Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Is Espionage a Zionist Activity?

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Israel's history knows that espionage has been a vital factor in the survival of the State and in defending its national security. Indeed, if espionage is not a Zionist activity, then how are all of Israel's intelligence operatives down through the ages to be considered?
Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 10:42 PM


Israel's Ministry of Immigration recently concluded that "it is doubtful" that espionage is a Zionist activity. The Ministry made this statement in a recent ruling rejecting my husband Jonathan Pollard's request for recognition as a Prisoner of Zion. The ruling said, "the law states that a Prisoner of Zion is a person who carried out Zionist activities and it is doubtful that espionage is considered such an activity."

This statement demonstrates a shameful ignorance of Jewish history. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Israel's history knows that espionage has been a vital factor in the survival of the State and in defending its national security. Indeed, if espionage is not a Zionist activity, then how are all of Israel's intelligence operatives down through the ages to be considered?

For example, what about those operatives who gave their lives for the Jewish State? Were their actions also "doubtful" as Zionist activities? The names Eli Cohen, Moshe Marzouk and Shmuel Azar come to mind. They were all spies who were caught and hanged for their espionage activities on behalf of Israel.

Eli Cohen, known as "Our Man in Damascus" was caught and hanged by Syria. Cohen provided a vast amount of valuable intelligence data to the Israeli army over a period of three years. In 1967, the Israelis were able to conquer the Golan Heights in two days in large part due to the intelligence he provided. As Intelligence Chief Meir Amit said, Eli "succeeded far beyond the capabilities of most other men."

Marzouk and Azar were Jewish Egyptian nationals recruited by Israel's secret service. They were part of the 1950s Lavon spy ring. Marzouk and Azar were caught, sentenced to death for their espionage activities and summarily hanged by Egypt.

What about Marcelle Ninio, Victor Levy, Robert Dassa and Meir Meyuhas? They, too, were part of the Lavon group along with Marzouk and Azar. Ninio, Levy, Dassa and Meyuhas did hard time in prison, enduring repeated torture sessions for their espionage activities on behalf of Israel. They were completely abandoned by Israel and left to languish for more than a decade in prison. Their release finally came about only as a result of the heroism of the Israeli pilots who were captured by Egypt during the Six Day War. Israel negotiated the release of the pilots and prepared to leave the Lavon spies behind, but the pilots refused to leave without them. Are these betrayed operatives and their activities in doubt as well? Were they Zionist heroes; or, to follow the current logic of the Israeli government, are they to be considered just criminals and nothing more?

What about the Nili Group of pre-State days? Nili leader Aaron Aaronsohn and his sister Sarah Aaronsohn gave vital intelligence information to the British in defense of the fledging Jewish settlement in the Holy Land. Sarah was captured by the Turks and tortured for four days in attempt to make her give up information. On the fourth day, she shot and killed herself to ensure that she would never give up any secrets. Her Nili comrades, Lishansky and Belkind, were also captured and then incarcerated in Damascus. Both were sentenced to death.

What about Wolfgang Lotz? As Eli Cohen was called "Our man in Damascus", Lotz was called "The Eye of Tel Aviv in Cairo". Code-named "Champagne", Lotz posed as a former German officer in Egypt, and relayed vital information to Israel. He is remembered for the tremendous contribution he made to Israeli security prior to the Six Day War, and for having the presence of mind to fool his interrogators and jailers about his true identity not only as an Israeli spy, but as a citizen of Israel.

What about Caleb Ben-Yefuna, Yehoshua Bin-Nun and the spies of Biblical record? They were, in fact, Israel's first spies. Were they, too, nothing more than infiltrators and felons? Will the government of Israel also defame them by doubting the Zionist nature of their activities?

Does the government of Israel also doubt that the espionage activities of the Mossad are Zionist activities? What about the Israeli Ministry of Defense intelligence operations? Does the government consider Israeli military espionage to be Zionist?

Are all who risk their lives for the State of Israel to be treated with the same disdain and disposability with which Israel treated Alfred Frauenknecht? In the late 1960s, Frauenknecht, a Jewish Swiss engineer, stole the blueprints and the specifications for the precise machine tools used in the French-Swiss Mirage jet fighter plane, and gave them to Israel. The Jewish State used the blueprints to build the Kfir fighter plane. When Frauenknecht was caught, Israel disowned him and abandoned him to his fate. The Swiss judge who sentenced Frauenknecht in 1971 was so appalled by the way that Israel had treated him that he was moved to reduce Frauenknecht's sentence as a gesture of consolation.

The government of Israel did not invite Frauenknecht to the grand unveiling of the Kfir aircraft, which took place after his release from prison. Some Israeli pilots took pity on Frauenknecht, who was left destitute after his incarceration. They chipped in to send him a plane ticket to attend the event, which they knew would never have taken place were it not for him. Frauenknecht attended, but was not allowed to view the unveiling of the plane from the VIP grandstand. He had to stand with the common folk on the ground. When top Israel officials discovered that Frauenknecht was in attendance, he was immediately asked to leave. Security staff quickly and quietly escorted him out.

Years later, when Jonathan Pollard was arrested, Frauenknecht's widow wrote to him and warned him of the treachery that awaited him at the hands of the Israeli government. How right she was!

Jonathan Pollard worked for LAKAM under the auspices of Israel's Ministry of Defense. The information he gave to Israel saved hundreds of thousands of lives - perhaps even more. The operation that he was involved in stripped naked the true nature of the US-Israel special relationship. Jonathan's grossly disproportionate sentence and the harsh treatment he received, continues to reveal, to this very day, the uneven state of relations between the two countries.

In attempt to bury the truth about American duplicity and the on-going war-in-the-shadows against the Jewish State, the government of Israel betrayed and abandoned her agent, Pollard, and even participated vigorously in his prosecution. To this day, Israel continues to sabotage and undermine Jonathan, and does nothing to secure his release, even denying him symbolic recognition as a Prisoner of Zion. Israel tried to deny him citizenship, but he fought in court and won. Israel tried also to deny him recognition as an agent, but Jonathan won that round in court, as well. No doubt he also will win the next round for his Prisoner of Zion status.

Only in the case of Jonathan Pollard does the government of Israel have the unmitigated gall to publicly state that it "doubt(s) that espionage may be considered a Zionist activity." In so stating, Israel effectively denigrates the great service and sacrifice that all of the above heroes have rendered to the state through their espionage. Jonathan's activities are in the same noble tradition as those of Eli Cohen, Wolfgang Lotz and Alfred Frauenknecht. To imply, even by inference, that the actions of these heroes were not "Zionist" is an affront to the living and defames the memory of the dead.

Israel owes a debt of gratitude to all those who risk their lives performing this dangerous and most excellent of Zionist activities on behalf of the Jewish State. At the top of the list, my husband, Jonathan Pollard.

[Originally published by IMRA, January 9, 2005.]