October 2, 2009
Intelligence expert reassures
A former Mossadnik speaks about the psychology of war.
Excited by the prospect of meeting a former Israeli spy, more than 200 people gathered at Congregation Beth Israel on the evening of Sept. 12 to hear a presentation by Efraim Halevy, Israeli intelligence expert and former director of Mossad.
Halevy was the keynote speaker at the opening night of the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University's (CFHU) Stretch Your Mind program. Even though the former spy wasn't there to divulge any details of covert operations, for the 200-plus people that gathered, the pedigree and experience of Halevy easily made up for any possible disappointment.
Halevy, who has worked with Mossad (the National Intelligence Agency of Israel) for more than 40 years, beginning in 1961, is best known for his service as the secret envoy of five Israeli prime ministers: Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. Halevy also served as Israel's ambassador to the European Union. Perhaps most significantly, Halevy played a pivotal and much-respected role in bringing about the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of 1994. He has also received countless accolades and awards from international leaders, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the former king of Jordan.
Halevy spent much of his talk on the history of missile warfare – from the Second World War's Blitz of London, to the Iran-Iraq War, Operation Desert Storm and the recent war in Lebanon – and he pointed out that it is not only military technology that gives an enemy an advantage in war.
"In warfare," Halevy explained, "what is far more important is the psychological edge, especially for a country such as Israel.... In missile warfare, the enemy, be it Nazi Germany, Iraq or more recently Hezbollah, has the edge as there are no defences to stop the missiles from landing and destroying life and property."
Halevy described the effect of the rain of missiles on Tel Aviv during Operation Desert Storm as a prime example of the psychological aspect of warfare. "During Operation Desert Storm, Tel Aviv became a virtual ghost city as residents left in droves to seek safety far away from the path of Iraqi missiles. For once, parking wasn't a problem," he added with a sardonic grin. "While only 39 missiles landed in Israel during Operation Desert Storm, and no one was killed by them, though one person did die from a heart attack, the psychological effect was huge, giving the Iraqi military the edge."
Halevy responded emphatically to a question from an audience member who expressed concern over the potential nuclear threat from countries like Iran. "Yes, while the nuclear threat remains a serious concern, Israel is indestructible." For those who needed further assurance, Halevy reiterated that, in his view, "Nothing can defeat Israel."
In conclusion, Halevy obtusely added that, "Israel has very well-placed and strategic friends amongst the nations of the world," and that "the means at Israel's disposal, which include a variety of measures, make me reasonably confident that Israel can deal with any possible threat."
Event chairperson Deborah Roitberg enthusiastically shared that enrolment for the Stretch Your Mind series was up by more than 30 percent this year and that the range of lecturers and content matter was more far-reaching than in years past. "This year, we made a conscious effort to broaden our reach by offering informative and interesting talks on content ranging from fertility, to history, to bee-keeping and more." Roitberg added, "We wanted to offer interesting content matter to a broad spectrum." This strategy certainly paid off, as attendance for the weekend's lectures was robust. CFHU's Stretch Your Mind lecture series is held every two years in Vancouver.
Nicole Nozick is a Vancouver freelance writer.