The Nili Spies

Title:                      The Nili Spies

Author:                 Anita Engle

Engle, Anita (1959). The Nili Spies. London: Hogarth Press

LCCN:    90104806

DS125.A32 E54 1959


Date Updated:  April 27, 2015

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Nili was the Jewish intelligence organization that operated in Palestine in 1917 on behalf of the British. The organizers, Aaron and Sarah Aaronson, were dedicated Zionists who hoped their services to General Allenby would further Jewish aspirations in the area as well as Aaron’s own ambitions. Engle’s book, written in an admiring, sympathetic tone, describes the political atmosphere of the Jewish community in Palestine within which Nili had to operate. The espionage organization and its work are only generally described. For all her praise of Nili’s effectiveness, the author does not produce evidence of the organization’s success. It may very well have deserved more British recognition for its sacrifices, but Engle fails to make a case on this point. Her admiration for the organization does not prevent her revealing some of Nili’s poor security practices; it does affect her judgment as to the relative value of various intelligence efforts. Lawrence is dismissed as “just playing at war.” Parenthetically, Engle states that Nili worked for Political Intelligence under Deedes of Allenby’ s staff, not under Meinertzhagen, who was director of military intelligence. Further research is needed to ascertain the exact contributions of the Aaronsons and their intelligence work, for which Sarah gave her life and Aaron later suffered ostracism by his own people as a “British agent.” The couple is mentioned in Rowan’s The Story of Secret Service.[2]

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 176

[2] Rowan, Richard Wilmer (1937). The Story of Secret Service. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran

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2 Responses to The Nili Spies

  1. Pingback: Duty, Honor, Empire | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Spies In Palestine | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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