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The Lavon Affair: what really happened


The spy cell is exposed
Uri Avnery Social activist
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האיש שצריכים היו לשלוח, זה שהכיר אותם, שהקים את התא, לא היה או לא רצה, אז לקחו איזה פסיכופט בשם אברי זיידנברג ושלחו אותו למצרים. וכל זה היה ״פרטץ׳״ כמו שאמר קישון, היה "טמבלי" מהתחלה עד הסוף, כל הפעולה הזאת. ודי מהר, אחרי שתיים-שלוש פצצות כאלה, המצרים מאוד הדאיג אותם מה שקורה, ותפסו אותם במקרה. איש אחד, נתנזון, אחד מחברי התא, שהביא פצצת תבערה לתוך קולנוע, קולנוע "ריו" בלב קהיר, הפצצה נדלקה בכיסו. מהר כולם רצו לכבות אותו ואז גילו שזו פצצת תבערה ואסרו אותו. ודי מהר עצרו את כל חברי התא, כולל בחורה בשם מרסל. והמארגן הגדול, אברי, לקח אוטו וברח, הספיק לברוח, דבר שעורר חשד מאוד עמוק. עצרו את כולם, העמידו אותם למשפט. נאסר לדעתי היה נותן להם חנינה, אבל לא יכול היה מפני שבדיוק לפני זה היה משפט של אנשי התנועה האסלאמית שניסתה להתנקש בחיי נאסר ושניים מראשיה נתלו. אז אחרי שהוא תלה את האחים המוסלמים, הוא לא יכול היה לחון את כל הישראלים. ושני ישראלים נידונו למוות. אחד התאבד ואחד נתלה. וכל האחרים הלכו לבית הסוהר לתקופה ארוכה. ניתן היה לדעתי להחליף אותם בשבויים מצריים אחרי מבצע קדש, ישראל לא הציעה את זה. אני חושב שישראל פחדה שהם יגלו, אם ישחררו אותם. אז שחררו אותם רק אחרי מלחמת ששת הימים, הרבה שנים. אברי חזר לאנגליה. וראש השב"כ, “שי״ן-בי״ת״ זה נקרא אז, שהיה פסיכופט בשם איסר הלפרין, איסר הראל, "איסר הקטן”… "איסר הקטן”, משום שהוא באמת היה קטן. והיה "איסר הגדול”. היה איסר אחר בשירות הידיעות של “ההגנה", שהיה מאוד גבוה. ואיסר הקטן הכניס לעצמו לראש שכל הסיפור עם הפצצה זה בולשיט. מי שמסר את הרשת היה אברי. "ואיך הוא השיג אוטו? ואיך הוא ברח בעוד מועד?" וכו' וכו' וכו', ושאברי הפך לסוכן מצרי, סובבו אותו. לכן פיתו את אברי לבוא לארץ. ברגע שהוא בא, אסרו אותו בחשאי. כל זה היה חשאי. מילה מכל אלה לא פורסמה. משה שרת נאם נאום חוצב להבות על "העלילות של הרודן המצרי, המציאו עלילה שישראל הייתה מחתרת, ותלו אנשים חפים מפשע" וכו' וכו' וכו.‏’

The man who should have been sent to Egypt, who knew them, who had set up the cell, could not or would not go so they took a psychopath named Avri Zeidenberg [Elad] and sent him instead. All this was idiotic as Kishon said, from beginning to end, this entire action. And soon, after two or three such bombs, the Egyptians were very worried about what was happening, and by chance the bombers got caught. One man, [Philip] Natanson, a member of the cell, brought a firebomb into a cinema, the Rio cinema in Cairo, and the bomb caught fire in his pocket. Quickly everyone ran to put out the fire and then discovered it was a firebomb and he was arrested. Soon they arrested all the members of the cell, including a girl named Marcelle. And the great organizer, Avri, took a car and escaped, managed to escape, which aroused very deep suspicion. They arrested them all, put them on trial. I think Nasser would have given them amnesty, but he could not because this was in the run up to the trial of members of the Islamic movement that had tried to assassinate Nasser, and two of its leaders were hanged. So after he had hung the Muslim Brotherhood he could not pardon the Israelis. And two Israelis were sentenced to death. One committed suicide and one was hanged and the others went to prison for a long time. I think it would have been possible to exchange them for Egyptian captives after the Sinai Campaign, although Israel did not suggest this. I think Israel was scared of it all being revealed, if they were released. They were released only after the Six Day War, many years later.

Avri returned to England. The head of the ShaBak, the Israel Security Agency then called the Shin Bet, was a psychopath named Isser Halperin, Issar Harel, 'Little Issar', because he was really small. And there was 'Big Issar', another Issar, in the news service of the Hagana who was very tall. And Little Issar got the idea that the whole story about this bomb was bullshit. The person who betrayed the network was Avri. 'And how did he get a car? And how did he escape in time?' etc., and Avri became an Egyptian agent; they turned him. So they lured Avri into coming to Israel. As soon as he came, they arrested him clandestinely. All of this had been a secret. Not a word about any of this had been published. Moshe Sharett gave an ardent speech about 'plots of the Egyptian dictator' and that they invented a plot that Israel was a resistance force and hanged innocent people, etc.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Avri Zeidenberg, Philip Natanson, Gamal Adbel Nasser, Isser Halperin

Duration: 4 minutes

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017