Open-to-all online discussion on Israel’s first ‘Arab’ spies for Mossad
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Open-to-all online discussion on Israel’s first ‘Arab’ spies for Mossad

Declassified papers unveiling the role of Mizrahi Jewish agents in establishing the state of Israel is the focus for a virtual event this Wednesday

Matti Friedman
Matti Friedman

British Jews interested in the formation of Mossad and how Mizrahi Jews first went undercover even before the State of Israel was proclaimed are being invited to learn more in an online English-language discussion on Wednesday evening.

The virtual event, which will examine declassified Israeli papers, is being held to celebrate the launch of the Russian edition of a book about the spy unit known as the ‘Arab Section’ by Israeli-Canadian journalist Matti Friedman.

Much of the action and intrigue is set in early 1948, when the British Mandate over Palestine was due to end, Friedman showing how Jews of Arab descent were already being sent undercover to gather information and plan diversions.

“The Jewish intelligence service had traditionally relied on networks of paid Arab collaborators willing to work with the Jews for money or for the chance to harm their political enemies,” explains Friedman, but the information was “expensive and often unreliable” – so the mista’arvim unit, or Arab Section, was born.

Matti Friedman

Winner of the 2018 Natan Book Award, the book – ‘Spies of No Country’ – tells the stories of four Mizrahi Jewish spies who, in effect, “found themselves belonging with neither side of the conflict… the first Israeli spies, the roots of what later became Mossad, operating even before the country was born”.

Friedman is himself an IDF combat veteran with later experience of living in Arab lands, having been a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press for several years, based in countries such as Morocco, Lebanon and Egypt.

He will be in conversation with the Israeli literary critic Benjamin Balint in an event hosted by Moscow-based educational initiative Eshkolot with support from Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG).

Eshkolot director Semyon Parizhsky first met Friedman while he was investigating ‘The Aleppo Codex’ – a tenth century manuscript of the Hebrew Bible endorsed by Maimonides, saying: “It embodied our ideal ‘oral non-fiction’ approach.”

Parizhsky said: “We urge all our speakers to present their work without simplification for the non-initiated. We expect them to transform their research and logic into a narrative, a story, a quest. Matti is a perfect example,an author who tells a story of his investigation as a thriller. You want to know how it ends.”

Friedman’s latest book was “another tour de force,” said Parizhsky, and “not quite what it seems to be… You gradually start to discern that the book about spies in 1948 is actually about paradoxes of Arab-Jewish identities defining the social fabric of contemporary Israel”.

GPG chief executive Marina Yudborovsky said the event “embodies many of the reasons why we support Eshkolot: an under-explored topic connecting Jewish history with modern realities, esteemed speakers who can provide true insight, and an accessible format”.

She added: “We hope many around the world will take advantage of this unique opportunity.”

Those wanting to take part as a member of the virtual audience can register here.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments