because of the need to interpret examination, testimony and bench rulings between four languages - Libyan Arabic, English, Maltese and German - and to translate documents and court proceedings. Witnesses will be brought and lodged, at some expense, from afar.

More often than not, whenever police anywhere arrest a murder suspect, most people assume he's guilty. And when prosecutors put him in court, a conviction is expected. Certainly, in this instance, public opinion in the US and, to a lesser extent, in Britain has been so conditioned by official statements that it is all but assumed that the Lord Advocate - Andrew, Lord Hardie, who is Scotland's chief prosecutor - has an open-and-shut case. Most relatives of the victims, especially those in the US, seem to expect the two Libyans to be sentenced to lengthy imprisonment in Scotland. This outcome is, however, far from sure: the three Scottish judges will certainly hear the theory that the suspects acted out of revenge, but they will also hear of sophisticated disinformation operations on the part of various intelligence agencies, and conflicting accounts of whether the bomb was set on its way in Valletta or Frankfurt.

The Lockerbie saga is generally believed to have begun on July 3, 1988, when a "missile-control specialist" aboard the US frigate Vincennes mistook an Iran Air airliner on a routine flight to Saudi Arabia for a MiG-25 and shot it down over the Persian Gulf, killing everyone on board. The Vincennes was escorting a Kuwaiti tanker carrying Iraqi oil and flying the Stars and Stripes, because of the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.

President Ronald Reagan mishandled the resulting furore, hesitating to apologise for the horrific mistake and even suggesting that the airliner should have identified itself - not normal protocol. Weeks later, someone fired a shot at the wife of the Vincennes' skipper as she left a Californian supermarket - she wasn't hit, and the gunman was never found, but the incident won the attention of the Reagan administration, and compensation for the loss of life and of the aircraft was paid, albeit at the minimum rates required by international law. To add insult to injury, the Vincennes' captain received two decorations for his escort work.

By then, however, it seemed to the outside world that Tehran had already taken matters into its own hands: five-and-a-half months after the Iran Air catastrophe, Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to New York via London was blown out of the sky by a bomb, apparently fused to explode at a specific altitude - most likely, cruising altitude, usually 28,000-40,000ft for airliners flying in the jet stream. PA103's bomb may have been fused to explode at just over 28,000ft.

It may have gone off prematurely. Presumably to climb above foul weather, PA103 reached, or was approaching, its designated cruising altitude while still in the Prestwick Air Traffic Control zone - the jump-off point for many trans-Atlantic flights from Europe - and instead of conveniently disappearing without trace into the Atlantic, as an Air India plane bombed by Sikh separatists had done a few years before, came down on Lockerbie. British investigators, and specialists from the FBI and the US National Transportation and Safety Board, analysed the remains of the plane and identified a possibly unaccompanied suitcase bearing tags that, they later said, indicated that it had been marked by Libyan Air to fly on Air Malta from Valletta to Frankfurt, and then to be transferred to the Pan Am flight for London and the connecting flight to New York. Suspicion that the two Libyan Air officials in Valletta at the time, Megrahi and F'hima, were responsible was heightened by US intelligence reports that it had intercepted a radio message from Tripoli to a Libyan government office in Berlin on December 22, 1988, that said, in effect, "mission accomplished".

In 1991, armed with the details of this intercept and the results of the long investigation at Lockerbie, the UN Security Council adopted a proposal by the UK and the US that Libya allow either Scotland or the US to extradite the two officials, who had been branded "intelligence agents" by the Western press. When Libya, denying its own and the two men's involvement, declined to hand them over, the Security Council imposed sanctions in 1992, the most important of these being a ban on air links to Libya and on the sale to Libya of arms and certain oil-drilling equipment. Libya claims that the sanctions have cost it some $31 billion over the past seven years.

Libya responded with an offer to allow the two men to be extradited for trial by the country of primary jurisdiction, Malta, where the alleged crime allegedly took place. The two men publicly stated their willingness to prove their innocence in Valletta, while Malta's then chargé d'affaires in Washington said that his government was prepared to hold the trial, provided the Security Council added "Malta" to "Scotland" and "the United States" in the resolution. In anticipation of such a request, he had prepared a press kit on the Maltese judiciary: like most British ex-colonies, it doesn't have a jury system, and tries major cases before a three-judge bench. This is the system common to almost every major country - Japan, for example -without a jury-based legal system, and one that has now been copied by Scotland for this particular case; it means that the prosecutor need convince only two judges out of three, instead of 13 or 14 jurors out of 15.

President Bush said he would veto any such amendment to the Security Council resolution. John Major concurred. A State Department source told me at the time that, as Malta was so close geographically to Libya, it was feared that even a Commonwealth judiciary could be "bought".

Libya's moody leader, Muammar Gadafy, just shrugged his diplomatic shoulders and concentrated on domestic affairs. However, pressure from relatives of the dead passengers soon forced Tripoli to come up with a new initiative. In 1994, Gadafy accepted the Security Council's choice of a Scottish court, provided it sat in a neutral country, away from the lynch-mob public atmosphere in Scotland or the US. He suggested Holland, the seat of the International Court, a largely civil-law facility, but London and Washington still demurred. Then, in 1998, the UK agreed to Gadafy's plan - British diplomats assumed that the US would soon "come to heel", and it did.

Yet Libya's mistrust of the "plaintiffs", especially Washington, remained, and was returned in good measure. In 1991, soon after the original Security Council resolution, the prominent Washington lawyer Plato Cacheris (in the news more recently as Monica Lewinsky's legal advisor) took over as legal counsel to the Libyan government. He flew to Tripoli, he says, solely to explain what would happen if Libya allowed New York to extradite the two men. When I suggested to Cacheris that he surely must have told the suspects that they would inevitably be tried in advance by the media, and that it would be nearly impossible to find an unprejudiced jury and that the trial would be turned into a TV spectacular, he chuckled: "I leave it to your imagination."

But no one ever really expected Libya to choose New York, where an exuberant Israeli lobby was calling for Gadafy's head. Around two-thirds of the 259 passengers and crew killed (along with 11 Scottish townspeople) were New Yorkers or other Americans heading home for the Christmas holidays. Alastair Duff, the Edinburgh barrister who now leads the defence team with Libya's Kamal Hasan al-Maghur, went to Tripoli in 1991 to advise on the Scottish system. He is as reluctant as Cacheris to discuss what he said. He makes no criticism of the Scottish judiciary, but says that the Scottish prison system is to be avoided at all costs, especially by people who speak little English and who observe Islamic dietary and other religious requirements - and who might not be looked on kindly by Scottish convicts were they found guilty of killing 11 "guid" folk in Lockerbie.

One of Duff's first concerns, when Britain and the US finally agreed to a Scottish trial in Holland, was to obtain assurances that, if acquitted, the two men could fly home at once. The State Department, similarly distrustful, feared that, if convicted, the two men would flee. At America's behest, the Crown Office in Edinburgh insisted that the trial be held not in the UN premises of the International Court, but at Camp Zeist, a Nato facility.

The defence team agreed to Camp Zeist, but only on the understanding that, once the men were acquitted, a charter plane, probably Italian, would fly them straight home without refuelling en route. Since Scottish law does not allow bail in murder cases, the men were to be detained in the facilities for accused officers at Camp Zeist. Among the other issues that delayed the two men's arrival in Holland was US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's insistence that the prosecution be allowed to introduce secret US evidence in camera, "to protect intelligence sources". But this would raise the possibility that the court might find the two men guilty without being able to explain, publicly, why. In the event, all evidence will be public. The Lord Advocate has also agreed not to ask the men what they know about Libyan intelligence, and that they will not be re-interviewed by British or foreign (read: US) police or intelligence after the trial unless they consent to this.

Libya requested that, if convicted, the men should serve their term in Libya, Malta or Holland, but the defence, under pressure from the British Foreign Office, could only secure constant access to lawyers and medical care, the right to be monitored in prison by the UN, and, despite the absence of normal diplomatic relations between London and Tripoli, Libya's right to establish a consulate in Edinburgh to watch over the men's interests.

The defence clearly resents the pressure applied by the British Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine: "Lord Irvine's a Scot, but he presides over the English courts, not the Scottish courts. He has no more right to an opinion in this case than has Boris Yeltsin!" says their barrister, Alastair Duff.

To say that Gadafy and his cabinet are now entirely comfortable with seeing the two Libyans placed beyond their protection would be an exaggeration: for the trial to become possible it took assurances from the Arab League and the Organisation of African Unity (Libya is a member of both) to watch over the two men's safety and rights.

Now, as a trial looms, some basic questions remain, and various theories abound: Why was Libya thought to have gone out on a limb to avenge a non-Arab country, Iran? Was Iran "fingered" simply because it had a motive?

Why was the authenticity of US intelligence's Tripoli-Berlin intercept not challenged by Washington and London, given the fact that a similar intercept had earlier been mistakenly used by the Reagan regime to blame Libya for a bomb which exploded at a Berlin club on April 5, 1986, and to justify the US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi nine days later, which killed Gadafy's infant adopted daughter in a brash attempt to kill the Libyan leader himself? Although Britain had accepted the authenticity of the intercept concerning the bombing of the La Belle disco - in which two American soldiers and a Turkish girl were killed - and allowed the US Air Force to take off on the raid from Lakenheath, France and Germany were unconvinced and concluded that the bomb had been the work of local Iranian militants.

Victor Ostrovsky, a Canadian former intelligence colonel with Israel's Mossad secret service and author of the bestseller By Way Of Deception (the title comes from the Mossad motto), will testify that it was Mossad commandos who set up the transmitter in Tripoli that generated a false signal about the "success" of the Berlin bomb - he has already given a detailed description of this daring operation in his second book, The Other Side Of Deception. Ostrovsky, who will testify by closed-circuit television from somewhere in North America - he fears that, if he comes to Holland, he may be "Vanunu-ed" (ie kidnapped and smuggled back to Israel) for breaking his secrets oath - will state that the Lockerbie intercept so resembles the La Belle intercept as to have probably the same provenance. This is what US lawyers call the "duck" argument: "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and waddles, the preponderance of evidence is that it is a duck."

Ostrovsky's evidence would then put the onus on the Lord Advocate to prove that the Lockerbie intercept is genuine, not disinformation. Ostrovsky believes that, in both bombings, Israel implicated Libya to shield Iran, thereby encouraging Iran not to persecute its small Jewish community. For the defence, a key element will be: did Iran play any role at all in the crime that "avenged" Iran Air? Or did Mossad delude London, Washington and the Security Council not to divert suspicion from Iran but from their own alleged "active measures" against the airliner?

Pan Am's insurers, in anticipation of lawsuits from victims' families (which were eventually to contribute to the famous old airline's bankruptcy), carried out its own investigation. This came up with revelations even more startling than Ostrovsky's. The investigative agency retained by the airline was Interfor, a New York firm founded by Yuval Aviv, a former Mossad staffer who emigrated to America in 1979. Aviv's task was to prove that any blame for poor security was not Pan Am's, but Frankfurt airport's. In his report, he cites, without identifying them, six broad intelligence sources whom he rates as "good" or "very good", and one intelligence agency, that of a "Western-oriented government", graded "excellent". The only other "excellent" source is "the experienced director of airport security for the most security-conscious airline". Clearly, the agency is Aviv's old shop, Mossad, and the airline is Israel's El Al.

In his new book on Mossad, Gideon's Spies, Gordon Thomas says that - according to a source at LAP, the psychological warfare wing of Mossad - "within hours of the crash, staff at LAP were working the phones to their media contacts urging them to publicise that here was ‘incontrovertible proof' that Libya, through its intelligence service, Jamahirya, was culpable".

Yet Aviv proved fairly convincingly that the bomb was placed in Frankfurt, and he implicated a Palestinian resistance movement. His Interfor report concludes that the bombing was directed not at the US airliner per se, but at a small unit of US military intelligence - members of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) - that had uncovered a drugs-smuggling ring in Lebanon.

The ring was run by a "rogue" CIA unit working in collusion with Hizbullah, the resistance movement to Israeli occupation of south Lebanon. Some of the funds generated were intended to buy the freedom of six US hostages held by Hizbullah (which was bankrolled by Iran). DIA sources say that the CIA-Hizbullah drug ring was set up by Mossad agents, who had penetrated Hizbullah and were the local Arabic-speaking traffic managers for the CIA. At the same time, Israel would sell elderly US missiles, at ample profit, to Iran; a skim from both drugs and arms profits would be used, as part of Irangate, to subsidise the Contras, the right-wing terrorist movement in Nicaragua so favoured by Reagan and the iniquitous Oliver North.

Aviv carefully doesn't mention Mossad's role in all this, but implies that his detailed revelations come from his "excellent" (ie Mossad) source. It is certainly a known fact that Washington, while tilting toward Iraq in the Iraq/Iran war (and escorting its tankers), sent a delegation to Tehran to arrange the purchase of the Israeli missiles - which would, of course, be used against Iraq.

The Interfor report affirms that the Samsonite suitcase containing the bomb, adorned with luggage tags indicating that it originated from Valletta, actually began its journey in Frankfurt, where it was substituted for a suitcase of a similar kind. Aviv claims that German security has videotape of a Muslim luggage-handler taking the case into Frankfurt airport, but says that this tape was "lost" and that the CIA refuses to produce its own copy.

Without contradicting Aviv, Thomas and others believe the tagging and smuggling aboard of the lethal suitcase can most easily be ascribed to a sayan or mabuah working for Mossad, which had a motive for eliminating certain passengers. (A sayan is a Jew who puts loyalty to Israel above loyalty to his own country and does services, usually unpaid, for Mossad; according to Thomas, the most famous sayan working in the UK was Robert Maxwell. A mabuah is a Gentile who fulfils the same role.)

The report says that the CIA-Hizbullah drugs habitually travelled to New York under CIA protection, in baggage marked "inspected" by a Turkish baggage-handler at Frankfurt and substituted for a legitimate piece of baggage, so that the number of luggage items tallied with the airline's manifest. According to Aviv, a Palestinian group had learned of the CIA-Hizbullah-Mossad drugs traffic, and had got a Syrian baggage-handler to make a similar substitution to put the case with a bomb on board Flight PA103. Aviv still believes this to be the explanation for the disaster; but he has no name for the Syrian, or for the Turk involved in the drug shipments. How many Syrians could there possibly have been on the airport's payroll?

(The Valletta-Frankfurt-London-New York baggage tags, and the "inspected" label, if they bear the two Libyans' fingerprints, could have been transferred to the bomb case at Valletta or Frankfurt. Air Malta won a libel case in Britain that established that it had not put an "unaccompanied" bag on the plane.)

Many eventualities spring from Aviv's conclusions. Aviv thinks Ahmed Gibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command learned that US intelligence officers were on the flight and colluded with others to bomb it. The others were said to be Monzer al-Kassar, a "major arms and drug smuggler" and brother-in-law to the Syrian intelligence chief, and the notorious Abu Nidal. Aviv says that Gibril had meetings with al-Kassar (a double if not triple agent) in Paris, with Abu Nidal in Warsaw and, later, with Khalid Jafar, the drugs mule, and a Libyan bomb-maker in Bonn. He says that the bomb components were assembled in Sofia, and transported to Paris by al-Kassar's sister-in-law, whence al-Kassar drove them to Frankfurt. There, Aviv's Interfor report says, they were handed over to a Palestinian group that included Marwan Khrisat, an informant for the BKA (a branch of German intelligence).

Both the BKA and the CIA had previously given al-Kassar the green light for his smuggling route to the US, says Aviv, in return for his help in "arranging the release of the American hostages" (only one of whom was released).

Gordon Thomas, meanwhile, recounts how a Mossad officer from the London station turned up in Lockerbie the morning after the crash, and arranged for the removal of a suitcase belonging to a US intelligence captain in the DIA, Charles McKee, who had been in Lebanon trying to procure the release of the hostages. When it was eventually returned to Scottish investigators by British intelligence, says Thomas, the case was empty and undamaged. Why, Thomas asks, would McKee put an empty suitcase aboard?

McKee's case was found after the crash by Jim Wilson of Tundergarth Mains farm, and contained what looked to Wilson like cocaine samples. Within a day or so of the bombing, two planeloads of what appeared to be US intelligence people had arrived at the site, and a Scottish radio reporter, David Johnston, soon got wind of a rumour that the bomb's target had been a group of US intelligence officials travelling back from Beirut.

Indeed, the most interesting passengers on the feeder flight from Frankfurt and the main Pan Am flight from Heathrow were not the American students going home for the holidays, but two antagonistic groups of US intelligence officers - McKee and three of his DIA staff, and Matthew Gannon, the CIA's deputy stationmaster in Beirut, and three of his men. The Gannon quartet took the Air Malta flight from Valletta to Frankfurt, and Thomas believes it was probably Gannon's suitcase, being under CIA protection from inspection, that was substituted, together with the Air Malta tags, by the suitcase containing the bomb.

DIA sources say that when McKee boarded the flight in Frankfurt, having flown there from Limassol, his case presumably contained his files on the CIA-Hizbullah-Mossad drugs ring - he had been in Beirut negotiating for the hostages in a straightforward manner, but had discovered the undercover CIA operation. It was not known whether he also had drug samples as evidence, though these might conceivably have been "planted" at Frankfurt. Was Gannon's CIA team returning home to explain why they were collaborating with Mossad and Hizbullah in the drug scheme? If so, had they therefore become as expendable to Mossad as McKee's group?

Defence sources in Washington agree with Aviv that McKee's group had been frustrated by the cover-up of the CIA drugs scheme, and was returning home to insist that it be exposed. Aviv claims that al-Kassar had warned his drugs-ring controller of what McKee planned to do. The Interfor report states: "Two or three days before the disaster, a BKA undercover agent reported to his controller a plan to bomb a Pan Am flight in the next few days," but the CIA "did not want to… risk the al-Kassar hostage-release operation." Soon after, a BKA informer reported that a "drug suitcase" being carried into the airport, as shown on his videotape, was "different in make, shape, material and colour" from the ones normally used. Interfor says that CIA control, when informed, said: "Don't worry about it. Don't stop it." It presumably assumed it was just a genuine drug shipment.

Since Gannon's CIA team, in its ignorance, joined Flight PA103, only two culprits for the bombing would seem to remain, if Aviv's information is accurate: either Aviv's devious conspiracy involving two rival Palestinian "terrorists", Ahmed Gibril and Abu Nidal, running all over Europe, or alternatively Mossad itself, which would be reluctant to tolerate McKee and Gannon exposing Israel's connection to Hizbullah drugs.

It might seem barely credible that Mossad would carry out such an attack; however, both Gordon Thomas and Richard Curtiss, the former US diplomat who now edits the Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, point out that Mossad knew of the Islamic fundamentalists' plan to bomb the US Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, but had withheld the information in the correct belief that the bombing would drive the US military out of Lebanon, which it saw as Israel's bailiwick - 241 marines were killed.

Assuming that, as the Scottish reporter David Johnston discovered within a day or so of the disaster, the targets of the bomber were the two teams of US intelligence officers, and McKee's files, and that the suitcase carrying the bomb was meant to be seen as a drugs bag, Interfor's "Syrian" - if he existed - could well have been a mabuah under Mossad control. Alternatively, he could have been a patsy: a Syrian who thought he was under orders from Ahmed Gibril or someone else to do something for the Arab cause, but who had actually been false-flagged by an Israeli agent.

McKee's files in Washington remain unavailable to the defence. Officially, Gannon's suitcase was never found, says Thomas. Aviv says he does not challenge anything in Thomas's book. He will testify at the trial if invited to, although he says that, "The defence already has all it needs to prove that Libya and the Libyans were not involved."

For exposing the drug-smuggling aspects of Irangate, Aviv became the victim of a US government campaign to discredit him: his New York office was mysteriously burgled; his US government contracts were cancelled; and he was charged with "defrauding" a company, GE Capital, over a report he had done for them on security in the Caribbean (the jury dismissed the case against him in just over an hour after the judge excoriated the FBI for bringing a harassing case even though GE Capital had made no complaint).

So why is the case against the two Libyans being brought? Does the Lord Advocate know something that Yuval Aviv and Victor Ostrovsky don't? Ostrovsky should make an impressive witness, albeit an understandably paranoid one. Not long after I interviewed him, in Ottawa, in March 1995, while an armed bodyguard watched over us, his home in the Canadian capital's suburbs was burned down. Fortunately, neither Ostrovsky nor his files were there at the time.

Aviv's suspicions began with a Palestinian living in Finland. He was arrested, and released. So was almost everyone on Aviv's list, down to Marwan Khrisat, the informer for Germany's BKA. Some CIA sources theorise that, by 1991, with the West's war with Iraq making it necessary to court Iran and even Syria, deflecting responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing towards a Palestinian group became an increasingly attractive option. Or, perhaps, in Aviv's case, it was just second nature for an Israeli.

A former DIA operative, Lester Coleman, in his 1993 book, The Trail Of The Octopus, revived the drugs-ring story. The American security apparatus jumped on Coleman with both feet, forcing him to seek asylum in Sweden, where he was accused of using a false passport, even though he'd been ordered to take on a false identity by the Drug Enforcement Agency, and ended up serving six months for perjury. Both he and Aviv are now considering bringing lawsuits against the US Government. And in Britain in 1994, a Channel 4 film, The Maltese Double Cross, was banned from the London Film Festival, while a gallery that subsequently showed it was the victim of both burglary and arson. The hounding of the British film and the calvary of Coleman, whose book is still unpublished in America, certainly seem to have the pawprints of Mossad on them. Meanwhile, a US public-television documentary that accepted the theory that the Palestinian Ahmed Gibril was responsible for the bombing remained unmolested.

Why a secular, even Marxist, Arab nationalist would want to avenge a regime of rather bigoted Persian religious zealots was never explained. If the bombing really was revenge for the US Navy's lethal recklessness, why would Iran, the biggest military power in the Gulf, need the help of a Palestinian cell in Damascus? Alternatively, if Palestinian nationalists were whacking one of Uncle Sam's 747s just to show the world that they existed, why were they sheltering behind Iran's coat-tails and not claiming the credit? Reagan made a contemptible mistake in sending an air armada to bomb Libya because of an act of violence in Berlin that German intelligence had traced to local Iranian zealots. In spite of that false intercept from the Tripoli transmitter, President Bush, who had been vice-president under Reagan, made a political decision in 1991 to believe the "mission accomplished" message about Lockerbie. Or did he? He is reliably reported to have warned Margaret Thatcher to "low-key" any statements about Libyan involvement in Lockerbie.

Since 1993, Bill Clinton has continued to pursue Bush's sanctions against Libya. As Ostrovsky says, there is clearly a reluctance to admit that, perhaps, mistakes have been made - and a consequent inclination to plunge further into the quicksands and disinclination to share the truth with the public.
It remains up to three Scottish judges to wash their hands of Anglo-American politics and judge the case on its merits, or lack of them.

It is, of course, entirely possible that Megrahi and F'hima are being framed. It is also possible - if, despite the Interfor report's conclusions, the bomb began its journey in Valletta, as Lord Hardie seems confident of proving - that the two relatively junior airline officials were dupes, false-flagged by an Iranian or Libyan sayan who convinced them that it was the wish of Gadafy and Libyan intelligence that they mark as "inspected" a certain unaccompanied suitcase. If so, they would be guilty, under Scottish law, of being accessories to murder if they knew the suitcase contained a bomb; or, if they assumed it was just drugs, of a grave breach of international security.

Whether or not they were complicit, a bomber placing his device aboard an Air Malta feeder flight would run the risk that it would detonate before reaching Frankfurt if the aircraft reached jet-stream altitudes over the Alps. Duff may say that his clients don't know if their office in Valletta was used to handle the suitcase or not. The Air Malta tags could have been put on anywhere in Valletta. If the Libyan Air office was, in fact, used, this could be because an Iranian spoke Farsi and some Arabic but not much English and no Maltese, or because he felt he could bluff his way past a minor Arab airline more easily than past Air Malta, which is trained by British Airways.

The fact is, the bombed plane was Pan Am, not Air Malta. Yuval Aviv is confident that the bomb was "launched" in Frankfurt. Lord Hardie will seek to prove otherwise. The high-level mediators with Gadafy say he is confident that, unless the court is manipulated by false evidence, his two officials will be acquitted. Even if Megrahi and F'hima are found guilty of the most serious charges, there would still be a need for a new investigation: to decide what was Israel's possibly major role in mass murder and deception of its main benefactor, the US, and of the Security Council, and/or whether it was an Iranian "caper" after all.

It is easy to see why Washington, which is poised to restore relations with Tehran and which tends to catch a cold if the Israeli lobby sneezes, would sleep better at night if the Scottish judges find it was all a Libyan mission. After all, a French court, without hearing defence evidence, recently found six Libyans guilty in absentia of bombing a French airliner in equatorial Africa a decade ago.

Meanwhile, the story of who was behind the bomb on Flight PA103 reads more like Len Deighton in his Cold-War prime than the establishment media may have led us to expect. n Russell Warren Howe is the author of 17 books, including three on victims of miscarriages of justice, and a prize-winning novel, False Flags. For the past decade, he has followed the Lockerbie case for Al-Wasat, the Arab world's weekly news magazine.
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