For the first time in the history of the Mossad, one of its former chiefs, Zvi Zamir, has admitted that his organization eliminated Palestinian terrorists and terrorist commanders. Steven Spielberg's film Munich made Zamir break a long-held tradition in the Mossad and claim responsibility for the elimination of the members of Black September, the murderous organization established by Yasser Arafat, which abducted and murdered Israel's team of athletes at the Munich Olympics on September 6, 1972.
It was no simple matter for the 81-year-old Zamir to break his silence. Of all the heads of this clandestine Israeli intelligence organization, he was the most reticent. What apparently made him lose his composure, besides ego, was Spielberg's cinematic version of the event, which claimed that then prime minister Golda Meir and Zamir himself had set out in wake of the events in Munich on a vendetta - to eliminate every single Palestinian who had been involved in that terror attack in Munich that had caused the deaths of 11 of Israel's finest athletes in revenge.
But it was not revenge, explained Zamir in an interview on Israeli television; the idea was to get to all those Palestinians in order to prevent additional acts of terror that Black September had been planning. In other words, Spielberg presents the Mossad agents in his film as being on a state-sanctioned vendetta to avenge the murders, thereby seemingly creating "a cycle of violence." Zamir, on the other hand, asserts that the killings that Golda Meir authorized were carried out in order to prevent further terrorist killings, no less horrific than those of Munich.
ZAMIR WAS joined by Rafi Eitan, 78, who was among those that laid the foundations of Israel's Shin Bet and Mossad, who told me, "Spielberg's film presents the Mossad in a distorted light, in the spirit of crime films, Los Angeles cops and robbers. The Mossad acted very wisely. The Mossad never employed the services of Mafia criminals. And above all, the trauma caused to Israel by the 1972 attack in Munich, is similar to the trauma the United States that the United States experienced in the wake of the attacks on it on September 11, 2001. President George W. Bush declared war on terrorist infrastructures everywhere, including in Afghanistan and Iraq - and quite rightly so. Prime Minister Golda Meir and the Mossad under her command set out to eliminate Arafat's terrorists for the same reason - to prevent further terror attacks."
Rafi Eitan took a moment to reflect and then emphatically stated, "That this was not revenge, as Spielberg would have it, is proved by the fact that the campaign against Black September continued during Yitzhak Rabin's term as prime minister too (1974-1977), and afterwards with Menachem Begin too - when Hassan Salame, the head of Black September, was eliminated in Beirut." Eitan served at the time as Begin's adviser on the war on terror.
The irony of history is that Zamir was appointed chief of the Mossad during one of the organization's stormiest periods - at the time when prime minister Levi Eshkol, who chose him for the job, hoped that under Zamir the Mossad would keep out of the eye of the storm. Because in previous years the Mossad had known many storms that shook the corridors of power in Israel.
The Mossad's founder, Isser Harel, resigned in February 1962, to the amazement of a stunned David Ben-Gurion, when Ben-Gurion ordered him to discontinue the struggle against the German scientists who had been building surface-to-surface missiles for the Egyptians. Mossad chief Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Meir Amit waged a bitter battle with Harel, who accused him of allegedly embroiling the Mossad in Israeli involvement in Morocco's secret services, which abducted and murdered the head of the Moroccan opposition, Ben Barka, in October 1965 in the heart of Paris.
Zamir, a former army general, was subsequently appointed to calm things down. But it was his term as Mossad chief that not only saw the Munich affair, but a year later, Israel being surprised by the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War too, in October 1973.
Jerusalem was surprised despite the excellent intelligence the Mossad had provided beforehand that war was about to break out. Unfortunately, that intelligence was dismissed as false.
Zamir, unlike Harel, for example, mostly kept silent for over 30 years since leaving the Mossad.
But now that Zamir has revealed the true motivation behind the campaign to eliminate the Palestinian terrorists, his words must serve as a reminder, not only regarding imaginary films made about the Mossad, but also concerning the right way to defend Israel. In a shocking reality in which the president of Iran calls to have Israel wiped off the map, and when Hamas as the operative arm stands at the gates to Jerusalem - Israel has no choice but to return to the doctrine of Golda Meir, a doctrine that was carried out by Ariel Sharon for some 50 years in all his various roles: to rise up and destroy any infrastructure threatening Israel.
The danger to the existence of the Jewish state does not come for a film - it comes from reality itself. Jewish tradition demands that "He who rises up to kill you, rise up and kill him first."
Can this be done without people of the caliber of Ben-Gurion, Golda, Begin or Sharon heading the state?
The shocking answer is - no!