Gideon’s Spies

Since I had been brought up on a wonderful diet of spy novels and films, one of my many dream careers was to be a spy. A super slick one. But, alas, we know how that story ended. Nevertheless, when I saw a copy of this book at the Delhi Book Fair, I was giddy with happiness.

In the Bible, Gideon was a soldier chosen by God to free the Israelites from the oppression of other tribes and to bring down the temples of the other gods. Gideon’s Spies, by Gordon Thomas, details the many missions of Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. If anyone says US’ Central Intelligence Agency or the CIA is the world’s best intelligence agency, they must be joking.  Confirmed by those in the know, Mossad is the world’s most efficient killing machine.

I may not be their biggest fan in their geopolitical dealings, or India’s fairly recent bonhomie with them, but their precision and legendary stories undoubtedly leave me awestruck. One of the many that stood out was the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann, “the Nazi bureaucrat who epitomized the full horror of Hitler’s Final Solution.” The man behind the operation was Rafael ‘Rafi’ Eitan, who had been deputy director of operations for almost twenty-five years. After World War 2, Nazi war criminals were being stealthily tracked, initially by the Holocaust survivors. They were originally known as the ‘Avengers’ or Nokmin, and executed any Nazi they found.

In 1957, when the Mossad received news of the resurfacing of Eichmann in Argentina, Eitan lays down a witty plan to capture the former.

“I decided I would strangle Eichmann with my own bare hands. If I was caught, I would argue to the court it had been the biblical eye for an eye.”

The team had someone go to England a buy a plane that sent an Israeli delegation to Argentina on May 1, 1960. It was ten days later the plan finally culminated with them waiting for Eichmann on a deserted street. This was a moment everyone was waiting for. Nerves were high strung, tension loomed large. Eichmann was spotted and as the specialist opened the door to make a grab for him, he tripped over his shoelace. At the point, Eitan leaped from the car and dragged Eichmann inside.

For the next seven days they kept him in the safe house. When they received orders to leave, they got him to don a suit, forced him to drink liquor and induced a state of stupor. When the team drove in the car to the airport, they pretended to be Jews drunk on strong Argentinian liquor. They were let off. Eichmann was executed on Mar 31, 1962.

The book is riddled with such stories, and also stories where missions have gone bust, wrong decisions being made and an agency stuck between bureaucracy and political will. Those interested, do read up Operation ‘Wrath of God’, a covert operation wherein Mossad assassinated those involved in the massacre of the 1972 in Munich, where eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed.

The book also details the tenures of most prominent director generals of the agency, from Meir Amit to Danny Yatom. It also includes a glossary of jargons used in the industry. It’s all very interesting, really. And, the book also lays bare the ruthlessness and cold tactics of this country, who definitely want to be noticed and revered as a hard power in the world.

Although I loved the book, my thirst for everything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the politics of the region has not been satiated yet, and I intend to continue learning more on these topics.

This post is part of the eighth annual A to Z Challenge that takes place in the month of April. The theme for this month is ‘Between Pages’. It’s my second attempt at this. Feedback is most welcome, constructive criticism, even more. Share your experiences and let’s enjoy this month of fabulous blogging.


6 thoughts on “Gideon’s Spies

  1. I exactly know what you mean by”brought up on diet of spy novels”. My love for the genre started with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven. As a kid, I remember solving the cryptic codes in those books. The habit has only evolved with time. This one looks like an awesome read. Thanks for writing about it.


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