Telling the Accidental — and Sensational — Story of How Israel Spies on America

Ahron Bregman Intended To Expose Occupation — Not Mossad

Bill Said What? A new book reveals that Israeli agents eavesdropped on President Bill Clinton during a 1999 Mideast peace push.
getty images
Bill Said What? A new book reveals that Israeli agents eavesdropped on President Bill Clinton during a 1999 Mideast peace push.

By Nathan Guttman

Published June 05, 2014, issue of June 13, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

From Nepal, Bregman sent a letter to the daily Haaretz, claiming that the brutality of Israeli soldiers against the Palestinians was of the kind that had once been wreaked upon the Jews, and stating that he would not return to a country that condones this type of conduct. But Bregman did come back to Israel, only to announce in a newspaper interview that if he were called upon to serve as a reserve officer in the Palestinian territories, he’d refuse. Soon after, he went on self-imposed exile to London, where he has lived ever since. “I love Israel but hate the occupation. Really, deeply hating it,” he said.

Bregman established a career as a historian and journalist, and he now teaches in the Department of War Studies in London’s King’s College. Still a harsh critic of the Israeli occupation, Bregman argues in his book that Israel had failed to “swallow the occupied territories” and that the occupation has essentially failed. He also accuses Israelis of demonstrating a lack of will to reach a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.

In his academic work, Bregman has a flair for exposing sensational details kept in secret by all parties for years. One of these cases brought Bregman much attention, but later also a fair amount of sorrow. In 2002 he was the first to blow the cover of Ashraf Marwan, who was Egyptian president Nasser’s son-in-law and worked as a double agent for the Israelis and the Egyptians. Bregman first hinted at Marwan’s identity in a book he published, and after Marwan denied it, Bregman confirmed to an Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that Nassar’s son-in-law was indeed the agent known only by the codename “Angel.” Marwan was Israel’s top intelligence asset in Egypt, and though many assumed the Israelis had a mole in Cairo’s top echelons, no one could name him. Despite the public outing of his identity, Marwan later reached out to Bregman and the two became close friends and worked together on the Egyptian spy’s memoir.

“On 26 June, 2007, he phoned me and left three messages on my answering machine, which was very unusual, as he had never before left me telephone messages. Marwan was a real spy, and spies do not leave messages on answering machines,” Bregman said. They scheduled a meeting, but it never took place; Marwan’s body was found outside his London apartment after falling, or being pushed, from his balcony. “It was a stupid mistake to expose him, and I regret it,” Bregman said. In his new book, he said he’s learned the lesson about the need to be careful in keeping confidentiality. “Never expose, never unmask a living spy, as it might — just might —kill him.”

But this is the only caveat for Bregman. As far as exposing secrets of the Israeli intelligence community, he has no second thoughts. A typical Israeli journalist, Bregman claimed, “has a little censor” in his head, “stopping him from writing anything which might hurt the State of Israel.” When it comes to revealing secrets, Bregman said, he does not share this Israeli sentiment. “I’m, first of all, a historian and journalist and only then a patriot.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at or on Twitter, @nathanguttman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.