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Author Sami Michael: Mossad Tried to Recruit Me in 1950s

Once Israeli intelligence realized Michael was not going to take up their offer, they turned to his brother-in-law, Eli Cohen, and persuaded him to spy on Syria.

The author Sami Michael, who is president of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, says that during the 1950s, the Mossad tried to recruit him in order to send him on espionage missions in Arab countries.

Michael says that he considered the offer seriously, but ultimately turned it down. Once they realized in Israeli intelligence that Michael was not going to take up their offer, they turned to his brother-in-law, Eli Cohen, and persuaded him to spy on Syria, using a false identity. Cohen was captured by Syrian security and was executed on May 18, 1965.

Sami Michael

Michael tells this story in an interview with Amir Ben-David for the television program Shabbat Culture, which will be aired tomorrow on Channel 2 in a discussion of his new book, "The Flight of the Swans."

In the interview Michael says the fact that Eli Cohen, the husband of his sister Nadia, spied for Israel was something he knew before Cohen was caught in Syria.

"In those days, I worked a great deal on the Syrian border," Michael says during the interview. "Eli always told the family that he was a spy, but said that it was economic espionage. I did not buy the story. One day, we had a long talk, and he told me that he worked in an Arab country. That was right before his last trip. He would travel and return to Syria, never directly, but via an European country. He even told me the terms of his remuneration, and how he was envied by those sitting in offices," Michael says.

"When he was caught, I became glued to the radio. Syria broadcast the entire thing and then the trial, and I heard his courageous stance before the judges. I was amazed that even though, at the time, I was ostracized for being Communist, they constantly made me enticing offers. They even pressured me. All of them. Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Shin Bet. At one point, I told them, 'If you convince me that this is good for the Jewish people, I will do it.' They offered me to travel to some places. The dumbest idea was that I would return to Iraq, and they would make sure I was imprisoned, and there I would link up with the Kurdish leadership in prison."