Exposure of a Jewish-Arab Espionage and Terror Network (1972)

On December 7, 1972 the media released an announcement from the spokesman for the Israeli Police, Northern region: “The security establishment exposed and arrested a covert organization, operating in the northern and central part of the country on behalf of Syria. This organization included Arabs, most of whom were from the northern part of the country as well as Jews with extreme left wing views. Some of the members in the organization were spying against Israel and the organization was preparing for sabotage operations in Israel.

…so far approximately 20 people were detained. The person suspected as head of the organization in Israel, is a Christian Arab resident of Haifa, a pro-Chinese businessman with extreme communist views, who was formerly a member of the communist party and an activist in the illegal nationalistic organization “Al-Ard”. In recent years he had moved toward “Matzpen” circles.


The main operator of the organization, who is currently located in Damascus, is a former Israeli Arab from Haifa. During his stay in Israel he was one of the heads of “Al-Ard”. He was detained in Israel together with his wife, on grounds of espionage. The couple was released from prison in 1968, and emigrated permanently from Israel after waiving their Israeli nationality. He became an activist for the Palestinian Liberation Organization as well as an agent for the Syrian and Egyptian intelligence.


Amongst the detainees there are two young Israeli-Jews, extreme left wing activists and pro-Chinese communists, who were active in “Matzpen” as well as in an ultra radical left wing movement, which supported violent activities against the government and the establishment. The two are suspected of operating on behalf of the Syrian network and having been sent by the head of the network through Europe to Syria, where they underwent firearm and sabotage training and where they also transferred information to the enemy.


A number of other extreme left-wing activists are also suspected of connections to the network or of having known about its activities and are currently being interrogated… “ 
This was the conclusion of an intelligence operation conducted by the ISA’s northern region which had lasted two years.


The head of the network in Israel was a Christian Arab by the name of Daud Sam‘an Turki, the owner of a bookstore in Haifa, who was 45 years old at the time. Turki was active in “Maki” (a Communist political party) and was expelled in 1963 due to his pro-Chinese views. In the 60’s he took part in various activities for “Matzpen” (an anti-capitalist and anti-Zionist organization whose official name was the Israeli Socialist Organization) and “Rakah” (an organization that developed from “Maki”). He was well known among the Arab population for his support of terrorist activity.


The ISA began receiving intelligence information about Turki’s irregular activities from the midst of 1968. Specifically, the ISA discovered that Turki maintained a relationship with one Habib Kahwahji in Cyprus, as well as the fact that he carried out a visit to the latter in 1969.


Habib Kahwahji a Maronite Christian, was 38 years old at the time: a teacher and a poet, as well as a nationalist who was a central figure in the “Al-Ard” organization, which was later declared illegal. Kahwahji and his wife were placed in administrative detention after the Six Day War, following the capture of documents demonstrating their connections with Syrian and Egyptian intelligence. In 1968 the couple arrived at a deal with the authorities, according to which, they emigrated and waived their Israeli nationality in return for their release from administrative detention. Since that time, Kahwahji resided in Cyprus, and he was suspected by the ISA as functioning as a spotter for Arab intelligence organizations.
Indeed, in the year 1970, the ISA received intelligence information indicating that Turki was attempting to recruit people for covert activities, most probably for terrorism. 


In October 1970 Turki traveled to Turkey where he stayed for about a month, employing the cover story that he needed to make arrangements for his daughter’s academic studies there. Upon his return, in early December 1970, the ISA discovered that he was planning on founding a covert organization to carry out armed combat. Turki told his recruits that he was connected to a Palestinian terror organization – apparently the PLO – and that they were to receive weapons and to carry out terrorist attacks.


The ISA began to monitor Turki and to carry out surveillance on him, and via these means, exposed a number of Turki’s actual recruits as well as his attempts at recruitment.
Later, the ISA learned that Turki had begun recruiting in mid-1969 and that his network was operated from abroad by Habib Kahwahji. Turki was identified as the leader of the network in Israel and the ISA ascertained that he was also connected to the Egyptian intelligence.


In mid-1971 another cell in the network was exposed, which was led by Subhi Na’arani, a Bedouin and former security prisoner. The intelligence information gathered on this cell, beginning in mid-1970 – before the ISA discovered the connection with Da’ud Turki – was the first information regarding the creation of the terrorist network.


The recruits associated with Subhi Na’arani’s cell were all former security prisoners. They were a group used to interrogations as well as rough prison conditions. The group had connections with criminals they had met in jail, and were prepared to achieve their goal via any means possible. From the instant the cell was exposed, the ISA received information about planned kidnappings, armed robberies, assassinations and obtaining weapons.


Turki began sending his recruits to meet Habib Kahwahji abroad in July 1971. The ISA discovered that the purpose of these meetings – besides initial acquaintance, briefings, and intelligence debriefings – was weapon and terror training in Syria. By the end of 1971, Turki had sent five recruits on such missions.


The ISA’s assessment that the network was operating on behalf of the Syrian intelligence was confirmed in September 1971. Following a dispute that arose between Kahwahji and "the organizations”, the Syrians took upon themselves responsibility for financing the activities in Israel. Turki informed his recruits that from that point on, in addition to preparing for terrorist operations, they were to gather information. During that month the ISA discovered that the network included Jewish recruits. 


And indeed, in November 1971, a young Israeli was identified as being linked to Turki’s covert activities: a Jewish youth by the name of Udi Adiv, a resident of Haifa. A search on his name revealed that he was well-known: a 25 year old raised on Kibbutz Gan Shemuel, a student in Haifa University and a member of an ultra-Maoist segment of Matzpen called “The Red Front”. This group was at the time Matzpen's most radical segments. An ISA check of the data revealed that the Red Front had a connection with at least three Arabs who had been identified as associated with the network, among them Subhi and his colleague Anis Kar‘awi, who were among those who had been trained in Syria.


A further check revealed that Udi Adiv had left for Greece on September 28, 1971.
The ISA conjectured that Adiv was the head of a cell in the organization, and that the members of his cell were apparently Jews, and that members of his cell were also to be sent abroad.


On July 26, 1971 Dan Vered, a member in “The Red Front” was sent to Greece. The ISA determined that he too, was a member of Adiv’s group, and had also met with Kahwahji. Later on, two additional Jewish members of the cell, both also members in “The Red Front”, were identified – David Cooper and Yehezkel Cohen.
In September 1972 Adiv embarked for Greece for the second time. He returned to Israel on October 17 after having undergone training in Syria, like those who had preceded him. He brought back one thousand dollars with him in order to help fund the organization’s activities.


In October 1972, the ISA decided to interfere in order to counter the organization’s activities, for fear that it would go out of control. The information gathered to that date was astonishing:

 10 cell leaders, including Turki

 27 members

 117 suspected members and otherwise related individuals!
One of the ISA’s main concerns was that following Turki’s loss of control over Subhi Na’arani’s group it would carry out an independent terrorist attack.
The date scheduled for the beginning of the ISA’s foiling operation, and for arrests, was the beginning of December, 1972.
On the night between December 5th and 6th 1972 the arrests were carried out, and interrogations of suspects commenced.
Sixty individuals were interrogated, of whom forty were indicted. By the conclusion of the investigation, the following picture of the network had emerged:

 The organization included 34 people, including Turki’s daughter, who was studying in Turkey and was in communication with Kahwahji.

 The organization included ten cells, seven of which were already active and three of which had been assigned commanders and were in the process of being established.

 Seven members of the organization had undergone training in Syria, including Turki himself. Eight others were somewhere in the process of being sent to such trainings.

 Searches on those recruited to the group revealed pistols, but no explosive devices or materials.

The ISA determined that Daud Turki had initiated the founding of the network following the Six Day War. He had initially attempted to contact the Egyptian intelligence, via his acquaintance Kahwahji, but with no success. In late 1970 he renewed his relationship with Kahwahji and the organization was transferred to the sponsorship of a left wing group within the PLO.


Following the return of his first recruit, Subhi Na’arani, from training, he realized that he had been trained in Syria. He concluded from this that the organization was supported by the Syrian intelligence on the basis of training in return for intelligence. The network was later charged with intelligence gathering missions and was funded in return via recruits who were sent abroad.
Turki had recruited Udi Adiv in the summer of 1971, after meeting him at a “Matzpen” conference. He was appointed as head of the Jewish segment in the covert group that was established.


In September 1971, Adiv traveled to meet with the “representative of a Palestinian organization,” who turned out to be none other than Habib Kahwahji. Kahwahji did not tell him his real name, and instead identified himself as “Abu Kamal” and told him that he was a left wing activist in the PLO. Adiv underwent an intelligence debriefing with him and revealed all of the information he knew, including information about sensitive locations in Israel in which terrorist attacks could be carried out. Adiv agreed to report intelligence information about Israel, including emergency Israeli military callups.
In order for Adiv to do so he was trained in code writing and in fact sent two letters to a covert mailing address that was provided to him.

Adiv began in the work of recruiting Jewish members to the network. In this way, he recruited Dan Vered, David Cooper and Yehezkel Cohen. He also passed on to Turki a recommendation for the recruitment of two Arabs, one of whom was Ghassan Aghbaria, who was recruited as head of a cell. According to Adiv, he intended to recruit the entire Israeli anti - Zionist left.


Dan Vered was sent in July 1971 to a training mission in Syria, and in addition to the military training he underwent, he was instructed on the transmission and reception of coded messages over the radio. Upon his return Adiv and Vered attempted to receive the broadcasts of the program regarding which he’d been briefed, through Radio Damascus. 


In September 1972 Adiv was sent once again on a mission on behalf of the network. This time he underwent training in shooting and sabotage in Damascus. He was debriefed there by intelligence and revealed everything he knew regarding the IDF and essential factories in Israel. He was entrusted with a number of intelligence missions and was instructed in sending coded messages. He was assigned the member of the network responsible for collecting the weapons that were to be smuggled into Israel from Lebanon, and to find storage locations for them in Tel Aviv.


The largest and most dangerous cell in the network was run by Subhi Na’arani. It numbered seven individuals, and two of its members trained in Syria. In August 1972 this cell was removed from Turki’s authority.


Five other issues came to light during the interrogations, of which the most well-known was the account of the connection between two members of the “Matzpen” faction “The Revolutionary Communist Alliance” and a member of the PLO. The two, Rami Livne and Mali Lerman, were arrested and confessed. During Adiv’s interrogation, it emerged that he had intended to recruit Livne, the son of a member of parliament from “Rakah”, Avraham Levenbraun, to the network. 
In March 1973, Turki, Adiv, Vered, Subhi and Kar‘awi were convicted of treason. Turki and Adiv were sentenced to seventeen years imprisonment, Subhi and Kar‘awi were sentenced to fifteen, and Vered was sentenced to ten years. Yehezkel was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and Cooper was sentenced to five. Other members were also sentenced to various periods of imprisonment. Only one of the accused was acquitted due to insufficient proof.


Rami Livne and Mali Lerman were convicted and after appealing, their sentences were eased: Livne was imprisoned for four years and Lerman for two.
The publication of the affair in the media on December 8, 1972, caused great shock amongst the public, due to the unprecedented fact of Jewish participation in an Arab network of espionage and terror. The media called the network “the Jewish-Arab espionage and terror network”, although the Jews were only one small cell in a broad Arab network.


The effect of this shock was even greater because of its timing: the network was exposed a short time after the Lod Airport Massacre (May 1972), which was carried out by individuals sent by terror organizations, and the murder of the Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympics (September 1972).
The focus of public attention was, of course, focused on the Jewish members of the group, especially Adiv, a former kibbutz member and Vered, a high school teacher and counselor.


The comparison between Adiv, who betrayed the country and the late Uri Ilan, an IDF soldier who committed suicide in the Syrian prison in the early 50’s, both from Kibbutz Gan Shemuel, was inevitable. The message that Ilan wrote before committing suicide, “I did not betray,” became a national legend in Israel.
The media reports following the arrests and during the trials received wide coverage over a long period of time.


What was unique about this affair – apart from being the first Arab-Jewish ideological terrorist and espionage network in Israel – it was an underground organization, long in the planning, with the purpose of operating mainly as a fifth column carrying out terrorist attacks in strategic locations during times of national emergency, all this, in coordination with the enemy.
The network was also unique by virtue of its large number of members as well as the lengthy duration of its operation.