Netflix's "The Spy" Manages to Convey the Ethnic Irony at the Heart of Eli Cohen's Life

In 1960s Israel, Arabic-speaking Jews were invaluable as spies for their new country. In normal life, they were marginalized.

Netflix.

Netflix.

Observation
Oct. 29 2019
About the author

Matti Friedman is the author of a memoir about the Israeli war in Lebanon, Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War (2016). His latest book is Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel (2019).


I’ve been wondering for years why no one has ever made a good Mossad movie. From The Little Drummer Girl (1984) to Munich (2005) to awkward fictions in between, Hollywood has never managed a portrayal of the Israeli secret service that gets beneath the surface of the organization or its people—nothing approaching the gold standard set by the BBC’s masterpiece Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) about the British MI6 in the cold war.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Eli Cohen, Israel & Zionism, Mizrahi Jewry, Mossad, Sacha Baron Cohen, Television