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

Feb. 22 2017

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].

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Read more at Commentary

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

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship