Feb 19, 2013

Zygier scandal: the journo in a deadly game of spy v spy

Not much is known about how Australian Ben Zygier ended up dead in a cell in Israel. But some of what we do know comes from a Fairfax journo unwittingly entangled in the spy scandal, writes Tom Hyland.

What little we know about the life and death of reputed secret agent Ben Zygier reads like the plot of a spy novel. If it were fiction, you might think it improbable — the characters implausible, the stakes too high, the intrigue between supposed allies too treacherous.

What is on the public record is enough to raise questions about the methods of Australian and Israeli intelligence agencies and the rivalry between them — a rivalry in which Zygier appeared to be fatally entangled. We’re unlikely ever to be told the full story. Significant details surrounding events leading up to the death of the Melbourne boy turned Mossad agent are on the public record — yet they risk being lost in the surge of speculation triggered by this case.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

10 thoughts on “Zygier scandal: the journo in a deadly game of spy v spy

  1. Gavin Moodie

    And of course it raises numerous questions about Israel’s justice system.

    Zygier’s suicide looks suspicious if not unlikely. Even if he did die ‘by his own hand’, Zygier was held in such inhumane conditions that he could barely be held responsible for his acts let alone thinking that he may have exercised anything like free will.

  2. MJPC

    This story has so many more questions, all dealing with this country’s subservience to the Israeli government being one (whichever side of the political divide). Alex Downer was on the ABC today trying to explain how the Israeli government used Australian Passports (no explanation of how wrong this is in so many ways), and he carried the piece of limp lettuce he scolded the Israeli Foreign Minister with in 2010. It was the stuff cringing is made of, lickspittle that he is.
    At least the current government sent back one of their consular staff.
    The other question is; allowing dual nationality for nationals returning to the mother country to spy for a foreign government…just what nationality was Zygier?
    Travelling to the Middle east? Don’t present an Australian passport and expect to have the identity accepted on face value I would suggest.

  3. shepherdmarilyn

    WEll we know that Australian citizens will not be helped by Australia at any time except if they are young and pretty girls, and that didn’t even help Corby.

    Being an Australian citizen is not worth the stat. dec. it is printed on.

  4. Robbob

    Julian Assange knows all about abandonment by the Australian Government as well. The Australian intelligence community has not lived up to its nomenclature in this case, it seems.
    Going overseas ? My advice is stay at home……

  5. AR

    Lord Bunter of Baghdad also referred to the use of Oz p/p in the “..assassination of the Palestinian..” with that sneering tone with which his then colleague the Cadaver referred to a suffering child behind the wire as “it”.
    Such charming types and, if polls are to be believed, the left overs and dregs of the Rodent’s regime are due to resume their Born-to-Rule right, after this distressing, democratic, interregnum.

  6. jmendelssohn

    Dual citizenship has always been a tricky policy, with many foreseen pitfalls about conflict of loyalties.
    St Paul said it first: it is not possible serve two masters at the same time.
    The best outcome would be to abolish dual citizenship, even though that will cause an outcry from the usual suspects.

  7. klewso

    Out of curiosity, for those in other states, how long did it take your local Limited News fanchises to show an interest in this “ABC/Fairfax initiated report”?
    Up here in Qld; our Curry or Maul took a few days to get aroused.

  8. Kevin Herbert

    Note to the Israeli & Australian Governments:

    Show us the CCTV vision of the Zygier killing himself..or stand accused of murdering him.

    Simple really.

  9. Scott Robson

    The problem here is not dual citizenship. One can easily feel like they belong in two places – as someone who has lived away from Australia for over a 1/3 of my life I experience this first hand. The problem is the wisdom of employing someone like Zygier (or myself) in intelligence circles. What intelligence organization would do that?

    Israel risk a lot when they do so. Should they really be surprised if a person like Zygier talks to Australian intelligence if he believes it is for the benefit of his birth country? If they are, they foolishly rely way too much on the strength of Jewry. I would argue that they clearly don’t rely on that strength but instead rely on their ability to catch people who fall through the cracks and then ‘silence’ them in criminal ways. I would also argue that if Australian intelligence knew about his work for Israel the only rational response would be to cancel his passports and revoke his citizenship of Australia. Because that didn’t happen I’m sure ASIS/ASIO had bigger plans for him.

    It’s a dirty game, intelligence. Spy agencies across the world are foolish for employing people with diverse national identity – and act illegally when they try to bury the story (looking at you Israel _and_ Australia).

  10. Chris Williams

    Scott (9) makes good points but I can’t agree that dual citizenship is benign. Your argument that revocation of one’s Australian citizenship should be used once it becomes clear an Australian is working for a foreign government indicates your see a signficant problem but want to wait til it emerges and is known before taking action.

    There is abundant evidence in the US today is that there are many dual US-Israeli citizens in positions of power in the government who work essentially for the interests of Israel and effectively against the interests of the US. they have been able to achieve these positions of power because there has been no proof of this. We need to guard against this eventuality. The decision to allow dual citizenship in Australia to all countries was only introduced on 4 April 2002 (though there had been an earlier period of dual Australian /British dual citizenship as I recall).

    So this is not some venerable old practice – indeed it is not one I recall there being too much national debate about at all! Australians should demand and end to it from parties to the next election.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details