Book Review: Rise and Kill First

The Book ‘Rise & Kill First’ is written by Ronen Bergman, who is the world’s foremost authority on Israeli Intelligence.

The title of the Book come from the Talmud which says “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”

The State of Israel heeds this counsel very seriously and hence has a policy of assassination even before it was formed.

The Book covers in meticulous detail the various assassinations or operations carried out by Israel over the years and makes for fascinating reading.

Some takeaways I found interesting:

  • There are no sacred cows.Any person who is perceived as a threat to State Security can be killed. Over the years, Israel has killed an Iranian diplomat,a Syrian General,political leaders etc. The most ruthless was the killing of Iran’s nuclear scientists which delayed Iran’s nuclear program by many years
  • There are no geographic off limits. Assassinations have taken place in various countries across continents.Israel does not hesitate to use its Army/Navy Commandos for the same. In 2010, Mossad agents were caught on CCTV cameras killing a Hamas leader in Dubai
  • There are no time limits. Even if your enemy has renounced arms, he still has to pay the price for the death of innocents he caused earlier.
  • There is no limit to the ways you can kill your enemy.One of the most fascinating operation was how a terrorist leader was killed.Israeli intelligence replaced the tooth paste he was using with a poisoned one. Every time, the terrorist brushed his teeth a small portion of poison was deposited on his gums which eventually killed him
  • Innocents will die.In counter-insurgency operations, the price of killing your enemy often involved the killing of innocents including women and children. This leads to anger, hatred and even more attacks…making peace a non-possibility
  • Two types of intelligence- HumInt and SigInt. HumInt depends on humans-spys, informers etc.SigInt is communications, eavesdropping etc. Israel is a master in both of them
  • Extensive Use of Technology. I was astounded to know that Israel had invented drone technology way back in 1982 ! They were so good at it that eventually they had built war scenarios where they could destroy the Syrian Army just using drones !
  • Another interesting aspect is how Israel kills its enemies in the Occupied Territories.The skies of Gaza and West Bank are filled with thousands of drones. The moment a target is identified, he is marked with laser. Then Apache/F16s take over the laser painted target and fire missiles at the target thus annihilating it.They are so accurate that they were able to kill Sheikh Yassin, Hamas Leader when he was sitting in a wheel chair and was carried by his followers on the street !
  • Extensive collaboration with other intelligence agencies,The entire Middle East operates on the principle of ‘The Enemy of my enemy is my friend’…so you have Israel collaborating with other states like Egypt,Jordan, Saudi Arabia etc depending who’s the common enemy

I found the Book to be a great read and yet after reading the Book, I felt a bit sad.

The reason is that the very success of Israeli intelligence in killing its enemies ensures that there will be no political settlement in the region and hence no peace

I would strongly recommend this Book to those interested in Israel and Military Affairs.

One reply on “Book Review: Rise and Kill First”

wanted to share thots. i worked in a fortune 100 MNC. And it involved working closely with colleagues in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Israel, UK & USA.

The few cultural takeways for me was

-Japanese are most docile, and they are literally pushovers. In common meetings where ppl across the globe dialled in, if there was any pushback to their proposals they wouldnt even try to defend themselves, they would just accept it and move on. This likely emantes from pearl harbor, and subsequently hiroshima & nagasaki. Their psyche & culture is like that.

-Malaysians were super organized and superb followers of procedure & rules. But analytical thinking ability was much lower.

-Indians on the other hand have great analytical thinking, but generally refuse to do things by the book. Rules dont matter, deadlines & timelines are flexible. To be honest it was much easier working with other teams sitting far away in Malaysia, then with ppl sitting on the same floor here.

-Most interesting was working with Israelis. They are super tough. We only hear of their toughness in combat, intelligence, counter terrorism etc, but that doesnt emanate from thin air. The bedrock of that atttitude comes from their culture. They dont take no easily, they will push back, and fight aggressively, and try to get their proposal thru, even if there is a no from the top. So if an idea/project was shot down 3-4 levels above me, i will simply try and convince my boss once, if there was no buyin from him we would just give up there. The israelis would work the entire chain up and down, to the extent of doing a meeting straight with the top boss, trying to again convince them of the same. In peer to peer negotiations – be it over project roadmaps, promotions etc, they are fierce negotiators, they have a “take no prisoners ” attitude. they will wear you down till u give in to what they want.

I’m saying all this to give a cultural/societal backdrop to this notion that Israelis are tough. Damn right they are, but this based on a larger society where ppl are tough in day to day dealings in everything and culturally this is how they are.

And look at us, culturally we’ve had ppl who say to us, if someone slaps you, show them the other cheek. Dont hurt an ant also. If some one hurts you, try to win them over via peaceful measures.

And somewhere or the other, this seeps thru, to the broader culture. Ppl are not ready to accept collateral damage. We are soft in our core, images of innocent children wounded will move us a lot. Fair enuf, but in such case we cannot expect our overall national approach to like Israelis. It can never be, till culturally we change.

With every hardliner, there are 5 peaceniks, calling out for peace, calling out to put the other cheek across, pointing to all the soldiers who die & their families who suffer, and asking is their pain worth it. We simply dont want the hard way out.

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