- In 1954, Israeli agents working in Egypt planted bombs
in several buildings, including a United States diplomatic facility, and
left evidence behind implicating Arabs 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". 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. - Reporters
- After half a century of reticence and recrimination,
Israel on Wednesday honored nine Egyptian Jews recruited as agents-provocateur
in what became one of the worst intelligence bungles in the country's history.
- Israel was at war with Egypt when it hatched a plan in
1954 to ruin its rapprochement with the United States and Britain by firebombing
sites frequented by foreigners in Cairo and Alexandria.
- But Israel hoped the attacks, which caused no casualties,
would be blamed on local insurgents collapsed when the young Zionist bombers
were caught and confessed at public trials. Two were hanged. The rest served
jail terms and emigrated to Israel.
- Embarrassed before the West, the fledgling Jewish state
long denied involvement. It kept mum even after its 1979 peace deal with
Egypt, fearing memories of the debacle could sour ties.
- "Although it is still a sensitive situation, we
decided now to express our respect for these heroes," President Moshe
Katzav said after presenting the three surviving members of the bomber
ring with certificates of appreciation at a Jerusalem ceremony.
- What went wrong in the "Lavon Affair" -- named
after Pinhas Lavon, Israel's defense minister when the plot came to light
-- remains a matter of debate in a country more used to tales of espionage
coups. The Egyptian Jews were recruited by a fringe unit of Military Intelligence
rather than the premier Israeli spy agency Mossad.
- The situation recurred in 1985, when U.S. Navy analyst
Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States
for passing military secrets to Israel's scientific liaison office.
- "As with Pollard, this (Lavon Affair) was a rogue
operation," said David Kimche, a former Mossad deputy chief. "We
knew never to go down that road again." There is a twist to the Egyptian
case -- the now widespread belief that the bombers were betrayed to the
authorities by their Israeli handler, who turned double-agent.
- "The general feeling is that he was the one who
caused it all," Kimche said. Under a veil of secrecy, the handler
was tried for contacts with Egyptian intelligence and jailed for 10 years.
- Meanwhile, the agents locked up in Egypt were ignored,
excluded from several prisoner exchanges with Israel after the wars of
1956 and 1967. Now that they have been officially recognised in Israel,
the former agents are campaigning for a full account of their operation
to be included in the high-school syllabus.
- "This is a great day for all of us, those who were
hanged and those who died," said Marcelle Ninio, the only female member
of the cell. "We are happy we've got our honour back."
- The Story Of Yaakov Markus
- Quoted from Maxim Ghilan 'How Israel Lost Its Soul'
- Penguin Books (1974) p179:
- 'Yaakov Markus was born in Berlin on 22 November 1927
to a non-Jewish mother named Mathilde Markus and to a Jewish father. He
came to Israel and in the fifties was drafted to serve in the 1956 Sinai
campaign. He was killed there and buried provisionally at the Shelah Military
Cemetery. Later this cemetery was abolished and the dead were transferred
to other permanent graves. Yaakov Markus's bones were to be interred -
as Jewish custom stipulates for Gentile dead - 'beyond the pale', that
is, behind a small stone fence cordoning off a piece of the Haifa cemetery.
- 'In this plot were buried other non-Jewish fighters,
pilots and technicians who lost their lives helping Israel win her independence
in 1948 and preserving it in the years that followed. Markus's parents
did not accept the Rabbinate's ruling. They wanted their son to be granted
the same honor as the rest of his fallen friends - burial in the Military
Cemetery. General Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Army - a visionary
racist who wanted the conquest of both banks of the Jordan, advocated a
religious state and tried to modernize religion for that purpose - was
not in the country. The bereaved parents appealed directly to the Prime
Minister, David Ben Gurion, who had to make a special ruling for them.
Markus was finally buried in the same row as his fallen friends. But so
that 'his bones should not be mingled with theirs', as Meshulam Schlesinger,
Director of the Military Cemetery, put it, his grave was set somewhat apart.
- 'Meshulam Schlesinger officially stated that the corpse
of Yaakov Markus had been circumcised after his death, to allow it to lie
beside the Jewish fighters. This was later denied no less officially by
the Ministry of Defense. But the grisly and macabre atmosphere surrounding
the case has done much to deepen public concern.'