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Thirty years later, when Jonathan Pollard, an American civilian working for United States Navy intelligence, volunteered to supply secret documents to Israel, the Mossad protocol dictated that he should be turned down. Use an American Jew, in his own country, to spy for Israel? That was against the rules.
Pollard’s offer was accepted, however, by an agency within the intelligence community that was willing to break the unwritten but ironclad regulations. Rafi Eitan — an unusually innovative covert operative whose long career included capturing Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 — welcomed Pollard into the world of espionage, paid him and asked for many secrets that the spy then willingly acquired.
Of course, when Pollard was arrested in late 1985, the damage to relations between the United States and Israel was significant, and so were the suspicions cast by the FBI and other agencies on many Jews who worked for the United States government — especially if they worked in defense or intelligence.
Yet if the Mossad is now reluctant to use local Jews in its espionage missions around the world, this does not mean that the agency has ignored the problem of helping Jews in places where their conditions are poor and the future bleak. In fact, all 11 directors of the Mossad look back with extreme pride at the agency’s role in rescuing entire Jewish communities and spiriting them away to Israel.
“Of all the operations and activities that I was responsible for, the strongest and most exciting experiences were saving our Jewish brethren from countries of oppression and bringing them over here,” reminisced Zvi Zamir, Mossad director from 1968 to 1973. “It was a great humane deed.”
The intelligence community — which, from the beginning, included units devoted to facilitating immigration to Israel — carried out clever and often dangerous operations to get people out of Iran, Syria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, the Soviet Union and other far-flung Jewish communities that were hopelessly isolated. That was after an initial flurry of immigration from Iraq, Egypt, Morocco and other Arab countries where Jews were made to feel unwelcome by anti-Jewish and anti-Israel governments.
The whole notion of “Jewish intelligence,” intent on ensuring the safety and success of millions of Jews around the world, was a self-appointed mission. The individual communities requested assistance only rarely. Israeli envoys came to them, boosted their community spirit, often taught them some Hebrew and Jewish culture, and then urged them to take a secret route to the Holy Land.