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Tryin' To Work an Understated Head...? Only That Will Work For This
Spies, Femme fatale, deadly plots, killings, bombs, knives, guns, and an array of unique murderous weaponry that would make James Bond and “Q” envious. All this, combined with dozens of unapologetic and brutal cloak and dagger assassinations in foreign locales worldwide? Sounds like the makings of a great spy thriller.
Indeed. But, despite decades of Israeli denial… this story is true.
Ronen Bergman’s book, “Rise and Kill First,” was released in late 2018 to what, considering the inflammatory subject, was relatively little fanfare. While this might seem surprising, on reading this important chronological documentary of the inception and development of Israel’s worldwide assassination program it becomes clear that this book does provide a unique, very detailed and accurate history of Israel’s hundreds of extrajudicial killings over the past fifty plus years.
However, when read with just the right eyes, other far more important and separate timelines of history appear within the book to the reader already wary of the definition and rise of modern Zionism. Of these other unmentioned chronologies within the 530 pages, the author fails miserably in connecting these dots of his own excellent, but thus too superficial, presentation of fact.
What this book does more importantly reveal is a multi-faceted unmasking of Israel’s steady descent from the moral to the immoral tactics of war; the myth that it’s past Prime Ministers were not also barbaric terrorists and sacrosanct; the ongoing descent of other world leaders willing to give up their own conscience into the same mental abyss; the ever-increasing control of Israel over the minds of the American military, the CIA , its media and its politicians; and that Israel has never truly embraced peace as a foreign policy, preferring war and genocide instead.
Worse, “Rise and Kill First” reveals the true mind of the modern Israeli that has been infected by the rise of orthodox Jewish Likud party: An aberration of conscience that has no value for non-Jewish life worldwide whatsoever in its pursuit of its singular goal: Greater Israel.
The book picks up the modern era of Zionist expansion and assassination as WWII draws to a close with the Nuremberg trials and the flight of Nazi war criminals to other countries. Retribution is the key to these many stories as Israeli operatives systematically track down and arrest or kill those they accuse, such as Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
As is the case with most books from Israeli authors on the subject of Israel, Ronen falls too conveniently upon the hyperbole of the Holocaust as reason for this initial killing and rendition program, but without proper examination. These killings first occur during the inception of the post-war development of Israel, the fact of which Ronen is far too brief and equally serving of the Israeli narratives since the historical slaughter and expropriation of Palestinians is glossed over.
As the author proceeds with his chronology, the reader is treated to a very fine and detailed description of many such major world events like the Munich Olympics kidnappings of 1972, the raid on Entebbe, Uganda and many, many more. Ronen does a very good job of cross-referencing the details of these many events with a plethora of interviews and quotes from the operatives directly involved at the time. What he reveals each time is quite likely the best examination of these events so far provided in print. Regarding Munich, he delves in great detail into the full rescue effort that includes the involvement of the German government which was at loggerheads with the Israelis and the IDF in the attempted and failed rescue.
Ronen’s effectiveness and credibility are challenged, however, by his almost constant insistence – by reference- that the Israeli actions he presents are invariably only retaliatory for a specific act of aggression by pro-Palestinian factions against Israelis. Ronen too routinely demonizes the Palestinian and Arab players’ actions and uses them too often as a fait a compli for their own eventual demise while rarely looking at the Israeli atrocity that preceded a Palestinian attack which led to yet another Israeli targeted killing.
During this period of the book, Ronen does a very good job documenting the change in the policy of the Israeli assassinations from executions only within Palestinian territories to the eventual decision to perform these assassinations globally. Ronen, although predominantly showing successful operations, does not shy away from Israel’s many failures as well.
He presents as almost comical the Manchurian Candidate-like attempt to brainwash, month after month, a Palestinian prisoner code-named “Fatkhi,” who is deemed to be mentally susceptible to these techniques and who, it was intended, would next be sent back to Palestine to assassinate PLO president Yasser Arafat. The results of this humorous vignette, after month’s of careful mental revision of the test subject assassin, are that the prisoner is finally freed on Dec. 19, 1969, by allowing him to cross the Jordan river. Due to equally poor planning, is swept down river and left clinging to a mid-river rock. When finally making it to shore Fatkhi immediately runs to the PLO police headquarters and then informs Arafat of all that he had endured at Israeli hands during his nine months of obviously unsuccessful programming.
When it comes to Arafat, the book shows the absolute hatred of Israel towards him personally due to his effectiveness as PLO chairman, a hatred that grows almost maniacally in the hearts of every Prime Minister and IDF commander as Arafat, again and again, evades their seemingly well planned and very numerous attempts to bump him off. This hatred is only made worse by the rising worldwide respect for Arafat and the PLO cause after each failed attempt.
It is at this stage in the book that beyond the demand for Arafat’s blood Israel crosses the mental Rubicon from respect for human life- other than the target- to allowing for and condoning the innocent to also be killed as a matter of convenience to each plot. The assassinations of foreign scientist involved in the burgeoning nuclear programs in Iraq, Iran and Egypt began this slope downward.
Although Ronen fails to bring this point to the reader’s attention, he unwittingly documents in exceptional detail this change in conscience and therefore terror tactics which he best illustrates in the example of the Ashkelon murders.
In understanding the change of the Israeli military and political mind towards that of proactive and routine utilization of terror by assassination, the Ashkelon affair is a seminal point in the book. This connection should not have been overlooked by Ronen; for what this case actually meant to subsequent Israeli war tactics was a complete change in morals of its leaders and that this change would devolve within leaders in other countries as well, particularly America.
On April 12, 1984, four Palestinian youths, three of whom were teenagers- the other twenty years of age- hijacked a bus heading en route from Tel Aviv to Ashkelon with forty Israelis aboard. Taking the passengers hostage with one knife and a fake bomb made of an old suitcase with wires dangling out from its seams for effect, they intended to get the bus to Palestine and next negotiate the release of 500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
When IDF troops eventually disabled the bus a stand-off ensues and negotiations for surrender begin with optimism for a peaceful resolution since, as future PM, Ehud Barak, who was on scene at the time assessed, “the hijackers would [likely] agree to let the hostages go in exchange for a few sandwiches.” But at 4:43 AM Sayeret Matkal (one of the many Israeli military factions) soldiers open fire killing two of the hijackers immediately and an Israeli woman instead.
Apprehended, the two remaining Palestinians are taken by Shin Bet (Israeli Intelligence Service similar the the American CIA) operatives under direction of the infamous Avraham (Avrum) Shalom, the longtime head of Shin Bet who, as Ronen showcases during previous killings, is a man predisposed of secretly sanctioned powers to kill with impunity and without authorization. As Ronen quotes Yuval Diskin, an eventual Shin Bet chief, “ We feared him… He was a strong man, brutal, clever, very stubborn, uncompromising, a real ass kicker.”