Joseph Katz: From Soviet Master Spy to Technical Adviser for James Bond Films

Born in Lithuania in 1913, Joseph (Yeiske) Katz came to America with his family seven years later, became an ardent Communist in his youth, and started working for the KGB in the 1930s. Although his skills reportedly included safecracking, lock-picking, electronic bugging, jujitsu, and sharpshooting, his real expertise lay in getting people to trust him. and he handled several important agents and sources, including Harry Gold of the Rosenberg spy ring. When one of his agents defected, he fled for France and later settled in Israel, remaining but a few steps ahead of the FBI until his death in 2004. Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and David Gurvitz describe his remarkable life and eventual disillusionment with Communism:

Defectors from Communism have often spoken of a Kronstadt moment—the event that finally shatters illusions and precipitates a break with the cause to which they have devoted their lives. . . . As Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign gathered strength in the late 1940s and early 1950s, KGB officers with a Jewish background were shunted aside, demoted, or discharged, and foreign Jewish agents like Katz came under suspicion. . . . Katz [later] told his Israeli contact Aviva Flint that suspicion about him in 1950 had ended his nearly two decades of revolutionary commitment. . . .

In October [of that year, in a letter to his brother, the Yiddish poet Menke Katz], he lamented the choice he had made in a cautious but nonetheless clear reference to his work for Soviet intelligence. . . He had, finally, come to the realization that “my life up to now, all I believed and worked for, is a fraud and a lie.” . . . Either to evade the KGB or because he was spooked by inquiries from French counterintelligence, he took a four-month vacation in the Basque country, writing that “how I came here is a long story” but adding that there was a legend that Jews escaping the Inquisition found refuge in the Pyrenees. . . .

In the 1960s, Joseph went to work for a film-equipment company and received patents in fiber optics, film-lighting techniques, and the development and installation of double-filament lighting and automated grid systems. . . . Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli—the producers of the James Bond movies from 1962, starting with Dr. No through 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun—hired Katz as a technical adviser on lighting in 1967, and he remained in that capacity until 1975. . . . As Saltzman’s Israeli representative in 1972, Katz negotiated for his purchase of Berkey Pathé Humphries, a major film and photo-finishing laboratory in Tel Aviv. . . . Around 1968, he came to America with an entourage that included Saltzman and Sean Connery and managed to avoid attention [from the FBI].

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, Film, History & Ideas, Joseph Stalin, KGB, Soviet espionage

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy