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June 05, 1987 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-06-05

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aifa — One of the
important elements
of every military e s -
tablishment is its intelligence
division, which is entrusted
with the task of gathering all
possible information which
could be of value in bolster-
ing the country's defensive
posture. For obvious reasons,
all details with regard to the
operations of this division, its
methods and its personnel,
are top secret. Not long ago,
Israel's Intelligence office
lifted an edge of the curtain
to reveal details of a program
which is not only not secret,
but by its very nature seeks
to publicize its activities.
Technically it is known in
Hebrew by the initials of its
function, Chazav, the English
equivalent of which would be
UMM — Unclassified Mili-
tary Material.
It is the task of UMM to
keep abreast of everything
that is printed in the press of
our neighbors and aired via
the electronic media. They
must keep informed on every-
thing going on in the Arab
states, and let the Israel pub-
lic and the world at large
know as well. They glean not
only facts and activities, but
also trends of thought and
shifts of policy which can be
learned from the media.
For example, it had long
been common for the Syrian
press to refer to Lebanon's
Amin Jemayel in the most
derogatory terms possible —
"traitor," "dog" and worse.
That was a reflection of Sy-
rian policy. One morning a
keen-eyed Israeli monitor of
the press detected that the
Lebanese leader had been re-
ferred to as Mr. Amin
Jemayel, presaging a change
in Syrian policy. And indeed,
not long thereafter, the
president was invited for a
formal visit to Assad in
Damascus, and relations were
UMM receives almost ev-
erything put into print in the
Arab states, enormous quan-
tities daily, and all of it has
to be scanned carefully. The
staff can never fall behind,
for the morrow brings a fresh
batch of hundreds of papers.
They also listen to all talk
shows on the air, news, com-
mentaries, interviews, etc.
There are so many stations,
that the skilled ear of an
UMM staff member can lis-
ten to two or three simul-
taneously and detect when
something is of sufficient
interest to warrant undivided

Jordan's King Hussein:
Breakfast and the "Jerusalem

Major qualification re-
quired, of course, is a full
command of the Arabic lan-
guage and ability to trans-
late. While the nucleus of the
staff of UMM was at one time
composed of Sephardi Jews
who themselves or their
families had originated in
Arab lands, and spoke Arabic
at home, more and more of
the members now are
Ashkenazi Jews who have
specialized in Arabic studies
both at high school and at
To be sure, even a high de-
gree of proficiency in a lan-
guage does not mean that
they know everything, but as
has been pointed out, nobody
knows all the words in a dic-
tionary, even in his mother

Arabic also changes
rapidly. In Lebanon today, in
the shifting political currents,
four to five new words a week
are coined in the political
jargon, and one who falls be-
hind in following the broad-
casts for a few weeks, may
not understand certain refer-
The monitors at this end
must know not only the lan-
guage, but also the spirit and
currents of thought in the
Arab world. Addressing the
U.N. in September 1985,
King Hussein declared he
was ready to open negotia-
tions with Israel, and used a
word in Arabic which for a
moment stumped our lis-
tener, because one transla-
tion from the Arabic was "di-
rect" and another was "im-
mediately," a distinct dif-
ference of meaning. Which
did he intend? Some here be-
lieve he did it deliberately,
knowing it was subject to
double meaning. For a few
days he could profit from and
enjoy the reaction of the
world press, and then a few

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