Read several books on Mossad, the omnipotent Israeli intelligence service. But this one, ‘Rise and Kill First’ by journalist Ronen Bergman is markedly different. It doesn’t romanticise, nor does it portray the agency as superhuman and invincible. It instead presents a very realistic, almost day-to-day account of Mossad and its sister agencies in Israel. It showcases the ups and downs, successes and failures, dilemmas and disputes that the agencies that serve a nation perpetually at war for mere survival face and endure.
The Talmudic injunction, ‘If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first’, became the mantra for the Jewish state and its agencies since sixties. Surrounded by enemies five times larger in geography and demography as well, Israel had to develop ways that became a subject of massive controversy not only outside but within that country as well.
Bergman’s book very succinctly captures all those issues – targeted killings, suicide attacks, political fights and Liberal outrage – that have become an integral part of the life of this Jewish nation.
Unlike its neighbours and enemies, Israel is a democracy, which brings a lot of responsibility and challenge too. In this book, Bergman cites numerous instances where a lot of debate took place over the methods, their legality and the commitment to democracy and human rights. Yitzak Rabin, former Prime Minister of Israel had once said: Israel should pursue peace as if there is no terror; and fight terror as if there is no peace. It captures the challenge of the razor-edge walk Israel had to pursue.
Bergman’s book presents Mossad and other intel arms of Israel in true light. It showcases innumerable successes but also equally numerous failures and disasters. It talks about the lessons learnt and price paid.
A must-read for all those who wish to know how a nation can survive in the face of severest odds, and also how a nation has to achieve a fine balance between its hard line urges and democratic values.
In the end the book demystifies Mossad and enhances one’s respect for the Israeli nation and government.