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Netflix’s (and Israel’s) The Spy

Poster for Netflix's The Spy.

3,142 words

Poster for Netflix's The Spy. [1]If the title of this review surprises you, it shouldn’t. Do not be disillusioned — this multi-part spy saga is transparent propaganda, promoted (if not partly financed, I suspect) by Israel. It’s as Kosher as Rosenfeld’s bagels.

But first, the story. It concerns a Sephardic Jewish man, Eli Cohen, born in Alexandria, Egypt. By posing as an importer of Argentinian products into Syria, he manages to ingratiate himself into Syrian political society. Using the name Kamel Thaabet, he befriends members of the Ba’ath political party, including Colonel Amin al-Hafez who would later become Syria’s president in a 1963 coup. The series follows Cohen (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) from his Mossad recruitment and training, his espionage from 1961 to 1965, to his death by hanging on May 18, 1965, in Damascus.

The series was directed by Israeli filmmaker Gideon Raff. Raff has created something of a niche market for himself by turning out films about Mossad spies, such as another recent Netflix production The Red Sea Diving Resort, and the series, yet to be released in the US, Prisoners of War.

Inevitably, some reviewers of The Spy have made comparisons between Eli Cohen (whom most of us have never heard of) and that other spy we all know, “Bond, James Bond.” This comparison falls flat for several reasons, the most important of which is that Bond’s persona is more akin to a criminal investigator in that he never clandestinely becomes a member of the criminal enterprise he is trying to destroy. The only exception was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service where Bond, played by the underrated George Lazenby, pretends to be a genealogy expert so that he can infiltrate Ernst Blofeld’s Swiss allergy institute, which is a front for SPECTRE — and we all know they’re the bad guys.

A “spy,” on the other hand, secretly collects information on behalf of one government or company by assuming a false name or persona, joining the ranks of another government or company, and conveys the secret or classified information to the entity employing him.

Another difference from the Bond franchise is that Eli Cohen is not an action kind of guy. He never leaps from the roof of one building to another, never goes toe-to-toe with a Rosa Klebb, and never has to defeat a Syrian bad guy in a tense, high-stakes game of Baccarat.

The series does, however, resemble the Bond films in a way not intended by The Spy’s makers. The Bond movies are all about the plot and the action. There is no focus on the arc of the characters’ development. Early in each Bond film, the viewer learns how the villain’s evil nature is to be uniquely presented. Thus, Auric Goldfinger loved gold. Oddjob wore a hat that doubles as a deadly boomerang. Francisco Scaramanga had his golden gun and a third nipple. Rosa Klebb had her poison-tipped steel-toe knife shoes. The viewer isn’t told and doesn’t want to know about Oddjob’s abusive childhood — just throw the hat. You get the idea.

The antagonists of both series are not presented as true-to-life characters, but rather as lifeless caricatures. There’s no flesh on their bones. Even Eli Cohen, as portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen, is flat and almost completely bereft of human emotion. Any actor could have played this role with a Baron Cohen mask and the effect on the viewer would have been the same. The only time he smiles during the six-part series, if memory serves, is when he sees his two small daughters during his rare visits home. He expresses rage by throwing furnishings around the room, but the mask stays in place. His visage is implacable.

Of course, we expect the bad guys, the Syrians, to be humorless and uninteresting because the filmmakers don’t want the audience to perceive them as human. They have families, but the interplay among them is superficial. They are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts incapable of expressing outrage at being betrayed by the man they have taken into their confidence and invited to their homes. There is no complexity to them, no nuance in their thinking, no remorse expressed in their conflicts. The viewer is not supposed to care about them in a personal way because that might allow the viewer to be disquieted by the idea that they also have a struggle for a people they must fight, and perhaps die for.

On the other hand, the conventional ideology of the Israeli state (which has to be relentlessly hammered into the Western mind) is that the Mossad operative is a man with a conscience who loathes violence but must act violently to survive and protect the security of Israel. This dilemma causes him to weep while nonetheless pulling the trigger. Looking inward, he despairs at the violence he feels compelled to commit because he fears his own moral corruption. The abridged version: He kills and cries [2] at the same time. Let’s give the Mossad agent the Goodhouse Seal of Approval for what he would call an atrocity if done to him, and a terrorist act if committed against Israel.

And, yes, we know in The Spy that all the good guys are Mossad, all the bad guys are Syrian, and that the brave spy is going to be hung at the end of the series — we learn this in the first few minutes of the first episode — so much for a surprise ending. But the acting is so stilted that by the time we reach the end of the series, we don’t care. Please, just hang him and put us out of our misery!

Eli Cohen was not the Mossad’s most famous spy. That accolade belongs to Ashraf Marwarn, who spied for Israel in the 1970s. Believe it or not, he was also from Egypt and was the subject of another Netflix movie, this one shown in September 2018. I guess we can expect Netflix and Israel to regale us with Mossad’s daring feats of sleuthing every quarter.

But the most interesting facet of Marwan’s spy story was that he was not Jewish. He was a born-to-the-faith Egyptian Muslim and was married to Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser’s daughter. After Nasser died, Marwan served in the cabinet of President Anwar Sadat. His top-level position in the government gave him access to loads of extremely sensitive information that he supposedly passed along to his Israeli handler. No wonder that he was affectionately known to Israel as “Angel.”

So, what was Marwan’s motivation for betraying his country? Money? It was documented that Marwan was paid handsomely for each meeting with his Mossad handlers, receiving a reported $20,000,000 over four years. But did he betray his country, or was he actually a double agent passing false intel to the Mossad while pocketing their cash? Netflix portrays Marwan as a wannabe Jew who took incredible risks to protect Israel at the expense of Egypt.

But today, Egypt regards Marwan as a patriot. Ahron Bregman, a political scientist based in the U.K. who unveiled Marwan’s history [3] in 2002 said the spy intentionally misled Israel:

Ashraf Marwan, whom I knew well, was an Egyptian hero and an Egyptian spy who misled the Mossad by feeding them wrong information. He was the jewel in the crown of the Egyptian deception plan in 1973, which led to Israel being caught unprepared to the Egyptian invasion on Yom Kippur in 1973. Marwan ridiculed the Mossad for years.

It’s too bad Israel’s “Angel” didn’t learn to fly, because he died after being pushed off the fourth-floor balcony of his London apartment. Gravity’s a bitch. His death is still a subject of conjecture.

The Mossad has been playing this game for a long time. During the Cold War, Israel was the eager beaver of state-sponsored spying. Leaked documents from 2016 revealed that British intelligence believe “the Israelis constitute a true threat to regional security, notably because of the country’s position on the Iran issue.” This is according [4] to the British intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, commonly called “GCHQ.”

The reality of Israel’s Mossad spy agency is, however, a world away from its portrayal on film and TV screens. Despite Israel’s facile claims that they need an extensive espionage capability to protect their existence, they have used intercepted data for offensive purposes. For example, Israel tapped the phones of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his two sons shortly before Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead” in December 2008. The interceptions could have helped Israel prepare for this offensive strike.

In the post-cold war period, as readers of Counter-Currents are aware, Israel has notoriously sought to control US foreign policy in the Middle East. And yet, not hesitating to bite the feeding hand, Israel has committed some of the most deceitful instances of espionage against the country that has given them $3 billion annually since 1985.

Let’s consider some instances of this remarkable duplicity. In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American citizen, received a life sentence for providing top-secret classified information to Israel. Among other damaging documents, Pollard revealed the names of thousands of persons who had cooperated with US intelligence agencies. There is no way to know how many of these people were killed, or at least had their lives destroyed, on account of this information’s release.

Pollard, of course, minimized the danger of his spying despite a barrage of pleas by US officials, including former CIA directors, a bi-partisan group of congressional leaders, and members of the US intelligence community who opposed any form of judicial clemency due to the severe, wide-ranging, and enduring harm than could never be publicly acknowledged.

Israel lobbied extensively on Pollard’s behalf for no prison time. Additionally, Israel sought his release throughout his prison term, finally securing it after 30 years. President Obama could have stopped his release but failed to act. Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1998 (while he was still in prison) so that he could emigrate to Israel upon his release pursuant to their famous Right of Return [5] law.

Presumably, when that happens (he’s still in the US under the terms of his parole), he will be welcomed as a hero and given a pension for life.

After Pollard was exposed, Israel made a pledge not to spy inside the United States ever again. Everything we now know shows that is a broken promise. A report by Politico [6] revealed that in 2017, US intelligence agencies discovered several cell phone interception devices near the White House. They concluded that Israel had most likely installed them to listen in on President Donald Trump’s phone calls. But unlike most other discoveries of flagrant foreign spying on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences requested by the State Department for Israel’s behavior. “I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us,” Trump said. “My relationship with Israel has been great. Anything is possible but I don’t believe it.” [sic]. Despite Trump’s insistence otherwise, documents released by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 showed that Israel was considered by American counter-intelligence agencies to be one of the US’s worst threats. It was listed as one of the five “priority targets” of counterintelligence: “China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, and Israel.”

Israeli intelligence operations in the US have recently targeted ordinary American civilians who campaign for Palestinian human rights, and against Israeli abuses of those rights. These operations stretch back to 1969. For example, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) infiltrated a convention of the Organization of Arab Students, which was campaigning for Palestine. Freedom of information releases show [7] that the FBI suspected the ADL report about the students was likely “furnished to an official of the government of Israel due to the extremely close ties between [the] ADL and Israel.”

Perhaps no other country takes as much pride in its ability to execute daring spy missions as Israel. Its agents are portrayed as heroes by the US media giant Netflix. What other intelligence agency can be credited with as many movies on our screens these days as the Mossad?

It’s hard to believe that the producers of these pro-Mossad films simply wanted to entertain Netflix’s 151 million subscribers. Given that the common theme in nearly all such spy stories is the contrast between the heroism of Israel’s agents and the zombie-like depravity of its enemies, one cannot help but feel that there is also an inherent propaganda element at work.

How do we confirm our suspicion, this gut-level feeling? One way is to be cognizant of the sheer number of films produced about the Mossad, especially compared to the paucity of films about the intelligence agencies of other countries. For example, if I operated a used car dealership and had a hundred Fords on my sales lot but only one Dodge, one might get the idea that I want my customers to buy a Ford.

One would expect a country that devotes so much of its bureaucratic machinations and money (part of the US’s $8 billion) on spying on other countries to be eager to tell of its successes — and one would be right. So, here is a partial list of the films produced about the allegedly true exploits of the most active spy agency on planet Earth:

HBO, not to be outdone by rival Netflix when it comes to vaporizing our prefrontal lobes with Jewish agitprop, will release Rise and Kill First, a limited series by Keshet [8] International (an Israeli media giant) about the secret history of Israel’s targeted assassinations. In case you were wondering, the title, Rise and Kill First, is from the Rabbinical holy book, the Talmud. Nice.

Another way of confirming our feeling that we are being manipulated is to pull the curtain back and see if there is an Oz-Wizard pulling the levers that control our perception of reality. In other words, is Israel guiding the mass media in such a way as to influence our thinking?

Let’s look at just one way, the newest way, this could be accomplished. In the last few years, Israel has become alarmed about the growth of the campaign organized and coordinated by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee. The campaign promotes various forms of boycotts until Israel meets its obligations under international law, including withdrawal from occupied regions, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens living in Israel, and allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

One might think that with almost a hundred agencies [9] and programs [10] devoted to promoting Zionism, Israel’s propaganda machine would be bloated with cash and apparatchiks, too large to think about so-called “rights” for Palestinians. But Israel’s apparent horror at one the BDS campaign has launched them into overdrive.

Their latest bit of wizardry is a phone app [11] named Act.IL that was initially created and financed by Israel to combat BDS. But Israel has learned that the app, in the hands of a generation whose primary mode of conversation is texting and who are eager to strengthen their SJW cred, has created a Jewish troll army. Thus, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu learns of a film [12] that is critical of Israel, his troopers swoop in and tear through the internet, letting their fellow SJWs, soy boys, Mary Sues, and clueless pasty-face couch potatoes know that this film is a piece of anti-Semitic trash.

And if Netanyahu gives a film the star of approval, like he did with Netflix’s The Spy, tens of thousands of Act.IL warriors unleash a torrent of fawning admiration. The app has users in 73 countries and claims to have a 70 percent success rate in removing any content critical of Israel. This is especially troubling when we learn of examples such as a posting on a pro-BDS Facebook page that compared supporters of Israel to insects was removed when thousands of app users overwhelmed Facebook with protests. And the cool thing about Act.IL is that the app users receive prizes each time they use it. Free stuff!

The current population of Israel is about 9 million people. And by my count, there are at least 38 films based on “true” events of the Mossad’s spying heroics. What about other countries of similar populations? The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland combined have slightly less than 7 million people. How many movies do you think have been made about real-life Irish spies? There are none.

Let’s consider a much larger country in the Middle East. For example, Iran, which has a population of about 81 million. Surely that country, amid constant turmoil and the privations of the embargo by the US, would have a very active intelligence department dispatching spies into Israel and elsewhere. How many films are there on Netflix depicting the bravery of their spies? None.

Surely there is at least one man or woman spy of Iranian or Irish extraction worthy of a film. If not a six-part serial, what about a 30-minute cartoon?

Many Democratic and Republican politicians have expressed seemingly endless concern about Russia’s attempt to influence the US election process despite hardly any evidence in support of this assertion. But an Israeli organization, The Israel Project, known as TIP, closed its Jerusalem office last month after reports of a “funding crisis.” TIP’s covert activities, another form of spying, to influence US politics and media on behalf of Israel were exposed in 2018 in a documentary called The Lobby – USA, an undercover Al Jazeera film leaked by The Electronic Intifada in November [13]. Humorously referring to itself as “Israel’s Commando Force,” the group’s spokesman was caught on camera denigrating its high-dollar Jewish donors as “nudniks” — not so funny.

What is to be taken away from all this? Among other things, be aware of the omnipresent insertion of propaganda in all things Jewish. A reasonable caution to live by is to “follow the money.” That will usually lead you to the reality that lies beneath the shimmering surface.

Also, be aware that The Spy, like all films about the Mossad, is chock full of deliberate errors, misleading relationship stories, and patent falsehoods. Other reviews have documented these, and I recommend them for your reading. (Here [14] and here [15].)

Samuel Johnson remarked: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Let us concentrate our minds before we ascend the gallows.