For those like me who didn’t know, Mossad is Israel’s counterpart of the usual three letter secretive organisations from other countries. This book is a compilation of the various high stakes missions that this organisation has undertaken since the formation of Israel as a country in the forties.
Now, given the thrilling responsibility of any secretive organisation this book has a trove of gritty stories to built on top of. However it refuses to present this content in anything but the form of a dry official report. Often, it feels like reading a collection of newspaper snippets that are reporting these events. Incidentally, a lot of the referenced sources are newspaper articles, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.
What does make the book readable is the transparent insight into the meticulous, calculating nature of the way Mossad works. Some chapters go into detail about the actual nitty-gritties of the on-field execution of a given operation. Other chapters are all about the diplomatic nightmare that these covert missions often are. These diplomatic consequences are often glossed over or even fully ignored in the spy movies that we’re used to watching. But since these chapters are interspersed with each other, the book still struggles with a haphazard sense of narrative.
The parts that I did enjoy were the detailed narratives of how the Mossad planted various agents in other government administrations, the careful planning, rehearsals and the frank acknowledgement of their failure in some cases. This is also why I wouldn’t classify the book as pure propaganda. It does provide some criticism and sometimes sometimes even balanced perspectives on some of the failures of the organization.
I have had almost zero exposure to Israel as a country before this book. To help yourself understand why Israel was formed, you should do some of your own reading, focused on the conflict in and around Israel. As you read the book, it also helps to a good sense of the Middle-East geography. This will help you get some spatial bearing when the book repeatedly mentions places like Tel-Aviv, Damascus, Cairo, Gaza Strip, Beirut, Jerusalem etc.
The book often alludes to the idea is that Israel is a “Western” country as apposed to all the other surrounding ones. At its best, I feel this is misplaced pandering to the “Western” audience. The idea of having a country centered around a single religion does not sound exactly “Western” to me. Also interesting to note are the repeated efforts of the country to go out of its way to help bring back people of the Jewish ethnicity from across the world to Israel.
If you like spy stories narrated in the form of a Wikipedia article and don’t care which three letter organisation is responsible for carrying them out, this book is for you. If you’ve never learnt or heard anything about Israel, this book is an exciting introduction.