Yisrael Bar, or Israel Beer (1912 – 1966), was an Austrian-born Israeli officer who rose to prominence as an expert on Israeli military history. That expertise secured him a high-ranking position in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which commissioned him to write a book on the Israeli War of Independence, and also won him a place within the inner circle of Israeli prime minister David Ben Gurion, whose trusted confidant and advisor he became.
Bar arrived in Palestine in the late 1930s with an impressive martial resume, having graduated from the Austrian military academy, served as a commissioned officer in the Austrian army, then went on to fight in the Spanish Civil War with the International Brigades, where he was known by the nom de guerre “Colonel Jose Gregorio”. And between his martial exploits, he found the time to get a doctorate in literature from the University of Vienna.
His CV was all bunk, and the real Yisrael Bar had died many years earlier. His rapid rise to prominence highlighted the difficulty Israeli intelligence had during a period of mass immigration in spotting infiltrators. In reality, Bar was a Soviet spy and not even a Jew: supposedly a man of the sword and letters, urbane and Hollywood handsome to boot, Bar cut a swath through Israeli society and Tel Aviv’s nightlife as a ladies’ man. Unfortunately, it took a long time before the fact that he was uncircumcised raised suspicions.
In the meantime, Bar took advantage of his access to Israeli secrets and Israel’s prime minister, whose diary he raided to not only photocopy but to tear out entire pages from and pass on to his handlers. It was not until 1961 when he was caught delivering a briefcase stuffed with sensitive materials to the KGB, that the deception fell apart. He never revealed his true identity during interrogations following his arrest. Tried and convicted of espionage, he was sentenced to jail, where he died in 1966, taking the secret of his identity to his grave.