The birds and the bees

Common sense suggests that compliments from enemies are more believable than from friends. After all, one who hates me does not want to call attention to my strengths, so when he does, it really says a lot about the impact I have on those around me. So Israel as a nation should be feeling pretty darn good right now courtesy of a very complimentary accusation from Turkey.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been deteriorating ever since the May 2010 incident on the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of a flotilla of boats that came to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Israeli forces stopped the boat from entering Israeli waters, boarded it and violence ensued leaving nine of the flotilla’s participants dead. This is not the venue to go into the details of the incident or to share an opinion on what was, wasn’t or should have been, but suffice to say that since that fateful morning the Turkish government, press and populace have had precious little to say about Israel that you will find on the Ministry of Tourism website.

But this week, the Turkish government paid tribute to good old fashioned Israeli know-how and technological expertise when they accused Israel of using birds as spies. As was reported in the Times of Israel among other Israeli news publications, Ankara charged that the Mossad inserted surveillance equipment into the nostril of a dead Merops Apiaster, or European bee-eater. Apparently this bird was among the chosen few with special access to sites normally off-limits to Turkish wildlife, and Israel, with our second-to-none espionage gadgets that make James Bond seem obsolete, has taken full advantage of the situation.

The Turkish claim is based upon two apparently damning pieces of evidence. First, one of the dead bird’s nostrils was larger than the other (insert stereotypical Jewish big nose joke here). Second, and this is the real coup de grace – the bird had a band on its leg with “Israel” written on it. Apparently we are brilliant enough to fit sophisticated spying equipment in the nose of a bird, but too stupid to remove the return address from the bird. Go figure!

(Actually, it is common for ornithologists to use tracking bands on the legs of birds as a way of tracking flight paths and migratory habits).

This is not the first time that Israel has been called out for using agents from the animal kingdom to carry out our dirty work. In December 2010, after a series of shark attacks off the coast of the Red Sea near Sharm-a-Sheikh, an Egyptian official said that it was “not out of the question” that this was in fact an Israeli assault on the Egyptian tourism industry (I swear I am not making this up!). It would seem that the greatest minds of the Israeli security establishment recognized that to fight Egypt we need to attack the Egyptians where they are the most vulnerable – their foreign visitors.

Soon after, in January 2011, Saudi Arabia “captured” a vulture which was equipped with a GPS and an identification code from Tel Aviv University. Again, for all of our ability to train the vulture to spy on the Saudis we forgot to remove the “If found, please return to Tel Aviv University” label from the spy.

With two such serious charges coming so close to one another, and the third only a year and a half later, one must wonder why Israel waited so long before continuing Operation Animal Infiltration. Most likely, Israel realized that using known predators such as sharks and vultures was just too obvious, so we needed the time to work on a more subtle approach (subtlety, of course, being one of the traits people think of first when thinking about the Israeli personality).

So, we needed subtlety and subtlety is exactly what we got by using the seemingly harmless European bee-eater (at least, harmless to any creature not a European bee).

Personally, I would love to see the Israeli leadership take full responsibility for these brilliant methods of espionage and cold warfare. Why deny, when we can allow our enemies (and friends, for that matter) to believe that we truly are capable of fitting cameras and microphones into fowl orifices?

Let those who think to attack and destroy the Jewish state that our ability to communicate with animals is so advanced that Dr. Doolittle and Aquaman are carnival charlatans in comparison.

Better yet, we should take some of these ideas suggested by our foes and improve on them in order to make our enemies’ worst nightmares into reality.

Birds are good, because they can easily access places that human spies cannot, but even birds are not the perfect solution because they can draw the attention of bird-watchers, any one of whom might be suspicious and alert the authorities.

We need to think even smaller than bird noses. For example, we should take the old adage about being “a fly on the wall in a meeting” and make it come true. If we can put a GPS in a vulture and who knows what kind of cool gadgets in the nostril of a European bee-eater, then putting a microchip in a fly should be pretty easy as well.

And as long as we’re on insects, it would be the ultimate in cool if we were to put some kind of mind-control substance on the stingers of bees (not European ones of course, we don’t want to cause strife among our various agents). Then, we could send thousands of bees across enemy lines, trained to find the right kind of targets to sting, who would then be controlled by some kind of really funky satellite technology to help overthrow governments not friendly to Israel.

We could conceivably end the entire Middle East conflict, not only between Israel and her neighbors but within the Arab countries themselves with far less violence and bloodshed than what we have seen in recent years. Who could honestly object to that?

We don’t need to know warfare and weaponry; we just need to learn about the birds and the bees.

About the Author
Asher Zeiger grew up (well, sort of) in North Carolina and moved to Israel in 1988. He lives in Modi'in with his wife and two daughters, and works as freelance writer, editor and translator. In his spare time, he tries hard at not taking himself or life too seriously (successfully) and at unwrapping himself from around his daughters' little fingers (not so successfully).