The Lebanese Jewish Housewife Who Spied for Israel

Born in Argentina and raised in Jerusalem, Shulamit Kishik-Cohen—who died last week at the age of one-hundred—was married to a wealthy Jewish businessman in Beirut when she was only seventeen. Her career in intelligence began before Israel became a state and lasted until her arrest in 1961. After the Six-Day War, she was released as part of a prisoner exchange and lived out the rest of her life in Israel. Ofer Aderet writes (free registration may be required):

Due to her prominence in the local Jewish community, Kishik-Cohen managed to develop good relations with the Lebanese authorities and to gain the confidence of key people in the country’s leadership. Without ever planning to take such a path, she found she had access to valuable intelligence information. Then, just prior to the outbreak of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, she began to hear talk of the “extinction of the Jews of the land of Israel,” and knew immediately that it related to military preparations for war against the Jews of Mandatory Palestine. . . .

She contacted officials in the Jewish community in British Mandatory Palestine and offered her services as a spy. In [her memoir], she describes the roundabout way in which she sent her first message to members of the Haganah (the underground, pre-independence army of Palestine’s Jews). She wrote a concealed message, using a method she had learned in the Girl Scouts, in a seemingly innocent-looking letter that on the surface appeared to be asking about how a sick relative was faring. Merchants who worked with her husband in the market in Beirut saw to it that it was passed along, and ultimately it reached its destination in Mandatory Palestine.

The message was understood loud and clear, and a short while later she received her first assignment in her new “profession.” From then until 1961, she operated a spy network that supplied Israel with intelligence information and engaged in smuggling Jews from Arab countries over the Lebanese border into Israel.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Haganah, Intelligence, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Lebanon, Mandate Palestine

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East