ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

Assisting Killing is Allowed with Permission Only

FARC 1999

By Eitay Mack (Attorney and Human Rights Activist)

In June 2022, the final report of Colombia’s Truth Commission was published, exposing shocking detail about the civil war that took place there from 1958-2021. According to the findings of this commission, 450,000 people were killed, 80% of them civilians uninvolved in the actual fighting. The ones responsible for these killings are militias (45%), guerrilla forces headed by FARC (27%), and state agents (12%). 110,000 persons disappeared: militias were responsible for 52% of these, guerrilla forces headed by FARC – 24% and state agents – 8%. In addition, massacres are known to have taken place, over half of which were incurred by militias. As a result of widespread violence, about 8 million were uprooted from their homes and lands.

Naturally, during those years other states saw even more civilians killed in wars. The case of Colombia is remarkable, however, as there was no military coup but rather a would-be democratic-civil regime and elections were held regularly.

Colombian flag

The drawn-out civil war took place against the background of a social and economic collapse that contributed to the recruitment of combatants and guerrilla forces. Thus, for example, in a telegram sent on April 29, 1987 by Israel’s Ambassador at Bogota, Yaacov Gotal, to Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres, Gotal writes that out of about 30 million residents, “25% of the population live in total poverty – without education or health services, without electricity and water, in dire housing conditions and without access routes. The flocking of farmers into towns because of the shaky security situation enlarges the poorer neighbourhoods created around the cities, and increases the number of the unemployed.”

The state and local militias responsible for most of the killings and disappearances were founded by the state’s security forces, drug barons, politicians and other interest-holders or businessmen. Some of the militias were even shared by several elements, for example, the army and drug barons. Since the 1970s Colombia became the world’s largest cocaine producer, growing wealthy drug cartels who handled everything. According to a summary prepared by Israeli Ambassador to Colombia Yaacov Gotal in August 1986 (precise date unknown), Colombia’s annual income from drugs reached 5 billion dollars, while the sum total of the state’s legal income from export in 1985 was 3 billion dollars. Whereas in certain years Colombia received the third largest military aid from the US (following Israel and Egypt) for the sake of “the war on drugs”, politicians and senior security forces persons supported by the US also received regular income from the cartels and cooperated with them at the same time.

Yair Klein

Israeli involvement in the civil war, raising stormy world opinion and even referred to in the Truth Commission’s report, was noted in the affair of reserves lieutenant colonel Yair Klein. As Judge Dalia Dorner wrote in her ruling, rejecting the libel suit presented by Klein against journalist Ron Ben Yishai. After his discharge from the Israeli army, Klein founded a firm called “Spearhead Ltd” that dealt in the sale of military training, creating units of anti-terror warfare, and weapons export. Among other things, in the late 1980s, Klein trained the rancher-militias in Colombia that later turned out to be involved with the drug cartels, committing war crimes and massacring civilians. As early as September 1989, the Colombian government requested the Israeli government to extradite him. A decade later, a Colombia court convicted him in absentia for his actions and he served jail time in Russia for about three years while the debate around his extradition was taking place. In November 2012 Klein agreed to testify to a special tribunal in Colombia and said, “I am sorry for having created a force that eventually served the drug cartel.”

In response to legal proceedings and media coverage – in Colombia, Israel and the world over – of the Klein affair and the massacres perpetrated by forces he had trained, the Israeli government chose to present him as a wild weed acting without permission and proper supervision by the authorized echelons of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, and presented the State of Israel as one that makes sure its security exports are strictly legal. Among other things, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence repeatedly made it known in Israeli and world media that Israel’s government had no connection with Klein and his actions in Colombia. In a meeting with journalists in Nablus on August 31, 1989, Minister of Defence Yitzhak Rabin said that he doubts whether there is any state in this world with such strict rules and regulations regarding arms deals as the ones in Israel. On September 1, 1989, the LA Times quoted Justice Minister Dan Meridor who said that, “Israel and its army’s image have been seriously impacted. It is important that such an image remain positive, of a patriotic army that wages just war morally.” Meir Amit, former head of Mossad, was quoted by the NY Times on August 26, 1989, saying that, “the greatest damage is that instead of being known as creative in farming, genetics, and medicine, our trademark now lies with the security business, whether in arms or support systems.” The Ministry of Defense even lodged several complaints against Klein with the police, for having acted without a military export permit in several states. Convicting him for some of these cases, Judge Miriam Bernstein wrote, “when a person known for his time as combatant and senior commander in the Israeli army’s select unit, like the accused Klein, uses his reputation and especially the army’s reputations to make a private fortune and sells the knowhow and reputation he earned in the Israeli army to unsupervised elements abroad as a ‘sword for hire’ without the supervision of the authority responsible for guarding vital public interests – the damage to the state’s good reputation, its army’s good name and Israel’s foreign relations (so vulnerable in any case) is harsh.”

Documents from the 1980s in files of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the State Archive, that have opened to the public this year, show that while the State of Israel pretended that it was bothered that Klein dealt with security exports and militia training unlicensed, it had no problem running – with official permission – the export of weapons and military knowhow to the Colombian security forces, although representatives of Israel well knew that these were handling militias who murdered civilians and politicians of the left. Like Klein who claimed that he only wanted to help plantation owners against the guerrilla forces, and like Judge Dorner who established that he knew or at least “turned a blind eye” to the connection his trained militia had with the drug cartel, former seniors of the Israeli security forces came to Colombia to advise about its “war on terror” while Israeli representatives were informed that the Colombian government itself was using terror methods and its seniors were even supported by the drug cartels. Thus, for example, in a telegram sent by Ambassador Gotal on September 14, 1984 to the head of the Latin American Desk Hanan Olami, he wrote that the cartels donated great sums of money to politicians of all political parties, and one of the cartel barons even claimed that he donated to the election campaign of President Belisario Betancourt.

A long series of telegrams sent from the Israeli Embassy in Bogota in the 1960s and 70s, shows that in those years Israel could not make security deals. Colombia received all of its armaments from the US which in turn forbade Colombia from bringing in other foreign advisers. According to telegrams of that time, Israel did not see this as being important, since Colombia was a US satellite and, in any case, voted pro-Israel in international forums.  Additionally, Israel did not wish to provoke Colombia’s neighbours in whom it also had various interests.

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ documents that were exposed to the public, there is nothing to explain what led to the change in the 1980s. The warming relations may have resulted from the crisis in the Dominican Embassy building. On February 27, 1980, armed men from the M19 guerrilla force attacked the Dominican Embassy in Bogota during a diplomatic event. Among the hostages were Israeli Ambassador Eliyahu Barak and his wife. Ambassador Barak was kept hostage for 61 days until he was freed along with other diplomats after ransom was raised. During this crisis, the Colombian press reported that an Israeli commando unit was sent to Colombia. There is no documentation of the arrival of such a unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs documents now exposed, but according to a telegram sent on April 27, 1980 from the Embassy in Bogota to the Ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem, the person sent to Colombia was the Prime Minister’s adviser on terror, Rafi Eitan. According to a telegram sent by the Embassy in Bogota on March 3, 1980, Eitan was to hold ongoing correspondence with the US about the crisis at the Dominican embassy. A series of telegrams sent by the embassy in Bogota shows that Israel was a source of ongoing advice to Colombia during this crisis.

About four months later, a summary of a meeting by David Kimche, Director of Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the Colombian Ambassador to Israel on August 1, 1980, mentions a request made by the ambassador on behalf of the Colombian secret services (DAS) “for communications equipment”. Kimche promised that, “their request be favorably examined”. Before that, in a telegram sent on April 3, 1980, the head of the Latin America Desk in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Menahem Karmi, to Israel’s embassy in Bogota, wrote that the Colombian Ambassador to Israel presented, “a request to host for a week an engineer expert in radio systems to learn methods of locating terrorists through their radio broadcasts.”

In a telegram sent on April 18, 1982, CEO Kimche agreed to the Ministry of  request to make a gift of a Galil (Israeli-produced) rifle to the head of a military delegation visiting Israel as well as an Uzi submachine gun to the commander of an infantry brigade who participated in this delegation. In December 1980, the Colombian Minister of Defense visited Israel. In 1981 Colombia was the only Latin American country that sent soldiers to partake in the multinational observer force stationed in Sinai. In a telegram of December 3, 1982 sent by Israeli Ambassador in Bogota, Haim Aharon, to the head of the Latin America Desk, Karmi, he wrote that “representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the Israel Aerospace Industries and other industries were present in Colombia.” According to several telegrams sent between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, in September 1983 they agreed that a permanent representative of the Ministry of Defence would be present in Bogota as a, “representative of the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Colombia, who will also deal in promoting sales of security equipment (to government elements only, and not as a trader but rather as ‘tying loose ends’).”

One of the Ministry of Defence’s responses to the Klein affair, publicized in the NY Times on August 26, 1989, was that, “an examination carried out by the Israeli Ministry of Defence shows that Israel had never issued permits to Israelis to act in any state, including Colombia, selling military expertise or training non-governmental elements or such that are not subject to the state at large”. Documents of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now made public by the State Archives show that indeed the State of Israel did not sell military equipment directly to the militias, but it either knew about it, or “turned a blind eye” as Judge Dorner said of Klein – knowing that the Colombian army and generals had armed, trained and operated militias that murdered and made civilians disappear.

Alongside the warming of military relations between the two states, the Israeli Embassy in Bogota began to report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that military units, among them Colombia’s military attaché in Israel, operated through a militia called MAS (Muerte a Secuestradores – Death to Kidnappers). In a telegram sent by the Israeli Ambassador at Bogota, Aharon on March 12, 1982, he reported that, “MAS murdered one of the famous advocates who defended the M19 militia… Several famous advocates publicized a letter insinuating that the MAS is an organization run by military men and as an example, mentioned a murder that occurred about two years ago from the jeep of a bodyguard of General Vega, known to us as Colombia’s military attaché in Israel.” On February 23, 1983, Ambassador Aharon sent a telegram to the head of the Latin American Desk, Karmi, informing him that Colombia’s Attorney General, “publicized his conclusions about the above-mentioned organization whose nature is known to you, stating that over 50 military men are members.” Ambassador Aharon’s choice of words, ‘known to you’, attests to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ full awareness of this fact. In a telegram sent on November 1, 1984, Ambassador Yaacov Gotal reported to the head of the Latin America Desk Hanan Olami, that Amnesty International has reported that, “80 prisoners have disappeared, that the police and army have carried out systematic torture, and that 300 extra-judicial executions were carried out by army and police elements. So far, no denial of such allegations has been publicized by the Colombian government.”

In the mid-1980’s, in view of the escalating international sanctions against the South African apartheid regime that supplied Israel with 60% of its coal consumption, the latter began searching for alternative energy sources. At first, Israel attempted to barter coal for arms, and a document of intent was even signed on January 1, 1985. In a telegram sent by Israeli Ambassador to Bogota, Yaacov Gotal to the Deputy CEO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mordechai Drori on September 2, 1985, he summed up the matter and wrote: “for long-time negotiations were held by the Israeli and Colombian coal companies, and at the same time by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Colombian Ministry of Defence, about a barter deal of 200-300 million dollars – coal in return for planes”. Ambassador Gotal explained that when Minister of Energy Moshe Shachal arrived at Colombia, President Belisario Betancourt notified him that the deal cannot take place because of pressure from international financial elements. At the time, Colombia was in the midst of a tremendous debt crisis, had taken huge loans and had committed to the International Monetary Fund to carry out deals only in return for foreign currency cash. In May 1985, the document of intent was cancelled, but in the first six months of 1985, Israel had already purchased coal from Colombia worth 3.8 million US dollars.

In summaries of arms deals prepared by Ambassador Gotal for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 26, 1984 and April 1, 1985, he wrote that the Israel Aerospace Industries had made a deal for 33.5 million dollars to renovate Mirage fighter planes, a deal for 80 million dollars to purchase and install Barak systems, and is now carrying out advanced negotiations to sell 18 Kfir planes; Tadiran Electronics sold communications equipment costing a million and a half dollars and supplied in 1983-4, and communications equipment costing 4 million dollars paid, to be supplied in 1984-5. Furthermore, a contract was signed for 5 million dollars to provide communications equipment in 1985. The Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) sold equipment for 5 million dollars provided in 1983-4, as well as equipment worth 10 million dollars paid and to be provided in 1984-5. Rafael Industries sold equipment for 2 million dollars paid and to be provided in 1985. Soltam (mortar producer) sold equipment for 1.8 million dollars that was provided in early 1985.

In a telegram sent on January 3, 1985 to the head of the Latin America Desk, Hanan Olami, Ambassador Gotal reported that one of the commanders of M19 in the Corriento area battles said in a TV interview that the attacking army uses “Galil rifles provided by Israel”. In a telegram sent on January 9, 1985 to Olami, Ambassador Gotal reported that the Colombian army publicized its admission to using “Israeli Arava planes for surveillance and intelligence purposes” in its actions against the guerrilla forces. In a telegram sent on January 18, 1985, to Olami, Ambassador Gotal reported that Colombian TV emphasized that “policemen were provided Israeli Uzi submachine guns”. In a telegram sent on May 5, 1986 representative of the Israeli Ministry of Defence Nahman Sover wrote to the director of the Latin America Desk at the Ministry of Defence foreign aid wing, Y. Sadot, that military deals were signed totalling 100 million dollars. A telegram sent on February 3, 1986 by Ambassador Gotal to Hanan Olami reported that the Colombian government “renewed the purchase of military equipment from the Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) for the total of 29 million dollars”. In a telegram sent on May 12, 1986 to Olami, Ambassador Gotal wrote that the deal confirmed for 29 million dollars with Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) had been signed and is dedicated to “the purchase of Galil rifles and ammunition”.  In a telegram sent on November 3, 1987 to Olami, Ambassador Gotal reported that negotiations were taking place between Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Colombian government over a deal of 200 million dollars.

A telegram sent on March 12, 1986 by Gotal to the head of the Latin America Desk, Olami, contained Gotal’s suggestion to renew contacts for purchasing coal. He explained this by pointing out that Colombia’s votes in the UN General Assembly “are improving” and that “the Latin American countries usually coordinate their votes ahead of time.” Gotal wrote that, “one of the ways to improve our relations with Colombia, as I see it, is to increase our purchases there, especially of coal, which I have repeatedly suggested. This way we might create a certain measure of Colombian economic dependence upon Israel.” Gotal presumed that if Virgilio Barco would be elected president, “chances are his friendship and personal sympathy with Israel would also be manifested in the international arena.”

Gotal’s assumption proved itself, not only because during Barco’s term in office Colombia provided Israel with coal and oil, but also because President Barco decided to abandon his predecessor’s attempts (Betancur’s) to achieve a peace treaty, and to escalate “the dirty war” in order to exterminate the guerrilla forces and leftists in the country. For that purpose, President Barco commissioned both weapons and military advisers from Israel. After his winning the election and in view of the expected military deals, a summary prepared by Ambassador Gotal in August 1986 (exact date unknown) shows that, “Colombia had become Israel’s client number one in Latin America, especially regarding military matters”. The rise in this relationship was further seen when on September 19, 1986, Minister of Industry Ariel Sharon visited Colombia and met with the Colombian Minister of Defense and President Barco. In addition to the agreement to negotiate Israel’s purchase of coal and oil on a regular annual basis, according to the memorandum prepared from this meeting, President Barco said to Minister Sharon that “a radical change must be made in the Colombian military conception” and emphasized the need of “Israel’s aid in this area”. In a press conference held after the meeting, Minister Sharon called for the creation “of a united front of all the free states headed by the US to wage a war on terror” and claimed that the Lebanon War produced “evidence of cooperation between Colombian underground movements and the Palestine Liberation Organization”.

About five months after Minister Sharon’s visit, in a telegram sent on February 2, 1987 to Olami, Ambassador Gotal reported that the Colombian press covered conspicuously a large weapons shipment arriving from Israel to the Cartagena port for the Colombian security forces, including “Galil rifles, machine guns, Uzi submachine guns, grenades and ammunition, weighing 160 tons”. Ambassador Gotal estimated that this arms shipment aroused special interest, although “it is not the first shipment coming to Colombia from the Israel arms industries”, because of its proximity to the “Rafi Eitan affair”. Following a first exposure by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, on January 1987 Colombian TV, followed the next day by local newspapers, reported that Rafi Eitan – then already a private businessman – had already spent two weeks in Colombia, advising its Ministry of Defense about a war on the underground movements. On January 31, 1987, Ambassador Gotal sent an urgent telegram to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director Avraham Tamir updating him that following these revelations he received a threatening phone call at home: “We shall avenge our victims whom you helped murder. We shall finish off all the Israelis in Colombia, as well as the Jews”. Gotal warned, “I think that the activity of former Israeli army men and the Colombian security forces, as well as the publicity about Eitan’s activity, constitute a real threat both to Israeli delegates and the local Jewish community, and immediate added safety measures should be taken”. In a second telegram dated February 9, 1987, Ambassador Gotal wrote that he received notification from the Colombian Minister of Defense about “President Barco’s anger and concern about the publicization of Rafi Eitan’s involvement in the internal security affairs of Colombia”. Israeli authorities ignored Ambassador Gotal’s warning, and in a telegram, he sent on February 10, 1988, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director Avraham Tamir, he wrote, “The pilgrimage to Colombia of reserves generals of the Israeli army and former security personages is ongoing. After Rafi Eitan, Gandhi (Eitay Mack: Re’hav’am Ze’evi) and others, I have been informed by friends in the Colombian Ministry of Defense that reserves general Eli Ze’ira met with the Colombian Minister of Defense in the presence of Colombia’s Ambassador to Israel, Gilinsky. Ze’ira’s meeting was kept secret from the Embassy and Gilinsky… Even the Israeli Ministry of Defence’s foreign aid wing representative in Bogota was not informed of Ze’ira’s visit.”

In a telegram sent on April 29, 1987 by Ambassador Gotal to the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres, he wrote: “We are holding export orders in 1987 that are approaching 50 million dollars. About 85% of our present export is military.” On September 28, 1987, Ambassador Gotal reported in a telegram to the head of the Latin America Desk (name unknown) that on September 26, 1987 a deal was concluded amounting to 200 million dollars between the Colombian Minister of Defense and the CEO of between Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), including “the purchase of 13 model C-2 Kfir planes to be renovated in Colombia, turning a Boeing plane into a fueling plane, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft arms.” On January 15, 1988, Ambassador Gotal sent a telegram to the head of the Latin America Desk (name unknown) that the Mirage planes modernization contract includes the refurbishing of 16 engines at the cost of 10 million dollars, Tadiran won the tender to provide communications equipment to the security forces in 1988 at 2.3 million dollars, Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) got the tender for 1988 to supply equipment at 5.6 million dollars, and the mortar company Soltam signed a contract for 4 million dollars.

The renovation and purchase of fighter planes from Israel looked strange even to the US. In a telegram sent on November 16, 1987, Ambassador Gotal reported to the Latin America Desk chief that he had met with the “adviser at the US Embassy in Bogota” who was interested in the progress made in the Kfir deal. The ‘adviser’ told Ambassador Gotal that, “Washington asked for an opinion about approving the sale of planes to the Colombian air force. He said the Embassy here did not oppose this, noting that they were not of the opinion that this is the type of arming that Colombia needs at present, since the immediate threat is not external but an internal one.” In fact, the Colombian air force made frequent “internal” use of these fighter planes to bomb guerrilla forces and civilian communities who were suspected by the army of supporting them. The bombings were reported in the Colombian media and the Truth Commission report mentions this as well.

In the 1980s guerrilla forces, too, were armed with Israeli weapons which actually embarrassed the State of Israel. In a telegram sent on October 24, 1985 to Hanan Olami, chief of the Latin America Desk, Ambassador Gotal reported that at times the weapons held by the Colombian army falls into the hands of M19 guerrilla men, and that “in one case, the assailants came by a trove that included 27 Galil rifles”. In the telegram sent by Israeli Ambassador Haim Aharon on March 12, 1982 he writes that the M19 commander carries an Uzi submachine gun made in Israel “and claims that they purchase their arms on the world market”. One of the embarrassing events as far as Israel is concerned, which Ambassador Gotal reported in a series of telegrams, happened when after the battles that took place on November 6-7, 1985, in the Colombia Supreme Court building between the security forces and about fifty M19 men – during which over 100 people were either killed or executed, including 19 judges, military personnel, civilians and all the M19 men. Examining the serial numbers of the rifles carried by M19 clarified that these were Galil rifles that Israel had sold to Nicaragua’s dictator Somoza in the past, and that after he was ousted, the Sandinistas who then ruled passed them on to Colombia’s guerrilla forces in addition to more Israeli weapons. This led to claims in the Colombian press that Israel was militarily supporting all sides in the local civil war. Therefore, on September 29, 1986, Ambassador Gotal reported in a telegram to Olami that he met with the Director of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the matter. Ambassador Gotal updated the Israeli Ministry that the Colombian Director told him, “It is known to the Colombian government and its security forces that the publication about the sale of Israeli weapons to the underground in Colombia is not true.”

In those years, military delegations from Colombia came regularly to Israel. On December 25, 1986, Chief of the Latin America Desk Hanan Olami agreed for the Ministry of Defense to bring to Israel a delegation of the Colombian High Academy of War. In early July 1987, the Colombian Minister of Defense Rafael Samudio visited Israel and among other things, met with Minister of Defense Rabin and with the Air Force commander. On February 19, 1988, the chief of the Latin America unit in the foreign aid section of the Ministry of Defense, Y. Sadot, sent a telegram to the intelligence unit in the IDF in which he notified that, in coordination with their representative in Colombia, a course of Colombian generals will be coming to Israel. Sadot wrote that the delegation, including officers of the ground and air forces, is interested in training on “Israel’s confronting the terrorism problem legally”, and “The issue of terrorism – threat and answers”. The delegation was headed by General Jesus Armando Arias Cabrales, himself responsible for executing and disappearing guerrillas and civilians when he commanded the army force that raided the Supreme Court in November 1985. Among other things, in a telegram sent by Ambassador Gotal on November 7, 1986, he wrote, “The fate of 12 cafeteria workers is unknown to this day. Their bodies have not been found. Their families have not ceased throughout this year to demand a state inquiry into their fate”. Ambassador Gotal explained that according to estimates, since the workers did not let M19 activists enter the building, “they were killed by the security forces after being arrested”. This did not interest Israel, and in Sadot’s telegram of February 19, 1988, he quoted General Cabrales who said that this visit “was important because of their relations with Israel and their expected expansion”. 31 years later, on September 24, 2019, the Colombian Supreme Court confirmed the 35-year prison sentence that Cabrales received for making civilians disappear.

The tightening of military relations between the states that began in the mid-1980s, despite clear knowledge that the Colombian army which receives knowhow and weapons from Israel, continues to operate and arm militias who exterminate civilians and left-wing activists and politicians, and especially activists of the UP Party. This party was founded by FARC as part of the peace talks that accelerated in 1985. In this context, one must add that the US – Colombia’s main political and military supporter – also didn’t care about the widespread murdering and disappearing of civilians. On September 13, 1984 Ambassador Gotal reported in his telegram to Olami that he met with the US Ambassador to Colombia. The US ambassador said that talks and peace treaties with the guerilla organizations would not hold and that the US hope that in such a case, “the political echelons will give the army free rein to try and annihilate them. The army will be glad to oblige. The Americans believe that the Colombian army is well-trained for this mission.”

On April 1, 1985, Ambassador Gotal reported in his telegram to Olami, that in view of the peace talks, “a right-wing underground organization, MAS (death to kidnappers) declared it was resuming its activity. It is presumed that the organization is made up of rightists and officers of the army and the police, aiming to fight underground movements illegally.” On July 21, 1986, Ambassador Gotal reported to Olami that according to Amnesty International, Colombia is waging a “dirty war” as the result of which 600 persons have been murdered and disappeared in the first half of 1986 alone. According to Amnesty, the murders were perpetrated by the army and police and “gunmen working for both”. On September 2, 1986, Ambassador Gotal reported to Olami that a week earlier, a member of the lower house of congress, a senator, and three other leaders of the UP party were murdered, and that the UP party notified the media that it has been given notice that the murders were perpetrated by the MAS militia. On March 11, 1987 Ambassador Gotal reported to Olami that the UP-party leader accused the members of the Colombian army and police officers – in active duty and reserves – of taking part in the murder of over 300 activists of his party since it was founded. He included names of commanders of specific brigades and battalions taking part in the murders. That day, (May 13), Yosef Oryan of the Israel Embassy in Bogota reported to Olami an attempt to murder three activists of the UP party and later, “the murder of a girl who was witness to the said assassination attempt and might identify the criminals”. On August 27, 1987 Ambassador Gotal reported to the chief of the Latin America Desk (name unknown) that on August 25, in Medellin, “two university professors and the chairperson of the regional teacher’s organization were murdered. Let it be known that in the past two weeks in Medellin 6 students and 4 professors of the same university were murdered, all of them holding leftist views. That day, two leaders of the UP party were murdered, and thus the number of the murder victims among the leaders of this party have passed 400 in the recent year.” Ambassador Gotal reported that the Colombian Attorney General met with President Barco and presented him with “a list of 22 UP party leaders – journalists, professors and activists in the human rights committee who received threats and were likely to be murdered.” On October 12, 1987, Ambassador Gotal reported to the chief of the Latin America Desk that “the massacre of the leftist UP party leaders continues” and that last night, “Jaime Pardo Leal, party leader and candidate for the presidential election of 1986 was murdered.” On October 12, 1987, Ambassador Gotal reported in a telegram to the Latin America Desk chief that since the party, “which unites the communist party with leftist syndicalists”, was founded, 471 of its leaders have been murdered, “among them 2 senators, 2 delegates of the lower house, mayors and others. The murderers have never been caught.” On November 5, 1987, Ambassador Gotal reported in his telegram to the said chief that, “UP leaders put the blame for these murders on rightist groups who enjoy the support of the security forces and even demand the resignation of the Minister of Defense. Journalists, university professors, human rights activists are all accused of being left-leaning, supporting underground movements and are threatened. Some of them even left the country because of such threats, among them prime journalists.” On November 18, 1987, Ambassador Gotal reported in his telegram to the Latin America Desk chief that, “murder of the UP-party leaders continues as well as threats of intellectuals, and especially of journalists accused of being leftists. Over ten journalists have fled the country as a result.”

Israel also knew that the security forces it supports deliver weapons to right-wing militias in the rural areas. On August 3, 1987, Ambassador Gitak reported in a telegram to the head of the Latin America Desk that a lively debate is being held in Colombia among the public and in the press, “after it became known that rural militias hold weapons, they have received from the security forces.” The government did not deny this and according to Ambassador Gotal, the Colombian Ministers of Defense and Justice “justified the organization and existence of these militias claiming self-defence against the attacks of underground movements and criminals who threaten their lives, property and dignity”, and that President Barco “dismissed the entire issue saying it was only a semantic one”. On March 11, 1988, Ambassador Gotal reported in his telegram to the chief of the Latin America Desk that on March 4, 1988, such a rural militia murdered 26 farmers who were working on a banana plantation in Urba. Apparently, he did not know this was a militia whose members – it turned out later – were trained by Klein. The files of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the State Archives regarding the Klein affair are still held in confidence.

The conclusion arising from the Israeli involvement in Colombia is that as far as the Israeli governments are concerned, as long as civilians and leftists the world over are murdered by weapons and military know-how exported with the permission and supervision of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, things are legitimate. If any former army man does without permission the same things that other Israelis commit with permission of the Ministry of Defence, then it is a serious matter that deserves condemnation.  However, it can be assumed that the families of the Colombian victims were never interested in the Israeli “death bureaucracy”, in other words, if the person who provided the weapons and knowhow that murdered or disappeared their loved ones was acting with or without official permission, nor whether the weapons were delivered directly from Israel to the militia or indirectly through the security forces who then passed them on to the militia.

In like fashion, in a deal mediated by the head of the South Sudan secret services,

bypassing South Sudan’s formal apparatuses for the purchase of arms, the government of South Sudan purchased from Israel Galil- Ace rifles in the summer of 2013, then passed them on to the government’s militia called Mathiang Anyoor, training in the private ranch of South Sudan’s dictator Salva Kiir. The rifles allowed the militia to massacre the members of Nuer tribe in December 2013 in the capital of Juba and its surroundings, a massacre that symbolizes the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan.

The State of Israel has never been accountable for its involvement in the horror of the Colombian civil war, and through the Klein affair, has managed to distance itself from this war in public opinion. In like manner, since 2013, Israel has been involved in the horrors of South Sudan’s civil war and will likely go on to be involved in such horrors in other countries as well.

[This article refers to documents held by the Israel State Archives and can be obtained through their website ( or by contacting the archives directly.]