“Everyone knows the name David Ben-Gurion. Why don’t we know about the spy Jamil Cohen?”

Israel’s Secret Founding Fathers
by Matti Friedman
March 1, 2019

…Understanding that the Jews in Palestine would shortly face a war for survival against the combined might of the Arab world, a few officers in the Jewish military underground were running an ad hoc intelligence unit called the “Arab Section.” Its members were tasked with collecting information in Arab areas: How big was the local militia? What were the imams saying in the mosques? They needed people who could pass. The people who could do this did not want to be called “spies” or “agents,” names which were seen as dishonorable. Another term was needed to describe their service, and one was found in the long history of the Jews of the Arab world. READ MORE

TIMES OF ISRAEL How Israel welcomed Jews from Arab lands — as spies A new book tells the story of Palmach’s Arab Section, and its young Mizrahi Jewish agents who gained society’s respect through their ability to cross borders undetected.Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel,” which tells the captivating tale of Israel’s first spies, young Jewish men originally from Arab countries who could slip across borders undetected. They were part of the “Arab Section” of the Palmach, Israel’s prestate force that would turn into the Israel Defense Forces.

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