TEL AVIV (Jan. 14)
Lt. Col. Israel Beer, former personal military adviser to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and professor of military history at Tel Aviv University, was found guilty today by three District Court judges on three charges of espionage. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for passing secret information to a foreign agent “with the intention of injuring the security of the State.”
Beer, who could have received life imprisonment as being convicted on the espionage charges, said he would appeal against both the verdict and the sentence. “I had no intention of injuring the security of the State, nor have I injured it,” he declared.
Just before he entered the court room, this morning, Beer told newsmen that he has been acting as his own counsel during the latter stages of his long, secret trial, because of a difference of opinion with his lawyer over defense lines. He revealed also that the court had denied his request–”because of technical reasons”–to call nine witnesses, among whom he listed Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, Deputy Defense Minister Shimon Peres; Israel Galili, a high official of the Defense Ministry; and Captain Liddell Hart, famous military analyst.
In announcing the verdict, the court stated it “tends to believe” that, among other factors that prompted Beer to maintain connections with a foreign agent, was “a true anxiety” for the welfare of the State of Israel. The court stated it felt that Beer thought that, by his personal “partisan-like” action, collaborating with an agent for a country in the Communist bloc, he would help improve Israel’s foreign relations.
The court found that Beer “did not act for money.” But, the court added, once Beer had started his connections with the agent, the latter “used Beer according to what he needed from Beer, who acted against the State.”
HUGE QUANTITY OF DOCUMENTS REMOVED FROM HIS HOME DURING ARREST
Lt. Col. Beer, who was one of the keenest military analysts for the Israeli press, was arrested at 2 a. m. last March 31 at his home on the edge of a small forest along the Yarkon River on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
Some 65 pounds of documents were removed from his home by the arresting officers, reportedly only a few hours after his last contact with a foreign agent for a Communist country. Dr. Beer, who persistently denied that he knew any secrets, told probers of the Shin Bet, the Israel security service, that he had been “dragged into” the espionage work.
It was alleged that Beer was one of a very small handful of Israelis who knew all the plans of the 1956 Sinai Campaign in advance. He was charged with having passed on these plans to a Communist country which, in turn, transmitted the Sinai campaign plans to Egyptian agents. The Egyptians, however, disregarded the information, thinking it was false.
Among the documents confiscated in Beer’s home were excerpts from Mr. Ben-Gurion’s personal diaries. The Premier, who was shocked by the arrest last year, had personally seen to the appointment of Beer in 1952 as official historian of Israel’s War of Liberation. In this capacity he had access to all secret military documents of Israel’s armed forces.
Beer and Moshe Sneh, Israeli Communist leader, were close colleagues in the Mapam Party, until Mr. Sneh split from Mapam to form a “left movement.” When Mr. Sneh moved further left, into the Communist Party, Beer severed political relations with him, and joined Mapai.
PLAYED IMPORTANT ROLE IN HAGANAH; MET WITH NATO OFFICERS IN EUROPE
Beer had joined the Haganah, the Jewish defense force, when he arrived in Palestine in the late thirties. He became prominent in the training department of the Haganah and lectured to Haganah leaders on methods of guerilla warfare, having posed as a graduate from the Austrian Military Academy in Vienna and as a fighter in the Loyalist Foreign Brigade in the Spanish Civil War–claims that were proven false after his arrest last year.
When General Yigael Yadin became Israel’s Chief of Staff, Beer was discharged from the Israel Army, shortly after the War of Liberation in 1948-49. However, he continued his contacts with defense and army circles. Later, he made many trips to Europe, where among other military people, he met many officers of NATO.