The AIA is delighted to present a webinar and presentation:

Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel

With Matti Friedman  – author and journalist



Matti Friedman tells the story of four of Israel’s first intelligence agents in 1948 – Jews from Arab countries who were sent back into the Arab world as spies. The story allows us not only to discuss a fascinating and little-known chapter in Israel’s history and the birth of the Mossad, but to discuss the role of Jews from the Arab world in the state, and what that role can teach us about the complications of Israel’s modern-day identity.

In 1948, with Israel’s existence in the balance, these men went undercover in Beirut, where they spent the next two years operating out of a newsstand, collecting intelligence and sending messages back to Israel via a radio whose antenna was disguised as a clothesline. Of the dozen spies in the Arab Section at the war’s outbreak, five were caught and executed. But in the end, the Arab Section would emerge as the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel’s vaunted intelligence agency.

Spies of No Country is about the slippery identities of these young spies, but it’s also about the complicated identity of Israel itself, a country that presents itself as Western but in fact has more citizens with Middle Eastern roots and traditions, like the spies of this narrative. Meticulously researched and masterfully told, Spies of No Country is an eye-opening look at the paradoxes of the Middle East.

Spies of No Country won the 2018 Natan Prize.