tv Ronen Bergman Rise and Kill First CSPAN February 17, 2018 9:00pm-10:01pm EST
the subtitle, gives it away, the secret history of israel's targeted assassination but i'm taken by the title of the book that says rise and killed first. you say it comes from the babylonian town heard, if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first. that dates back at least 15 centuries yet you seem to suggest it's still equally relevant today. i plan to start with what to me, is one of the central premise of your book which is the very existence of the jewish state is founded on the principle that assassination of key individuals are key to survival. you still have that sense after all of your interviews and all of your understanding that this is indeed a core reason for the existence of the jewish state today? >> first i would like to thank you for inviting me. it is a great honor. the last weeks were happy and
i was pleased with the reception the book had with the american media. it doesn't have one engine of president trump. so the main secret, the american media can like something that is not about trump and i thank you for being here everyone. the reason why we decided, we had all those names, license to kill, but we thought maybe that's too james bond and we're trying to keep away from what we see in movies. the real world is not what you son james bond.
the real world is very different. we try to do something different and the reason we use that phrase whoever comes to kill you, rise up and kill them first is because it was used again and again and again by many, many of the 1000 interviews that i met in order to write the book. they do it not as a sort of an alibi but they quoted it because this was their mindset. it's not just the mindset, it's the mindset of the people of israel. >> so they thought they needed to justify it. >> no, it's a mindset. in it sometimes hard to explain it. many countries it would be seen as in politically correct to say the least. i have lectured in germany just a week ago and it was
launched there. this is a problematic issue. i think it's encapsulated when they said this is the question that we've been dealing every day. what sort of means does democracy allow us to practice the news in order to defend its citizen while knowing that these means violate other values like privacy and collection of intelligence and gets extremely relevant. peoplthink the people in israel, because of the task of the holocaust, because of the experience of the jewish people, but not just because of what had been done, once your nemesis in each decade of the last seven years, is israel will celebrate 70 years, once your prime enemy declares that its main goal is to destroy you and bring the
second annihilation, then you rise until first. when the president of egypt said he is going to destroy every point south of beirut and the voice of thunder, gypsy and radio, you had assad declare that every jew who came to israel, basically all of them. [inaudible] they declared israel should be wiped out so once that is your main concern, and having in the back your mind what happened in the second world war, then you will spare no means and you also take very
little account international law. >> me ask you this. in a number of countries, assassination is used. it's banned in the united states, banned by executive order. in some places, in france it's used not regularly but it's used from time to time and in fact, my last book that i wrote with the head of the french cia, he told me the system they used, what he needed to do this horrific act but he didn't want to be known to sign off on it. so the head of the french cia would go to the palace and present the problem and the target and then he would stop
and he would wait for one minute and if the president said oh no, you can't do that, he wouldn't do it. he said nothing he would sibley get up and leave knowing that he had the approval. how does that work in israel? >> it has been working the same since israel was established. having the power, the israeli prime minister, sometimes they will assemble a small committee, usually almost always the ministry of defense or foreign affairs or one of the religious ministers or some authority from god, she wanted to have that as part of the decision-making process but they all understood and still understand the gravity of that to issue a death verdict in a country that does not have death penalty and
doing that without due process , there's nothing there. the only thing you had is the chief of the organization coming to the prime minister to convince him. this is usually happening in his private house, the house of the prime minister injures them. the chief of the organization, whoever he is, he is not bringing with him, he is bringing the intelligent officers. these are people, most under the age of 30. some of them under the age of 35. this is how the israeli system works.
they are trying to convince the prime minister, just imagine the drama that unfolds. also, throughout time, some of these people were there to convince the prime minister to issue an assassination of someone, some of these people cross and became the prime minister. he was the person who pulled the trigger himself. [inaudible] in 1988. you come to think of you come to wonder, what does, not in knowing, not in sending people by having the enemy had on
your hindsight and pulling the trigger, what does it do to your mindset when you become a prime minister and you need to use some other means of diplomacy. >> and some of them have in fact done that. that's very interesting because what i'm wondering about is if such actions were more tightly restricted, might it not be possible to move more directly toward political or diplomatic solutions to problems rather than simply say this is a good tactical solution, we can take it and this will solve the problem. does it remove from the political and diplomatic authorities, even military authorities the necessities of trying to find another means of solving the problem diplomatically. are you concerned about that? >> very much.
moving a bit forward in the book, arguably israeli intelligence is the best intelligence in the world. no offense to the american of the french. they wrote a book about the cia, legacy of ashes, and he describes the history of failures. my book does not describe a history of failure. on the contrary. israeli intelligence, sooner or later was able to come with solutions to most if not all the problems that the israeli presented to it. there were botched operations but at the end of the day this is a story of success. in that success also, they
came to the conclusion that at the tip of their fingers, they can take a building, computer or human being way beyond enemy line and they thought it not just enough to save people or prevent iran from getting a nuclear bomb but they thought this is a powerful tool that can be used to stop history and therefore the story in the book, unbelievable tactical success but also a disastrous political failure from those who thought it was enough to have these tools and not turn to statement ship, diplomacy and compromise. >> that's when benjamin netanyahu decided to leave the efforts.
[inaudible] he never really came to understand the value of the progress by at least the decade with iran nuclear agreement. if you did not have those other means available, if there were not those series of successes, might he have considered the nuclear deal somewhat more appealing. >> i believe he thought he would be able to play a vital role inside american politics to the extent that he would delay or prevent it from coming. let us look the same thing from the iranian point of view.
they would never agree to come to the negotiation table to make these confessions of it wasn't for the series of actions we are taking against them by the west led by the united states and israel. if the iranians would have come to the negotiation two years later, they would be in much worse shape. the fact that they come, it was too early. they started to negotiate with iran to early may 2012 and they did that because they were threatening the united states that they were going to strike. if you look at the real analysis of things and the fact of the secret, you will see that benjamin netanyahu push the u.s. one threatening to strike iran, he push them too much and obama thought it would be the only way to prevent israel from striking to start political discourse.
>> before i open this up to the group, i'd like to ask a moral question, i'd love to know how you feel whether you think effectively this is self-defense and how does this play out in the future historically. will these people be vindicated. will they arise in new generation, young people who do believe there's another way forward or will the successors of the past, in some fashion affect the actions of the future. >> on the question of effectiveness, and i know this could not be accepted and seen as right by some, the israeli experience, by far the most
country using these targeted killings, one as part of an overall policy when it's done systematically when they are not done out of some sort of emotional will to show that were doing something or revenge, is really expands has proven they can be very effective. just three examples. the campaign that israel conducted in munich in 1972, this is not what you saw the movie. we saw the movie they went to the revenge and killing the people behind the people who killed, this is not true. israel started to the people in europe and not lead him to rethink and close down the
operation for many, many years because they realize it carried it significant price tag and people were being killed. second example the wave of suicide terrorism that flooded israel since 2001 until $2004 later called. [inaudible] people are getting killed every day, the only thing is that these people was that israel started to kill senior leaders and the commanders, the makers, the drivers. once these people, not the actual perpetrators because they boasted, but when they started to kill the people that brought them in the command chain, these people started to think twice. they had no problem with telling others but once the price tag was attached, they had another thought. third example, i asked michael
hayden, former chief of the nsa, please name one tool that israel and the united states tried to use against the rain and armament advancement. equipment prevention, political pressure, name one that was the most significant and he did not hesitate and he said the one thing that delayed the rain and from having a bomb is the fact that someone, i don't know who, it's a legal according to american law that someone started to kill the scientists and i smiled. he said downspout they've never told us anything about it. i don't know but he recalled the incident, the first national security council meeting with president obama when the president asked the chief of the cia, general
hayden, do you know how much in which you name uranium there are two which he answered, actually i do know the answer to this question but let me tell you, there is no one that would end up in nuclear bomb. what the. [inaudible] to the second question, the fact that israel and the united states has employed targeted killing, that euphemism that they have used to enable the agency to use the predator in order to kill people, that has made cia
using targeted killing, the fact that in the united states and numerous times they had also led to dramatic change in international law. to consider today when you kill a terrorist in his bed at night, not just in the battlefield wearing his uniform and allowing himself to be part of that act. this is the main issue when coming to examine targeted killing on the reality and morality. in time, i hope people here in the united states and in my country and israel would be
courageous enough to look at themselves in the mirror and ask, did we do enough to prevent collateral damage. i'm not sure the answer to that question would be positive. >> on that cheerful note, let's open it up for questions. i ask if you can to identify yourself but i believe we have microphones that will come to you so please try to make it a question rather than a declaration. this is being taped for broadcast. everything is on the record. >> please share with us why you think so many former
israeli officials cooperate so much with you in preparation for your book. >> the short answer and not entirely false, this is part of it, but i think look, when meeting all these people, i warned myself that intelligence officers as well as politicians, by far this information, they might be trying to use me too betray history and the way they think is right. i was trying to bypass or put aside these attempts by interviewing 70 people. i have transcripts, 400 pages
of recordings. so, the reason why, each one has its own reason, but at the end of the day, this goes back to rise up and kill first, that phrase that was used in many of these interviews. one of the people of israel, the people of the world, after being so many years in the shadow, to know what they did to defend israel, these people did what they thought needs to be done, to be the guard of the world and keep. >> again, i don't think they confessed or justified because from their point of view that have nothing to justify. i don't want to say boast but they wanted people of israel
to know what they have done. >> i remember one interview with the guy who is now 93. his was the demolition expert for one of the military intelligence back in the 50s and he was making a lot of small bombs concealed and watches and he said, do you know what is the main characteristic a person like me needs that i said yes of course, you love explosives. pretty love explosives more than you love. [inaudible] another thing, what do you think i need more of. people like me need to know how to forgive. i said what's the relevance of what. forgive who? terrorist? >> yes. we need to know how to
forgive. he said even like osama bin laden. he said no, only job god has the authority to forgive osama bin laden. my job was to arrange the meeting. i open the office of arranging meetings. he saw that as a necessity. he sought is something that needed to be done to make sure israeli citizens are safe. >> yes or. >> thank you for the fascinating discussion. i'm curious if you can talk about any interesting stories in dealing with sensors, there must've been some issues that people wished you very badly and s so, so on.
can you talk about the issue of censorship in israeli and how you dealt with that? >> i can tell you from my own personal experience as a correspondent. we had shot some pictures of some tanks and maneuvers near the lebanese border and we were about 3 miles away. you could barely see it was a tank. in israeli military said you can send those pictures out. you can see that the numbers on the sides of the tank indicate which unit it's from. i said you can't even see it's a tank. anyway. >> sometimes these people were actually security officers tend to be very tough, very hard to deal with. the question, i think, is not whether to publish or not publish something that harms israel security, i think no one would like to do that but is not a common interest by u
us or random house or anyone else. how do you define security. in 1965, according to israeli press has to be going through censorship that the british legislate their colonies and israel absorbed when it was established in 1948. israeli journalists, the israeli press, the media, everything that's been published in the middle east. 1965, one of the famous colonies said, wrote something that the chief of staff is not very smart. censorship took it out. they banned it from being published for they said this is a military secret. if the enemy would know that
the chief of staff is not very smart then he would take action. we treat this as a joke now but they were deadly serious at that time. war crimes. would they be seen as state secrets. sometimes there's daily negotiation and argument with the censorship. they added many, many deletions and we have been struggling with them when coming to publish the book. me tell you this. at the end of day, i think rising kill first is close to complete picture of the narrative and the broader
lesson i was trying to bring. >> so let me ask you one for the question. what did you leave out of the book that sensors will not let you publish. in generic terms, if not specific. >> looks, everything that could jeopardize the modus operon die or name of sources or name of relatives of sources, there are some questions that, i stated very clearly i don't know what led to his demise in 2004. even if i knew i could only say that i don't know. this is always leaving something for the next book. [laughter] >> rebecca there.
>> thank you for the fascinating discussion. will you tell us how this has changed over the decades. you said earlier there's something deeply inbred, it's been there since 48. in particular when so many are within the boundaries, the factor was is closer to home, is there a difference in the way it's conceived or carried out in what you think the effect has been on israeli fascination over the years. hasn't risen or fallen since
30 years ago when it was a primary unit. >> i would say technology is the message. technology has brought such an advancement to the war machine of assassination that it hasn't made it by four a different caliber. what they took years to plan and execute somewhere in europe or in the arab world, the war room that was established in north tel aviv from which targeted killing operation started to be executed since 2001 could do for operations a day. the technology and the argument that could be launched from this location
through drones and channels of commanding medication. in that sense, that has changed very, very much. the use of this information and targeted killing is a conception was there from the beginning and maybe i should say why because israel, they had been, the most important jew in the last 1000 years, at least, he understood that israel would not be able to sustain and survive all out wars. they cannot have the recruits stationed for more than a week or so. the other possibility was to try to prolong the times between war and the next war or delay as much as possible.
it had strong intelligence community that would supply intelligence. intelligence on the enemy and try to have the ability. [inaudible] that was why targeted killing was so central from day one. it was central in the 70s, according to the abilities at that time and it became crucial, profoundly crucial against the suicide bombers. i would say the whole country, the whole intelligence service in the armed forces were recruited only to one specific goal. they have said jews are being killed now, everything else should be put aside and everyone should be recruited to help trace down and kill
the perpetrators. now you know, these israelis, these jews, have military intelligence under the command, it's not an easy thing. under the necessity of war it has worked. >> the phrase that you found. >> can you pick up the microphone, we can't hear you. >> can you hear me? >> that phrase that everybody gave you has two parts. the second part is easy to understand. if someone comes to kill you, kill first, but what about the first part, it must've been very different from the way it
is today. how do you know that so-and-so is coming to kill? in your thousands of interviews, did you arrive at a definition of the conditions that people behaved themselves in order to kill someone who they thought was coming to kill them. >> that is a very good question. i think in some cases, if someone is leaving the hamas military brigade and they are behind the suicide bombers and he's planning himself that he is there to kill you, it's becoming tricky, people who
are not directly involved in terrorism, many the people that asad killed after the munich massacre directly connected to the munich attack but not directly connected to terrorism. he said the only involvement they had in munich was the airplane that took the perpetrators was going over their head. that person even said some of the palestinians we killed in these years, we don't know why they killed them and they don't know why they were killed. other people say it's enough for someone to have any duty in a terrorist organization, and it doesn't matter if it's a clerk, a beer bureaucrat
military leader or politician but if he is part of an organization where he is aimed to kill israelis, that is enough to make that person a legitimate target. not everyone has their own legal and moral judgment of that. >> i have original book so maybe you answer some of this in the book but i will ask, i have been to run a couple of times. i've talked to a lot of
iranian officials and people involved in u.s. iran talks and so forth, and i think they would challenge what you said about israel's effect on the negotiations. in fact, i think it was the opposite and i guess i want to ask you what evidence you have that the killing of iranian scientists, who, by the way were not coming to kill you, they weren't rising up to kill you, they were just low-level scientists, or the threat to go to war against iran, people i've talked to in the united states and iran said that was counterproductive, that helped the heartland in iran, the people who might want to keep the nuclear program who might argue we need a nuclear bomb because we will be attacked and so forth. the obama people were horrified by this. dave felt it to be an obstruction because it made a harder for the moderates in
iran to agree to the deal. i just wanted to know what happened to the contrary argument. >> it's really screwed up the recruiting efforts of the iranians to find scientist to come. >> i did read there is a moral issue with killing scientists who were employed by a sovereign government and didn't kill anyone. there is a moral issue here that can be addressed, but generally, he is not an israeli and he had a long list of evidence why not just killing the scientist but many, many of the steps that were taken by israel and united states, the malware, the political pressure, the prevention, why all of that together was very, very
successful. the proof is, by the way, that iran, for 15 years, 12 years, did not agree, 30 years, did not agree to have that kind of agreement, and agreed only after their economy was on the brink of collapse. more than that, there is no dispute, and of course i am sure that the iranians, the iranian officials were people influenced by these officials would say this was counterproductive. this is what you expect them to say, but there's no dispute between all intelligence agencies that i have met including the russian and the chinese on the basic fact that iran, since 1998 at least if not earlier than was trying to
build an atomic bomb. were they planning to drop the bomb in israel? i don't think so. they wanted to have it to be regional power but there was no dispute they were trying to do that, concealing the military part of the project which was led by one of the scientists who is not a low-level official. he is one of the high ranks of the reigning government and they were lying to the iaea and the world, they were eating the world with false information about what they were trying and they were very close to making a breakthrough toward a bomb. now can israel, and again, i don't think they were just about to pull the trigger if they had the red button but can israel allow itself to let a country that publicly calls for its destruction to have
the means to deliver such annihilation. in that sense, and maybe the only case, i agree with the prime minister. >> i'm a graduate student. you were talking about the success of the targeted killing but those success stories are technical. in the grand scheme of things we still have the nuclear threat still on the doorstep, we still have terrorism in israel, is that in the conversation when they talk about targeted killings that maybe it's time to take a further step or maybe they're not as successful in the long term as we think they are. >> it depends who's discourse you are inquiring about.
surprisingly at the heart of the discourse of defense officials, you will find these people by far more liberal, open-minded and to the left of the clinical scale according to the israeli. the definition of who's left and right is only on his views on liberalism and the two state solution and how to reconcile with the earth. in fact, the intelligence service has been looking after israeli democracy more than its leaders. i think that something very unhealthy in a country where the grown-up are the intelligence and the leaders of the army. usually be politicians have to
restraint the military leaders. they are trying to restrain the government. >> i don't want to spoil the book, but if you read the book, you will see that some of the main characters, for years believed that force can solve everything. in advanced stages of their life, close to their death, unfortunately, they came to the conclusion that only reconciliation and clinical discourse can be that stage of using force after rising killed first. that is good to solve the immediate threat, but it needs to be addressed by political discourse. >> of the one step further and ask if you think there's a
common thread to all of these extra details you tell, is our common thread that suggests when an operation might fail and when it might succeed? >> you are asking from an intelligence or operational point of view. >> there are various points of success. >> there are many, many cases where the operation was successful but it led to catastrophic results. the attempt to kill leaders, most of them have changed history, but it did not take the same course as they thought. in february 1992 the first assassination when they killed the secretary-general of hezbollah, they thought he was the leader of a terrorist organization, they had an
opportunity of to kill him. they killed him only to get, instead of him, getting someone who's more talented, capable, radical who changed the priority of hezbollah and instead of focusing on politics they focused on israel and 40 days afterward they have the bombing of the embassy which rewrites the rules of the game between israel and hezbollah. they said we will take out a jewish target and you cannot defend all jewish targets worldwide all the time. we'll take it out in a remote place of the world and so israel, for many years because of taking the and the city they reframed, refrained from killing hezbollah leaders for many, many years. the general rule about success on the north is very careful
planning and collection of intelligence and paying tribute even to forces that you think are very weak. you remember the incident into by in 2010. 27 operatives came into dubai to kill hamas operatives. they killed him twice because a few months earlier they were following him to do by, they poisoned food around him but they were not there to see him die. he took that food and apparently, poison is not an exact science. he got ill, he hospitalized himself in the military hospital in damascus, he was diagnosed with mono and recovered. didn't know how close he was to death. next time the assassins wanted to make sure so they
suffocated him and they used a special material injected into his bloo blood, they stripped him and put him in pajamas and put him into bed and they thought everything was wonderful. didn't know just a few weeks "after words" the whole world would be watching. they neglected the fact that dubai has thousands of cameras and everybody could watch and the police reveal what they were doing. >> okay. in the back, the very back. >> i'm a second year law student here. my question is, you referenced munich earlier in between munich and the popular show,
i'm curious about your thoughts on the representation in popular culture of israel's assassination machine and whether that popularity, i guess that's the word for it, is portrayed, does it do more good or bad or is neutral with regard to how the perception shows what the israelis are trying to do. >> i think it does raise many of the moral questions that you raise in your book which is quite extraordinary. the unit upon which the story is based is called cherry and it features the real stories of the chapters of the book, how they disguised themselves as arabs and they kidnapped one of the most wanted arab terrorists and when his family
called the day after to the abc office injures on to say where's our son they said we don't know, we weren't there. that caused clinical problems for the state of israel. look, i think that much of what we see in the movies is fictionalized and very, very different because what james bond does by himself is divided into many, many expertise done by many, many dozens or hundreds of people in reality. in time, i think the movies in
booktv series get more events to incorporate much of the dilemmas that the operatives are taking into account and of course it's very much fictionalized but i think we are slightly more reflective and having a better idea of what it's all about. >> thanks for giving this talk. you mentioned you had spoken to several people who are proud of the work they've done for the country and their involvement in these assassination. if one of those men or women started the car and was blown to smithereens by a bomb
planted by an iranian intelligence officer, what you think the reaction would be, all is fair in love and war? >> you are asking what would happen if another intelligent agency would react and try to start assassinating israeli officials for revenge for what they have done, it happens. in the 70s. they reacted fiercely to the fact that israel was trying to kill its operatives. they had redoubled some of the double agents that they were operating critics exposed some of the double agents and convince them to turn again and kill the case officer and so he was under attack as well. israel was by far more
advanced, more organized and more strict so the attempts to revenge were not very successful and were addressed with severe force. the radiance have tried to revenge both the assassination of the nuclear scientists and more, israel intelligence has accounted for 27 attempts. [inaudible] he is no longer here to avenge his death. he was genius and very
capable. what made the last 15 years more successful than previous times is that it's not just israeli ability to execute but also prepare, israel was prepared. [inaudible] >> on that now i would urge all of you to buy the book. i hope this will help raise his ranking to number one or at least two or three. >> in closing, couple things. we don't do a lot at the
pag page. >> often in our lives the illusion is far more dangerous than ignorant. the way trust fears would put this, this is a gentleman who will say that trust has two enemies not one. the first is that character and the second is poor information. to the question i started to asked myself in my research, would technology address these problems? is technology making us smarter about who we trust or is it encouraging us to place trust in the wrong people in the wrong places? are our trust away to the wrong things and is technology playing a role in that? let's do a very quick exercise. you can kind of see where this is going. i'm going to give you a boo
and it will sound nice and loud and you can use of the person you think is the least trustworthy. when i say the name you say boo. if you think harvey weinstein is the least trust worthy person, say boo now. if you think president trump is the least trustworthy person say it now. now i don't know if you know who this is, this is sophia the robot and she is the first robot that has citizenship. she has been made a citizen of saudi arabia. if you think sophia is the least trustworthy person, cebu now. okay so the robot is more trustworthy than the president of the united states. now you can clap. i would like you to clap for the companies you think are
the most trustworthy. if you think google is the most trustworthy company on this slide, clap now. facebook. who thanks facebook is the most trustworthy company. no one. amazon? so i think amazon and google, maybe amazon was slightly ahead, it's actually a rubbish exercise. i me too do it because i thought one of you might say to me trust them to do what. this is a really important point and it's something that i find very hard when i open up the newspaper or i listen to the media. the way we talk about trusted in these very general terms. it's actually very dangerous. we can trust that president trump will tweet something ridiculous at 3:00 a.m., but we don't trust him to negotiate with north korea.
we can trust that harvey weinstein can make great movies but we don't trust his behavior around women. and amazon is really interesting. when people say they trust amazon, they say they have confidence that when they make an order online that the product will show up. they don't necessarily trust them to pay taxes or treat their employees well. this is the first thing i would like you to think about, when we talk about trust, keep in mind that in our own lives and when we talk about institutions and leaders and individuals, trust is highly contextual. you can trust me too write an article or teach students perdu not get the car with me because i am a terrible driver. you can watch this and other programs online @booktv.org. cspan where history unfolds daily. in 1979, cspan was created as
a public service by america's cable or television companies, and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington d.c. and around the country. cspan is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. : : : this go i'm thrilled to have an opportunity to talk to you about your book. the book's title is