In terms of sheer creativity these past months have been pretty intense for Mossad. According to some Arab states, the renowned Israeli intelligence agency has been willing to honor its own myth by perpetrating what have to among be the most extravagant plots of the decade, if not the century. By seizing upon the case and drowning it in a sea of overstatement, the Arab media have clearly confirmed Mossad’s capabilities and its influence in the region.
If we believe the articles posted online by Foreign Policy Magazine in January, Israel and more precisely the University of Tel Aviv are responsible for spying on Saudi Arabia. Students were not even the main perpetrators: vultures were. According to the Israeli news paper Haaretz, “the accusations went viral, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the “Zionists” had trained these birds for espionage.” Although the avian agents were part of research being conducted on migrations, the birds were “taken into custody” by the Saudi security forces, thus neutralizing the winged Mossad informant.
Earlier in December, Egypt declared itself to be victim of another Israeli scheme, after five shark attacks occurred in quick succession in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm El Sheikh,. “What is being said about Mossad throwing the deadly shark (in the sea) to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm,” said South Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha. After what we assumed to be an intensive training, the dogfishes would have been introduced in the bathing zone to kill, some of them equipped with GPS (probably to not get lost on their way home).
Last but not least, Iran accused Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the Facebook, of being involved in yet another Zionist plot. According to Will Heaven from The Telegraph, a YouTube “crackpot” video is the source of this allegation, which mentions Facebook’s mission of “locating people to engage in special operations for Western intelligence agencies.” No need to explain—Mossad is hiring.
Whether we talk about the vultures of Tel Aviv, Zion’s Jaws or Zuckerberg’s spying network, these allegations constitute more stories about Mossad that have further built its reputation of various and sometimes dubious covert operations, “targeted killing” or paramilitary activities. But is Mossad really that good?
If these extraordinary accusations are proved to be false, it shows that Israel remains the eternal scapegoat of Arab countries. On the other hand, if they are true, it shows that the Mossad is still at the top regarding high-tech special operations deployments. And, knowing the means to which the Israeli intelligence community has recourse, we can indeed be tempted to believe in the Arab declarations.
Whatever the answer is, one must admit that what remains above all is the fear of Mossad in the Middle East, and that such anecdotes are wonderful publicity stunts for Mossad. Whether or not this is merely more “gesticulation” from Arab countries desperately trying to get the world’s attention, they are reassessing the range of Mossad’s activities and power.
Yes, Israel has one of the best intelligence services in the world. And yes, Mossad’s activities are famously effective and sometimes noisy. Nevertheless one must recall that Israel has a lot at stake in the Middle East and beyond. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, Israel is an easy target. On the international scale, Israel has a lot to lose too, if the stories of some paranoid Arab officials are echoed. Repeated Mossad missteps are definitely not the best way for Israel to improve its reputation and history recalls it.
On September 24th 1997 Israel shot its own foot with the aborted Mossad assassination attempt on Khalid Mashal, the leader of Hamas at the time. Under cover of European and Canadian passports, Mossad agents went to Amman, Jordan, and tried to poison Mashal but were identified and the dose administered was not sufficient to kill him. More than just an embarrassment, it was a serious diplomatic row casting doubts on the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement and humiliating Israel’s only ally in the region. For the record, in 2001, Syria welcomed Mashal after his exile from Jordan.
Thirteen years later, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a declared neutral state, Mossad outdid itself with the botched assassination of Mahmoud Al Mabhou chief of the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam brigade, the armed branch of Hamas. The operation unleashed passions across the Arab world. It also raised a general outcry among the international community insofar as Mossad agents used real foreign passports for cover. Irritated, Israel’s allies warned it of the consequences of such practices, with New Zealand going so far as to ending their diplomatic relationship with the Jewish state. The range of the fiasco was such that Meir Dagan, director of Mossad since 2003, was almost fired, weakening both the agency and the country.
Is Mossad getting puffed out? This is the question cyclically asked but immediately contradicted, here again, by history which has proven that, so far, the Mossad has fulfilled its mission of protecting Israel.
Indeed, even though the Jewish state has not always existed, it looks like Mossad has. The first traces of an Israeli intelligence organization can be found from 1915 when “Netzah Yisrael Lo Yeshaker,” a small espionage agency, was created with the help of the British to infiltrate the Ottoman Empire.
In the 1920s an underground militia, known as “Haganah” was created, evolving into a paramilitary organization and a task force: Irgun and the Palmah. The secrecy of these organizations aimed to protect the Zionist community; a mission a state apparatus would usually have covered. Almost a hundred years later, these agencies still exist and bear the name of Mossad.
The tradition of protection in concealment is typical for Israel and is reflected in the actual practices of its intelligence community. One can advocate then, that the Arab officials might not necessarily have been carried away. In be that as it may, it seems that the legend of the “world’s most efficient killing machine” will continue to fuel the imagination of Israel’s friends and foes alike.