Monday, September 1, 2008

A bloody and vengeful claim to fame

JUVAL AVIV has an incredible claim to fame. He led a deadly team of five assassins set loose to avenge the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes.

His experience inspired the character called Avner played by Eric Bana in the 2005 film Munich.

But is it simply that, an incredible claim? Aviv says he was a bodyguard and anti-terrorism adviser to Israel's so-called "Iron Lady", Golda Meir, prime minister from 1969-74, and a major in Israeli army intelligence when Meir unleashed the secret revenge mission.

Doubters allege his security credentials extend only to serving as an airport security guard.

Stocky and smiling, a round badge with the CIA emblem proudly pinned to his lapel, Aviv, in turn, talks about official secrecy and the need for "deniability."

This much is clear: Aviv is a fascinating storyteller with strong views on the present day terrorist threat. He warned a 700-strong audience in Melbourne last week that Australia is woefully under-prepared for a terrorist attack.

"I'm in the loop, I'm seeing a lot of information, and I can tell you that Australia was always far away, the dark side of the moon," he later tells the Herald.

"You were isolated, you were in a bubble, and you were secure. That bubble has burst."

Aviv says Australia's troop deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan make the country a bigger terrorist target, lifting it to rank alongside the United States, Israel and Britain.

But he also fears official complacency has compounded the threat. "Australia today is exactly where America was before 9/11 - gullible, believing you are secure because you are an island."

Aviv's warnings are urgent. On an Australian tour sponsored by the Women's International Zionist Organisation, he says while authorities must take greater steps to secure the country, citizens can also prepare.

"You have done a lot, but you are light years away in Australia from really being ready for an attack," he says.

"A lot of people really don't believe it is going to happen."

Families should sit down together and work out emergency plans, he says, including places to meet if they cannot return home and who will pick children up from school.

Aviv heads a New York private investigation firm, and says he also acts as a White House and congressional counter-terrorism consultant. He claims to have left Israel's spy agency Mossad in 1977 after the 5½-year hunt for the Munich culprits.

"We found those 11 terrorists, and one by one, we bought them to justice - which we only know how to do in Israel, as I always say." When pressed, he admits this refers to executions.

His story has been challenged by Israeli intelligence officials, including the former Mossad chief, and Israel's Government has never admitted any responsibility.

But Aviv insists the operation was the only response open at the time, to send a message of strength, even though it would not end the threat.

Aviv will appear in Sydney this week.


Latest Posts

Latest Comments