TEL AVIV (Sep. 10)
A campaign to discredit the author of a book exposing alleged activities of the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad seemed to be taking shape here over the weekend, after the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa got a court order temporarily blocking the book’s publication in Canada.
While officials confirmed that the author, Canadian-born Victor Ostrovski, had been employed by Mossad during the mid-1980s, they said he had been found “unfit for the service” and that he returned to Canada after 18 months as a trainee.
The officials said Israel seeks to bar publication of the book because the author wrote it in contravention of the official secrets oath which he took when he became associated with Mossad.
They refused to comment on the allegations contained in the book but insisted their truth or falsity was not the issue.
The Canadian ban was handed down on grounds that Ostrovski, who holds dual Canadian and Israeli citizenship, violated the secrecy clause of the contract he signed with Mossad.
The book is titled “By Way of Deception: A Devastating Insider’s Portrait of Mossad.” Ostrovski wrote it along with Canadian journalist Claire Hoy. Publication was scheduled for October by Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd. of Toronto.
Israelis who claim to have worked with him in civil life described Ostrovski as an erratic personality with a vivid imagination.
They said he ran afoul of the law because of bad debts and his alleged involvement in the forging of credit cards.
MAY HAVE HAD PERSONAL VENDETTA
Isser Harel, a former chief of Mossad and of the internal security service Shin Bet, contended in an interview Sunday that Ostrovski was motivated by greed and a personal vendetta when he wrote his book.
Harel is himself the author of dozens of books based on his Mossad experiences, including “The House on Garibaldi Street,” an account of the kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by Israeli agents in Buenos Aires in 1960.
But according to Harel, all of his published works were first reviewed by a special Cabinet committee and passed by the military censor before publication.
The spotlight focused on Ostrovski, who also claims to have been an officer in the Israeli navy, when the author held a news conference in Toronto last week at which he expressed fear for his life. He said Mossad agents had visited him and threatened him with “the fate of Mordechai Vanunu.”
Vanunu, a former technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear facility, was allegedly kidnapped by Israeli agents in Rome in 1986 after giving information to a British newspaper about Israel’s supposed nuclear weapons capabilities. He is now serving a life sentence in solitary confinement.
Ostrovski has gone into hiding.
His 300-page book alleges, among other things, that Mossad deliberately withheld advance information it had of the Shi’ite suicide truck bomb attack that killed nearly 300 U.S. Marines deployed at Beirut airport in 1983. The purpose, Ostrovski said, was to harm U.S. Arab relations.