Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October/November 1997, Page 37

Bookburners and Their Victims

First-Hand Accounts of Pro-Israel McCarthyism: When Israel's Mossad Set Out to ”˜Break’ Me, It Found Its Helpers Here at Home

by Victor Ostrovsky

"We will get to him by other means, we will break him economically," stated the chief of the Mossad, Israel's CIA, to a Knesset committee after the failure of the government of Israel's attempt to ban publication of my first book, By Way of Deception, in the U.S. and Canada. This statement, made on camera, was purposefully leaked to an Israeli reporter and printed in the weekend addition of Ma'ariv, Israel's leading daily newspaper, with the military censor's approval. Since that day, Israel's foreign intelligence agency has waged a war of attrition against me with the enthusiastic cooperation of its cabal of North American Zionist organizations.

For years as a Canadian-born, Israel-raised former Mossad caseworker I was unwilling to accept the possibility of a wide conspiracy against me. After all, my book had finally been published. What more harm could I do to the country I had left in disgust to return to the land of my birth. Only hitting rock bottom has finally jolted me out of this state of innocence—and optimism that a change of luck is just around the corner. I'm now convinced that I am the target of a broad collusion between elements of the Israeli government and their gofers, mostly in the American Jewish community.

Following publication of my By Way of Deception I wrote a spy novel, Lion of Judah, using the spycraft I'd learned with the Mossad as background. The book described a fictional Mossad operation aimed at thwarting a secret peace process underway in the Middle East. (The book was written and published before the real-life, year-long secret negotiations that led to the Oslo accord came to light.)

In the book I revealed considerably more about Mossad techniques than I had in By Way of Deception. But, despite the wide publicity garnered by my first book due to the Israeli government's unsuccessful effort to suppress it, my second book was ignored.

Radio and television interviews that were scheduled by my publisher were canceled almost as soon as they were booked. A speaker's bureau in Toronto, which seldom had trouble arranging speaking engagements with student and other groups eager to have me as a speaker, found that the engagements were cancelled before I could appear. In fact, the cancellations occurred each time a local B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chapter got wind of them, and they always did.

But, of course, the less I spoke, the more time I had to write. In 1995, when my third book,The Other Side of Deception, another work of non-fiction, was published, the efforts against me were stepped up.

So, on Oct. 21, 1995, I was surprised to be invited by Canadian Television (CTV) producer Ron Fine to do a guest appearance on "Canada AM," the widely viewed Canadian version of "Good Morning America." Scheduled to appear on the same program, via satellite from Israel, was Israeli journalist Yosef Lapid, the former head of Israeli television.

An Appeal to Murder

Lapid had earned his 14 minutes of North American media fame by appealing openly on the Israeli television show "Popolitica" for the Mossad to seek me out in Canada and kill me for writing my books. He had followed this with an article making the same appeal in the Tel Aviv daily Ma'ariv headlined "By Virtue of Murder" (see accompanying translation).

On cue, Lapid repeated, as I listened, his call for my assassination on the Canadian television show, but this time with a twist. He said that, since Israel's Mossad could not kill me in Canada without causing a diplomatic incident, "I hope that there would be a decent Jew in Canada who would do the job for us."

My reaction was horror mixed with relief. Now it was going to be hard for media gatekeepers to pretend that there were not "ugly Israelis" every bit as vicious and fanatical as the Iranian ayatollah who had called for the assassination in Britain by a British Muslim of author Salman Rushdie.

Along with the producers of the show, a large percentage of the Canadian public had just seen for themselves a former Israeli government official calling upon Canadian Jews to murder me on Canadian soil for the books I had written. But, to my astonishment, there seemed no inclination by the Canadian media to follow up the story when it was an Israeli rather than an Iranian inciting the murder of a published author. I had never felt more alone and isolated in my life.

My spirits brightened when a reporter from USA Today viewed the tape of the "Canada AM" show and was outraged. "I'm going to write a story about this," he declared, and proceeded to interview me for over an hour. Then, while I was still in his office, his editor told him by telephone to kill the article. "It's not a story," the editor said. The silence surrounding me intensified.

It was a year later that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing zealot who got his legitimization for murder from an extremist rabbi and his marching orders from the likes of Lapid. If by Lapid's rules I should be killed according to his category "D" (see accompanying article), in the eyes of Yigal Amir, Rabin's assassin, so should Rabin. I have no doubt in my mind that all those like Lapid who make their own rules as to who may live and who must die are partners in Rabin's murder.

A radio host named Tim Kern from a station in Denver, Colorado, called me up for an interview. Several days later he sent a file on me he had received from the "Mountain state regional office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith." The ADL communication suggested that the station drop the interview, claiming that I am an unreliable subject. This sequence was repeated over and over at radio and television stations in the United States and Canada. Ironically, supposedly separate Jewish organizations around the United States kept coming up with the same wording in their efforts to shut me up.

The same people who presumably would praise someone from the CIA or the U.S. armed forces who exposed serious wrongdoing in those institutions were now hard at work to smother my criticisms of an intelligence agency for a foreign country that, to put it as charitably as possible, does not have America's best interests at heart. The Americans who call me a traitor to Israel for exposing the Mossad's efforts to kill the peace process hail as a hero Jonathan Pollard, a traitor to the U.S. who spied on the American government for Israel.

In an attempt to break the vicious cycle, I decided to sue in a Canadian court Yosef Lapid for inciting my murder and "Canada AM" for airing his incitement to the public. I assumed that bringing the issue to public attention would expose the attempts of organizations in both the U.S. and Canada that in fact are agents of Israel to suppress the truth through intimidation and, if necessary, economic or physical terrorism.

After accepting a hefty retainer and completing the preparations for trial, my lawyer, Paul B. Kane of Perley-Robertson, Panet, Hill and McDougall in Ottawa, Canada, informed me that he could not continue with the case. His explanation was that the safety of his staff would clearly be jeopardized if he proceeded.

Then HarperCollins, my publisher, informed me it was keeping the last portion of my advance, some $46,000, against advertising. I pointed out that since this was something I had never agreed to, they had no right to do it. "Sue us," was their response.

At the same time, my daughter, a television producer, was denied a job she had been offered in a Vancouver television station after its Toronto head office learned of her relationship to me.

Then my Canadian publisher, Stoddart, informed me it had decided not to publish my newest spy novel, Dominion of Treason, and also that it was holding back all monies coming to me from By Way of Deception and Lion of Judah.

Meanwhile I had suggested to my agent in Toronto a new (fifth) book on the American militia movement. I proposed to interview supporters of the movement to ascertain their motivations, and then define the movement in terms of its members rather than simply labeling them as the enemy and shutting the door on them. I believe the growth of misunderstanding and mistrust within a nation, and particularly between regions as is the case between America's Eastern seaboard on the one hand and its Midwest and Far West on the other, is courting disaster.

My agent was enthusiastic about the proposed project. We called it We the People. For several months he told me how this proposed book was being received in literary circles of New York. Then he dropped out of sight, and I have not been able to make contact with him to this day. I know he is in his office and doing business, but he will not return my calls.

In 1996, a new, New York-based agent struck a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. Regnery Inc., a Washington-based publisher, signed a contract with me for a tongue-in-cheek guide to espionage called The Spy Game. They had some suggestions, however, for making the book more serious on the grounds that readers don't regard spying as a laughing matter.

As I was in the final stages of the first draft, however, my house burned to the ground. The fire marshal's report declared it arson. No one was hurt, since we had moved out several weeks earlier and I was using only one room in the house for writing. Luckily, aside from the house itself, very little was lost—only my computer and several boxes of documents.

As I was sifting through the ashes of what used to be my bedroom, however, I realized things were starting to get out of hand. By then, under the Likud government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, both the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and the Israeli ambassador to Canada were former Mossad officers. I couldn't identify the perpetrators of the fire, or blame it on one group or another, but it was clear to me that those who had vowed to break me "economically" were becoming more confrontational and taking greater risks.

After several days of soul-searching I realized I could no longer allow my wife, who had stood by me through thick and thin, to remain in the line of fire. This was my battle, my choice. Knowing full well she would not abandon me, as almost everyone else had, I told her I needed to be alone, to sort out things for myself.

Our separation lasted several weeks. But we both realized we couldn't remain apart.

So I wasted no more time and re-wrote The Spy Game, having kept my notes on Regnery's suggested revisions with me. The work on the book was moving along well, and most of the editing had already been completed. The publisher, through his project editor, asked that I add a chapter on espionage and the Internet and also bring in some biographical material on myself. I complied and he expressed his satisfaction in a letter to me.

On July 9 of this year the Regnery publicity department faxed me a copy of their catalog page depicting my book, slated to be released in October. One day later, on July 10, 1997, I received a letter from Regnery informing me that the company had decided not to publish my book. I felt as though I had been hit by a freight train.

It suddenly occurred to me, for the first time, that the forces of racism, bigotry and apartheid may win, even here in North America. In calling out, finally, for help, I suddenly fear that I may only be shouting into the wind.

To all who believe that "it can't happen here," I say beware.

It is immensely satisfying to take a stand and speak out against coercion and tyranny. But eventually there may be a price to pay.

And when that day comes, and the bill is handed out, you may find that although your friends cherish you, they may choose to do it from a distance. I wonder now if the thousands who have called and written still think of me as a prophet and a hero, or only as a fool?


Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad caseworker in Israel, is author of By Way of Deception andThe Other Side of Deception about his personal observations within Israel's external security service. Both books are listed in the AET Book Club Catalog.