Or Confessions of a Secret Agent
(A tribute to
Hany Abu-Assad and his film[i])
By Israel Shamir
protocol of interrogation of General Dan Ayalon by the
Reconciliation Committee (Chairman: Mustafa Nashashibi, Deputy
Chairman: Yossi Atzmon, Secretary: Svetlana Kuznetsova), bears
the date June 12, 2015, a few years after Israel and Palestine
were united in one state, the Kingdom of Canaan. However, this
confession of the last chief of the Jewish state’s security
apparatus was considered so sensitive, that its publication was
delayed until our own year 2035.]
Chairman: Tell us
about suicide bombings of 1990s and 2000s. Why couldn’t you
prevent these actions?
Ayalon: I want to
remind you that nothing I say can be used against me, according
to the Reconciliation Law. I intend to leave this building a
Secretary: Yes, we
all know that. Speak freely.
suicide attacks did not occur due to our neglect or impotence.
To the contrary, they were our greatest achievement.
What do you mean by achievement? Hundreds of innocent Israelis
the beginning of the 1990s? After Rabin’s electoral victory, the
West Bank and Gaza were cut off from Israel; check-posts were
set up, and the Palestinian workers were forbidden to come and
work in Israeli cities. Their places were taken by tens of
thousands of guest workers we brought in from Thailand and
China. Palestinian workers could not find an employment back
home, either: their lands had been taken by settlers and by the
military. Being pushed off their lands, locked up in their own
villages and towns, the Palestinians were bound to resist. We
could not stop the Palestinian resistance completely. This was
our first presumption. We had to give in somewhere, had to
channel their resistance into some palatable form. This was
presumption number two. The third was our desire to preserve our
main advantage, their relative lack of military experience.
It takes time to train a soldier; at least half
a year just for beginners. A fighter who has survived a few
battles is worth ten fresh ones. With experience, a fighter
becomes more daring and cautious. We were afraid that, in the
course of resistance, a well-trained guerrilla army would form
and challenge our hold on Palestine.
rot! In 1993, Arafat came back to Ramallah and Gaza with
thousands of seasoned fighters, who fought in Lebanon and
fighters had received their salaries, and did not want to fight.
They wanted to rule whatever they were allowed to rule. They had
yet to learn their ropes around Palestine, for the country had
changed a lot since 1967, and they had had little touch with the
country since then. So Arafat’s army was of no concern to us.
The people we were worried about were the youth of First
Intifada. They were daring, brave, knew their way around the
country and they were not afraid of us. We could break their
arms, as Rabin ordered, but we could not break their spirit.
Once, during a brainstorm session in my office –
it was in 1993 – Motti, the head of the Psy-Op section said:
- We can’t stop their attacks, but we can kill
- How can we achieve this?
- We can create a virus of self-destruction and
infect the youth with it.
- What do you mean – a virus?
- A system virus, like the one that assaults
computers. We have the greatest power in the world, our control
over media. Through it, we shall glorify those who die, not
those who keep fighting. What I mean is: let us promote their
suicide attacks, said he.
This proposal did not make sense to me, and I
said so. The “suicide attacks” we knew of in those days were
usually carried out with explosives-loaded cars in Lebanon.
Often as not, the driver did not know what he was driving;
otherwise, he usually had a fair chance to escape. Our
two heroes of 1948 drove a lorry loaded with explosives up
to Jaffa town hall; they were prepared to die with the enemies,
but the clock delay mechanism worked fine – 30 Arabs were
killed, while the heroes got away. A proper suicide attack was
usually aimed against a very serious object, something worth
dying for, like the US Marines army base in 1983. In that case,
the suicide driver died, but took with him some 250 Marines, and
caused the withdrawal of American troops from Lebanon.
- No, said Motti. – I do not mean cars. With
cars, the terrorist may escape. We shall encourage them to tie
explosives on their body.
I was not convinced at all. Where would you find
such silly suicides? An Arab can’t get close to any worthy
target in Israel. He has no chance to enter a military base, a
ministry, a house of an important man. So it has to be a
low-quality target, and a high-quality fighter will die for it.
Hardly a bargain, for the resistance! But Motti had a plan:
- In order to lure them into the trap, we should
allow them some success, some good score. Afterwards, when they
will get hooked, their successes will dwindle, but we shall
achieve our goal: the best and the most noble and brave
Palestinians will die.
He took out his diary, and began to draw the
scheme. His idea was as follows: through our agents within the
resistance, the fighters should be sent to blow up buses. We
would know of their plans and would help them to get through
check posts. At the same time, our liaison with the media would
exaggerate our inability to deal with this threat. It would be
described as “the secret weapon of Arabs”. A good fashion
designer from Tel Aviv will create a sexy shaheed’s belt. All
papers and TV stations would write about the martyrs. They would
get lots of coverage and attract young followers, while exploits
that were really dangerous for us would be covered up and
Chairman. Why did
you decide to use this technique just then, in 1993, and not
Ayalon. There were
two reasons, but only one was discussed openly. At that time, an
Islamic underground movement took its first steps in mounting
armed resistance; the movement lacked experienced cadres but was
eager to show its hand. They were ready to try harder, and the
idea of achieving results without long training appealed to
them. They also attracted more spiritually oriented young men
and women who were ready to sacrifice their lives.
And what was the second, hidden reason?
Ayalon. Well, none
of us was fond of Yitzhak Rabin, of the left-wing Labour party,
or of the Oslo accords. We felt that if, at the same time, our
plan would derail Israeli left, and bring Likud to power, it
wouldn’t be a bad thing. And so it did!
Secretary. Had you
no heart? How could you allow your enemies to kill innocent bus
we could not channel Palestinians’ anger into sand. Somebody had
to be killed, but we had the luxury of deciding what sort of
killing would get the green light. If we did not allow them to
bomb the low-quality rabble that rides buses they would hit
specific and painful targets. Think of
Rehavam Zeevi, the minister. He was shot at a hotel in
Jerusalem, and his assassin escaped. This was painful: today
they kill Gandhi [Zeevi’s nickname], tomorrow they kill the
Or even you.
even me! They could go after specific targets and make our life
difficult. These targets could appear justifiable to a foreign
audience, and even to Israelis. We uncovered a plan to
assassinate the contractors who built the Wall. The names of the
contractors were well known, and we could not protect them all.
Two or three successful hits and we would have no contractor
ready to build the Wall. They could target people well-known for
their cruelty. For instance, an Israeli newspaper published an
“Captain George”, a Shabak officer who raped the captive
Lebanese, Dirani. The newspaper gave enough hints to find the
man, and there was a Palestinian group trying to locate “the
Beast”, as the newspaper called him. Another group planned an
attack on the settler
Avri Ran who terrorised the peasants of Yanoun. They could
take a page from our book, and kill prominent supporters of
Israel: editors, journalists, politicians in the US and Europe.
This would cool off our support base rapidly, as our
assassination of Lord Moyne in 1944, for adam karov etzel
atzmo, says the Talmud: a man cares about his own skin first
of all. This is why we gave a green light to bus bombers. Only
when the pattern was established, when every Palestinian child
dreamt of suicide bomber’s glory, did we block off the buses.
After that, the suicide bombers had very little success:
markets, places frequented by dropouts, junk food stalls. Your
average suicide bomber killed 1.4 Israelis, but even this 1.4
usually were poor, retired or other people of no importance.
How could you say such things about your fellow-Jews!
Ayalon. In my
youth, I met with Yitzhak Sade, the Haganah commander, the hero
of 1948. I asked him about the M/S Patria, a refugee ship
he and his men sank in Haifa harbour killing 250 Jews. Had he no
pangs of conscience? He told me: sometimes, you have to
sacrifice Jews, so the Jewish People will live forever. But we
tried to spare Jews. For instance, one of our well-planned
operations was aimed against the Russians. It was very
successful: the victims were mainly non-Jewish Russian
immigrants who went to desecrate Sabbath in a seashore disco;
but this explosion helped to bring the Russian community closer
to us. Before this event, they felt little solidarity with
Israel. Moreover, we organised the German Foreign Minister,
Yoshka Fischer’s stay in an hotel and a room overlooking the
disco. This was not easy: no high officials ever stayed in this
hotel – rather too far from Central Tel Aviv. But our people
convinced him that it was newer and more comfortable. He stayed,
practically witnessed the blast himself, and became devoted to
the Jewish cause.
could you direct the bomber to this specific place?
Ayalon. In this
case, the bomber was on our payroll, and he had no idea that his
suitcase contained explosives. He was taken to the place by one
of our agents, and was told to deliver the case to the manager
of the disco. In other cases, our agents within the resistance
directed the bombers. In any case, the bombers did not
understand Israeli society: thus, a young promising student from
Nablus killed himself in the Carmel Market of Tel Aviv. He
thought that in Tel Aviv, like in Nablus, everybody goes to the
market stalls. As a matter of fact, he killed two retired men
and a Chinese guest worker, while wasting himself. Thus, it was
not a 100% fool-proof operation – some bombers exploded where we
did not want them to, but even they were not about to strike
again. They would always die – and that was the best part of the
Just think what they could do otherwise! Do you
remember the lone sniper of
Wadi Haramiyeh, who shot and killed 10 of our soldiers? His
main advantage was that he acted alone, so none of our agents
could inform us beforehand. He did not try to die – he tried to
kill. If there were more such fighters, our rule would collapse.
Secretary. But the
suicides were not only in Palestine, but in Iraq and elsewhere!
Would you claim this was also your achievement?
Ayalon. No, and
that was the best part of it. After we established the pattern,
people would copycat it. Actually, people always copycat every
well-advertised deed. As in those years we had strong influence
on the world media (owned a big part of it, as well), we could
make PR for whatever we want. If we had given full coverage to
the sniper of Wadi Haramyeh, the next day there would be
hundreds of youths trying to repeat his deed. That is why we
blotted his name. But suicide operations would always get full
coverage. Amusingly, this invention of ours became a Muslim
trademark, though prior to 1993 no Muslim had ever participated
in one. In order to hide this fact, our people in the media and
our experts in the Academy muddled the issue by referring to
heretic Assassins and to Lebanese car-bombers, though these
terrorists had a chance to escape and survive. They also
attacked big and important targets. We invented the only
sure-fire method to kill the best Palestinian and Muslim youth
for a small price – by inflicting them with our media-borne
virus of self-destruction.
commission will retire for discussion. Please wait here. (a
few minutes later). We thank you, General, for your
frankness. You appreciate that so many fine young men and women,
the best youth of Palestine, died in this horrible and quite
useless way. The discovery that it was your trick would ruin
lives of their proud parents. Moreover, you presented no proof
for your version of events: it could be a play of your
imagination. It is better for everybody to let the dead heroes
sleep undisturbed. In accordance with article 12b of
Reconciliation Law I declare this subject closed and sealed from
public eyes for 50 years.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0445620/ [Paradise Now, a film
by Hany Abu Assad about suicide bombers]