Melman, Yossi 1950–

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Melman, Yossi 1950–

(Yossi Bili Melman)


Born December 27, 1950, in Zabrze, Poland; immigrated to Israel; son of Yitzhak (an industrialist) and Anna (a homemaker) Melman; married Billie Rosenzweig (a historian), July 6, 1976; children: Yotam-Dov, Daria. Education: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, B.A., 1976; attended Harvard University, 1989-90. Religion: Jewish.


Home—Tel Aviv, Israel. Office—Ha'aretz, 21 Schocken St., 61001 Tel Aviv, Israel. Agent—Scott Meredith Literary Agency, 845 3rd Ave., New York, NY 10022.


Writer, journalist. Kol Israel (radio), Jerusalem, Israel, economic correspondent, 1975-80; Ha'aretz (daily newspaper), Tel Aviv, Israel, European correspondent in London, 1980-84, special correspondent, 1989—; Davar (daily newspaper), Tel Aviv, chief diplomatic correspondent, 1984-89. Jane's Defence Weekly, Israeli correspondent, 1984-87; Glasgow Herald, Israeli correspondent, 1984-89. Lecturer on Israel and other subjects. Military service: Israeli Defence Forces, 1969-72.


National Federation of Israeli Journalists.


The Master Terrorist: The True Story of Abu Nidal was selected by the New York Times as a notable paperback of 1987; Overseas Press Club of America award, 1987; Nieman fellow in journalism, Harvard University, 1989-90; Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community received an award from the New York Times in 1990.


The CIA Report on Israel's Intelligence Community (in Hebrew), Zabam (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1982.

The Master Terrorist: The True Story of Abu Nidal, Adama (Bellmore, NY), 1986.

(With Dan Raviv) Behind the Uprising: Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1989.

(With Dan Raviv) The Imperfect Spies, Sidgwick & Jackson (London, England), 1989, published in the United States as Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1990.

The New Israelis: An Intimate View of a Changing People, Birch Lane Press (New York, NY), 1992.

(With Dan Raviv) Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.

Ha-meraglim, Yedi ot Ahronot: Sifre hemed (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2002.

(With Meir Javedanfar) The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of A Profile of a Terrorist Organization, in Hebrew. Contributor of articles and editorials to the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Newsweek, and International Herald Tribune.


As a correspondent for the Israeli state radio service, major newspapers in Tel Aviv, and periodicals in Great Britain and the United States, Yossi Melman has developed a reputation as one of Israel's leading journalists. He has written and lectured on Israel and its society, Arab-Israeli conflicts, the Palestinian uprising, defense concerns, the Israeli intelligence community, Israeli-American relations, Europe, and other issues. Melman's first book published in English explores an issue that plagues the Middle East: terrorism.

In The Master Terrorist: The True Story of Abu Nidal, Melman profiles the elusive Palestinian responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Arab moderates and Westerners. Abu Nidal, whose name means "father of the struggle," was born Sabri al-Banna in 1937 into a family of wealthy landholders in Palestine. However, his family lost everything when Israel was born in 1948 and the new nation seized much Palestinian land, including the family's property. Young Sabri spent several years in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. "Melman writes that terrorists are not born but made in places like the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon," noted John Kifner in the New York Times Book Review.

Such was the case for Sabri al-Banna. In The Master Terrorist, Melman explains how Sabri emerged from the camp to study in Jerusalem and Cairo, Egypt. The Palestinian then moved to Saudi Arabia to work, but soon turned to political agitation. He was deported from Saudi Arabia and Sudan for his activities. He eventually joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and served for a period as chief of its office in Iraq. Dissatisfied with the PLO's trend toward moderation, he left in the early 1970s to found the more militant Abu Nidal Group.

Melman further shows that over the next twelve years, Abu Nidal and his organization carried out more than eighty attacks in Europe and the Middle East. Behind a veil of secrecy and front organizations such as Black September, Black June, and the Revolutionary Command, the terrorist masterminded the 1973 assassinations of the U.S. ambassador to Sudan and a European diplomat, the 1982 assassination of the Israeli ambassador to Great Britain, the 1985 murder of sixty passengers on board an Egyptian airliner, and the shootings at the El Al (Israeli airline) counters in Rome, Italy, and Vienna, Austria, that left nineteen people dead. In his book, Melman "provides a powerful portrait of a violent mind and of one of the world's most dangerous individuals," commented Herbert Mitgang in the New York Times.

Since breaking with the PLO, Abu Nidal has established ties with Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and other Middle Eastern nations. Mitgang noted that Melman's book offers "an inside view of the workings of the Palestine Liberation Organization and other terrorist groups, complete with infrastructure, names and places." The difficulty that Melman faces in his profile is the same difficulty faced by counter-terrorist organizations. Kifner pointed out: "Because of the secrecy with which Abu Nidal guards his structure of small, isolated cells, we get little more than a glimpse of his organization's training, recruitment of students and discipline, or of the hard nature of the man himself." Maclean's contributor Michael Posner commented that the book "raises as many questions as it answers." Still, he concluded, "Melman's interim report on one of the world's leading exponents of terrorism offers an excellent introduction."

Melman has collaborated with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) News correspondent Dan Raviv on several other books about Israel and the Middle East, including Behind the Uprising: Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community, and Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance.

In Every Spy a Prince, Melman and Raviv "produce a revealing critical history of the rise and decline of Israel's vaunted security and intelligence arm," according to Publishers Weekly reviewer Genevieve Stuttaford. The authors trace the growth of the Israeli intelligence services, including Mossad, the international spy agency, Aman, for military intelligence, and the domestic spying agency, Shin Bet, from the birth of the state of Israel up through the 1980s and the birth of the Palestinian intifada. New York Times Book Review writer David Wise found the book an "utterly fascinating account of Israeli intelligence." Wise noted that Melman and Raviv paint a realistic picture of these intelligence agencies: "Smart, ruthless, efficient. Going to any lengths to serve their political masters and to protect the security of the state." The reviewer noted that the authors also make it clear that "Israeli intelligence has suffered from arrogance, complacency, operational blunders and a belief that it was above the law."

In Friends in Deed, Melman and Raviv examine the seemingly unlikely relationship between the United States and Israel. The relationship appears outwardly unlikely because the United States is predominantly Christian and free-market capitalist, while Israel is Jewish and had its origins with socialist idealists who shunned the emphasis on material goods as found in the United States and other Western countries. However, the alliance had, at its inception, very pragmatic Cold War motivations, with Israel playing the role of America's client state in the Middle East. Part of America's support for Israel was also, in part, due to the fallout of the Holocaust and the fact that the United States did little to save the Jews of Europe living under Nazism. The authors also point to the power of the Jewish and Israeli lobby in playing a large part in maintaining close relationships between the two countries. Jay Freeman, writing in Booklist, thought that Melman and Raviv "make a convincing case; however, one wonders if they haven't given short shrift to the common democratic ideals that bind the people of both nations." A Publishers Weekly writer felt Friends in Deed "will have an even wider readership than the authors' bestselling Every Spy a Prince." Further praise came from Foreign Affairs reviewer William B. Quandt, who termed the work "well-written and filled with tidbits of inside information."

Working with Meir Javedanfar, Melman penned the 2007 title, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran, "an in-depth look at the personality of [the president of Iran,] Ahmadinejad, his religious beliefs, and the continuous cat-and-mouse game being played by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran," according to Mother Jones contributor Laura Rozen. The authors explain in their book how Iran was able to use nuclear weapons information from Pakistan's so-called "father of the Islamic bomb," Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, and how the IAEA came to discover such information sharing. Melman, speaking with Rozen, noted Ahmadinejad's working-class background as well as his association now with the wealthiest people in Iran and his apparent blind eye to corruption in his administration and own family. However, as Melman also explained to Rozen, the most surprising thing he discovered about Ahmadinejad in his research for the book is the man's "religious depth and convictions of his beliefs in the cult of the Shiite messiah, the Mahdi."



Booklist, April 15, 1994, Jay Freeman, review of Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance, p. 1491.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 1, 1991, Norman Moss, review of Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community, p. 44.

Canadian Jewish News, September 22, 1994, review of Friends in Deed, p. 33.

Foreign Affairs, fall, 1990, John C. Campbell, review of Every Spy a Prince; March 1, 1995, William B. Quandt, review of Friends in Deed, p. 162.

International Affairs, July, 1991, Yezid Sayigh, review of Behind the Uprising: Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, p. 619.

Library Journal, July, 1990, David P. Snider, review of Every Spy a Prince, p. 114; October 15, 1991, Miriam Kahn, review of Every Spy a Prince, p. 141; June 1, 1994, David P. Snider, review of Friends in Deed, p. 138.

Maclean's, January 19, 1987, Michael Posner, review of The Master Terrorist: The True Story of Abu Nidal, p. 58.

Middle East, February, 1992, review of Every Spy a Prince, p. 27.

Mother Jones, July 16, 2007, Laura Rozen, "Ten Questions For: Yossi Melman."

New Statesman & Society, August 30, 1991, David Langsam, review of Every Spy a Prince, p. 44.

New York Times, August 8, 1986, Herbert Mitgang, review of The Master Terrorist; July 14, 1990, Herbert Mitgang, review of Every Spy a Prince, p. 17.

New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1986, John Kifner, review of The Master Terrorist, p. 17; July 8, 1990, David Wise, review of Every Spy a Prince, p. 1; July 10, 1994, Gaddis Smith, review of Friends in Deed, p. 13.

Orbis, spring, 1995, Joseph J. Sisco, review of Friends in Deed.

Political Science Quarterly, winter, 1990, Don Peretz, review of Behind the Uprising.

Publishers Weekly, June 8, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Every Spy a Prince, p. 42; March 21, 1994, review of Friends in Deed, p. 60; April 24, 1995, review of Friends in Deed, p. 69.

Queen's Quarterly, summer, 1993, review of Every Spy a Prince.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 1993, review of The New Israelis: An Intimate View of a Changing People, p. 8.

Times Literary Supplement, January 26, 1990, Walter Laqueur, review of The Imperfect Spies, p. 82.

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Melman, Yossi 1950–

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