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Prisoner X was Mossad Agent, Ben Zygier

Yossi Melman's censored report on Mossad agent, Ben Zygier

Yossi Melman’s censored report on Mossad agent, Ben Zygier

Back in 2010, I reported that Israel had arrested an unidentified individual, and imprisoned him in total secrecy in an Israeli jail.  The cell he occupied had once housed Yigal Amir.  Even his jailers didn’t know who he was.  His jailers apparently did a lousy job of monitoring Prisoner X, as he was called and he hung himself from a bar in his cell.  In December 2010, Australian Jewish media reported that Ben Zygier had died in Israel and was to be buried in Melbourne’s Jewish cemetery.  There was little spoken about the cause of death.

Now Australia’s ABC network blows open the story (transcript here).  Prisoner X was not an Iranian general, as my Israeli source reported to me at that time.  He was a Mossad agent named Ben Zygier, age 34 with two small children and an Israeli wife.  Yossi Melman, reporting in Walla (the report is displayed here, but has been censored and removed by the military censor) says no one knows why he was imprisoned, but that it must have involved a crime that endangered the existence of the State of Israel.  That’s a pretty hefty sentence even for security-obsessed Israel.  This has to mean he was involved in an act considered treason.  It might possibly involve selling secrets to an enemy power.  Jonathan Pollard comes to mind in the U.S. context.

Ben Zygier, Australian-Israeli Mossad agent disappeared by the security services into an Israeli prison, where he committed suicide.

Ben Zygier, Australian-Israeli Mossad agent disappeared by the security services into an Israeli prison, where he committed suicide.

The ABC report makes clear that Zygier was essentially disappeared by security forces.  This is common for Palestinians charged with security offenses, but extraordinary for an Israeli Jew.  One of the few previous incidents that is comparable is the disappearance and secret imprisonment of KGB spy, Marcus Klingberg, by Israel for over ten years.  Clearly, Zygier did something akin to the “crimes” of which Klingberg was accused.

I will update here if/when I can get my Israeli source to find out more about what Zygier’s alleged crime was.

The ABC report says that Zygier also used his Australian passport in the process of his espionage efforts.  This report says that he also had an Australian passport in the name of “Ben Allen.”  As Australian foreign minister Bob Carr noted, this would violate numerous Australian laws.  It also brings to mind the Mahmoud al-Mabouh case in which Australian passports of Australian-Israeli citizens were used by the Mossad to create false passports for Israeli agents who assassinated the Hamas weapons merchant.  This incident caused an enormous amount of embarrassment for Israel among all the western governments whose citizens were exploited.

Ben Zygier was the son of Geoffrey Zygier, the executive director of the Victoria Jewish Community Council and one of the leaders of the Melbourne Jewish Community.  The family and the deceased’s friends all refused to cooperate with the ABC broadcast as did Israeli reporters who were approached.  Since it specifically mentions Yediot as denying assistance, I’m guessing this means that Ronen Bergman was the culprit.

Since Yossi Melman published his Walla piece just before airtime I’m guessing that Melman participated in reporting of the story in some way and was rewarded with a scoop.  Unfortunately, his report ran afoul of the censor and Israeli’s can no longer read it there.  But they can here.

The case raises extraordinary questions for the Australian government.  What did it know about this when it happened?  Given that Zygier was likely an undercover spy, it would appear Australia was limited in what it could do.  But how often do you have a country’s citizen imprisoned in secret in another country only to commit suicide there?  This just begs 1,000 questions in terms of what the Kevin Rudd government knew and when it knew it.

The case will also drive further wedges between Australia and Israel in that it will show that the Mossad continues to abuse the passports of its allies.  Israel also, according to Australian authorities neglected to notify it that an Australian citizen was jailed and had died in Israeli custody.  This is a minimal standard that all nations adhere to in such circumstances.

Indeed, Haaretz’s main headline today is:

Prime Minister’s Office convenes urgent meeting of media editors
Purpose: To request common action in preventing the publication of the embarrssing story
Government source: the invitation arose from exposure of the details this morning abroad

A word now about the error in my own reporting.  My source was told by an Israeli intelligence official that the dead man was Ali Reza Asgari.  In hindsight, it appears this was a ruse designed to throw the media off the scent of the real story.  A similar thing happened recently with the Fordo story, which also turned out to be a diversion to cover up Israel’s planned attack against Syria.  The Asgari red herring was a particularly dumb diversion since it elicited a furious response from Iran, which threatened to bring the matter before the United Nations.  In fact, Yossi Melman was furious with me for my role saying I’d endangered the security of Israel by drumming up needless hostility with Iran.  What he didn’t know was that it was an Israeli intelligence source who’d done this and was to blame.

Thanks to all those who contributed in various way to reporting this story, but especially to Sol Salbe, who started things off.  This is a critical story, a critical enterprise we’re engaged in here.  We must make Israel aware of this story.  Please don’t forget to support this effort with a contribution.  You may use the Paypal or WePay (for tax-deductible gifts) buttons.

{ 77 comments… add one }
  • Cynic February 13, 2013, 5:13 AM

    typical governments protecting the lies of religions yet again

  • D C February 13, 2013, 5:51 AM

    Many of my olim friends were actually contacted by nameless sources and asked to ‘borrow’ their foreign passports to ‘help save Jews’. I can;t help but wonder if this is the way it started for poor Ben. It’s hard to imagine what an Israeli Jew could possibly have done to get such a fate.

  • Ron February 13, 2013, 6:59 AM

    Ya’akov Ne’eman is the Minister of Justice – not the attorney general.

  • BushWAcKer February 13, 2013, 7:04 AM

    For those in the know, it is a thinly veiled secret that Israel does the dirty work (that would be assassinations for the US and other allies). Maybe this guy wanted to go public, which for once and all would have destroyed the myth of Jews always being victims.

  • Daniel February 13, 2013, 9:11 AM

    While I will always agree with Louis Brandeis about sunlight being the best disinfectant and while your (and ABC’s) story certainly raises curiousity in Israel, there are stories that the Intelligence Agencies want to bury for a variety of reasons. I am pretty sure that there is no way for you to know what skeletons ASIO (ASIS?) have in their closet. I won’t be surprised if the declaration that the issue would endanger the existence of the state of Israel had the intention of killing the discussion while achieving the opposite.

    By the way – if we are talking conspiracy theories, don’t you think that some internal issue, for example that the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin was done by someone within the ranks of a security organization would be a bigger threat? If The poor guy was exposed (purely by mistake) to privvy information, don’t you think it would be a good reason for interested parties to lock him up?

    The truth might be as simple as an agent turned double agent or that he killed someone in the line of duty, someone who he was instructed NOT to kill, or that he revealed to Israel’s enemies the list of active agents – so many possibilities for someone in the espionage business to make himself a dead man, that all these speculations are pointless.

    We are curious, but sometimes, the exposed truth generates results which are worse than the benefit we get from knowing the truth. Once the truth is out, there is no way to “undo” and everyone involved must suffer the consequences.

    Once again – Brandeis was right but sometimes even sunlight can kill.

  • Oui February 13, 2013, 9:56 AM

    Sorry, not the Mavi Marmara, this would not be embarrasing enough. Israel’s national security at risk would mean Lebanon/Hezbollah/Syria/Iran … think of assassinations carried out in Lebanon. Ben Allen – lawyer – telecom – spy network – false evidence/witnesses – STL investigation – Hariri bombing. Look at the 2010 timeline of the STL investigation in Lebanon. See also the early 2010 reporting by Jason Koutsoukis: ASIO targets new spy suspects. Ynet News covered this story today: Did Zygier visit Iran, Syria, Lebanon?

  • richard February 13, 2013, 11:55 AM

    i was reading your article when it occured to me that ben allon was possibly arrested fior telling dubai police about the operation in 2010.

    • dana February 14, 2013, 1:36 PM

      That was actually one of my theories as well. He was perhaps in the know about the operation, and a little hint to the Dubai police would have been all it took. I remember when Tamimi of the Dubai police started making his disclosures and exhibiting all the id’s of the Mossad agents. I also recal that even before that – in late January, the Dubai police made it known they suspected an assassination, something they discovered when an especially observant pathologist/crime investigator notices a tiny needle prick on the body of of Mabhou. That was indeed an amazing find, but many suggested that they would have to have known to look for something. given the way tat operation was exposed, it’s very difficult to not to surmise that there was a leak. I believe that there is a good likelihood Zygier was the source of that leak and possibly many others. He would certainly be in position to know about falsification of passports, wouldn’t he?

  • Dan February 13, 2013, 12:42 PM

    I have painstakingly read through the image of Melman’s story and am at a loss as to what prompted its removal. Melman seems to just be reporting what was already said in the Australian news piece. Unless I’m missing something …

    • Richard Silverstein February 13, 2013, 12:46 PM

      At that point, everything was under gag including the fact that there was an Australian documentary. His story was published shortly before the program was aired.

      • Dan Rozenson February 13, 2013, 12:48 PM

        OK, understood.

  • Gary February 13, 2013, 11:36 PM

    News in a few papers on Jan 2nd – Yusuf Toprakkaya from Melbourne on an Australian passport, aka Abu Walid, was shot with rebels in Syria while preparing explosives. News the next day – nothing. Next day – nothing. Web blog commentry – nothing. An Australian-Israeli Jew is in the news. Blog comments – full bore. News – everywhere. Next day – and probably next week and month. There’s probably a reason for this.

  • Yani February 17, 2013, 12:31 PM

    I don’t think anyone would be wasting their time if they reviewed the case of Ben Zygier in line with the wikileaks cables release. Then perhaps ask why Alan Dershowitz is now on the defense team for Julian Asstrange.

    At least to a point of ruling out if there might be connections between these issues. If you had a pile of confidential documents that were connected to the US wouldn’t you first look deeply into Israel in those cables? There has been a seeming lack of releases connected to Israel when we are all aware that Israel is a great manipulator. Perhaps this is Asstrange’s ‘protection’ and why Alan Dershowitz has been so willing to be involved in a case that despite his risibly fallacious claims as a hero of free speech.

  • Blabbaer February 18, 2013, 6:23 PM

    There is nothing in what has come out on this to definitively prove that Zygier and Prisoner X were one and the same. Considering what is known of his possible crime, the whole Prisoner X and the gag orders appear to be a huge overkill. I am amazed that people accept what the Israeli Govt says as though it is not to be doubted, that if the Israeli Govt says it then it must be true. The Israeli Govt doesn’t tell lies. I still think there is a case for Zygier being used to cover the real Prisoner X.

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