The government secret intelligence service of Israel is the Mossad. This organization is responsible for collecting sensitive state, military, and commercial intelligence and analyzing it for potential threats to national security. In addition, the Mossad carries out undercover missions and counter-terrorism tactics. Members of this organization protect Jewish populations and promote their immigration to Israel. Departments within the agency include Collections, Political Action and Liaison, Research, psychological warfare (LAP), Special Operations, and Technology. The organization has allegedly carried out operations on every inhabited continent and is considered one of the best intelligence services in the world.
4. Organizational History and Notable Members
The history of Mossad has its roots in the formation of the state of Israel. The area was invaded from all sides by Arab military forces before it was established and in its first years, there were several covert intelligence organizations during that time working to collect information and protect the Jewish community. One of these organizations, the Shai, was formalized and worked with the military organization, the Haganah. When Israel was officially founded in 1948, the new nation found itself in need of an organized intelligence infrastructure. During this restructuring, the Mossad was born.
Officially established on December 13, 1949, the organization continued developing to form relationships with other intelligence agencies. The Mossad now works with other countries in operations intent on preventing conflict within the borders of Israel and on preventing acts of terrorism against Jewish populations.
Since its inception, the Mossad has contracted several notable members. Perhaps one of the most famous of these was Simon Weisenthal. This man survived the Holocaust and went on to hunt down Nazi criminals after World War II. During his lifetime, many thought he was working independently. Upon his death however, documents were uncovered that linked him to Mossad operations.
Another famous agent was Sylvia Rafael, born in South Africa. Her family took in a Holocaust survivor after the war which was a defining moment in her life. She later went on to become a Mossad agent and would have retired unknown to the outside world if not for being uncovered during the Lillehammer Operation. She along with 5 other agents were captured and convicted for mistakenly murdering 2 innocent individuals in the Norwegian town. The operation has gone down in Mossad history as an embarrassment, undercutting hard-earned international respect.
3. Campaigns and Victories
While many of the Mossad’s missions and victories will remain secret, some campaigns have been publicly announced. Most famously, the Mossad was responsible for the capture of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi war criminal. He was abducted from Argentina and taken to Israel for trial where the judge found him guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to death and hanged. Eichmann had been in charge of a program responsible for the death of over 6 million Jews.
The Mossad was also involved in Operation Diamond, which helped Israel acquire the most advanced Soviet fighter plane of the time. Possessing the plane allowed Israel and the United States to study its design and functionality. Iraqi defector Munir Redfa flew the plane into Israel on August 16, 1966.
More recently, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a high-ranking Hamas military commander, was assassinated in Dubai. This occurred in January of 2010. He was wanted by the Israeli government for the kidnapping and murder of 2 Israeli soldiers in 1989. Twenty-seven Mossad agents were involved in the operation which was later later uncovered by Dubai police. Agents had all used the same prepaid calling card company, one that was uncommon in the United Arab Emirates. They followed Mabhouh to his hotel room and in the evening injected him with a paralysis inducing drug. He was suffocated with a pillow.
2. Challenges and Controversies
The Mossad has always been heavily criticized. The Mabhouh fiasco in Dubai, for example, sparked doubts in the agency’s missions. It also put the Mossad under fire for involving the use of counterfeited passports from Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany. Australia warned Israel that if its intelligence agency continued to use fake Australian passports, their foreign relations could be compromised.
In the late 1960’s, Mossad was involved in an operation to obtain uranium ore in an attempt to enhance Israel’s nuclear program. The agency created a European operation front and used it to buy the nuclear "yellowcake" (a residual form of uranium oxide) from a Belgian mining company. They stored the material in steel drums labeled “Plumbat”, a lead product. The product was transferred to waiting Israeli ships. This act violated European Atomic Energy Community regulations.
In the coming years, Mossad and the Israeli community face some threatening challenges. Israel is a country surrounded by enemies and the reality of the Middle East has been rapidly changing over the last few years. States are crumbling and religious terrorist groups are multiplying. Some of these newly formed groups include the Islamic State (ISIS), several in the Sinai Province, and the al-Nusra Front. While Mossad once fairly well understood such groups as Hezbollah and Hamas, these newer terrorist organizations will take profound research and tracking in order to continue to grasp their tactics and ideologies. With increased political turmoil and constant changes, the Middle East is no longer the region it used to be. Mossad has lost some real ground due to these new developments. Iran, an age-old enemy, poses new threats all the time with its nuclear program and improved military capabilities.
1. Cultural Depictions and Legacy
Mossad has been immortalized by movies, documentaries, and books from across the world. The agency and its agents have been depicted in such popular movies as The Debt, License to Kill, The Little Drummer Girl, and Munich. The Munich film was received poorly by Israel who criticized the director, Spielberg, for supposedly placing terrorist and Mossad agents on the same moral level. This film recants the story of murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics. The Mossad agents sent to assassin the murderers begin to question the morality behind the mission. Spielberg reportedly produced the movie in order to provoke criticism of the Bush administration’s war on terror.
The legacy of Mossad will forever be shrouded by mystery. This secret intelligence agency is perhaps the most idealized in the world. For all of its criticisms, it has also been equally revered by lovers of thriller and action stories. The organization has just as many supporters as opponents. As fighting in the Middle East increases, Mossad is likely to continue to make its way into the public eye which could either unveil its efforts or make it more enigmatic.