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Toronto Jewish Film Festival: “Inside the Mossad”

Get ready for a close as you can get view of the Israeli Intelligence service called the Mossad. It was founded in 1950 two years after the state of Israel was founded. It is widely recognized as one the world’s most effective intelligence services.

The Mossad does not like cameras but opens itself up in this documentary perhaps to show its viewers and the enemies of Israel it is a force to be reckoned with.

Given the Holocaust many Israelis see the Mossad as preventing a second Holocaust. Therefore assassination, kidnapping and cyber crime are tolerated. Let’s not kid ourselves in that Russia’s FIS, Britain’s MI5 and the United States’ CIA are in the same game and using the same methods. As Ram Ben Barak, Deputy Director of the Mossad states, “It’s a dirty business”. He also states, “The long arm of Israel can go anywhere”.  And, “Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction”.

When you are dealing with kidnapping, hits, poisoning and sacrificing your operatives a theme we see throughout the documentary by some current and former Mossad agents that the job involves a severe test of ethics while others just accept their messy deeds as protective and necessary for Israel’s survival.

The film is rich in key world events including war, terrorism and diplomacy and is full of fascinating archival footage.

Kidnapping is a Mossad tactic perhaps the most famous being that of Adolf Eichmann who was kidnapped in Argentina in 1961 and transported to Israel where he was tried and hung for war crimes. As Rafi Eitan, one of the founders of Mossad said, “You attempted to wipe us out and now we are here”.

Then there is the recruitment of Nazi SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny in the mid sixties who pointed the Mossad to the addresses of German scientists working in Egypt to help develop a missile system, All of those Germans working on the project soon disappeared and Skorzeny, spooked by the Eichmann kidnapping walks away with a promise of no prosecution. All this was done without anyone finding out until after his death. What is spooky is seeing his coffin being taken out of a church in 1975 Madrid with much of the crowd giving it a Nazi salute. As we know the far right is still very active in the world.

Speaking of Egypt, Shmuel Goren, Deputy Director of the Mossad from 1982-1984, admits they had an inside contact in Egypt namely Ashraf Marwan, the son-in law of President Nasser! The Mossad urged the Israeli army to prepare for war based on a tip from Marwan but they failed to take it seriously and on October 6, 1973 the Yom Kippur War caught Israel by surprise causing heavy casualties.

The Israeli army and Mossad squabbled over Marwan and then 30 years later his name was publicly revealed as being an agent for the Israelis. Shortly after that he “fell” out of his hotel room in London. Was it murder or surprise? His Mossad handler expresses his disgust of this leak as a betrayal of a national asset.

The Mossad is not above political meddling through its Periphery Alliance Programme forming pacts with countries and rebel groups within these countries whether it be Sudan, Turkey, Iran or Ethiopia.

Ephraim Halevy, Director of Mossad from 1998-2002 says the goal of the Programme was for Israel to defend itself and create alliances for dialogue to reach peace with its enemies.

Now the Mossad is not without its failures as with the massacre of Israeli athletes and trainers in the 1972 Olympics in Munich where the lack of action and ineptitude of the German police may have been at fault. And yes the terrorists and their leaders were all hunted down. The head of the Mossad at that time states he did not need an order from Prime Minister Golda Meir to arrange for the hits.

I could go on but the film is rich with personal recollections on important Israeli and world events.

There are two particularly strong points to take away from this film. First is the fanaticism and hatred shown in the words and faces of its enemies particularly Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. They feel pride at murdering civilians in acts of terror. I certainly would not trust Iran with nuclear capabilities. I feel certain that their clerics would order the destruction of Israel and face their own destruction to secure a place in heaven. Second is that the Holocaust has seared the Israeli soul and those who antagonize it face serious consequences. Brought to mind is a phrase from another film I reviewed in the Festival which was called “Sobibor” a concentration camp in Poland. That comment was that it was the Germans that taught the Jews to fight.

A meaty film and indeed a compelling watch.

To see a trailer and to learn more about the film

(“Inside the Mossad”, Directed and narrated by Duki Dror, Israel and Germany, 90 minutes, May 5 at 5 p.m. Cineplex Odeon Empress Walk, May 6 at Innis Town Hall at 5:30 p.m.)

The picture above this article is that of Ram Ben Barak who is Deputy Director of the Mossad.

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