Friday, 29 June 2018

Hezbollah in Britain

                                                                        Video version
A rumour is circulating in the British press to the effect that the UK is about to designate Hezbollah, lock, stock and barrel, a terrorist organization.  It would not be before time. The UK first proscribed Hezbollah's terrorist wing in 2001, and added the military wing in 2008 after the organization targeted British soldiers in Iraq, but it has reserved judgment on the organization as a whole because of its political activities.  Any such distinction, which the EU has copied from the UK, is illusory. Hezbollah is a unified organization, and its jihadist purpose is basic to its existence.  Even Hezbollah’s own leaders reject the distinction.  Deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem has declared unequivocally: “We have one leadership, with one administration."  Speaking in 2012, he added: "We don't have a military wing and a political one...Every element of Hezbollah…is in the service of the resistance."

A glance at Hezbollah’s organization confirms this.  It has a unified command structure consisting of five sub-councils, or assemblies.  Above them sits the Shura Council, which controls the leadership of Hezbollah and all its operations, and comprises nine members, seven of whom are Lebanese and the other two Iranian. 

Iran’s involvement at the very top of today’s Hezbollah is no surprise.  In the 1970s Lebanon, torn apart by civil conflict, was under the occupation of the Shia-aligned Syrian government.  Around 1980 the exact date is disputed Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomenei, still basking in the glory of his 1979 Islamic Revolution, decided to strengthen his grip on Shi’ite Islam by consolidating a number of Lebanon’s militant Shia Muslim groups.  He formed and funded a body calling itself Hezbollah, or “the Party of God”.  Its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Hezbollah declared that its purpose, in line with Khomeini’s, was to oppose Western influences in general and Israel’s existence in particular.  Very shortly Hezbollah was acting as Iran’s proxy in perpetrating a campaign of terror against their two perceived enemies. A wave of kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations were carried out across the world.  These include the detonation in 1983 of an explosive-filled van in front of the US embassy in Beirut, killing 58 Americans and Lebanese, and the bombing of the US Marine and French Drakkar barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 American and 58 French peacekeepers.

In 1992 Hezbollah operatives boasted of their involvement in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina killing 29 people, and two years later claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina and the subsequent death of 85 people.  The atrocities continued:  21 people, including 12 Jews, killed in an airplane attack in Panama in 1994; the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing inside Saudi Arabia killing 19 US servicemen; the 2005 assassination of one-time Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri; the 2012 Burgas bus bombing in Bulgaria killing 6. For the past seven years Iran has recruited thousands of Hezbollah fighters to help keep Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in power and restore his lost territories to him.  

It is no surprise, therefore, that Hezbollah in its entirety has been designated a terrorist body by the Arab League, as well as by a swathe of other nations including Canada, the Netherlands, the USA, Israel and all the Gulf states that form the Gulf Cooperation Council.
During its 38 bloodthirsty years of existence Hezbollah has managed to achieve a certain acceptability in Shia Muslim sections of Lebanese society. In the election that followed Israel's withdrawal in May 2000 from the buffer zone it had established along the border, Hezbollah, in alliance with Amal, took all 23 South Lebanon seats out of a total 128 parliamentary seats. Since then Hezbollah has participated in Lebanon's parliamentary process, and has been able to claim a proportion of cabinet posts in each government. As a result it has achieved substantial power within Lebanon’s body politic to a point where it has been dubbed “a state within a state”.

It is this political aspect of Hezbollah’s activities that has turned the heads of certain Western politicians, some of whom may not be entirely out of sympathy with Hezbollah’s aim of removing the state of Israel from the Middle East.  Not so Sajid Javid, Britain’s newly appointed Home Secretary, the first Muslim to achieve one of the UK’s major offices of state.  His rumoured decision to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety has come about because of the outrage expressed by many at the sight of the Hezbollah flag being paraded through the streets of London in this year’s Al-Quds Day march.
          Back in 1979 Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeni, designated the last Friday of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan to be International Al-Quds Day.  Muslims were urged to use it to demonstrate their support for the Palestinians, and their opposition to Israel.  For more than a decade London has witnessed an annual mass demonstration to mark the occasion.  In the past few years, since it became clear that thousands of Hezbollah troops have been fighting alongside Iran to support Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in his no-holds-barred efforts, including the use of chemical weapons, to cling to power, the sight of Hezbollah supporters waving its flag in the UK’s capital has become increasingly unacceptable.

Shortly after Javid’s predecessor as Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, was appointed in 2016 she said that if people reported seeing the Hezbollah flag displayed in London, action would be taken.  In the event, this was found to be not legally possible, since only the military wing of the organization had been proscribed by the UK.  She never got round to remedying the situation.

"Sajid is a very different beast to the Home Secretary he has just replaced,” a government source told the UK’s Jewish Chronicle.  Deeds, not mere words, will prove the point.

Published in the MPC Journal, 2 July 2018:

Published in the Eurasia Review, 3 July 2018:

Published in the Jerusalem Post, 10 July 2018:

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Love of Books

It was, I remember, late in December, many years ago, at the time of day when evening is coming on but it is still not dark enough for the lights to be lit, that my husband Roni and I were wandering – as we often did in those early years of our marriage, before the children came – through the alleyways of old Jerusalem.  At length we came to a short passageway which opened out into a tiny court.  We looked about us.  To left and right the crumbling frontages of two houses, vaguely oriental in appearance, eyed each other blankly through grimy uncurtained windows.  Then, in one corner, I thought I could detect an unexpected sight.
"Over there," I said, "isn't that a bookshop?"
"Ruth my love," said Roni, "you could smell out a bookshop at a thousand paces blindfolded!  I'll bet you’re right."
"And you, Roni my darling, could be trusted to take a bet on whether tomorrow will be Wednesday.  Come on, let's go over and see."
We emerged from the passageway, and the sounds of the old city faded behind us.  As we made our way towards the far corner, the feeling of remoteness from everyday life was intensified.  I was gripped by the strange sensation that time itself had somehow been suspended. 
At length we stood before the tiny shop front. A faded façade proclaimed “Labac – Antiquarian Books".  I tried the door.  For a moment it stuck, but then it gave beneath my pressure.
Both walls were lined from top to bottom with books, but the shop was so high that the shelves faded into the shadows.  The effect of books extending into infinity was even stronger as I peered into the interior, a narrowing cone of booklined darkness.
I looked about. 
"Where do you think the owner is?"
"I am over here, madame."
A stooped figure emerged from the shadows.  White‑haired, with a small goatee beard, and with half‑moon spectacles perched on the end of his nose, the man seemed to personify the spirit of scholarship.
“Come in," he said.  “And you, sir.”
I closed the door. 
"Thank you, Mr...?”
"Monsieur Labac,” said the old man.  "I prefer 'Monsieur'.  My family spent many hundreds of years in France before I made my way to Israel.  I am too old now to want to change the customs of a lifetime."
He peered at me.
“Forgive an old man's eccentricities, but I like to know who I am dealing with.  Anonymity I hate, above all things."
"I am Ruth Illyon,” I said.  "This is my husband, Roni.”
"Enchanté," said the old man.  "And now, what can I do for you?"
"My wife is bewitched by books," said Roni.  "She finds it almost impossible to pass by a bookshop.  Philosophers – that's her special delight."
            The old man turned to me.                
"My dear, your husband tells me two things about you.  He tells me that you love books for themselves, and he tells me that you love what books contain.  Believe me,  Mrs Illyon, the two do not always go together."
The old man's eyes rested on me, and it seemed as if somewhere deep in my mind a key turned and a door opened. 
"I know what you mean," I said, and suddenly I did.  “For some people it is enough to hold an old book in their hands, to caress the leather covers, to experience the sensual pleasure of running their fingers over the ancient paper.  The words inscribed on those pages are of minor significance.  For others, the content is all.  The mystery, the excitement, the magic, is that the mind of one individual, long since dead, can through the medium of the printed page communicate over the centuries with one's own.  Thoughts, ideas, have been captured and transferred across hundreds of' years, from one mind to another.”
"But for you, my dear," said Monsieur Labac, "the two mysteries merge and become one.  Am I right?"
"I must admit it."
"And you, Mr Illyon, do you share your wife's obsession?"
Roni grinned. 
"Afraid not, Monsieur Labac.  I have my own.  I like the occasional gamble."
"These two books, Monsieur Labac,” I said.  "They seem very ancient."
"One is, and one is not.  As you see, both are entitled The Book of the Cabal.  The original ...  this ...  well, this is priceless.  In one of the big auction houses in London or New York it could fetch millions.  But see – a very clever publisher about a hundred years ago actually reproduced the effect of this ancient volume and some of the material.  Here…”
It was skilfully done.  The effect of the original had been cunningly recreated, down to the faded ink, the ragged edges to the pages, even the worn binding.
"What is the book?”  I asked.
"The original is connected with one of the most closely guarded aspects of ancient Jewish philosophy.  You know of the Caballah, Mrs Illyon?"
"Not very much, " I admitted.
The old man's delicate hands rested on one of the tomes. 
"Locked into the five sacred books of the Torah is the mystery of the universe.  Over the centuries a few gifted and privileged scholars have given their lives to wrestling with the texts.  This volume – and the clever reproduction of it – records part of that long journey of' discovery."
"The reproduction," I said.  “"It's so beautiful.  Dare I ask how much it costs?”
Roni groaned.
"Mrs Illyon,” said the old man, "believe me when I tell you that this is one book that I would not on any account sell to someone I thought unworthy of it.  You I think worthy.  I will sell it to you for ...  fifty dollars."
"Then of course I will take it," I said.  "You will accept a cheque?"
“But of course."
"Lend me your pen, Roni.”
"Tell me, Monsieur Labac,” said Roni, as he handed it over, "does Caballah tackle human existence?"
"A few caballists have bent their minds to the question of where the division lies between predicting and pre‑ordaining events – that is, between discerning what is written on the page of the future, and actually inscribing a word or two on that page."
"But surely," I protested, "there's all the difference in the world."
"Not so, madame.  One of the fundamental principles of humanity's contract with the Almighty is free will.   However powerful a caballist may be in bending future events to his desires, each individual involved will preserve to the last instant his own freedom of decision – a freedom he can exercise to frustrate the desired end.  The page of the future is infinitely variable."
He stopped suddenly. 
"There, I've spoken too much already.  And it's getting late."
And indeed, close as we stood to him, I had to strain through the gloom to see him as he hastily wrapped up my book in brown paper, which he tied with string.
He escorted us down the shop and we walked past him into the tiny square.
"Goodbye," said the old man. 
He had not ventured over the threshold so that now, dark as it had become, he seemed, in a strange way, to be one with the shadows.
We left the courtyard by the short alley‑way through which we had entered, and almost immediately we saw ahead a small coffee shop, its front piled high with Arab sweetmeats, their honey coating glistening under the bare electric bulbs.  I was determined to examine my latest acquisition under the lights, so we went in and ordered Turkish coffee and cakes.  While waiting, I unwrapped my parcel.  The book it contained was not in my hands for more than thirty seconds before I realised that old Monsieur Labac had made a terrible mistake.
I look up at Roni, aghast. 
“He's given us the wrong volume.  This isn't the reproduction ‑ it's the original.  He must have got confused.  It was so dark in that shop.  We must go back."
"Ruth, my darling," said Roni, "an old Latin saying has governed the relations between buyers and sellers for thousands of years: caveat emptor – buyer beware.  It holds true for sellers, too.  Just think what that book could buy us – all the things we want."
“Nonsense," I said, "it couldn't buy us a family.  And do you think I'm going to steal a book worth millions from that wonderful old man, simply because he made a mistake?  Especially after the way he treated me."
"You're right, of course," said Roni.  “Come on, we’ll go back.  It's only round the corner."
When we re­-emerged into the courtyard, the tiny shop in the far corner was silent and dark.  I rapped on the glass and called out “Monsieur Labac!  Monsieur Labac!”.
A tiny flicker of light glimmered far away in the recesses of the shop, like a remote star in the endless void of space.  It advanced towards us, and at length I saw Monsieur Labac approaching, an oil lamp in his hand. 
"Mrs Illyon?   Is that you?"
"Yes, Monsieur Labac," I called.  "We had to come back."
The old man unlocked the door and pulled it open.
"It's the book you sold us," I said.  "Take it.  Look."
I thrust the volume into his hands.  He put down the oil lamp and took it. 
I don't know what reaction I had expected – horror, distress, amazement, relief.  To me it seemed that his over‑riding emotion was an immense satisfaction.  He hugged the book to him.
“Mrs Illyon.  The original Book of the Cabal.  You returned it to me, although I told you it was so valuable."
"It was the only thing to do."
“Ah, there you are mistaken," he said.  "There are always choices, always the chance to frustrate those who would foretell the shape of future events.  Others might have decided differently – you and your husband chose to exercise your free will in this way." 
He took up the oil lamp and moved slowly off down the shop to the counter, where the other volume still lay.  We followed, and eventually stood close together in the gloom, the lamp casting a soft glow on our faces.
“Mrs Illyon,” he said, as he began wrapping the volume, “you remember what I was saying to you earlier?  I might have predicted that you would return here with this infinitely precious volume; I could have tried to ordain it; but I could never have guaranteed it.”
"I understand that," I said.
            "Which is why I am diffident about what I have to say to you now, my dear Mrs Illyon.  If it teaches us anything, the Cabal teaches that existence is not purposeless; on the contrary, each life is full of purpose – often frustrated, of course, because of that free will about which we have spoken.  So when I say I foretell certain events, I do so because I can distinguish, however obliquely, certain purposes…  And so I say to you, my dear Mrs Illyon, that one day you and your husband will travel abroad and become the recipient of a great fortune.  This, dear Mrs Illyon, it is intended that you will use to found a library, here in this holy city of Jerusalem.  It will start as a modest collection, but it will become a great institution. This is the purpose, you are the chosen instrument.  Because of it your name will be remembered for hundreds of years after you, and your husband, and I, have passed away from the earth.  Listen, my dear Mrs Illyon, and remember ...”
We left the shop, Roni and I, shaken as much by the intensity of the old man's vision as by his strange words.  A week or so later, walking again through the old city, I tried to find the short alleyway and the tiny court, but never again did I set eyes upon that little courtyard with the bookshop in one corner.
So why has old Monsieur Labac been so much in my mind these last few days? The reason is quickly told. 
For several years after our little adventure, Roni and I were too tied up with starting our small family and getting established in business to take a holiday abroad.  Later, the truth is that we were scared – scared in case the old man's prophecy was not fulfilled, and scared in case it was.  So we put off going, time and again. 
Eventually, the illness of a very dear member of our family forced us to put all reservations to one side and fly quickly to the States. Fortunately our relative made a reasonable recovery, but while we were there Roni succumbed to the temptations of the Mega Millions lottery. In the week we arrived the rollover for the following draw exceeded one billion dollars.  We bought our ticket on Monday; on Tuesday we flew back to Israel.  Think of us – picture our state of mind this weekend – as we sit glued to the computer screen, awaiting the result of the draw.
Monsieur Labac, where are you?  Who are you?   It was only yesterday, as I was idly writing your name again and again on a scrap of paper, that I realised just what your name spells – backwards.

Friday, 22 June 2018


The children were intrigued by the naval museum that was half a ship.  Ships and the sea were not things they had grown up with.  The occasional visit to the Dead Sea was as far north as they usually ventured.  Our two grandchildren were children of the desert.
You see, when I came to settle in Israel late in 1949, it was way down south in the Negev that I started a small business, taking my Hebrew name from the most important town in the area.  So it was as Avraham Ramon that I was shortly afterwards married to a girl I'd known as a child in the old country.
When our grandson, Eli, reached his twelfth birthday in 1988, I wanted to give him and his little sister, Shula, the biggest treat I could.  A week’s holiday in Haifa was something the children had never experienced – they’d never been so far north before in their lives. 
It was on the second morning of our holiday that my two grandchildren and I, walking up a steep side­-road that ran at an acute angle from the main coast road, came across the odd‑looking building with a rather unusual sign outside.
“What do those words mean, Grandpa?” asked Eli.
I spelled them out for him.
““Illegal Immigration and Naval Museum.”
“What’s illegal immigration?” asked Shula.
“It means coming into the country unlawfully.”
Eli knew what I was talking about.
“It’s all those stories you used to tell us, about when you were young.  Let’s go in, Grandpa." 
"Look, Shula," I said, "the museum’s half a ship. They must have brought an old ship up here, and made it into a sort of living story book."
We walked in, and instantly the glare of the morning sun was transmuted into a shadowy, greenish light, and the heat into air-conditioned comfort.  As I bought the tickets, I asked the man at the desk the name of the ship that had been integrated into the museum.
Grizzled, bearded, he looked at me intently before pointing at the ship’s side. 
“The Af Al Pi Chen,” he said, “one of the vessels that used to bring illegal immigrants into the port of Haifa under the noses of the British.  During the Mandate, of course.”
“Can we go and explore, grandpa?” asked Eli.
“Yes, off you go.  I’ll never keep pace with you.  I’ll go round in my own time.”
They raced away and I turned to the man at the desk, his face half in shadow. 
“It seems like a very good place to bring children.”
“Oh, kids like scrambling about the ship.  For them it’s an adventure.  But the story we tell here – that’s a different matter.  That’s no fairy tale.”
“I know,” I said.
“I was in the middle of it all,” said the man.
“Is that how you came to work in the museum?”
“Partly.  Yes, I was well qualified, I suppose.  The Haganah, first in the '30s and then after the Second World War, and then a spell in the Israeli Navy.  But by that time I was already searching for someone – someone I wanted to find very badly indeed.  When I left the Navy I looked for a job where I could go on searching.  This was ideal.”
“Sounds intriguing,” I said.   “Who are you searching for?”
“I'll tell you.  Have you got time for a chat?”
“Why not?  The children seem happy enough.”
I took a seat and he paused, as if seeking the best way to break into the narrative.
“Where to begin?  After the War our people, the pitiful remnants who had survived Hitler's camps, were still in camps – refugee camps – and yearning, as Jews had yearned for two thousand years, to come here.  For them, at that time, it was the only possible haven.  We had to bring them in.  The Haganah bought, borrowed, chartered, whatever vessels we could from wherever we could.  We brought them across the sea – to within sight of the land.  And then we faced the British blockade.  So we had to smuggle them in – or try to.
“It was in the autumn of 1947 that I was appointed leader for one particular voyage.  We were about to set sail for Haifa, when I received instructions by radio that a co‑leader from the Palmach had been assigned. 
“I was uneasy from the moment the man arrived on board – tall, thin, fair‑haired, blue‑eyed and clearly a native German speaker.  He looked like the archetypal Aryan – and he aroused in me the strongest possible antipathy.  I didn't beat about the bush.
" 'I don't trust you,' I said.  'Understand?’
“ ‘Couldn't be clearer,’ he said.  ‘From now on I'm just one of the refugees – OK? – and you’re sole leader.  All right?’
            The man at the desk paused, and looked across at me.  I said nothing.
“But in the end I wasn't able to do without him.  When we were just over the horizon from Haifa, the radio packed up.  That meant we couldn't contact the reception committee, back on the mainland, waiting to organise the run into shore and the disembarkation.  So I just had to turn to the man from the Palmach.
“ ‘You'll have to row for the shore,' I said, 'and contact the reception committee.  There's no other way.  You'll set out at 5 p.m..  You'll have two hours of daylight and four of our precious night hours to row to the shore and make contact.  Precisely six hours after you've left, at 11 p.m., we'll begin to edge towards the coast.  I expect to see the current Haganah welcoming message by Morse lamp from the top of Mount Carmel during the night – in good time for us to get to the beach and disembark our passengers.   Now, is that all understood?'
“ ‘Aye, aye captain’ he said.  ‘Now, when you say the current Haganah message ...?’
“ ‘Yes?’
“ ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I'm Palmach.  How do I know the current Haganah code?’
I could scarcely believe what I was hearing.
“ ‘Are you telling me that you were sent as co‑leader on this trip without being told the coded reception message?’
" ‘Strange as it may seem.’
            “This put the seal on the suspicion I’d nurtured from the start.
“ ‘Well, if they didn't trust you with it, neither will I.  They'll know on shore.  All you have to do is to make contact.’
            “But he wasn’t prepared to take that. 
“ ‘Understand this – if I'm not given that message, I don't leave this ship.’
            “So I gave him what he wanted.   ‘The coded message I expect to see is: Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.’
" ‘Right," he said, gazing at me intently. 'And that's what you'll see.   That I promise you.’
 “And that's the message I did see.  About 2.30 a.m., when we were lying about 8 kilometres from the coast.  And a terrible dilemma it placed me in.  Because it was the wrong message.”
For the first time since he’d begun his story, I interrupted him.
“But wasn’t that the message you’d asked to see – that you’d expected to see?”
He thumped the desk in front of him
“No, no, no!  I hadn't trusted Hans Utterman, not from the start – he could have been a spy infiltrated by the British, and I was damned if I'd let him have the current Haganah code.  So I gave him the code used in the previous 17‑day period. 
            “It all seemed so simple.  If Utterman was genuine, the reception committee would know the current code and use it.  If he was a spy he’d go straight to the British, so if I saw the message I'd given him, the thing to do was to turn round as quickly as possible and head straight out for sea.”
            “But good God!” I said.  “Didn’t you consider a third possibility?”
            “Not till he’d gone.   Only then I realised in what a dilemma I might have placed our friends on shore.  Suppose this Utterman was genuine, and suppose he told the committee that I was expecting to see the message: Vengeance is mine, says the Lord – that he’d promised me faithfully that this would be the message I'd see.  What would the committee do? – flash me the code I said I was expecting?  Or flash the one I ought to be expecting?”
“And you got…?”
            “The wrong one,” he said.  “The wrong one.  The one I’d given to Hans Utterman.”
            “So what did you do?”
            The old man looked anguished.
“The wrong thing.  To my eternal shame.  I never trusted that damned German spy, but I convinced myself that he’d argued with the reception committee, that he’d insisted they flash the message I'd told him I expected to see.  That message, shining out from the top of Mount Carmel over the calm sea – wrong though it was, it seemed like a beacon of hope.  Surely our own people were out there in the darkness, only a little way away, waiting for us. 
“I gave the order to move forward the last few kilometres.  We inched ahead in the darkness, closer and closer.  Suddenly ...  lights, brilliant, brilliant lights, flooding the ship from stem to stern.  And that voice, that British voice I hear still in my dreams, my nightmares...
“ ‘Stand to, the Miriam.  You will be boarded shortly.  My men have orders to fire if there is any resistance.  Keep calm and no‑one will be hurt.’
“Motor vessels burst into life and roared towards us.   Within minutes we were surrounded.  We offered no resistance when they came on board.  
“We were all interned, every last one of us, first on shore, then in Cyprus, for over a year.  For myself I didn't care.  But those people, so close, after so much tribulation – only to have the cup dashed from their lips.  It was heart‑breaking.  As soon as I got back, I set myself the job of tracking down that German spy.  Years passed, and I never saw or heard of him.  Then I took this job in the Illegal Immigration Museum because I felt that, if he was still alive, one day the museum would draw him.  For twenty years I've sat here, searching the faces – always in vain.  Until… “
“Until today,” I said.  “That's right isn't it, Uzzi?  You recognised Hans Utterman the minute he walked through that door.”
“Of course,” said Uzzi Tal.  “Age, weight, an accent – what are they?  The man is in the eyes.  At last.”
A second later a revolver was pointing directly at me.
“I'm sorry about your grandchildren, Herr Utterman.  They're innocent.  But the time has come to pay for your betrayal.  As you see, I'm prepared.  I've been prepared all these years.”
I made no move of any sort.
“Put your gun away, Uzzi.  Listen to what I have to say.”
“You think you can talk your way out of this?” he said.  "One of the great betrayals of the Jewish struggle?”
“But you've got it all wrong.  Do you want to hear the truth?  Can you bear it?”
Uzzi Tal kept his gun pointing straight at me.
“Tell me.”
“That night,” I said, “I got to shore about 1 a.m., beached the boat¸ and walked across the sand – straight into the arms of a British patrol.  I was taken to British headquarters, and it was quite clear that they knew the Miriam was out there.  She'd been tracked halfway across the Mediterranean.  They'd also broken the Haganah code – or so I’d believed until just this moment.  Now I realise that all they had was the old code – they didn't know it had been changed.
“They decided to make things easy for themselves by flashing out to the ship what they thought was the reception message.  The closer to shore the Miriam came, the more likely they could board her and intern the passengers without much trouble. 
“You, my dear Uzzi, made two classical errors: you under‑estimated the enemy, and you were too suspicious of your friends.  If only you'd given me the right code in the first place, the whole tragedy would never have happened.  You’d have known the message was wrong.  You might have got away.”
Tal lowered the revolver.  In the dim greenish light, I could see that his hand was shaking.
“How have you turned up after 40 years?  Why could I never find you?”
“I was shipped by the British straight back to Germany,” I said.  "I didn’t manage to return to Israel till ’49.  I got married, and settled down in the Negev.  I took a Hebrew name – but Avraham Ramon or Hans Utterman, I'm quite innocent of the crimes you've been charging me with in your heart all these years.  If there is any guilt for the extra misery heaped upon those hapless refugees – where does it lie?  You tell me. 
“Uzzi, you’ve been nurturing vengeance in this place for twenty years.  Vengeance is a plant that thrives in the shadows.  Pull back the blinds, let in the light, and it will shrivel away.  No, Uzzi, vengeance isn’t for us mortals.  Remember – “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord”."
“Vengeance is mine.”
                        Deuteronomy 32:35
 “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 
                        Romans 12:19