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Joseph Katz: From Soviet Master Spy to Technical Adviser for James Bond Films

Feb. 22 2017

Born in Lithuania in 1913, Joseph (Yeiske) Katz came to America with his family seven years later, became an ardent Communist in his youth, and started working for the KGB in the 1930s. Although his skills reportedly included safecracking, lock-picking, electronic bugging, jujitsu, and sharpshooting, his real expertise lay in getting people to trust him. and he handled several important agents and sources, including Harry Gold of the Rosenberg spy ring. When one of his agents defected, he fled for France and later settled in Israel, remaining but a few steps ahead of the FBI until his death in 2004. Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and David Gurvitz describe his remarkable life and eventual disillusionment with Communism:

Defectors from Communism have often spoken of a Kronstadt moment—the event that finally shatters illusions and precipitates a break with the cause to which they have devoted their lives. . . . As Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign gathered strength in the late 1940s and early 1950s, KGB officers with a Jewish background were shunted aside, demoted, or discharged, and foreign Jewish agents like Katz came under suspicion. . . . Katz [later] told his Israeli contact Aviva Flint that suspicion about him in 1950 had ended his nearly two decades of revolutionary commitment. . . .

In October [of that year, in a letter to his brother, the Yiddish poet Menke Katz], he lamented the choice he had made in a cautious but nonetheless clear reference to his work for Soviet intelligence. . . He had, finally, come to the realization that “my life up to now, all I believed and worked for, is a fraud and a lie.” . . . Either to evade the KGB or because he was spooked by inquiries from French counterintelligence, he took a four-month vacation in the Basque country, writing that “how I came here is a long story” but adding that there was a legend that Jews escaping the Inquisition found refuge in the Pyrenees. . . .

In the 1960s, Joseph went to work for a film-equipment company and received patents in fiber optics, film-lighting techniques, and the development and installation of double-filament lighting and automated grid systems. . . . Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli—the producers of the James Bond movies from 1962, starting with Dr. No through 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun—hired Katz as a technical adviser on lighting in 1967, and he remained in that capacity until 1975. . . . As Saltzman’s Israeli representative in 1972, Katz negotiated for his purchase of Berkey Pathé Humphries, a major film and photo-finishing laboratory in Tel Aviv. . . . Around 1968, he came to America with an entourage that included Saltzman and Sean Connery and managed to avoid attention [from the FBI].

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, Film, History & Ideas, Joseph Stalin, KGB, Soviet espionage

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations