How the Mossad Ran a Seaside Resort as a Front for Rescuing Ethiopian Jews

In the early 1980s, the Mossad developed a plan for transporting to Israel a substantial number of Ethiopian Jews who had taken refuge in Sudan. Since, then as now, there were no relations between Jerusalem and Khartoum, Israeli operatives purchased a defunct Italian resort on the coast of the Red Sea as a front for their activities, offering tourists windsurfing and diving classes while sending operatives out to locate refugees and lead them to safety. The episode is currently being made into a movie, scheduled for release later this year. Allison Kaplan Sommer describes what happened:

The story of Operation Brothers, [as it was known], actually dates to 1977 and the election of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Reports came into Israel that Ethiopian Jews had started fleeing civil war and famine in their homeland, many heading to neighboring Sudan where they were being housed in refugee camps. Although Sudan was a predominantly Muslim state hostile to Israel, its geographical location made it a perfect pathway for Ethiopians hoping to continue on to the Jewish state. Begin summoned the then-head of the Mossad, Yitzḥak Ḥofi, to see what could be done. . . .

Deciding that [a] deserted holiday village could be an ideal staging area from which to smuggle the Ethiopians to Israel by sea, the Mossad hatched its plan. The Sudanese Tourist Corporation believed it was leasing the resort—for the princely sum of $320,000—to a Swiss company eager to create a new getaway destination. . . . The local employees knew nothing of the resort’s real goal, or the real identities of their bosses. And the guests who eventually stayed at the resort—making it such a success it even turned a profit—were also unaware of its true purpose. . . .

Gad Shimron, [one of the directors of the operation], stresses [in an interview that] it’s important to remember that the bravest people in the story weren’t the Mossad operatives, but those Ethiopian Jews who endured endless hardships trying to reach Israel by land, sea, or air. His book [on the subject] contains descriptions of these stoic, uncomplaining men, women, and children who crowded into trucks, hid in wadis and climbed into small boats or planes with no idea where they were headed, but with utter trust in their rescuers.

“What they went through in order to fulfill their dream of coming to Zion,” Shimron said, “no normal Israeli or any Westerner could have endured for even three days.”

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More about: Ethiopian Jews, Israel & Zionism, Menachem Begin, Mossad, Sudan


At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations