Victor Ostrovsky
Born (1949-11-28) 28 November 1949 (age 71)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Occupation Writer, gallerist, painter, entrepreneour
Nationality American/Israeli
Notable work(s) By Way of Deception, Universal Soldier: Regeneration
Spouse(s) Bella Ostrovsky
Children two

Victor John Ostrovsky is an author, artist, and former katsa (case officer) for the Israeli Mossad (foreign intelligence service). He authored two non-fiction books about his service with the Mossad: By Way of Deception, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller in 1990, and The Other Side of Deception several years later. He also authored two other novels, Lion of Judah and Black Ghosts, as well as several screenplays. He is also the founder and CEO of and

Biography[edit | edit source]

Victor Ostrovsky was born in Edmonton, Alberta on November 28, 1949, and moved to Israel at the age of five.[1]

His mother, a gymnastics teacher by trade, was born in the British Mandate of Palestine. She volunteered with the British Army (ITS) during World War II, and drove trucks across the desert from Cairo to Jerusalem. After the war, she joined the Haganah (Israel's underground) to fight for Israel's independence from the British mandate.

Ostrovsky’s father served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II as a tail gunner on a Lancaster bomber, taking part in more than twenty missions over Germany. His plane was shot down over Germany, but he managed to escape and return to active service. After the war, he joined the Israeli military to fight in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, rising to command Sde Dov, an Air Force base in Israel.

His grandparents, Haim and Esther Margolin, settled in Palestine in 1912 after fleeing Russia, and Haim later served as Auditor General of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

Ostrovsky’s grandmother, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to noted Israeli artist Aharon Giladi, who lived on the same street, and who bought paints and canvasses for him. Giladi mentored Ostrovsky for more than ten years.

Ostrovsky joined the Israeli Youth Brigade at 14 and quickly became an expert marksman, finishing second in a 1964 national shooting competition with a score of 192 out of 200. At the age of 17 he joined the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) after a minor eye condition ended his hopes of becoming a pilot. He was assigned to the Military Police and rose to command the Nablus Military Police Base, after which he was made commanding officer of the Military Police West Bank Central Command.

After his service with the Military Police, Ostrovsky spent six years in the Israeli navy. He was selected to attend the Staff and Command School and attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Ostrovsky was placed in charge of all Navy weapons testing. He helped introduce the Harpoon surface-to-surface missile to the Saar Missile Boats, as well as the Vulcan Phalanx anti-missile defense system.

According to court papers filed by the Israeli government in an attempt to stop the publication of his book By Way of Deception, in 1982, Ostrovsky was recruited by the Mossad and trained at the Mossad Academy north of Tel Aviv as a katsa (case officer). It is said[by whom?] that a Mossad cadet experiences more action, terror, and physical assault in two and a half years of training than many Special Forces soldiers will have in a career.

In 1986, he says he left the agency saying it was because of what he considered cases of unnecessarily malicious actions by Mossad operatives. He also accused Mossad directors of knowingly making less than accurate reports to the nation’s political leadership.

By Way of Deception[edit | edit source]

In 1990, he published By Way of Deception to draw attention to the corruption and shortcomings he claims to have witnessed in the Mossad. Ostrovsky has repeatedly argued that intelligence-gathering agencies must be permitted certain operational freedoms, but that significantly increased governmental oversight of espionage activities is necessary. Without effective oversight, he has said, the Mossad cannot achieve its full potential and value. According to Victor Ostrovsky, a sayan (pl. sayanim), Hebrew for "assistant", is a term for a Mossad operative recruited from among the Jewish Diaspora to help the Mossad with operations outside Israel, utilising the capacity of their own nationality to procure assistance.

Many of Ostrovsky's claims have not been verified from other sources, nor have they been refuted, and arguments continue to rage over the credibility of his accounts. However, he was named in a lawsuit by the Israeli government, saying that he was part of the Mossad. Critics, such as Benny Morris, David Wise, and others, have argued that the book is essentially a novel and that a case officer would not have had access to so many operational secrets.[2] They write that intelligence organizations practice strict compartmentalization of confidential or secretive information.[3] Ostrovsky argues that their point is moot, as they themselves are outsiders, and the only information about the Mossad they have is from their supposed "sources" in the agency which have a very clear agenda. Ostrovsky also points out that the need to know rule is or at least was not closely followed in the Mossad, considering its small size and the need for case officers to fill many roles.

Shortly before official publication of the book, the Israeli government filed lawsuits in both Canada and the United States seeking injunctions against publication. A judge in New York granted the request at a 1 a.m. hearing in his home. The New York Supreme Court overturned his decision, but the resulting publicity focused national attention on Ostrovsky’s story and guaranteed international success.

Concerns were expressed that by exposing certain prior operations, the book endangered the lives of agency personnel. Ostrovsky maintains he never placed anyone in danger because only first names or code names were used. Furthermore, Ostrovsky says the Mossad was privately allowed to see the book before publication to ensure that lives were not placed in danger.

Current days[edit | edit source]

Nowadays, Ostrovsky and his wife, Bella Ostrovsky, also an artist, operate Ostrovsky Fine Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. While he has painted many subjects, Ostrovsky is best known for his Metaphors of Espionage collection inspired by his days as a spy for the Mossad.

Victor has also created two web-based publishing companies, one a print on demand called and the other a writing and publishing tool for authors called

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

Articles (partial)[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

de:Victor Ostrovsky fr:Victor Ostrovsky he:ויקטור אוסטרובסקי fi:Victor Ostrovsky tr:Victor Ostrovsky

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