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Prisoner X didn't exist until two years after his death.
February 13, 2013 6:19 AM   Subscribe

In June 2010 a news story briefly appeared on the Yediot website about Prisoner X in solitary confinement in an Israeli jail. His jailers did not know who he was, did not share a word with him, no one came to visit him. No one seemed to know he was there. They didn’t even know what crime he had committed or how he came to be in the prison. His prison cell was completely isolated from other prisoners and he couldn’t communicate in any way with them. ABC News Australia has broken the News that Prisoner X was an Australian citizen suspected of Mossad links and who commited suicide two years ago in an Israeli jail.

The prime minister’s office and prison service declined on Tuesday to comment. “I can’t tell you anything; I’m not dealing with this,” said the prison spokeswoman, Sivan Weizman. “I can’t answer any question about it. Sorry.

“There are some episodes in the history of Israel that are still kept under the strongest secrecy thick veil possible,” said Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist. “Some of them are 40 years old, 50 years old, and are still under thick, thick secrecy, and anyone violating this secrecy would be thrown into jail himself.”

An article about the Australian report which appeared in Haaretz on Tuesday was later removed.
posted by adamvasco (96 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it just me or is the West's tolerance for Israel's crimes against humanity waning these days? As an embarrassed Jew I'm pretty relieved to see more and more of this stuff come out.
posted by Mooseli at 6:35 AM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


If by "the West" you mean regulars on progressive Interent forums, sure.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:37 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Suspicions about the prisoner's nationality were first raised when it was revealed that his code name was actually "Prisoner XXXX". The public are now pressing the Australian Government to find out whether Prisoner VB is also being held in an Israeli jail, and, if not, why not. Prisoner KB also remains unaccounted for. "Youse bastards are bloody fucken in violation of the fucken Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations I reckon, youse fucken drongos, ay?" said the Australian Ambassador to Israel, Johnno from Wagga.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:40 AM on February 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


LIES. Prisoner X was pardoned by the prime minister after helping Nicholas Cage break into Alcatraz.
posted by falameufilho at 6:42 AM on February 13, 2013


Israeli government officials interested in not seeming like Nazis shouldn't tolerate secret prisoners.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:50 AM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of the great things about elected officials is how easy it can be to pretend that an existential threat to your career is the same as an existential threat to your country.
posted by mhoye at 6:51 AM on February 13, 2013 [42 favorites]


In many ways the state of Israel is a mirror image of whats it so rightly abhors from the past of it´s people. This to me is the great sadness that a people persecuted almost to extinction for a belief system now apply fascistic measures to so many and that their ''allies'' do not call them on this.
posted by adamvasco at 6:55 AM on February 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


Israeli government officials interested in not seeming like Nazis shouldn't tolerate secret prisoners.

And here's two. OK, if you compare Israel to the Nazis, there are two things people think about you -

1) You have no sense of proportion and a grotesque and false perception of history and current events

2) You're kinda antisemitic. "Israel is just as bad as Nazi Germany" is a lie that implies the Jews had it coming, they are no better than those who murdered them by the millions. This is a common talking point in racist literature. That's the bed you want to crawl into seeking social justice? Really?
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:57 AM on February 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


It is indeed terrible that Israel had a secret prisoner, and they should be called out on it.

But, um, the US has secret prisons. Just sayin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:02 AM on February 13, 2013 [24 favorites]


Australian? Are they sure? Maybe his passport was forged?

shouldn't tolerate secret prisoners

Liberal, progressive, Constitutional law professor and all-around nice-guy Barack Obama tolerates secret prisoners - even when he said he wouldn't. Obama turned back the clock on Guantanamo so why should Isreal be held to a higher standard? It's the 21st century! Every country has secret prisons and secret prisoners nowadays.
posted by three blind mice at 7:04 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Israel is just as bad as Nazi Germany" is a lie that implies the Jews had it coming,

But doesn't that statement then imply that the Palestinians, and anyone else the government of Israel doesn't like, "has it coming"?

Acting in horrifically abusive and authoritarian ways was the hallmark of the Nazis, and pointing out that their major victims are now using many of the same tactics implies neither that they are using all of the same tactics, nor are they doing them to the same degree. But it does say that they are being horrifically abusive and authoritarian, and that this carries extra sadness because of their past.

It's trying, I think, to say that of all people, shouldn't those who have suffered most from abuse be the ones to renounce it?
posted by Malor at 7:05 AM on February 13, 2013 [28 favorites]


It's trying, I think, to say that of all people, shouldn't those who have suffered most from abuse be the ones to renounce it?

I don't know, have you met many people who suffered from abuse? There's this weird pedestal that Israelis are put on regarding the Holocaust in that because the Jews suffered so much, how could they possibly be committing atrocities similar to basically just about every other militarized nation. Well, it's pretty simple: after an experience where your people are basically hunted for sport and worked to near-extinction, you stop fucking around. There's no turning the other cheek in this culture, and if there's one common thread in Jewish history it's "we all nearly died, but didn't." Seriously, just about every holiday, every celebration, every event is about the fact that there are still Jews despite what has happened through these last few millenia. So, while Israel's actions as a political entity are abhorrent, the idea that they should be Super Extra Friendly really just ignores most of Jewish and Israeli history and culture.
posted by griphus at 7:09 AM on February 13, 2013 [33 favorites]


Slap*Happy, I believe duncadunc was calling out the irony of history, not getting in bed with the racists. Furthermore, Israel isn't "the Jews". Jewish people are a diaspora that extends far beyond and independently of its borders. Your heart's in the right place, but please recognize that Israel is just a political entity, and as such, it has to act like an adult.
posted by hanoixan at 7:11 AM on February 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


I believe duncadunc was calling Israel hypocritical.

No, he's calling them Nazis in what he thinks is a clever way. There is a difference.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:13 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, while Israel's actions as a political entity are abhorrent, the idea that they should be Super Extra Friendly really just ignores most of Jewish and Israeli history and culture.

How about just law-abiding? Or isn't the rule of law powerful enough?
posted by three blind mice at 7:14 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lots of countries, including ones who make big noises about democracy, treat turncoat intelligence officers very poorly. Israel is no different there. I can think of many other, better reasons to question Israel's apparent credentials as a beacon of Middle Eastern democracy and justice.

The more salient issue, IMHO, is the international aspect and the repeated abuse of international goodwill in respect of how Israel treats foreign passports and dual nationality in sensitive intelligence operations. Quite apart from anything, it is grist to the mill of antisemites who like to blur Israel and diaspora Jews that Israel is also seen to leverage dual nationals when expedient.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:15 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


No. You are saying that he is calling them Nazis in what he thinks is a clever way.
posted by adamvasco at 7:16 AM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


ignoring the usual suspects with their axes to grind blah blah blah. (Is it too early to ask for a mod cleanup already ?)

What was the guy in prison for ? In various outlets, they say he might have been part of the Dubai botch-job, but I haven't heard what he did to get locked up.
posted by k5.user at 7:17 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm calling them hypocritical, and I think it's really sad that the lesson after WWII wasn't "We're going to create a state that holds human rights as goal number one".

Sadly, I suspect pacifists, freethinkers and so on have a lot of trouble getting traction when you're starting a new country. Hell, they always have trouble getting traction within an organization. That's why governments are almost always so evil.

It's just sad that things couldn't have worked out better.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:20 AM on February 13, 2013


Slap*Happy : You're kinda antisemitic. "Israel is just as bad as Nazi Germany" is a lie that implies the Jews had it coming, they are no better than those who murdered them by the millions.

Although I agree with you that plenty of people will think that about anyone who dares criticize Israel-the-country, that conclusion simple doesn't follow from the premise except under the most brutal of eye-for-an-eye conceptions of "justice".

I can, in reasonable fairness, call Rupert Murdoch "as bad as" William Randolph Hearst. That doesn't mean I want his granddaughter kidnapped and brainwashed into joining a terrorist cell.

The whole "antisemitism" accusation strikes me as little more than a petulant shut-down of someone daring to take contrary stance. Yes, antisemitism exists; the word has gotten worn out from misuse, however.
posted by pla at 7:22 AM on February 13, 2013 [22 favorites]


Did they make him wear an iron mask?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:25 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or isn't the rule of law powerful enough?

A big part of Israeli nationalism and culture stems from the observation that the Rule of Law (i.e. the gentiles who ran every country Jews found themselves in post-diaspora) sort of just sat by allowing or even encouraging pogroms, institutional antisemitism and so on to go unchecked until it all culminated in the Holocaust, which was also allowed to go on unchecked for quite a while. So, from that perspective, no, the rule of law is not powerful enough to keep Israelis from doing everything they can to combat what they consider an aspect of an existential threat to their nation (and, by proxy in their worldview, the Jews as a people.)
posted by griphus at 7:32 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


The whole "antisemitism" accusation strikes me as little more than a petulant shut-down of someone daring to take contrary stance.

I think this is pretty much it. There is always a desperation to immediately link any comment that isn't pure as the driven snow to antisemitism, when it comes to Israel. Sure, some people might think things about you. Doesn't mean those people are right, or those things are true.
posted by Jimbob at 7:32 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's bad, it's unlawful, but much of the world is in no position to criticize. My government held Abu Qatada in prison for the best part of six years on flimsy grounds, and keeps wanting to deport him even though the courts say that they can't. Mote and beam.
posted by Jehan at 7:34 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


if you compare Israel to the Nazis

Hey, if it quacks like a duck and steps like a goose...

Seriously, my first comment was immediately deleted by the mods, without even a word of apology, but there's a difference between comparing Israel to the Nazis and comparing some of Israel's actions (or rather, those of an unnamed agency that stood to be "embarrassed" by whatever this prisoner may have told anybody, including his jailers) with those of the Nazis. Especially since the latter pretty much wrote the book on "disappearing" their political opponents without trace, a know-how later exported to other parts of the world.

I don't think that Israel ought to be held to a higher standard on human rights than other countries because of the Holocaust. But, on the other hand, for the very same reason, I don't think that it should be a taboo to hold that particular mirror to its face when it behaves appallingly, as appears to be the case here, just as one would with respect to any other country. If the shoe (or rather, jackboot) fits, it's its problem, not mine...
posted by Skeptic at 7:34 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


My government held Abu Qatada in prison for the best part of six years on flimsy grounds,

They told someone they had him in prison, tho, right? They didn't just imprison him, put a legal blockade on discussing who he was or every that he was in prison, then let him die there and not tell anyone about that either?
posted by Jimbob at 7:38 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Everybody cool it now.]
posted by cortex at 7:41 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly, there's plenty of historical tyrannies that this could be compared to. Secret prisons for intelligence defectors seems more like Stalin to me. So yes, choosing that particular simile seems to be pretty loaded with a negative sentiment towards the existence of Israel rather than its behaviour.
posted by ambrosen at 7:52 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Secret prisons for intelligence defectors seems more like Stalin to me.

Stalin was more into public trials. The more public, the better, with the accused having been previously "treated" so that they would just declare their guilt and forget any compromising information they may have held.

And intelligence defectors had "accidents". As publicly and gruesomely as possible, "pour encourager les autres". This appears to still be a popular approach, as shown by the Litvinenko case.
posted by Skeptic at 8:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Seriously, we're not gonna do any Fuck You stuff and we're not gonna have yet another "no but this is why Jews are the modern Nazis" clusterfuck. Have a decent discussion about the specific new content here or go do something else.]
posted by cortex at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


terrible evil prisoner-rights-denying Israel != "a people" ... it is a government. Yes, it has supporters and they can definitely suck it, but just as I didn't endorse the murder of 100,000s of people in my country's illegal oil wars, many Israelis don't endorse brutal and illegal tactics of their regime.
posted by cbecker333 at 8:11 AM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


They told someone they had him in prison, tho, right? They didn't just imprison him, put a legal blockade on discussing who he was or every that he was in prison, then let him die there and not tell anyone about that either?
Going by recent policies, I'm sure they would if they could. Heck, they would gladly bring back the Star Chamber. The Israeli government is not doing anything so different from many other countries, they've just taken it to a more extreme end. Maybe not even that extreme, the UK would most likely just have bumped him off and left his body to be found zipped in a bag.
posted by Jehan at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2013


pla: "Yes, antisemitism exists; the word has gotten worn out from misuse, however."

Try being a victim of it your whole life and then get back to me on how the word's "gotten worn out."
posted by zarq at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


So is there any idea what this guy did that made the Israeli government dislike him so much? Was this one faction/part of the government trying to keep it secret from another part? That they kept his name secret sounds like they didn't want someone forcing a trial.

Also: Where was Australia during all this?
posted by dunkadunc at 8:23 AM on February 13, 2013


Also: Where was Australia during all this?

One of the articles mentions Australia saying that because his family did not file any complaint, their hands are tied.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


[If you want to talk about moderation, use the contact form or take it to Metatalk but do not pick a fight in the middle of a thread.]
posted by cortex at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, the Nazis disappeared people. And now Israel disappeared this guy.

And the Nazis shot enemies without trials, and now the US uses drones to do that.

But this misses the point that what made the Nazis such a spectacular historical example of evil was the scale and normalization of it. They took these things that every corrupt authoritarian regime does, and set about unapologetically doing them on an industrial scale. Israel doesn't, the US doesn't, and trying to cast these latter-day regimes into the Nazi mold is really an argument that a difference in degree is no difference at all. When it's done to thousands then a Nazi comparison is apt. Until them it's just another authoritarian state.

People immediately jump to the Nazi comparison because they can draw the dreadful irony of Jews acting like Nazis. It has much less impact to say that Israel is acting exactly like a late 20th century South American junta, although it's much closer to the truth. And while you might think that using Nazis serves to throw it into stark relief, it's just a comparison that adds more heat than light.
posted by tyllwin at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


Israel doesn't, the US doesn't, and trying to cast these latter-day regimes into the Nazi mold is really an argument that a difference in degree is no difference at all. When it's done to thousands then a Nazi comparison is apt.

How delightfully naïve!

Perhaps you meant to say tens or hundreds of thousands.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 AM on February 13, 2013


How delightfully naïve!

You believe there are thousands of secret prisoners in US or Israeli jails?
posted by tyllwin at 8:39 AM on February 13, 2013


I'm really interested in the sort of state secret/espionage interest here. I imagine the sources can't go into too much detail, but if he was imprisoned secretly with no name, how in the world did anyone ever find out him? It's mentioned that a source inside the prison talked, but how did he know? Wouldn't he have to be one of the guards who brought him food or water, and therefore fairly easily pinpointed as the source?
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:41 AM on February 13, 2013


Hey, if it quacks like a duck and steps like a goose...

Here's the thing, if you weren't delighting in your free pass for racism, you'd compare them to other regimes in the region. Israel is acting no different than the allegedly modern and democratic Turkey towards its minorities in defense of its nationalistic identity - and that's a pretty condemning statement. But you want to toss in Nazi comparisons, which are out of proportion and ahistoric.

Since the parallels to Nazi Germany and Naziism in general are a bad fit, there is another reason why they are being brought into the discussion. It's not a good one.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


FWIW, Ha Aretz has a nice rundown of just about everything we know about "Prisoner X".

To me, the thing standing out as the strangest involves the fraudulent use of his passport - That really doesn't seem relevant for an Australian in Australia. Did he renounce his Australian citizenship in some dramatic way that would make that a bit less bizarre of an investigation?

I also can't help notice the - probably coincidental - alliteration of his story. Changed his last name to "Allen", went on "aliyah", died in Ayalon prison... Almost spooky.
posted by pla at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


tyllwin: over the past decade or two, yes. Like an iceberg, we've only seen a fraction of what exists.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


if you weren't delighting in your free pass for racism

Excuse me? What racism?

What right do you have to second-guess why I choose one particular parallel rather than another? What right do you have to forbid one particular parallel being made? Who is asking for a free pass?

I've read this novel, and it was the first thing that came to mind when I hear of Prisoner X. Is that racist?
posted by Skeptic at 8:49 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the same blog as the first link above, here's some speculation on the political implications of what this might mean for Australian/Israeli relations.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2013


You're kinda antisemitic. "Israel is just as bad as Nazi Germany" is a lie that implies the Jews had it coming,

Whoa there.

The state Israel does not equal the Jewish people, nor does it even represent all Jewish people, even if its own propaganda does argue this. Therefore, while one still should be careful with making nazi comparisons when talking about the state Israel, to call it antisemitic is just as overblown, unless you have good reason to suspect bad faith.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:55 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


What I'm wondering about the case itself is how different this actually is from what has happened to thousands of Palestinian men and women, arrested and imprisoned without trial and mostly kept incommunicado. Is this just news because this guy was Australian?

(Like Britain and too many other western countries Australia doesn't really have a good track record defending its citizens caught up in a Kafkaesque nightmare like this, as witnessed those poor sods that were sent to Guantanamo.)
posted by MartinWisse at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I strongly suggest dropping the antisemitic / Nazis derail. In retrospect, I really regret contributing to it earlier.

Let's face it: "Israelis acting like Nazis" is a lazy comparison, which, as slap*happy said originally, shows no sense of proportion. That should be enough of a reason for us to ignore it entirely.

Prisoner X is a difficult topic, and his treatment an upsetting revelation. But we should be able to talk about that without turning this thread into a referendum for whether an dumb (presumably off-the-cuff) comment is antisemitic or not.
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Murkey shit.
Bibi Netanyahu summoned the editor’s committee of managers of all the Israeli news outlets and asked them to respect a gag not for the sake of national security, but in order to protect a national agency “from embarrassment.”
The gagging order has now been partly lifted after all the concerned parties can get their story straight I presume.
Silverstein postulates that ex Premier Kevin Rudd may have leaked this story to ABC.
In 2006 Israel promised not to hold prisoners in secret outside of international legal norms.
posted by adamvasco at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think the Nazi thing comes up because Israel arose largely as a response to a state's (mega-scale, industrialized) human rights abuses, so it's ironic and depressing to see such disregard for human rights on the Israeli government's (not necessarily the people's!) part. I think people making comparisons are aware of scale differences.

I'd love to visit the country someday- it seems like government aside it's a neat place. I'd be eligible for a Birthright trip, but I suspect that by the time the country is under just and humane leadership, free trips will be no more.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


dunkadunc: "I think the Nazi thing comes up because Israel arose largely as a response to a state's (mega-scale, industrialized) human rights abuses, so it's ironic and depressing to see such disregard for human rights on the Israeli government's (not necessarily the people's!) part.

It is. I agree.

A close friend of mine was detained/arrested by Israeli police at the Western Wall on Monday. For daring to be female and pray.

I think people making comparisons are aware of scale differences.

If they are, it might behoove them to make less inflammatory and deliberately derailing examples. There are plenty of less hyperbolic and more appropriate comparisons that could be used which wouldn't evoke angry, defensive responses. Or accusations of anti-semitism.
posted by zarq at 10:32 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thread has been illuminating. I will drop the Nazi comparison unless talking about a regime engaged in industrial scale ethnic cleansing.

The Israeli government is looking like Pinochet's military junta.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 10:50 AM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


The Israeli government is looking like Pinochet's military junta.

Or indeed quite a few other Semitic states.

An accident of geography, economics, and politics more than anything to do with ethnicity or culture or which particular flavour of the grand beardy sky wizard they base their belief system on.
posted by titus-g at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh look, it turns out that his imprisonment wasn't actually a secret:
After initially denying the Australian government had any knowledge that one of its citizens was detained in Israel, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said some officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were aware of his detention.
So his family apparently knew. And the Australian government knew. And there's no suggestion so far that he was denied legal counsel, or anything like that. I'm trying to identify the cause for outrage here. Is it that ... portentous drum roll ... that it was in Israel?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:44 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Israel arose largely as a response to a state's (mega-scale, industrialized) human rights abuses

Israel got the momentum it needed to attain recognized statehood due to the horrors of Nazi Germany, but more accurately, the state itself (in conception and reality) actually arose as part of the larger trends of nationalism and European colonialism, not as a response to WWII.
posted by cell divide at 12:59 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


the fraudulent use of his passport - That really doesn't seem relevant for an Australian in Australia.

He changed his name several times and (apparently) obtained passports under different names. If he was using the passport for one name while legally holding a different name, that could be what this refers to, possibly.
posted by cell divide at 1:00 PM on February 13, 2013


Anti-semite is a very loaded word using it sucks the air out of gentile conversation as the word nigger does when talking basketball with Rasheed Wallace. Semite to me has always referred to a speaker of a language group, not the people supporting a theocratic excuse for a country that word is Zionist. Using historical persecution as a playing card to browbeat international opinion toward sympathy for the establishment of a "Jewish" state is a bit of chicanery I may never understand. You cannot build a nation by fiat only with a shared vision. If only we would have set aside Arizona for the Zionists after WW II what a different world this would be. How many more thousands would still be alive? I for the record am not a "hater" of any one religion they have all been corrupted by politics. Zionists were a 20th century terrorist group who got permission from the world to build a country by force and coercion. Israel could have been so much more.
posted by pdxpogo at 1:05 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


not the people supporting a theocratic excuse for a country

Not that it isn't a country already, composed of a lovely melange of people: some who are theocratic, authoritarian, dickwads, and a lot of people who are just people.

Kinda similar to most other states (give or take a little on the theocracy.)
posted by titus-g at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2013


melange
posted by titus-g at 1:24 PM on February 13, 2013


The spies must flow.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:27 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Joe when you have finished stalwartly brandishing your flag for all things Israel you might care to read to the bottom of the article you linked to.
'He is simply a person without a name and without an identity who has been placed in total and utter isolation from the outside world,'' a prison official was quoted as saying in the Israeli media in 2010, when news of ''Prisoner X'' first broke, and was then suppressed.
It is unclear what, if anything, Australia was told by the Israeli authorities about the death in custody of one of its citizens, or whether any consular assistance was provided to Mr Zygier during his time in solitary confinement.
.
You may excuse it how you wish but I call it fucking inhuman behaviour from a so called democratic nation.
posted by adamvasco at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You may excuse it how you wish but I call it fucking inhuman behaviour from a so called democratic nation.

What part of the behaviour was inhuman? When the reporter was told "No, you can't visit him and I'm not telling you who he is, kindly fsck off"? Of course, it sounds much more portentous the way the reporter put it, presumably in translation.

Heh, catch this one:
Zygier's death in 2010 was met with more than a dozen condolence notices in the Australian Jewish News. These included notices from Monash University, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the Beth Weizmann Community Centre, the Jewish Holocaust Centre, and the National Council of Jewish Women. None would comment yesterday.
Worst. Conspiracy. Ever.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:49 PM on February 13, 2013


A more current report from Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper:
DFAT Secretary Peter Varghese provided Senator Carr with an interim report on Thursday, the findings of which the foreign minister shared with a Senate estimates committee.

"The Australian government was informed in February 2010 through intelligence channels that the Israeli authorities had detained a dual Australian-Israeli citizen, and they provided the name of the citizen, in relation to serious offences under Israeli national security legislation," he said.

Australia sought assurances his legal rights would be respected, that he had legal representation of his own choosing, that his family had been notified of his detention and that he was not being mistreated.

"The Israeli government further advised the Australian government that the individual would be treated in accordance with his lawful rights as an Israeli citizen," Senator Carr said.

"The Australian government relied on these assurances."

At no stage did the Australian government receive any request for consular support, he said.
According to the same article Senator Carr (the Australian Foreign Minister) has ordered a review of his department's handling of the case. If I were Senator Carr I would be very, very displeased with being made to look stupid just before an election.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:00 PM on February 13, 2013


Silverstein postulates
I don't know if Silverstein should be cited.
posted by unliteral at 3:45 PM on February 13, 2013


I´m not here to speak for Silverstein however you should realize that about 15 lines down in your link the writer states
I am not going to deal with the actual story here.
So that´s alright then.
posted by adamvasco at 3:53 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the same blog as the first link above, here's some speculation on the political implications of what this might mean for Australian/Israeli relations.

I suspect little to none. Australia has always been quite comfortable in screwing over our own citizens when they become politically uncomfortable, or threaten ANZUS or anything remotely connected to it.
posted by smoke at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


And the Nazis shot enemies without trials, and now the US uses drones to do that.

I suppose technically you could say that the U.S. uses people to shoot other people without a trial. The Drone is just a gun. Operated remotely. By some kid who probably grew up playing Call of Duty and now has PTSD.


Also, what did Prisoner X *do* to get punished so severely?
posted by mecran01 at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2013


Also, what did Prisoner X *do* to get punished so severely?

Nobody knows! But I think we can safely say that he wasn't an Iranian general named Ali-Reza Asgari, despite earlier reports.

Also, we don't actually know that he was punished severely. According to this article (Google's translation) he had three lawyers and you would think that they would have protested if he was being treated illegally. On the other hand, lots of people think that solitary confinement is torture in itself, so there's that.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:09 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metatalk thread (please read).
posted by el io at 6:14 PM on February 13, 2013


.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:58 PM on February 13, 2013


Update
Israel’s Prisoner X Is Linked to Dubai Assassination (NYT).
Israel's most sensitive government agencies are not functioning. (Haaretz).
Silverstein rethinks.
Unmasking Prisoner X: Beating the censors (ABC News).
posted by adamvasco at 5:24 AM on February 15, 2013


Gideon Levy
It is still possible to make people disappear even in the Israel of 2013. On whom can Israelis rely to report how many there are and who are they?
posted by adamvasco at 9:00 AM on February 16, 2013


Gideon Levy
It is still possible to make people disappear even in the Israel of 2013. On whom can Israelis rely to report how many there are and who are they?


Ooh! Would it be ... Gideon Levy?

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt in supposing that he tossed this off hurriedly before the facts were known, but it now turns out that at least the following people knew of Ben Zygier's incarceration:
  • His family;
  • His lawyer.;
  • The Israeli foreign ministry;
  • The Australian foreign ministry;
  • The Israeli supreme court.
In retrospect, if Israel wants to "disappear" someone they should probably avoid the following:
  1. Calling him "Mr X" rather than something innocuous like "Yanky Cohen";
  2. Putting him in a special super-duper jail cell previously used for the guy who shot the Prime Minister;
  3. Calling a bunch of reporters for a press conference and telling them not to report the existence of "Mr X, who is locked up in our super-duper jail cell, and whose secret knowledge might shake the foundations of our nation!"
Joke: some foreign politician is being given a tour of Israel, and they stop to pay respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At the base of the monument it says "In memory of Moshe Peckel, furrier, 1890 - 1948.". The politician says "Hang on, isn't this supposed to be the unknown soldier?" "Well," the tour guide says, "As a soldier he was unknown. But he was a very good furrier."
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:17 PM on February 16, 2013


Richard Spencer in The Daily Telegraph.
..a conspiracy theory with a real conspiracy.
Here is what we know of what he was charged with: it was a "grave crime" (according to his lawyer), an offence that was likely to see him ostracised by his family and his community, Mossad said.
Journalists let in on the secret in return for their silence say it fully merits the gagging order imposed.
This gagging order in still in place.
The earlier gagging order was more thorough and in existence until two days ago after ABC News had broken the story.
Just to reiterate what some are not accepting:
Prisoner X was a nameless prisoner held in solitary confinement in a special Israeli jail built for the killer of the former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
He was so top secret, his jailers weren't allowed to know his name – or, it now turns out, his many aliases.
He was indicted for "grave crimes" which he denied, held incommunicado except for his lawyer, and then was found hanged.
Israel is far from a Nazi state and to suggest so is preposterous.
Neither is it Pinochet's Chile.
I think the better analogy is An Inconvenient Truth: Israeli Apartheid; though like most every thing to do with the State of Israel this too has it's arguments.
posted by adamvasco at 9:58 AM on February 17, 2013


Adamvasco wrote: ..a conspiracy theory with a real conspiracy.

Yes, but a conspiracy to do what? Israel arrested an Israeli citizen, inside Israel, for something which we don't know about but which convinced a court that there was a prima facie case for his imprisonment. None of that is consistent with a conspiracy, and it looks as though everyone who needed to know was informed. If Australia's foreign ministry hadn't cocked up and provided the wrong information this wouldn't even have been newsworthy.

Prisoner X was a nameless prisoner held in solitary confinement in a special Israeli jail built for the killer of the former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

It was actually a special jail cell, within a regular prison.

He was so top secret, his jailers weren't allowed to know his name – or, it now turns out, his many aliases.

Yes, but so what? Did they need to know his name? Whose rights were being breached here?

He was indicted for "grave crimes" which he denied,

As would I ...

held incommunicado except for his lawyer,

So, "not incommunicado" then? Because he was in jail, after all.

and then was found hanged.

Yes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:50 PM on February 17, 2013


Carr Orders Report Into Prisoner X Case

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to commence a report into the Prisoner X affair.

It is not known when it will be completed, but the report will canvass all contact between Australia and Israel’s consulates and security agencies.

Senator Carr said he’d asked for the report to ‘‘satisfy’’ himself that enough was being done by Australian consular staff, and to identify any potential areas for improvement.


Maybe not quite so open-and-close as you would like to believe, Joe.
posted by smoke at 7:47 PM on February 17, 2013


I will happily concede that anything is possible, but I think that an investigation into the failings of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will probably find evidence of ... failings on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:12 PM on February 17, 2013


Zygier arrested after leaking Mossad work to ASIO: sources

"Sources" presumably means ASIO; they were the source of Jason Koutsoukis' original story and it seems unlikely that Israel would now be cooperating with the Australian media. If they've been managing this story via leaks - and embarrassing Australia's government while doing so - they've been acting pretty poorly.

The suggestion in the next story is that ASIO pressure was actually responsible for Zygier's death. If it's true that ASIO was leaking then ASIO was effectively responsible for getting Zygier arrested. I don't think this sort of political nonsense is part of ASIO's brief and, if it was taken without Cabinet or at least Ministerial authorisation, their behaviour is very troubling.

ASIO 'burned' Zygier
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:11 AM on February 18, 2013


Joe in Australia :Yes, but so what? Did they need to know his name? Whose rights were being breached here?

Wrong question. Obviously no one "needs" to know your name, account #40518.

Instead, ask yourself what crimes you would consider so horrific that your captors hold you not only in permanent solitary confinement, incommunicado, but refuse to allow you to even have your name?

How about Jared Laughner? Oh, I guess we do know his name. Ethel Rosenberg? Hmm, same problem. See the pattern here? And, aside from their names, we know what they did. They received (or will receive) a more-or-less fair and open trial.

They didn't just vanish one day, leaving their relatives and the rest of the world to wonder what had happened to them.
posted by pla at 3:47 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


pla wrote: Obviously no one "needs" to know your name, account #40518.

Surely enough people have explained that Ben Zygier's relatives did know? As did his lawyers, the courts, and Australia's government.

I mean, you did see that, right?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:35 AM on February 18, 2013


#40518 See Gagging Order.
posted by adamvasco at 4:51 AM on February 18, 2013




adamvasco: "See Gagging Order."

By any chance, is there a copy of this article available which doesn't require registration at FT.com?
posted by zarq at 9:14 AM on February 19, 2013


ABC The ABC's Foreign Correspondent program understands that Zygier met with ASIO officers in Australia and gave comprehensive detail about a number of Mossad operations, including plans for a top-secret mission in Italy that had been years in the making.
Meanwhile....
This could be shit stirring or is there a grain of truth? - I have no idea.
Murmurs of Yahya Skaf, Another “Prisoner X” in Israel.
posted by adamvasco at 10:59 AM on February 19, 2013


adamvasco: "#40518 See Gagging Order."

That's behind a paywall. Could you pastebin it?
posted by dunkadunc at 5:14 PM on February 19, 2013


Netanyahu denies ASIO link to Zygier
THE affair involving Ben Zygier, the Australian suspected of working for Mossad, has taken a dramatic new turn with the Israeli Prime Minister's office claiming Mr Zygier never had any contact with Australian security services.
[...]
After the statement was released, The Australian asked Mr Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, how the PM would know with whom ASIO had spoken.

"I can't go beyond the statement," he said.

"I understand the question (but) I can't go beyond the statement.

"No-one will go beyond the statement."
Good question, and it would be interesting to learn the answer. It would also be interesting to know who in ASIO has been briefing the ABC, and under whose authority.

Israel denies Zygier had contact with ASIO
Israel has denied that a man identified by the ABC as an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent who committed suicide in jail had any contact with Australia's security services, as a court backed its government's claims that he hanged himself. [...]
On Monday, the ABC said Zygier was arrested after giving ASIO a comprehensive account of a number of Mossad operations, including plans for a top-secret mission in Italy that had been years in the making.
[...]
Former foreign minister Alexander Downer said he believed Zygier's arrest was over something "more serious" than just a leak to ASIO.
Alexander Downer was in Opposition at the time, so this may just be his speculation. I, obviously, have no idea. I don't think any news commentators do either.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:10 PM on February 19, 2013


Possible Indictment of 4 IPS workers in Zygier Suicide
Four relatively junior officials from the Isral Prison Service will be held responsible for job failures which led to the suicide of prisoner Ben Zygier prison, Ma'ariv reported on Wednesday.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:20 PM on February 19, 2013


Here is a link to the FT article in pastebin as several people have asked me for it.
I am told the blocking of free access of FT articles is a regional thing but can't get today either.
posted by adamvasco at 1:50 AM on February 20, 2013


Family of Suspected Spy Fought to Keep Inquiry Open

JERUSALEM: Israeli government representatives tried to shut down the investigation into the death in custody of Ben Zygier, the Australian suspected of spying for Mossad, arguing there was no indication of a criminal action or negligence in the matter.

But his family - once they were allowed to view the evidence - successfully fought for the investigation to continue, a report from the judge who led the inquiry into his death reveals.

posted by smoke at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2013


Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, today on Democracy Now with transcript.
A few days after we heard about his death in mid-December, we filed a motion with the district court to lift the gag order, or at least limit its sweeping scope, to allow publication of some details about the charges brought against him, and especially the concern about how he was found dead in the most protected cell of the prison services. After the district court dismissed our motion, we filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court heard the appeal in February two years ago. But the judges also were—the judges—also the judges on the Supreme Court heard the security services for an hour and a half ex parte. And after that, they told us they were convinced that the whole—that the complete secrecy is justified.
posted by adamvasco at 3:15 PM on February 20, 2013


Zygier’s second daughter was born days before his suicide

The paper managed to bury the lede here: the interesting thing about the article is that it contains an interview with Jason Koutsoukis who confirms that the initial story on Zygier was being managed from "Canberra" (i.e., the Australian Federal Government, probably code for ASIO) and that he gave ASIO 36 hours to check over the article before it was published.

!

This is astonishing news! It just goes to show, you don't need a gagging order when you have a tame press.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:11 PM on February 20, 2013


‘Zygier hung dead for an hour before jailers found him’
Prison guards reportedly fell asleep at the monitors and didn’t notice their charge had committed suicide
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:37 AM on February 21, 2013


Australia's almost-eponymous Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says Zygier had no contact with ASIO

Basically, almost every single news story about Zygier (and definitely every speculative opinion piece) has been refuted as the story developed. I suppose the next report will deny that he existed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:34 PM on February 21, 2013


Joe in Australia: "Australia's almost-eponymous Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says Zygier had no contact with ASIO"

Yes, but there we're looking at two conflicting accounts, not a refutation. Dreyfus' denial doesn't prove anything. If Zygier did spill Mossad secrets to the ASIO and some of those secrets could potentially affect ongoing operations involving Australia or Australian nationals, the ASIO might still deny it had happened.
posted by zarq at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2013


Yes, but there we're looking at two conflicting accounts, not a refutation.

Well, Israel's saying it and Australia's confirming it. I suppose it's possible that they got together to get their stories straight, but a more parsimonious explanation is that these very senior politicians are telling the truth and whoever came up with "he must of revealed Mossad secrets to ASIO!" theory doesn't know what he's talking about.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 AM on February 23, 2013


Carr blasts DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] after Prisoner X review
''The Zygier case was complex and outside the normal bounds of consular activity,'' Senator Carr said in a statement.

''However it is unsatisfactory that there was a lack of clarity over the exercise of consular responsibilities.

''It is also unsatisfactory that details of assistance provided by Israeli authorities to Mr Zygier were not sought by or provided to DFAT until the commissioning of this report.''

posted by Joe in Australia at 4:23 AM on March 7, 2013


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