10 False Flags that Changed the World: #4
In July, 1954, an Israeli terrorist cell was activated inside Egypt. The ensuing attacks, cleverly designed to look like the work of Arabs, blasted and torched American and British targets.
First, the Israeli terrorists firebombed the Alexandria Post Office. Then, they firebombed the U.S. Information Agency libraries — one in Alexandria, and one in Cairo. Then, they firebombed a British-owned Metro-Goldwyn Mayer theater, and a railway terminal, and the central post office, and a couple more theaters…
To smuggle their bombs inside the buildings, the terrorists used devices shaped like books, hiding them inside book covers. Once inside, bags filled with acid were placed on top of the nitroglycerin bombs. After several hours, the acid ate through the bags and ignited the nitroglycerin, causing explosions and blazing infernos.
What Made Israel Stoop to Terrorism?
In the early 1950s, the United States was making fast friends with Egypt, taking advantage of the new pan-Arab Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser. The warming relationship between the US and Egypt caused a very insecure Israel to feel a bit threatened.
Nassar also had plans to nationalize the Suez Canal, which had been controlled by the British for decades. Egypt had been known to blockade Israeli shipping through the canal, and Israel feared Nassar would make a blockade permanent.
After U.S. President Eisenhower began encouraging the British to leave the Suez Canal Zone, Israel started looking for a way to make the British stay, and a way to remain best buddies with America.
And what better way to treat your best friend than to stab them in the back and tell them one of your other friends did it?
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, thought that Egyptian terrorist attacks against Americans would be a perfect way to cool the growing US/Egypt relationship. And, since there were no Egyptians planning attacks against Americans, Ben Gurion’s proteges did the next best thing: they recruited Israeli agents to PRETEND to be Egyptian terrorists.
The top-secret Israeli terrorist cell, Unit 131, had existed since 1948. In 1950, Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, Aman, was created, and Israel sent an undercover agent, Colonel Avraham Dar (alias: John Darling, British citizen of the island of Gibraltar), to recruit more members to Unit 131. He also trained them how to build bombs and terrify Americans and British civilians working and living in Egypt.
Before the terrorist cell was activated, another Israeli agent named Avraham — Avraham Seidenberg — was sent to take control from Avraham Dar.
Seidenberg first went to Germany to establish an alias: he assumed the identy of Paul Frank, a former SS officer, complete with underground Nazi connections. By 1954 his new identity was in place and he went to Egypt to take command of Unit 131.
Unit 131 decided to call their terrorist plan Operation Suzannah. The name came from Susan Kauffman, the fiancee of Victor Levy, one of the Israeli terrorists. The name also referred to the unit’s call to action: the unit would activate when it heard an Israel radio broadcast of the American song, Oh! Susannah.
In the summer of 1954, Colonel Binyamin Gibli, the chief of Aman, arranged for the tune to be broadcast…
Israeli Terrorist Ring Busted
Everything was going well for the Israeli terrorists it seemed. But, there was one thing the members of Unit 131 didn’t know: their terrorist sleeper cell had itself been infiltrated by the Egyptian intelligence service. The new Unit 131 leader, Seidenberg, had betrayed them to the Egyptians.
So, when Unit 131 member Philip Nathanson made his way to bomb the British-owned Rio theater in Alexandria, not only was he being followed; the Egyptian intelligence service had a fire engine waiting to put out the flames. As Nathanson stood in the ticket line, his bad luck turned worse when one of the bombs in his pocket ignited, and then exploded.
Nathanson was burned but not killed. As nearby pedestrians shouted warnings and wondered if he was a suicide bomber, Egyptian policemen stepped in, calmed the crowd, and identified Nathanson as one of the terrorists who had been blowing up American and British buildings.
The Wicked Web Unravels
Nathanson was interrogated by Egypt’s military intelligence and confessed the whole plot, which led to more arrests. When the Israeli spies were given a public trail, all the details of their terrorist training in Israel came to light.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion and Israel’s Aman chief, Binyamin Gibli, tried to frame their own Defense Minister, Pinhas Lavon. They even offered forged documents as proof. The frameup worked for a while — so much so that the entire incident is still popularly known as the Lavon Affair. Lavon resigned, and Ben Gurion came out of political retirement to replace him as Israel’s Defense Minister.
However, the truth did finally emerge.
In 1960, a review of the inquiry discovered the fake documents, as well as perjury by Seidenberg. A committee of seven Cabinet members cleared Lavon. And, although Ben Gurion never admitted fault, he did resign his post as Defense Minister.
What Happened to the Terrorists?
Yosef Carmon and Max Binnet both committed suicide in an Egyptian prison.
Dr. Moshe Marzouk and Shmuel Azar were both sentenced to death in a very public trial. Much of the world persuaded the Egyptian government not to hang the two terrorists, including intervention from US President Eisenhower, Indian President Nehru, and even the Pope. Egypt, referring to America’s hanging the Rosenbergs, responded: “Egypt (will) treat its spies in precisely the same manner adopted by the United States.” Marzouk and Azar were hanged in a Cairo prison.
Meir Meyuhas and Meir Za’afran, after spending seven years in jail, were both released in 1962. Sworn to silence, they returned to Israel and reconstructed their lives far from the public spotlight.
Victorine Marcelle Ninio was tortured in an Egyptian prison. With her feet severely beaten, and threatened with rape, she threw herself out of a window and almost died. After healing in a hospital and enduring the spy trial, she was sentenced to 15 years in a prison for women in Kanather — the longest sentence ever for a female political prisoner in Egypt. She was released as part of a prisoner exchange following 1967’s Six-Day War, and quietly returned to Israel, having become a source of political embarrassment. However, by 1974 much of Operation Suzannah had become public, and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir attended Ninio’s wedding.
Robert Dassa spent fourteen years in an Egyptian prison at Tura, where he ran the prison basketball team. He was also released as part of the Six-Day War prisoner exchange in February of 1968. In 1979 he returned to Egypt as a journalist to cover Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s visit to Alexandria. Thirteen years later he wrote a book about his experience.
Victor Levy and Philip Nathanson were sentenced to life in prison, where they made friends and even ran a successful duck farm with the approval of the prison administrator. The were also released in the Six-Day War prisoner exchange, and returned quietly to Israel.
Avraham Seidenberg, who had betrayed Unit 131 to Egyptian Intelligence, was the only spy who escaped. He returned to a hero’s welcome in Israel. When his perjury, and probable roll as an Egyptian double agent, was discovered, Seidenberg was sentenced to 10 years in an Israeli prison. After serving as an exemplary prisoner, he was released. He briefly sold television sets in Tel-Aviv. Then, in 1972, and still denying everything, he moved to California.