Hollywood loves sequels, even ones that bomb. Apparently, so do Israel’s intelligence agencies. The original version, the one starring Ben Zygier, did so “well” at the box office that the they also imprisoned another Prisoner X in the same prison. This individual was, like Zygier, a covert agent who also had betrayed state secrets in some unspecified way. He was also held incommunicado and under an assumed name, just as Zygier was. Though he didn’t commit suicide.
Media reports inside Israel cannot confirm whether the prisoner is still held under these conditions or whether he’s been released. We only know about the new case because it was mentioned in the report prepared by an Israeli judge tasked with investigating the Zygier suicide. Haaretz had to file a legal brief in order to receive permission to report this new story.
News reports haven’t confirmed which agency the prisoner worked for, but there are some hints offered that he may’ve also worked for Mossad, as Zygier did.
Avigdor Feldman, who was the last civilian to see Zygier alive and is one of Israel’s leading lawyers, says he knows something about the new case (Hebrew). Feldman adds that these two prisoners (Zygier and Prisoner X) may be the tip of the iceberg. There may indeed be more of them.
The Israeli attorney indicates that the new Prisoner X was a covert operative working with the highest level of security clearance. He was imprisoned as a result of his betrayal of the secrecy of a Mossad operation:
“We’re speaking of a criminal act which was a serious breach of the walls of security and secrecy of the secret apparatus [Mossad’s covert operations]. Not just endangering the security of the State but the heads of those [Israeli security] organizations who would be fired.
Feldman strangely suggest that the sentence offered to this man would be lessened if he agreed to stay quiet and not reveal what he knows for the rest of his life. It sure sounds like he could embarrass an awful lot of people in Israel’s security establishment. One only wonders what’s involved.
Once again, such draconian treatment of Israeli citizens by the security services reveals the national security state running amok. It treads on the rights of citizens unfettered without any sense of the rule of law, due process or individual rights. Of course, the State must protect itself from those who betray secrets. But in other democracies there are ways to do this under the law. In Israel, when it comes to security offenses, there is no law. Just fiat.
On a related subject, Israeli media revealed a hitherto unknown aspect of the Zygier tragedy. His wife Maya had come to visit him on the morning of the day he killed himself. She brought her four-day old baby with her. Zygier became terribly agitated during their almost hour-long conversation. Until now, no one knew (except Zygier’s family and the Israeli security apparatus) why. Now we know that Zygier’s wife told him she was ending her relationship with him.
I am not privy to any of the details. I don’t know why she did this. I don’t know if Zygier had done anything that deserved this response. But it seems to me the ultimate betrayal to cut off your relationship with your spouse, with whom you have two children, when he faces 20 years in prison.
When the prisoner’s mother heard what happened, she immediately called the prison authorities and warned them that she feared he would kill himself with an overdose of medication (he was prescribed anti-depressants). This caused the prison to contact the staff psychiatrist, who spent an hour talking with Zygier. At the conclusion of the conversation, the medical specialist reported there was no danger. How does a psychiatrist treating a patient in solitary confinement, completely cut off from almost all human contact, and whose wife has just told him she will have nothing further to do with him, wave that off?
Zygier’s mother’s warning message was never relayed to those monitoring Zygier in his cell.
What’s further mystifying is that Maya Alon will share a proposed $1.6-million settlement with the State over its negligence in his suicide (Zygier’s parents will also share in the arrangement). Why should she benefit from his death in any way? She essentially caused his death. I suppose it might be reasonable if her children were the beneficiaries rather than her. But that wasn’t mentioned in the media coverage I read.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.