FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Suicide of Ben Zygier

For those of you thinking of taking out Australian citizenship, a word of friendly advice: don’t.  It doesn’t matter that you have no aspirations of going in the footsteps of David Hicks, who became the unshakeable totem of paranoia and vengeance on the part of the Australian government during the ‘war on terror’, or Mamdouh Habib, picked up in Pakistan in 2001 for vague and spurious connections with terror cells.  It doesn’t matter that, because of Canberra’s complicity in the fate of these men, their minds have turned to mush, and their family lives ruined.

The fact remains that Australia’s strained consular efforts, when Canberra remembers to fund them, show a distinct lack of interest in intervening, representing and discussing the fate of its citizens.  More to the point, it shows that cultivated ignorance is its metier.  If you can outsource interrogations, torture, and the judicial procedure, an Australian consular official is the person you are looking for.  A bit of cost cutting goes a long way.

The latest example of this, another glorious notch on Canberra’s belt of infamous indifference, comes with the revelations that dual national Ben Zygier (or Allen, or Alon), known as “Prisoner X”, was found hanged in an isolation cell in Wing 15 of Ramle’s Ayalon Prison on December 15 2010.  It was designed to be suicide proof, though this was exactly what it did not prevent.  In the bowels of Israeli detention, Zygier languished, a being who, for all intents and purposes, had ceased to “exist”.

The smoke around Zygier’s fate is thick with speculation.  Was he a Mossad agent, which he claimed in confidence to two friends?  Why did the Australians not disclose his existence, his false name, let alone death sooner?  (The Foreign Minister Bob Carr initially pleaded complete ignorance on the subject.)  It has been reported that Australian authorities were “baffled by the case”, which is perhaps the least baffling feature of this entire episode.  The Australian foreign ministry, DFAT, was only told about Zygier’s demise when his family contacted it to assist bringing the body back to Australia.  Even Zygier’s funeral in Melbourne’s Springvale in 2010 went totally unnoticed.  An Australian citizen in need is an Australian citizen abandoned.

One deservedly unnamed official offered his unimaginative appraisal, suggesting that mystery is always a good substitute for sentience.  “There could be James Bond-style story there” (News Limited Network, Feb 13).  Former Australian secret service agent Warren Reed certainly felt that some spice was needed for this dish, coming in the form of a cliché.  “Truth is often stranger than fiction” (Australian Financial Review, Feb 15).

Sadly, this is less a tale of Ian Fleming vintage than one of squalid actions and plain espionage, with Canberra’s hood-winked officials limping behind.  Which then begs the question as to how hoodwinked they really were.  Certainly, those hoods had slits for one particular Australian diplomat, who claimed knowledge that Israel was holding Zygier prior to the inmate’s suicide.

According to Haaretz (Feb 14), “Prisoner X” was in contact with Australian intelligence contacts suggesting he might well have been dabbling in the dangerous world of double espionage.  There is a more than faint suggestion that he was going to let a particularly aggressive cat out of the bag: Mossad’s activities in Australia, possibly those relating to the use of Australian passports in Israeli assassination operations.  Another untested, even more exotic theory is that Zygier might have been privy to information that Iran’s nuclear program was not quite the dangerous beast Israel makes it out to be.  But with all that said, Mossad is Israel’s prophet and insuperable arm of government – question it, and its actions, at your peril.

This might well have been a coup for Australia’s famously daft and bungling agency ASIO, not that it would have mattered much.  Mossad simply does what other agencies do, just with that degree of impunity that makes their colleagues in that line of work swoon.  The take offered by Amir Oren is that the Zygier story has little to do with Australia, shedding light on the dysfunctional security agencies Israel operates.  “Case 8493, which includes the story of a prisoner whom the State of Israel admitted [on Wednesday] existed, until he stopped existing, is not an Australian story” (Haaretz, Feb 14)

The incident barely rippled in Israel, till Haaretz disclosed that Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office had called an emergency meeting of the Israeli Editors Committee on Tuesday.  The agenda there was preventing the publication of “sensitive and potentially embarrassing information”, which immediately spiked interest in the case. Not only had an Israeli effectively disappeared into the security maze, but he so happened to be a dual national.

The case is more likely to be of greater concern to Israelis than Australians, leaving aside Zygier’s friends and family, who should start accepting that their passport brings with it qualified privileges and no obligations on the part of their provider.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail