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of the Jewish Nation
ELI COHEN: HERO OF ISRAEL
On May 18, 1965, the Government of Syria executed a man who, although a friend of the president of Syria, had none the less saved the State of Israel from being destroyed.
More than any other one man, Eli Cohen, an Egyptian born Jew, earned the Israeli Secret Service, known as the Mossad, its reputation as the best Intelligence Service in the world and paved the way for Israel to win the Six Days' War in June 1967.
Eli Cohen was deeply moved as a young man in Cairo by the trial of two members of the Stern Group Eliahu Bet-Zouri and Eliahu Hakim. Hakim and Bet-Zouri were the assassins of the Anti-Semitic British High Commissioner of the Middle East, Lord Moyne.
The young Cohen helped to organize demonstrations in support of Bet-Zouri and Hakim. The demonstrations proved fruitless. The men were sentenced to hang, on the scaffold they sang Hatikvah .
After high school Cohen was instrumental in establishing an "Underground Railroad" that smuggled Egyptian Jews to the land of Israel. In the early 1950s Cohen was recruited by the Mossad to participate in an espionage operation that spied on Nasser's Nazi scientists attempts to build rockets and engaged in sabotage.
After the Mossad's activities were discovered and most members were rounded up Cohen made Aliyah in 1956. After a brief time adjusting to life in Israel and service in the Israel Defense Forces Cohen was approached to become an information analyst for the Mossad.
The Mossad eventually accepted Cohen's request for field duty. Cohen adopted the persona of a rich Arab merchant who had emigrated to Argentina and then returned to his Syrian homeland, calling himself Kamal Amin Taabes, this Mossad agent had gained access to the most influential sectors of Damascus society. As "Kamal" Eli Cohen joined the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party.
Cohen was able to become very active in the Ba'ath Party and friendly with its leaders. After a bloodless Coup de ta the Ba'ath Party came to power. Among the men he had befriended many became officials in the new government many were high ranking military officers such as the head of intelligence, Colonel Ahmed Suweidani, and Syrian President Amin el-Hafiz.
Cohen was among the only civilians to ever inspect Syrian installations in the Golan Heights. He was able to send photographs and sketches of the entire Syrian frontlines back to the Mossad. In one case he was able to warn Israel of an impending attempt by Syria to cross the border.
When Cohen was finally discovered, quite by accident, his radio equipment was detected by KGB agents, he was being seriously considered to become either Minister of Defense of Assistant Foreign Minister.
After two lengthy trials Eli Cohen was finally sentenced to to death by hanging. Cohen was 41 years old, and left a widow, three daughters and a son. In his final letter to his wife to his wife he wrote "I beg of you not to waste time crying for me. Always think of the future."
Through his nearly four years as a spy in Syria Eli Cohen succeeded in sending a steady flow of extremely valuable back to Israel.
Cohen left advice for future leaders of Israel. Advice that the late Menachem Begin istened to in 1981 when he was Prime Minister and ordered the Israeli air force to bomb the Iraqi nuclear plant in Baghdad. Eli Cohen said "Against the Arab you mustn't defend yourself. You must attack...."
For further information about the Mossad and Eli Cohen the following book is recommended:
The Mossad by Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, and Eli Landau There are two biographies about Eli Cohen available: