Book Review by
Sachi Sri Kantha
Chapter 3 - Freshmen
At this point in the course, the cadets had accumulated a fair amount of
technical knowledge that now had to be given real-life application. One way
we began the process was with a series of exercises called "boutiques,"
sometimes twice a day. The purpose of these was to teach us how to hold a
follow-up meeting after successfully making the initial contact with a
Once again, everyone else watched each cadet's performance on television
in a separate ,room, subjecting him to an intense, and often hostile,
analysis of his efforts. The exercises lasted about 90 minutes each, and
they were truly gut-wrenching and terrifying.
Our every word was scrutinized, criticized. Every move, every action.
"Did you put enough hooks in? What did you mean when you said he had a nice
suit? Why did you ask him this question? That question?"
A mistake in the boutique, however embarrassing, still wasn't fatal; a
mistake in the real world of intelligence might well be. And we all wanted
to make it to that world.
We wanted to score as many points as possible to cover for any future
failures. Fear of failure was immense. Somehow, we were hooked on working in
the Mossad. It scented that there was no other life out there for you
anymore. What would you do? What would set your adrenaline flowing after the
The next major course lecture was given by Amy Yaar, department head of
the Far East and Africa in Tevel (liaison). His story was so fascinating
that when it was over, everybody said "How do we sign up?"
Yaar's department had people positioned throughout the Far East who did
little real intelligence; instead they set the framework for future business
and diplomatic ties. They had a man with a British passport living in
Djakarta, for example, working under cover. That meant the Indonesian
government knew he was with the Mossad. He had an escape route ready,
and a gold coin belt if he needed it, among other security measures. His
main task was to facilitate arms sales in the region. They also had a man in
Japan, one in India, one in Africa, and occasionally, people in Sri Lanka,
and in Malaysia. Yaar's annual convention for his staff was in the
Seychelles. He was having a lot of fun with very little danger.
Yaar's officers in Africa were also dealing in millions of dollars in
arms sales. These liaison men worked in three stages. First, they made
contact to find out what the country needed, what it feared, whom it
regarded as enemies — information gathered through their on-site activities.
The idea was to build on those needs, create a stronger relationship, then
make it known that Israel could supply the government in question with
weapons and training — whatever they needed. The final step in the process,
once a country's leader had been hooked on the arms, was for the Mossad man
to tell him that he must take, for instance, some agricultural equipment as
well. The leader was then put in the position of saying he could expand ties
with Israel only if they set up formal diplomatic relations. It was
essentially a way of creating those relations through the back door,
although in most cases the arms deals were so lucrative, the liaison men
never bothered to follow up with the next step.
They did in Sri Lanka, however. Amy Yaar made the connection, then tied
the country in militarily by supplying it with substantial equipment,
including PT boats for coastal patrol. At the same time, Yaar and company
were supplying the Warring Tamils with anti-PT boat equipment to use in
fighting the government forces. The Israelis also trained elite forces for
both sides, without either side knowing about the other: and helped Sri
Lanka cheat the World Bank and other investors out of millions of dollars to
pay for all the arms they were buying from them.
The Sri Lankan government was worried about unrest among the farmers —
the country has a long history of economic problems — so it wanted to split
them up somewhat by moving them from one side of the island to the other.
But it needed an acceptable reason to do this. That's where Amy Yaar came
in. He was the one who dreamed up the great "Mahaweli Project," a massive
engineering scheme to divert the Mahaweli River from its natural course to
dry areas on the other side of the country. The claim was that this would
double the country's hydro-electric power and open up 750,000 acres of newly
irrigated land. Besides the World Bank, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Germany, the
European Economic Community, and the United States all invested in the $2.5
billion (U.S.) project.
From the beginning, it was an overly ambitious project, but the World
Bank and the other' investors did not understand that, and as far as they
are concerned, it's still going on. Originally a 30-year project, It was
suddenly escalated in 1977 when Sri Lanka's president, Junius Jayawardene,
discovered that with a little help from the Mossad, it could become most
In order to convince the World Bank especially (with its $250 million
commitment) that the project was feasible —and would also serve as a
convenient excuse for moving the farmers from their land — the Mossad had
two Israeli academics, one an economist from Jerusalem University, the other
a professor of agriculture, write scholarly papers explaining its importance
and its cost. A major Israeli construction company, Solel Bonah, was given a
large contract for part of the job.
Periodically, World Bank representatives would go to Sri Lanka for spot
checks, but the locals had been taught how to fool these inspectors by
taking them on circuitous routes easily explained for security reasons —
then back to the same, quite small area where some construction actually had
been carried out for just this purpose.
Later, when I was working in Yaar's department at Mossad headquarters, I
was assigned to escort Jayawardene's daughter-in-law — a woman named Penny —
on a secret visit to Israel. She knew me as "Simon."
We took her wherever she wanted to go. We were talking in general terms,
but she insisted on telling me about the project and how money for it was
financing equipment for the army. She was complaining that they weren't
really getting on with it. Ironically, the project had been invented to get
money from the World Bank to pay for those weapons.
At that time, Israel had no diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka. In fact,
they were supposedly embargoing us. But she was telling me about all these
secret political meetings going on. The funny thing was that when news
stories were leaked about the meetings, they claimed Israel had 150 katsas
working in Sri Lanka. We didn't have that many katsas in the entire world.
In fact, at that time there was only Amy and his helper, both on a short
Another new world was revealed to me and the others with a lecture at
Mossad headquarters on PAHA, the department of Paylut Hablanit Oyenet, or
"hostile sabotage activities" — specifically, the PLO. The department is
also sometimes called PAHA-Abroad. Its workers are essentially clerks, and
theirs is one of the best research departments in the whole organization,
its analysis mainly operational.
It was a shock for us. They brought us into a sixth-floor room, sat us
down and told us this was where they gathered daily information on movements
of the PLO and other terrorist organizations. The instructor opened his huge
folding wall, about 100 feet across, and there was a massive map of the
world — excluding the North Pole and Antarctica — with a series of computer
consoles underneath. The wall was divided into tiny squares that lit up. If
you punched "Arafat" on the computer keyboard, for example, his known
location would light up on the map If you'd asked for "Arafat, three days,"
it would have lit up everywhere he'd been over the last three days...
It was like working in a department store servicing all these private
consultants. They were supposed to be tools used by us, but the tools got
out of hand. They had more experience than any of us, so that in fact they
were using us.
One of my assignments, in mid-July 1984, was to escort a group of Indian
nuclear scientists who were worried about the threat of the Islamic bomb
(Pakistan's bomb) and had come on a secret mission to Israel to meet with
Israeli nuclear experts and exchange information. As it turned out, the
Israelis were happy to accept information from the Indians, but reluctant to
return the favor.
The day after they left, I was picking up my regular paperwork when Amy
called me into the office for two assignments. The first was to help get the
gear and staff for a group of Israelis going to South Africa to help train
that country's secret-police units. After that, I was to go to an African
embassy and pick up a man who was supposed to fly back to his home country.
He was to be taken to his home in Herzlia Pituah, then driven to the airport
and ushered through security.
"I'll meet you at the airport," Amy said, "because we have a group of
people coming from Sri Lanka to train here." Amy was waiting for the Sri
Lankans' flight from London when I joined him. "When these guys arrive," he
said, "don't make a face. Don't do anything." "What do you mean?" I asked
"Well, these guys are monkeylike. They come from a place that's not
developed. They're not long out of the trees. So don't expect much."
Amy and I escorted the nine Sri Lankans through a back door of the
airport into an air-conditioned van. These were the first arrivals from a
group that would finally total nearly 50. They would then be divided into
three smaller groups:
• An anti-terror group training at the military base near Petha Tikvah,
called Kfar Sirkin, learning how to overtake hijacked buses and airplanes,
or deal with hijackers in a building, how to descend from helicopters on a
rope, and other anti-terrorist tactics. And, of course, they would be buying
Uzis and other Israeli-made equipment, including bulletproof vests, special
grenades, and more.
• A purchasing team, in Israel to buy weapons on a larger scale. They
bought seven or eight large PT boats, for example, called Devora, which they
would use mainly to patrol their northern shores against Tamils.
• A group of high-ranking officers who wanted to purchase radar and other
naval equipment to counter the Tamils who were still getting through from
India and mining Sri Lankan waters.
I was to squire Penny, President Jayawardene's daughter-in-law, around to
the usual tourist spots for two days, and then she would be looked after by
someone else from the office. Penny was a pleasant woman, physically an
Indian version of Corazon Aquino. She was a Buddhist because her husband
was, but she was somehow still a Christian, so she wanted to see all the
Christian holy places. On the second day, I took her to Vered Haglil, or the
Rose of Galilee, a horse ranch-restaurant on the mountain with a nice view
and good food. We had an account there.
Next I was assigned to the high-ranking officers who were looking for
radar equipment. I was told to take them to a manufacturer in Ashdod named
Alta that could do the work. But when he saw their specifications, the Alta
representative said, "They're just going through the motions. They're not
going to buy our radar."
"Why?" I said.
"These specs were not written by these monkeys," the man said. "They were
written by a British radar manufacturer called Deca, so these guys already
know what they're going to buy. Give them a banana and send them home.
You're wasting your time."
"Okay, but how about a brochure or something to make them happy?"
This conversation was going on in Hebrew while we all sat together eating
cookies, and drinking tea and coffee. The Alta rep said he didn't mind
giving them a lecture to make it look as if they weren't being brushed off,
"but if we're going to do that, let's have some fun."
With that, he went into another office for a set of big transparencies of
a large vacuum-cleaner system that is used to clean harbors after oil
spills. He had a series of colorful schematic drawings. Everything was
written in Hebrew, but he lectured in English on this "high capability radar
equipment." I found it difficult not to laugh. He laid it on so thick,
claiming this radar could locate a guy swimming in the water and practically
tell his shoe size, his name and address, and his blood type. When he'd
finished, the Sri Lankans thanked him, said they were surprised at this
technological advancement, but that it wouldn't fit their ships. Here they
were telling us about their ships. Well, we knew about their ships. We built
After dropping me off at the hotel, I told Amy the Sri Lankans weren't
buying the radar. "Yes, we knew that," he replied.
Amy then told me to go to Kfar Sirkin where the Sri Lankan special-forces
group was training, get them whatever they needed, then take them into Tel
Aviv for the evening. But he cautioned me to make sure it was all
coordinated with Yosy, who had just been transferred to the same department
Yosy was also looking after a group being trained by the Israelis. But
they weren't supposed to meet my people. They were Tamils, bitter enemies of
my Sinhalese group. Tamils, who are mostly Hindu, argue that since Sri Lanka
won independence from Great Britain in 1948 (as Ceylon), they have been
discriminated against by the island's predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese
majority. Of the 16 million or so Sri Lankans, about 74 percent are
Sinhalese, and just 20 percent are Tamil, largely centered in the northern
section of the country. Around 1983, a group of Tamil guerrilla factions,
collectively known as the Tamil Tigers, began an armed struggle to create-a
Tamil homeland in the north called Eelam — an ongoing battle that has
claimed thousands of lives on both sides.
Sympathy for the Tamils runs high in the southern Indian state of Tamil
Nadu, where 40 million Tamils live. Many Sri Lankan Tamils, escaping the
bloodshed, have sought refuge there, and the Sri Lankan government has
accused Indian officials of arming and training the Tamils. They should be
accusing the Mossad.
The Tamils were training at the commando naval base, learning penetration
techniques, mining landings, communications, and how to sabotage ships
similar to the Devora. There were about 28 men in each group, so it was
decided that Yosy should take the Tamils to Haifa that night while I took
the Sinhalese to Tel Aviv, thus avoiding any chance encounters.
The real problem started about two weeks into the courses, when both the
Tamils and Sinhalese — unknown to each other, of course — were training at
Kfar Sirkin. It is a fairly large base, but even so, on one occasion the two
groups passed within a few yards of each other while they were out jogging.
After their basic training routine at Kfar Sir-kin, the Sinhalese were taken
to the naval base to be taught essentially how to deal with all the
techniques the Israelis had just taught the Tamils. It was pretty hectic. We
had to dream up punishments or night training exercises just to keep them
busy, so that both groups wouldn't be in Tel Aviv at the same time. The
actions of this one man (Amy) could have jeopardized the political situation
in Israel if these groups had met. I'm sure Peres wouldn't have slept at
night if he'd known this was going on. But, of course, he didn't know.
When the three weeks were just about up and the Sinhalese were preparing
to go to Atlit, the top-secret naval commando base, Amy told me he wouldn't
be going with them. The Sayret Matcal would take over their training. This
was the top intelligence reconnaissance group, the one that carried out the
famous Entebbe raid. (The naval commandos are the equivalent of the American
"Look, we have a problem," said Amy. "We have a group of 27 SWAT team
guys from India coming in "
"My God," I said "What is this? We've got Sinhalese, Tamils, and now
Indians. Who's next?"
The SWAT team was supposed to train at the same base where Yosy had the
Tamils, a tricky and potentially volatile situation. And I still had my
regular office work to do, along with the daily reports. In the evenings, I
took the SWAT team to dinner, again making sure none of the groups ended up
in the same place. Every day I had an envelope brought to me with about $300
in Israeli currency to spend on them.
At the same time, I was meeting with a Taiwanese air-force general named
Key, the representative of their intelligence community in Israel. He worked
out of the Japanese embassy, and he wanted to buy weapons. I was told to
show him around, but not to sell to him, since the Taiwanese would replicate
in two days anything they bought, and end up competing with Israel on the
market. I took him to the Sultan factory in the Galil, where mortars and
mortar shells were made. He was impressed, but the manufacturer told me he
couldn't sell him anything, anyway: first, because he was from Taiwan, and
second, because everything he had was pre-ordered. I told him I had no idea
we were training so hard with mortars. He said, "We aren't, but the Iranians
are sure using a lot of them." That was keeping the company in business.
At one point they made arrangements to bring in a whole group of
Taiwanese for training. It was a compromise of sorts. They had asked the
Mossad to give them combatants in China, but they wouldn't; instead, they
trained a unit similar to the neviot, capable of gathering information from
At this time, the department also had a series of Africans coming and
going and being offered various services. I stayed with the department two
months longer than I was supposed to, at Amy's specific request — both a
compliment and a useful addition to my personnel record.....
by Sachi Sri Kantha
When ex Mossad officer Victor Ostrovski’s book By Way of Deception was
first published in September 1990, it created a tremor of international
proportions. The Time magazine (Sept.24, 1990) captioned the story as, "The
Spy who spilled the Beans; Israel attempts to quash a Mossad agent’s book"
and noted that due to Israel’s unsuccessful attempt to block its publication
and resultant publicity, the publisher had to "increase the print run from
50,000 copies to 200,000, practically guaranteeing that it will be high on
the best-seller list". The Newsweek magazine (Sept.24, 1990) rather
unusually devoted two pages to divulge some important facts included in the
Why did ‘By Way of Deception’ attract such attention? The Newsweek report
had it in its first sentence; "In the short but eventful history of the
Mossad, no full-fledged officer had ever broken its vow of silence". But,
Victor Ostrovski (son of a Canadian father and Israeli mother), who
according to Israel’s law-suit had been employed by the Mossad between
December 30, 1984 and March 9, 1986, had decided to break his silence.
Ostrovski begins his book, with description about the "Operation Sphinx"
of Mossad, which culminated successfully on June 7, 1981 when Israel
destroyed the Iraq’s nuclear complex located in the periphery of Baghdad.
This was achieved from the information obtained from the Iraq’s nuclear
scientist (identified as Butrus Eben Halim) in Paris.
Ostrovski also informs that two individuals (an Egyptian atomic engineer
named Meshad, who was close to senior Iraqi military and civilian
authorities, and a French prostitute Marie-Claude Magal who was patronised
by Halim and Meshad) were murdered by Mossad in June and July of 1980.
Then, Ostrovsky provides explanation for the two types of murders.
Prostitute Magal’s murder comes in the "category of an operational
emergency, the sort of situation that arises during operations". Scientist
Meshad’s murder belongs to the "formal execution list, and requiring the
personal approval of the prime minister of Israel". According to Ostrovski,
"the number of names on that list varies considerably, from just one or two
up to 100 or so, depending upon the extent of anti-Israeli terrorist
After describing how an adversary’s name is included in the execution
list and the due processes which take place within the Mossad to complete
the hit, Ostrovski notes that, "one of the first duties of any new Israeli
prime minister is to read the execution list and decide whether or not to
initial each name on it".
If this is true, the Nobel peace prize committee has definitely blundered
in making Menachem Begin a laureate in 1978. The book is divided into three
parts. The first two parts (consisting of a total of 8 chapters) provides
descriptions about Ostrovski’s experience with Mossad as a trainee and case
officer from October 1982 to March 1986, when he was dismissed as scapegoat
for an operation which became an embarrassment to the Israeli politicians.
The third part (consisting of nine chapters) provides case histories
related to Mossad’s engagements with the Black September rebels, Carlos
Ramirez and Yasser Arafat. Also included are the events related to Israel’s
1982 invasion in Lebanon and "Operation Moses" (the 1985 rescue of thousands
of Black Ethiopian Jews to Israel) and the 1985 sinking of PLO ships in
Tripoli harbour. In the chapters related to training by Mossad, Ostrovski
provides details about lessons taught on self-defence, forgery of documents
(especially passports), recruitment of bodlim ("people who operate as
messengers between safehouses and the embassy, or between the various
safehouses"), evaluation and tackling of a still object or a building,
importance of liaison, sending and receiving secret communications and so
On self-defense, Ostrovsky writes, "You were taught that if your brain
does (his emphasis) signal your hand to draw the weapon, you go to kill.
Your head has to say the guy in front of you is dead. It’s him or you...
When you do have to shoot, you fire as many bullets as possible into your
target. When he’s on the ground you walk up to him, put your gun to his
temple, and fire one more time. That way, you’re sure’.
Certainly Jesus and Gandhi are pariahs in the dictionary of Mossad. On
passport forgery by Mossad, Ostrovsky notes, "Mossad had a small factory and
chemical laboratory in the basement of the Academy that actually made
various kinds of passport paper. Chemists analyzed the papers of genuine
passports and worked out the exact formula to produce sheets of paper that
duplicated what they needed".
Mossad also gathers genuine passports of other countries from immigrants
to Israel on the pretext of "saving the Jews". These genuine passports are
studied to prepare fake passports. Ostrovski identifies four kinds of
passports used by Mossad for their operations; "top quality, second quality,
field operation and throwaway".
The low quality throwaway kind is mostly stolen from others and put in
use when "needed only to flash them". They are not used for identification,
since it cannot withstand through scrutiny. The field operation kind is
"used for quick work in a foreign country, but not used when crossing
The second quality passport is a perfect one, "without no real persons
behind" the details provided in it. The top-quality passport is the perfect
kind, "which could stand up completely to any official scrutiny, including a
check by the country of origin".
The motto of Mossad in such delicate forgery is that, "no operation
should be bungled by a bad document". Other tit-bits offered by Ostrovsky
relating to the operation of Mossad are quite interesting.
1) "The Mossad’s main computer contained more than 1.5 million names in
2) The London station of Mossad "owns more than 100 safe houses and rents
3) "In London alone, there are about 2,000 active sayanim (Jewish
volunteer helpers) who are active, and another 5,000 on the list".
4) Margaret Thatcher was always called inside the Mossad as "the bitch",
because "they had her tagged as anti-Semite".
5) For a long time since 1977, Mossad has hired "Durak Kasim, (Yasser)
Arafat’s driver and personal bodyguard" as their agent, and "he was
reporting to them almost daily, sending messages through a burst radio
communications system, receiving $2,000 a report. He also telephoned
information and mailed it periodically..."
Now, let me focus on the material related to Sri Lanka, which made
Ostrovski a recognizable name in the government and military circles in
Colombo now. Ostrovski’s disclosures on the deals made by the military and
political power-brokers of the ruling UNP and the Mossad had been published
in excerpts in the Tamil Nation of Oct.15, 1990.
What shocked the Sinhalese ruling establishment and the journalists
(including the editor of Lanka Guardian, Mervyn de Silva) was the revelation
of Ostrovski that Mossad had trained the Sinhalese military personnel and "a
group of Tamil guerrilla factions" simultaneously. Based on the meagre
details provided by Ostrovski, these power-brokers and opinion-makers had
identified LTTE as the beneficiary of Mossad’s patronage.
To me, this sounds too premature and incorrect. Let me repeat what
Ostrovski had written on this topic. "Around 1983, a group of Tamil
guerrilla factions, collectively known as the Tamil Tigers, began an armed
struggle to create a Tamil homeland in the north called Eelam - an on-going
battle that has claimed thousands of lives on both sides". This is the only
sentence in the book, where a vague reference is made to the Tamil Tigers.
The time-frame Ostrovski had written about was "mid-July 1984", when he
was still a trainee at the Mossad Academy. He had not mentioned LTTE by name
anywhere in the book. At that time, all the militant groups fighting for
Eelam (LTTE, TELO, EPRLF, EROS and PLOTE) were identified as "Tamil Tigers".
This point need be stressed.
The authors of Broken Palmyra also clearly state this fact in page 72 of
their book; "Up to this time (April 1985), the Tamil population had hardly
differentiated between rival groups. They were all referred to as boys and
even Tigers" Again the fact is that as reported in the Economist of August
3, 1985, in its coverage on the five Tamil militant groups, LTTE was
identified as receiving training from the PLO in Lebanon.
Ostrovski has noted that in mid-July 1984, "nearly 50" Sri Lankan army
personnel arrived for training in Israel. These training sessions were not
offered free. According to Ostrovski, "A unit of 60 trainees would cost
about $300 each day (per trainee), for a total of $18,000. For a three-month
course, that would be $1.6 million.
On top of that, they would be charged $5,000 to $6,000 an hour for
helicopter rental, and as many as 15 helicopters could be used in a training
exercise. Add to that the cost of special ammunition used in training: a
bazooka shell, for example, cost about $220 a unit, while heavy mortars were
about $1000 each..."
Ostrovsky should be credited for exposing the deals Sri Lankan
government had with Mossad, through the Mahaveli River Diversion Project.
Apart from exposing how the Sri Lankan authorities diverted foreign-aid
funds they received from unsuspecting donors, Ostrovski also has pricked the
bloated egos of the Sri Lankan military personnel by divulging how Mossad
had fooled them.