The Canaanite Files: How Israel's Security Service Spied on Political Activists

Newly declassified files show that the Shin Bet saw the Canaanite movement as a subversive sect, and kept it under surveillance for years

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Aharon Amir, Yonatan Ratosh, Amos Kenan and Benjamin Tammuz. Figures in the Canaanite movement. Credit: Dan Hadani / IPPA; Daniel Rosenblum; Ratosh family; Gnazim Institute/Hebrew Writers Association
Yossi Melman head
Yossi Melman
Yossi Melman head
Yossi Melman

August 1970. On Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street two people are hawking the Canaanite journal Aleph for 50 agorot – half an Israeli pound. A Shin Bet security service agent code-named Kedar documents, signs and files a report about the event.

October 1975. A Shin Bet agent code-named Yerubaal sums up a television program about Canaanites and Zionists. “[Writer and poet] Aharon Amir and Uzzi Ornan took part in the program on behalf of the Canaanites,” Yerubaal wrote. “The Zionist side was represented by Lova Eliav and Shlomo Avineri. Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who also appeared, termed the Canaanites fascists.”

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