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My friend, the Mossad spy

Turns out Natan Sharansky has been training Syrian insurgents in Turkey

This story isn’t for the faint of heart. According to Syrian insurgent websites, Mossad spies operating through Lebanese front organizations are training Syrian rebel agents. The aliases of the agents and details of the training sessions are leaked to one insurgent website. A source in the insurgency confirms the information.

There’s even a damning photograph of Mossad agent “David” meeting a Syrian insurgent in Budapest.

It’s a riveting tale of espionage and geopolitical intrigue.

So you can imagine my delight at discovering that these international men of mystery clandestinely spreading insurrection and mayhem throughout the Arab world are actually friends of mine. One of them is even my boss. Little did I know throughout the years spent in their company that I was rubbing shoulders with secret agents. All those times I’d borrowed a pen or hitched a ride, I never thought to check for the poison darts or the emergency eject buttons.

Here’s the story: According to the Syrian opposition website SyriaTruth.org (“Al-Hakika”), Mossad agents Nir Boms, David Keyes and Natan Sharansky are flitting in and out of Syria and Turkey helping to train Syrian rebels in intelligence gathering. Sharansky is personally charged with communicating between Syrian rebel leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the website explains.

Netanyahu's envoy to the Syrian insurgency enjoying a joke, most likely the one about Assad and the Mossad agent walking into the bar... (Courtesy)

It’s an exciting read (automated English translation here). The story has traveled online throughout the Arab world, to here and here and here. It’s even hit the Hebrew press and has been discussed on online Hebrew forums.

The details are all there: A Lebanese human rights activist making the initial contact, the four-day (March 3-7) training course in Istanbul in intelligence gathering and “media management,” the call for each rebel group to send two activists, and the fact that they will all be staying at the Titanic and Asia hotels in Istanbul.

The conspiracy is exposed.

There’s only one problem. I know David Keyes, and for a Mossad agent, he doesn’t do a very good job staying under the radar. He’s published in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Washington Post and Newsweek’s Daily Beast, been interviewed on Voice of America and MSNBC, spoken in the Italian parliament, and basically run around being a really bad covert agent. He’s even got a Wikipedia page.

Mossad master spy David Keyes (right) with a Syrian rebel operative in an unflattering photo while drunk in a bar. A sobering reminder that Israel's secret agents sacrifice much -- sometimes even their dignity -- to keep us safe.

As for Nir, let’s just say that if you know David Keyes, you probably know Nir Boms, a collaborator in the best sense of the term.

And Natan Sharansky? If he’s in Istanbul training Syrian insurgents right now, then a stunt double is filling in for him in the office, because I just spoke to him – or possibly a very convincing copy-cat actor – about 20 minutes ago.

So where did this story come from? The most likely scenario — it happens a lot in the Arab world — is that one insurgent group is trying to discredit another by tying it to Israel’s Mossad. Natan Sharansky (who needs no introduction, but still) is both a well-known Jew and Israeli and a long-time advocate for the advancement of liberal rights and freedom of expression, including in the Arab world. And I don’t think David or Nir would disagree if I called them Sharanskyites. In 2008, the three collaborated in the founding of CyberDissidents.org, a website that tries to shine a light on dissident voices in dictatorial regimes. Perhaps, among the panoply of potential Israeli “spies,” they were the easiest to find in a Google search.

While I’m excited for my friend, it’s hard not to feel a little pang of jealousy. It’s a shame the Syrian insurgency didn’t notice Sharansky’s Jewish Agency connection. Maybe I could have been a Mossad agent too.

About the Author
Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.