Rise and Kill First by Ronen Bergman
  • Title: Rise and Kill First
  • Subtitle: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations
  • Author(s): Ronen Bergman
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Year: 2018-01-30
  • ISBN-10: 0679604685
  • ISBN-13: 9780679604686


Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” by Ronen Bergman is an intensely gripping and meticulously researched account of Israel’s covert operations throughout its history. With unprecedented access to classified documents, insider interviews, and previously untold stories, Bergman takes readers on a disturbing and eye-opening journey into the heart of Israel’s use of targeted killings.

The book brings to light the origins and evolution of Israel’s assassination program, which dates back to its early days as a fledgling nation grappling with its enemies on multiple fronts. Bergman delves into the moral and legal dilemmas surrounding these operations, showcasing how the government has wrestled with justifications, intelligence gathering, and ensuring minimal civilian casualties. Revealing shocking details about the number and significance of the targets, the author shares in-depth analyses of assassinations of foreign leaders, terrorist commanders, scientists, and even Israeli citizens suspected of espionage.

However, Bergman does not shy away from discussing the controversial aspects of Israel’s targeted killings. He explores the potential blowback and unintended consequences of these operations, as well as the ongoing debates within Israeli society about their efficacy and ethical implications. Beyond the politics and military strategies, the author delves into the personal stories of both the assassins and their victims, providing a human perspective that adds complexity to this controversial history.

Rise and Kill First” is a monumental work that provides readers with a comprehensive and thought-provoking examination of Israel’s secret assassination program. With its deeply researched content and captivating storytelling, Ronen Bergman delivers an enlightening and unnerving narrative that draws readers into the shadowy world of covert operations. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the hidden side of modern warfare and the high-stakes game of assassination.


Book Review

"Unveiling Israel's Covert Warfare: Rise and Kill First by Ronen Bergman"

In “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations,” Ronen Bergman masterfully unveils the clandestine world of Israel’s covert operations, shedding light on a history that has remained largely hidden in the shadows. With meticulous research and access to exclusive sources, Bergman reveals the intricacies of Israel’s targeted assassination program, exploring its origins, methodology, and the ethical dilemmas it engenders. This remarkable and eye-opening book disrupts conventional narratives, offering readers a gripping account of a nation’s fight for survival through ruthless means.

Diving headfirst into the exploration of Israel’s assassination program, Bergman leads us through its inception during the early years of the state when it grappled with hostile neighbors on all sides. His careful documentation and interviews depict the evolution of Israel’s covert warfare from simple retaliatory strikes to a sophisticated system capable of eliminating terrorist commanders, foreign leaders, and even Israeli citizens suspected of espionage. Bergman’s well-crafted prose captivates readers from the start, pulling them into a secret world where life and death decisions are made behind closed doors.

One of the strengths of “Rise and Kill First” lies in Bergman’s ability to present a balanced view of Israel’s assassination program. He doesn’t shy away from discussing the moral and legal implications surrounding these operations. For instance, the author recounts in vivid detail the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas operative, in Dubai in 2010. Bergman dissects the elaborate operation, raising important questions about the line between self-defense and extrajudicial killings, as well as the potential for collateral damage. These dilemmas resonate with readers, forcing them to grapple with the morality of Israel’s actions.

Moreover, Bergman delves into the unintended consequences and long-term impact of these operations. He highlights the complex dance between intelligence gathering and the risk of misinterpretation, leading to the targeting of innocent civilians and the erosion of support for Israeli policies abroad. The book provides numerous examples, such as the bombing of a Tunisian apartment in 1988, which aimed to kill the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) but resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians instead. These case studies serve as a reminder of the dangers and potential backlash associated with targeted killings.

Bergman goes beyond the strategic and political aspects, offering profound insight into the personal stories of the assassins themselves. He delves into the training, moral struggles, and psychological traumas faced by agents dispatched on these dangerous missions. The author paints a vivid picture of individual agents, showcasing their dedication, sacrifices, and the toll these high-pressure operations take on their well-being. Bergman humanizes these individuals, blurring the lines between hunter and hunted, and in doing so, challenges readers to consider the personal cost paid by those involved in Israel’s covert activities.

In conclusion, “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” by Ronen Bergman is an extraordinary and groundbreaking book that exposes the hidden truths behind Israel’s covert warfare. The extensive research, engaging storytelling, and nuanced analysis make it a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complex dynamics of modern warfare, the ethical implications of targeted killings, and the deeper complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bergman’s work is a testament to the power of investigative journalism and its ability to shed light on the darkest corners of our world, stimulating critical thought and discourse. As readers, we are left with a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made in the name of national security and the inherent complexities of the struggle for survival.

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In its seven decades of existence, the State of Israel has acquired numerous enemies, both domestic and international. To defend its national security and ensure the safety of its citizens, the Israeli government resorted to a controversial tactic - targeted assassinations. Bergman unveils the covert operations and moral dilemmas surrounding these lethal acts, providing a deep dive into the complicated world of intelligence agencies, political decision-making, and the ethical implications of using lethal force in the pursuit of security.

Key Ideas

In “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations,” Ronen Bergman explores several key ideas related to Israel’s covert assassination program. Here are a few of the central themes in the book:

  1. Israel's 'Kill or Be Killed' Philosophy Bergman examines Israel’s longstanding philosophy of “kill or be killed.” Due to its precarious geopolitical position and ongoing conflicts, Israel has employed targeted assassinations as a means of self-defense and deterrence. The book delves into the idea that Israel views assassination as a necessary and sometimes strategic tool in its fight for survival.

  2. The Evolution and Expansion of Israel's Assassination Program Bergman traces the development of Israel’s targeted assassination program, illustrating how it evolved from isolated retaliatory strikes to a systematic, complex network. He reveals how this program expanded over the years, targeting not only terrorist leaders but also foreign leaders, scientists, and individuals suspected of espionage.

  3. Ethical and Legal Dilemmas The book raises profound ethical questions surrounding Israel’s targeted killings. Bergman explores the moral and legal implications of extrajudicial killings, including the potential for collateral damage and the erosion of international support. He engages readers in a careful examination of the thin line between self-defense and unlawful assassinations.

  4. Intelligence and Counterterrorism “Rise and Kill First” delves into the intelligence strategies, networks, and resources used by Israel to gather information and carry out its assassinations. The book reveals the elaborate planning, precision, and risks involved in these operations. It underscores the importance of intelligence gathering in the effectiveness and success of targeted killings.

  5. Blowback and Unintended Consequences Bergman addresses the consequences and blowback resulting from Israel’s targeted assassinations. He examines cases where operations have backfired, leading to unintended civilian casualties, international condemnation, and public backlash. The book serves as a reminder that every operation carries inherently unpredictable risks.

  6. The Human Element While exploring the tactical aspects of Israel’s assassination program, Bergman also humanizes the agents and individuals involved. He paints a intimate and personal picture of the assassins, showing the emotional toll, moral dilemmas, and psychological effects they experience. By emphasizing the human element, the book challenges readers to confront the costs and complexities of this covert warfare.

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” delves into these key ideas, presenting a nuanced and comprehensive exploration of a controversial aspect of Israeli security policy. Through extensive research and compelling storytelling, Bergman challenges readers to grapple with the moral, legal, and strategic dimensions of targeted killings, ultimately providing a significant contribution to the understanding of modern warfare and its complex ethical landscape.


Target Audience

The book “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” by Ronen Bergman is targeted at a diverse audience interested in international politics, modern warfare, intelligence operations, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • History and Political Science Scholars Bergman’s comprehensive research and meticulous documentation make “Rise and Kill First” an invaluable resource for researchers and scholars studying the history, politics, and conflicts of the Middle East. The book provides a nuanced understanding of Israel’s covert warfare and its impact on regional dynamics.

  • Intelligence and Military Professionals For individuals working in the realm of intelligence, counterterrorism, or military strategy, this book offers deep insights into the intricacies of intelligence gathering, operational planning, and the complexities of assassination missions. It provides valuable lessons and perspectives that can inform strategic decision-making.

  • Ethicists and Legal Scholars Bergman’s exploration of the moral and legal dilemmas surrounding targeted assassinations makes it essential reading for those interested in international law, human rights, and the ethics of warfare. The book raises thought-provoking questions about the justifiability, efficacy, and unintended consequences of such operations.

  • Middle East Specialists and Journalists Journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the broader Middle East region can gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s covert operations through this book. It sheds light on the historical context, key figures, and behind-the-scenes maneuvering that have shaped the region’s political landscape.

  • General Readers Interested in History and Current Affairs “Rise and Kill First” is highly recommended for readers who want a gripping and comprehensive account of a secret history that has shaped the Israeli state. Bergman’s storytelling and ability to humanize the covert operatives and their targets make the book accessible and engaging for a wide audience interested in history, politics, and the human side of espionage.

In conclusion, “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” is recommended reading for a wide range of audiences. Its meticulous research, balanced perspectives, and gripping narrative provide valuable insights into Israel’s covert warfare, the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the ethical dilemmas of targeted killings. Whether readers are interested in history, politics, intelligence operations, or international law, this book offers a thought-provoking and enlightening exploration of an often-hidden aspect of modern warfare.

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