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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.”