February 19, 2013, - 4:50 pm

Ben Zygier: Much Ado About Nothing With Mossad Spy Who Committed Suicide, Likely Betrayed Israel

By Debbie Schlussel

The Australian media is as anti-Israel as most other Western media (as in very), and so it is no surprise that the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) is trying to fan anti-Israel flames in Aussie-land by exposing the death of Ben Zygier a/k/a “Prisoner X,” a dual Australian-Israeli citizen who became a Mossad agent. Zygier committed suicide in 2010 in the Ayalon Israeli prison, where he was detained because he violated Mossad rules. The whole thing was kept quiet, which is understandable, as no (smart) nation discusses its spy operations.


ABC claims that Zygier’s violation was his disclosure to Australian authorities (specifically the ASIO–the Australian Security Intelligence Organization) of the names and identities of other Mossad spies and classified details on the assassination of HAMAS arms dealer Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh a/k/a “Abu Abed” in a Dubai hotel room. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says that is not the reason the Zygier was in detention and that Israel has complete cooperation with the Australians. Regardless of whether or not that is true, it’s clear that ABC is trying to imply that Israel somehow caused Zygier’s suicide or that Zygier was murdered because medication was found in his bloodstream and the Australians claim this caused his death. But there is absolutely no proof of that. In fact, he hanged himself from a bed sheet. I believe he did get caught betraying the Mossad and Israel and couldn’t face possible life in an Israeli prison.

ABC claims that Zygier was placed in a suicide-proof cell and that he was supposed to be watched. The prison warden says this is not true. An Israeli judge (they are usually leftists) issued a report blaming Israel for not watching him closely enough and allowing a “window of opportunity” in which Zygier could commit suicide.

That said, Zygier became a Mossad agent. He knew the risks. He also knew he had a certain commitment to secrecy. If he violated that commitment and, in fact, endangered Israeli lives and Israeli missions by giving classified information to Australia and outing Israeli spies and Mossad agents, I really couldn’t care less what happened to him as a result (even though I know Israel is “the good guys” and doesn’t murder spies and traitors–google the names “Victor Ostrovsky” and “Mordechai Vanunu,” either of whom could’ve and probably should’ve been assassinated, but weren’t). When you join a top spy agency and then betray the country to which you committed your allegiance, all bets are off. Why did he want to commit suicide? Is it because he knew he jeopardized Israel’s intelligence and spy operations and was about to face he music? Sure looks like it.

Ben Zygier made his bed, no matter the circumstances of his death. As my University of Wisconsin law professor, the great Stewart Macaulay, would say, “You pays your money, you take your chances.” This is the life he chose, and if he betrayed his compatriots, he deserved whatever he got. No tears for him, no matter what happened.

That’s the life of a spy. You know that when you choose that life. Ben Zygier a/k/a Ben Allen a/k/a Ben Alon was an Australian Jew, who moved to Israel and became an Israeli citizen ten years ago and had an Israeli wife and kids. He chose to join the Mossad. I feel for his family and his death is certainly tragic. But it’s being used as propaganda against Israel.

Australia is upset that fake Aussie passports were used by some of the agents in the Mabhouh assassination–and it’s never been proven or admitted who those agents were or if they worked for Israel (though it’s pretty likely they did). Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat over the incident because it was more important that Australia was “embarrassed” than the fact that a major arms dealer for HAMAS (who was working with the Iranians) was wiped out and innocent lives were likely saved s a result.

And, so, it’s quite clear that the sudden leaking of information to ABC by someone in the Australian government is an attempt to embarrass Israel (allegedly with the help of some left-wing, self-hating Israeli prison guard). The half-hour ABC video news report (at the ABC link above) uses actors, re-enactments, dark music and drumbeats, anti-Israel comments by a guy from the known anti-Israel outfit “Human Rights Watch,” and a bunch of high-tech silliness to paint a negative picture of Israel and vilify the Jewish State. There is not a single Israeli source or interview with a Zygier family member or friend, all of whom declined (gee, I wonder why). ABC admits it doesn’t know what happened or why, and yet it engages in non-stop speculation. It’s absurd and completely one-sided baloney.

In the short term, it might hurt Israel’s PR for a few days and provides buttered popcorn of the mind for Israel-haters. In the long term, Israel has agents, methods, and sources to protect. And no one agent’s life is more important than the lives of everyone else who worked with him.

Ben Zygier is buried in Australia.


Only the United States treats major spies, like the Walkers, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen (who spied for our enemies), with kid gloves (and treats spies for our allies, like Jonathan Pollard, like crap). We are still paying out Hanssen’s pension, even though while working for the FBI, he outed and caused the deaths of many American spies in the Soviet Union and, later, Russia. Under American law, you lose your pension from a private employer if you commit misconduct, but not the U.S. government, which hands out pensions no matter what, it seems. (A reader who retired from the federal government notes, “You lose your US Govt pension only if you commit treason — other ‘misconduct’ (your word) or non-treason felonies won’t stop it.”) We are nice to the traitors.

Smart countries aren’t.

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20 Responses

The Israeli Arab and Communist MKs (Islamists and Communists are one and the same these days) who leaked Israeli state secrets won’t be punished for abusing their parliamentary immunity.

Nor will Israel’s leftist media be held accountable for glorifying a traitor, endangering Jewish lives and complicating Israel’s already difficult situation in a dangerous world to boost their audience share and profits.

No one should mourn someone who betrayed his country! And he knew the consequences of his betrayal would be very severe. The passing of Prisoner X, whatever his true identity happened to be, is no great loss to the Jewish people.

The bottom line is there is nothing to this story that wasn’t predictable and it happened years ago. Time to move on.

NormanF on February 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

With regard to foreign passports, every one does it – using cover is an accepted fact of life in the spy trade business.

Every one pretends to be shocked when Israeli spies are accused of using of using foreign passports and false IDs. Then again the hypocrisy is nothing new.

It goes with the territory just like with the crocodile tears now shed around the world for the demise of a apparent traitor in an Israeli prison.


NormanF on February 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Debbie stories about evil Jews sell. Also Debbie you are formally invited to eat by my house for Pesach. We will drink the 4 cups of my favorite $4 Manischewitz wine in a reclining position and then hide the afikoman.

A1 on February 19, 2013 at 6:14 pm

This is a nonsense issue because Australia’s media probably wouldn’t have have had half as much sympathy for him if he’d been targeted by Hamas.
It’s not totally anti Israel though because many on the left simply don’t like western secret service agencies to be effective regardless of the threat posed externally.
They’d much rather we were forced to make the kind of concessions foreign powers would impose on us so they can concentrate on leveling the playing field for totalitarian regimes and consolidating their own power base.

Frankz on February 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Debbie, you missed the whole point. Australia as a friend of Israel ,as is New Zealand ,was highly pissed off last year when alleged “Australians” killed a Hamas leader. Israel has been stealing the passports of other nations so it’s operatives can wage a war in other countries. Try travelling on an Australian passport with obvious physical features like mine… you get questioned,detained, and generally treated like who knows what at every airport.

    New Zealand was smart enough to catch criminals (because that is what they are) trying to steal NZ passports and kicked them out of their country. As a result of this attitude,their passports are safe and NZer’s can travel world wide without a problem.
    Ben Zygier was working for the safety of israel. Until he found his passport wit his real name was used in the killing of the Hamas guy. He complained and was locked up for his trouble. He was then executed by mossad as is typical. Do not forget ,this is a practice of theirs since 1948.
    Unfortunately for Mossad,,Zygier comes from a very large and influential Jewish Family in Australia and his death will be investigated now that our Attorny General ,Richard Dreyfus (no worries about anti Israel sympathys there) has expressed an interest in it. The ABC ,I might add is not only pro Israel,not the opposite as you unfortunately claim, but is very much staffed with a lot of jewish folk.
    Bens demise will be seen in future as a grave mistake .

    Aron B. on February 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      It’s hard to believe he would be locked up and executed by Mossad if he merely discovered that his passport had been used and he complained. There must be more to it than that.

      If Mossad expropriated his passport without his approval and/or knowledge, and then used it in a super-sensitive operation, it would be very foolish. It’s hard to believe that any person who goes on aliyah is at risk of having his home country passport expropriated and used in an intelligence operation. He must have already been working for Mossad. When you work for an intelligence agency like Mossad, I guess you’re expected to be a complete team player. You don’t complain about anything. I’ve wondered why this particular mission was so important to Israel that it was compelled to send a large team to Dhubai, fully exposed to surveillance cameras, with very high visibility, to pull off this particular operation. There must have been something very important involved. Especially if they felt they had to protect its methods by locking up Zygier.

      Elmo Glick on February 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Off topic:

There was a highway jihad in southern California today. I know the area well because I used to drive there to the mall in Costa Mesa and to family graves in south Orange County when I still lived in California.

I wrote Debbie about it and its very sad. Three people killed by a Muslim gunman. The police say it was random but with Islam there are never coincidences and I find it hard to believe the guy just snapped and decided to get up and begin killing people one morning.

All of the victims were people with families and its one of those things you never quite expect. Its not the first and not the last spree killing we’ll witness in this country.

With Islam – this one of those things that “just never happens.”

NormanF on February 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm

debbie..i just think you are fierce. bless ya’ lady..

bob e on February 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I should add Ali Syed sounds like either Iranian or Iraqi Shiite Muslim.

They are educated in this country and the Southern California rampage killer attended a local community college. The point is in spite of spending years in this country, they still hate us and immersion in American society and culture does nothing to civilize them.

Like Debbie, I too am wondering what his immigration status was/is. He murdered a family friend and people at random without provocation. Things like this are not yet at a critical mass. But as we continue to allow mass immigration from the Muslim world here, horrors like today’s could well be in our future.

THIS_IS_ISLAM. And its not going to get better any time soon.

NormanF on February 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm

The whole Prisoner X episode is just another pretext to bash Israel. Unfortunately,Israel as usual reacts defensively instead of telling Australia and its’ media to go piss off.

Jerry G on February 20, 2013 at 9:52 am

Interesting analysis Debbie.

John on February 20, 2013 at 10:26 am

Thanks for the link. Great news story.

Anti-Israel??? Imagine that this story is about America or some other country. I would be outraged and grateful the story was exposed. I would be more critical if this happened in the U.S.

When a country can lock-up one of its own and not even give out the person’s name citing national security, that’s a country to avoid visiting.

How do we know the poor bastard wasn’t locked up so some general could doink his wife?

I hope Israel does the right thing and releases more information as soon as it can….after the Iranian Spring, if that operation was jeopardized.

Facts are a B., but they are not propaganda.

Visteo on February 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Debbie. You will be better off doing Dallas than doing news and analysis. You know nothing, zero, zilch about Israel and what the Israeli people are going through. You are not an Israeli and will never understand what it means to be one. Thus, go ahead and exercise your right to remain silent.

Israeli on February 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

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???? on February 21, 2013 at 3:55 am

“Do not judge your friend until you reach his place ‘

Ben Zygier a Zionist Jew loving Israel, left the “fleshpots” Australian and moved to Israel to contribute to the country joined the army and Mossad.
He made a mistake as a result of being also a citizen of Australia.

The thought comes to me about your article, taken from the song “Hkotel”: “Some people have a heart of stone.”

bina on February 21, 2013 at 4:11 am

It’s not that Pollard spied for an ally, it’s because his sentencing judge, Aubrey Robinson, was an anti-semite. This was believed by some lawyers in Washington DC long before the Pollard case.

The fact that he spied for an ally, not an enemy or adversary, is just another reason that he should not have received the disproportionate sentence that he did.

Elmo Glick on February 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

A small point: it is VERY easy to commit suicide in a lock up. Unless you have me as a psychiatrist—I would put people on suicide watch in a prison environment in paper gowns (or naked if warm enough) no sheets, no knives, forks, or spoons (the plastic handles are weapons), sandwiches only and styrofoam cups only. I was the psychiatrist for the Alabama Chain Gang. (This is revealable, individual patient data is not)

10% of patients who kill themselves on inpatient psychiatric units do so on a 1:1 observation level.

Occam's Tool on February 25, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Hey Debbie the “key” (from yiddish).
Why are you erasing all my comments to your pathetic, uninformed,biased,ignorant and kiss ass article on this subject?
Do you know, for sure, what X did wrong and what he was accused of? Even the most informed Israelis and Australians don’t! So why release verbally all kinds of pressures you have inside you. Perhaps you can get relief with GASEX.

Israeli on February 28, 2013 at 12:24 am

Shalom Debbie,

I normally respect and appreciate your pro-Israel journalism. This time, however, I must say that you went too far. Firstly, the judge was right to rule the prison authorities were negligent. Suicide watch is suicide watch – period. I know firsthand from my own profession that nobody on suicide watch is supposed to have a single minute unsupervised – and certainly no access to a sheet to hang himself. Secondly, Zygier was entitled to due process before you or anyone else assume his guilt on anything. (Especially since we are all still speculating what he was accused of in the first place.) Thirdly, I know enough details about Zygier, his family, and the incompetence of the Mossad in this and other cases to believe he had a right to clear his name. He was a committed Zionist to the end as is his family. Your words about him are overly harsh and most certainly devastate his grieving family – including a young wife and small children. I really hope you will retract what you wrote against Zygier. Shalom from Jerusalem.

-David Weisskopf

David Weisskopf on March 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Ben Zygier was a traitor to Australia. We don’t want militant racists in this country bringing their long held issues to the fore via criminal misuse of dual citizenship and the like. His first loyalty should have been to Australia. The resolution to the conflict in the Middle East requires greater equality and respect for both sides. It seems he had a lot of privileges in Australia given his father’s financial success. He should have made better use of it in the service of his Australian community (which comprises people of many cultural and ethnic origins)! It makes you wonder how racist his family of origin, including Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier, may be. The Holocaust should have taught us all that hate is not the way.

From the Fairfax newspaper:
“A fascinating article recently appeared in the Fairfax newspapers in Australia concerning the late Melbourne-born Mossad agent Ben Zygier. The result of a joint investigation by Fairfax in Australia and Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, the article, entitled “The life and death of Prisoner X,” outlines the sequence of events which led to Zygier’s arrest, imprisonment, and ultimate suicide in an Israeli prison. In the words of the author, Jason Koutsoukis, Ben Zygier “was responsible for one of the most serious security breaches in Israeli history, a breach that led directly to the imprisonment of two of Israel’s most prized Lebanese informants.” While an interesting story in its own right, the Zygier case also highlights the perils of allowing Australian Jews to have joint Australian-Israeli citizenship: in particular, it reveals how the Mossad deliberately recruit these dual nationals to use their Australian passports as cover for their operations – including for assassinations.

The general tone of the article is sympathetic to Zygier, whose story is described as “the tragic downfall of a passionate Zionist, a young man who aspired to a life of heroism, and yet, in the wake of his own shortcomings, willingly gave away such sensitive information to the enemy that it represents one of the most serious security breaches in Israel’s 65-year history.” It is quite bizarre that an Israeli spy, who betrayed his Australian nationality by using his Australian passport to conduct intelligence operations for another country, is described in an Australian newspaper as someone whose downfall was “tragic.” Zygier was a shameless traitor to the land of his birth, and one can only conclude that his ultimate downfall, rather than being “tragic,” was entirely appropriate.

Ben Zygier was born in 1976 in Melbourne to a wealthy Jewish family. His father owned a food manufacturing business and became a leading figure in Melbourne’s Jewish community, serving as Chief Executive of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria. Educated at Jewish Schools, Zygier quickly became a passionate Zionist and joined the Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair. After beginning a law degree at Monash University, he deferred his studies to move to Israel. He ended up living at the Kibbutz Gazit close to Israel’s border with Lebanon. There he met up with fellow Australian Jew Daniel Leiton and the two became friends. Koutsoukis notes that “Leiton recalls first meeting Zygier in the late ‘80s in Melbourne. Even then, he says, the two teenagers shared a passionate belief in Zionism, with Zygier already making it clear he would make Aliyah, the act of immigration for diaspora Jews to the land of Israel.” Another friend of Zygier, Lior Brand, described him as “obviously clever, and ready to defend Israel against its enemies, no matter what the cost.”

Zygier subsequently took Israeli citizenship under the adopted Hebrew name of Ben Alon. He then “flitted back and forth between Israel and Australia, in turn completing his law degree at Monash, and completing his military service in Israel.” In the early 2000s, the Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations (known as the “Mossad,” the Hebrew word for “Institute”) began its first ever public recruitment drive. Advertisements appeared in the Israeli press promoting “the job of a lifetime” and claiming “The Mossad is open – not for everyone, but for a few. Maybe for you.”

Zygier responded to the advertisement, and his application was warmly received. This is because, as Koutsoukis points out, “For an agency like the Mossad, which depends on its ability to send its agents unsuspected behind enemy lines, foreign-born nationals like Zygier offer an inherently valuable bonus – access to a genuine foreign passport that bears no link to Israel.” While Zygier pursued his legal career, first at a Jewish-owned law firm in Melbourne, and then in Tel Aviv, the Mossad was evaluating his potential suitability as an intelligence agent. They interviewed him as part of a psychological assessment to determine if he had any “obvious flaws or personality traits that might disqualify them from a career in the clandestine intelligence service.”

Mossad iconZygier was formally accepted into the Mossad in December 2003, and underwent an intensive year-long training program that “included such techniques as how to falsify resumes and other documents, and how to manipulate people.” In early 2005, Zygier was sent on his first mission to Europe with instructions to infiltrate companies that did business with Iran and Syria. Zygier initially targeted a technology company in Milan, and then other companies in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. For over a year and a half, he worked in various roles for a mid-sized European company with extensive business interests across the Middle East and Persian Gulf – including Iran. While regarded as intelligent and capable, Zygier’s erratic behavior, which at one point caused a major client to sever links with the company, eventually led to his dismissal.

Zygier gained no information of any strategic value to Israel while working for this company and, dissatisfied with his performance, he was recalled from the field in mid-2007 and assigned a desk job back at the Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv. Koutsoukis notes that:

Inside the Mossad’s hexagonal headquarters off Tel Aviv’s Highway No. 5, the agency is divided into three main sections. Keshet, which means rainbow in Hebrew, is the first section, and is responsible for surveillance and other forms of covert intelligence gathering. The Caesarea department, which is named after the nearby ancient Roman settlement, is home to the Mossad strike force, the men and women who prepare and execute attacks abroad. The largest section is called Tzomet, which is Hebrew for crossroads, a more bureaucratic, less glamorous section that deals mainly with the evaluation and analysis of the information coming in.

Zygier was assigned to work in the Tzomet section. While there, because of recent changes in the structure of this department, he had unprecedented access to incoming intelligence from field operatives. It later transpired that the Mossad made a massive error in providing Zigier with this access to vital intelligence. In the spring of 2009, the Lebanese security services busted open several Israeli spy rings. Mustafa Ali Awadeh, an important Israeli agent in Lebanon, was arrested. Then, in May 2009, the Lebanese special-forces raided the house of the 61-year-old Ziad al-Homsi and arrested him on suspicion of spying for Israel. Homsi’s arrest in particular shocked the Lebanese public because he had previously served honorably as a mayor, and was regarded as a war hero for his exploits in fighting for the PLO against Israel, and for the Syrian army in the Lebanese civil war.

It later emerged that Homsi had been acting as an Israeli spy since 2006, and had received around $US100,000 for his information. The importance of Homsi to the Mossad is underscored by the fact that, under interrogation, he revealed that “he had told his Israeli handlers he could lead them to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Israel’s mortal enemy, Hezbollah, who has lived in hiding for years, thereby paving the way for another assassination.” The indictment against Homsi revealed to what elaborate lengths the Mossad will go to recruit a high-value target like Homsi.

According to Homsi, a Chinese man named “David” had come to his village in Lebanon, introducing himself to Homsi as an employee of the City of Beijing’s foreign trade office, and claiming that he wanted to establish business ties in Lebanon. At a business meeting in Lebanon, “David” invited Homsi to Beijing to attend a trade fair, telling him that the invitation had come directly from the Chinese government. Homsi enjoyed a successful visit to Beijing, where he was promised a salary. Later, he was invited to another meeting abroad, this time in Bangkok. But instead of talking business, the people on the other side of the table started asking Homsi what he knew about three Israeli soldiers who had been missing since a 1982 battle that Homsi had fought in on the side of the Arabs. “This is the moment at which the defendant becomes aware that he is dealing with Israelis, who work for the Mossad and have nothing to do with import-export companies or services that search for missing people,” reads the Homsi indictment.

Homsi agreed to work for the Mossad, which provided him with a computer and a doctored USB flash drive, as well as a device that looked like a stereo system but was in fact a transmitter for sending messages, all of which were seized upon his arrest. Homsi, says General Ashraf Rifi, the head of the Lebanese intelligence, was one of the most important catches his agency had ever made. Homsi was later sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor.

The arrests of Awadeh and Homsi represented the greatest setback the Mossad had experienced in decades. Attention soon turned to how the Lebanese had managed to uncover these agents. At this time the Israelis received a tipoff that talk within Hezbollah suggested a Mossad agent, then in Australia, could be in danger. It soon became clear that this agent was Ben Zygier, who, with the approval of the Mossad, had returned to Australia in early 2009 to pursue further study at Monash University. Concerned for his safety following the revelation that Hezbollah now knew his identity, Zygier was summoned back to Tel Aviv by his Mossad superiors in January 2009. When he arrived back in Israel, his superiors “thought that there was something odd about his behavior” and “the suspicion arose that he might have had a role in the arrests in Lebanon.” These suspicions only grew until January 2010, when Israel’s General Security Service, the Shin Bet, finally arrested Zygier. Under intense questioning, he revealed his connection to the arrests in Lebanon in 2009. It emerged that, in an effort to regain a coveted Mossad operations role, Zygier had embarked on a rogue mission without informing his superiors. Koutsoukis relates that:

Zygier, apparently frustrated by his demotion to a desk job, had decided to take matters into his own hands and find a way to rehabilitate his reputation in the organization. … [He] admitted that sometime in 2008, before he took leave of absence and moved to Australia, he had flown to eastern Europe to meet a man he knew to have close links with Hezbollah, with the intention of turning that person into a double agent. Instead that man reported the recruitment attempt to Beirut, and himself began playing the same game as Zygier, except in reverse. Without Zygier’s knowledge, the man was reporting every detail of his contact with Zygier back to the Hezbollah leadership in Beirut. Israeli officials believe even Hassan Nasrallah was being kept informed.

The contact between Zygier and the man went on for months. When the man asked Zygier for proof he was a Mossad agent, Zygier readily complied and began supplying him with real intelligence from Tel Aviv, including the names of Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awadeh, the Mossad’s two top informants in Lebanon. Israeli officials with access to the probe say that when Zygier was arrested, he was also found carrying a compact disc with additional classified information from the Tzomet department, which they also believe he was intending to hand over to the other side.

In his bungled attempts to redeem himself for his earlier failure in Europe, Zygier unwittingly became a conduit for information flowing from Tel Aviv to Hezbollah. Koutsoukis quotes an Israeli official who observed that Zygier “crossed paths with someone who was much more professional than he was.” While Israeli agents had changed sides in the past, a regular Mossad employee had never done what Zygier did in effectively becoming a double agent. Koutsoukis notes that the Zygier case represents “a bitter defeat for the Mossad, but for Hezbollah it is one of the rare instances in which an Arab intelligence service prevailed over its Jewish counterpart.” Sentenced to an indefinite term of imprisonment, Zygier (known to the Israelis as “Prisoner X”) was found hanging in his high-security prison cell on December 15, 2010.

The Ben Zygier case, while fascinating in itself, reveals how Israel, a supposed friend of Australia, has no qualms about using Australian passports to carry out intelligence operations on foreign soil. Zygier was employed by the Mossad and sent to Europe to infiltrate companies doing business with Iran and Syria precisely because his Australian citizenship enabled him to use his Australian passport for the operation. In encouraging their agents to use Australian nationality as cover for their work, the Mossad is engaging in the kind of behavior that could easily endanger Australian citizens. In releasing his department’s internal inquiry into its consular handling of the Zygier case, Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr noted:

If Australian passports were misused here, that’s something we are forced to take very seriously, because no country can live with any erosion of the integrity of its passport system. If the world thinks that Australian passports are routinely debauched by another country, then Australians presenting their passport somewhere in the world could well face their lives in danger. We can’t live with that. And if that’s confirmed, we’ll be registering the strongest protest.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government’s response has been muted. The Australian government has sought more detail about the Zygier case from Israel, but Foreign Minister Carr has revealed that this information has “not been forthcoming.” The Zygier case is not the first instance of Australian passports being used by the Mossad as part of their operations. Evidence of the practice first emerged in 2010, when it was revealed that Israel had used faked Australia passports in their assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai that year. This had prompted the Australian government to expel an Israeli intelligence officer from the Israeli embassy in Canberra.

Alone among Jewish commentators, Ben Saul, the professor of international law at the University of Sydney, admitted that the Ben Zygier case “illustrates the dangers of divided loyalties” and the dangers of allowing dual nationality (as Australia has since 2002). Writing in the Fairfax newspapers, he noted that: “From afar, Israelis may not have appreciated the fury of the Australian government and people after Mossad used fake Australian passports in the operation to kill a Hamas man in Dubai.” Saul labeled the practice “an illegal, hostile, and shameful act by Israel against a supposed friend, Australia.” Noting the potentially deadly consequences of this practice, Saul observes that “if other countries suspect that Australian passport-holders might be Mossad spies or assassins, it could cause a great deal of trouble for innocent Australians.”

Saul then got right to the crux of the problem of the Australian government allowing dual Australian-Israeli citizenship, observing that:

The case raises the broader problem of divided loyalties among Australians with multiple national identities, in this case some in the Jewish community. Australia permits dual citizenship. It becomes a problem where people put themselves in the position of having to choose between competing obligations of different countries, whether by spying or through military service. Israel and Australia are indeed good friends, but they are not always on the same page. For a start, there is a gulf in values. Australian security services do not assassinate people, including civilian scientists who are driving to work in neighboring countries. Australia does not torture prisoners. Australia has not militarily occupied a foreign people’s land for 40 years, or built illegal colonies on their lands. Australia does not believe in nuclear weapons or hide their existence. When it comes to the crunch, most Australians would expect Australian Jews to choose loyalty to Australia over Israel, or even hope that Australian agents in Mossad are our double agents. Undoubtedly, Israel would expect them to side with Israel. … There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose.

Not surprising, Saul’s plain-speaking sent members of the Australian Jewish community into apoplexy. The academics and Australian Jewish activists, Kim Rubinstein and Danny Ben Moshe, slammed Saul for “wanting to turn back the clock of globalization and multiculturalism,” and for using the Zygier case to “tarnish the Australian Jewish community by invoking classical anti-Semitic allegations of divided loyalty and the enemy within.” According to Rubinstein and Ben Moshe: “The failure of Saul’s argument, and the great offence it causes many Jews, is that for the overwhelming majority of Australian Jews, irrespective of whether they agree or disagree with specific policies of the Israeli government, identification with Israel as their cultural and spiritual homeland [note the careful avoidance of the term “ethnic homeland”] is part of being a Jew. It has been for millennia.” Rubinstein and Ben Moshe are certainly correct on that score – and therein resides the age-old problem of the Jewish presence within non-Jewish nations. Jewish identification and loyalty supersede all others.

Rubinstein and Ben Moshe were particularly aggrieved that Saul had invoked “the rationale espoused from darker periods of history calling on this boundary [of single nationality] to be imposed because fundamentally the loyalty of Jews cannot be trusted.” They angrily insisted that “Saul’s claim that ‘there comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose’ is fundamentally wrong,” and that while Pauline Hanson tried to revive such sentiments towards Asians and other migrants in the 1990s, this is an archaic notion and today’s migrants in Australia and migrants all around the world have multiple identities that coexist and are balanced.”

Apparently it is not such an archaic notion in Israel, which retains a racially-restrictive immigration program which denies an Israeli identity to all potential migrants without Jewish ancestry. While Israel’s status as a Jewish ethno-state is accepted by Rubinstein and Ben Moshe as entirely uncontroversial (actually as a moral imperative at the core of Jewish identity), they condemn any concern over the divided loyalty of Australian-Israeli dual nationals as a despicable “turning back the clock of globalization and multiculturalism.” Of course, implicit in this specious argument is that “multiculturalism” is an apolitical default setting for social policy in Australia, rather than what it actually is: a radical political ideology which is a direct outgrowth of Jewish ethnic activism. Given their track record in reengineering Australian society in their own group interests, allowing dual nationality for Australian Jews was always likely to lead to the kind of behavior exposed in the Zygier case.”

Ariel on May 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

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