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.

Read more at Haaretz

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

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship