Rise and kill first: the secret history of Israel’s targeted assassinations

Reviewed by Mohammed Ayoob, The National Interest, under the title “Do Israel’s targeted killings work?”, April 24 2018. ( Penguin Random House, 30 June 2018, 784 pps.)  

“Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman’s Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations is a remarkable work of nonfiction. Written like a fast-paced thriller, it provides a detailed history and analysis of almost all of Israel’s major (successful and unsuccessful) attempts to assassinate its presumed enemies. These include the killing of Abu Jihad, the PLO’s de facto military chief; the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’s chief ideologue and spiritual mentor; the murder of Imad Mughnieh, the brain behind Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli targets; and many other lesser-known figures.”

“It also includes accounts of the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, which Israeli intelligence agencies undertook in order to derail Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Bergman even hints at Israel’s complicity in Yasser Arafat’s death, although he refuses to endorse or refute this conclusion. The only major adversary that Israel has not been able to kill despite its best efforts is Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah. Incidentally, the only major botched operation, according to Bergman, was Israel’s failure to kill Khaled Meshal, another leading light of Hezbollah.”

“By the end of the book, one begins to wonder how and why the Israeli censors, who have often been at loggerheads with Bergman, allowed the publication of this tell-all book, since it portrays Israel in a negative light as a leading perpetrator of state terrorism. In fact, Bergman admits Israel’s culpability at the very beginning of the book when he writes, “Since World War II, Israel has assassinated more people than any other country in the Western world. As one reads the book, one is left to wonder whether the book was published primarily to communicate to Israel’s adversaries that no one who crosses Israel’s path, now or in the future, is safe. In Bergman’s words, “The goal of deterrence is as important as the goal of preempting specific hostile acts.” In short, Bashar al-Assad beware!” (read more)



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