Shir Hever on the death of a supposed Mossad agent while in Israeli prison


Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Hever Report with Shir Hever. He now joins us from Germany.

Shir is an economist who studies Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for the Alternative Information Center.

Thanks for joining us again.

SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Hi, Paul.

JAY: So Prisoner X is in the news. What is that all about?

HEVER: This is a very big scandal. Israel has imprisoned and actually made a person disappear. And what—we see here a person who is perhaps associated with the Israeli Mossad, perhaps not, that in 2010 was incarcerated, and he was not convicted in any crime.

Nevertheless, he was disappeared from the media. It was completely illegal to write about his arrest and about the fact that he was in a very special cell in the Israeli prison.

And he committed suicide—or so it is reported. There are severe doubts whether he was in a position that he could commit suicide.

And only two years later we hear about this person, Ben Zygier or Ben Alon or Ben Allen (he had three different names, apparently), who was an Australian citizen but also an Israeli citizen, served in the Israeli army, and for some reason the Israeli secret police decided that they wanted this person to be completely erased. This sort of disappearance reminds us of maybe the junta regime in Argentina and other sort of totalitarian governments which allow themselves to make people disappear.

And I think it’s also worthy of mention that he was Jewish. And although this of course doesn’t mean that he has any better rights or more than any other human being, but within the context of Israel that’s interesting because it has happened before several times that Israel made Palestinians or Arab people disappear and have arrested them without giving any kind of information, but here we have a case of a Jewish citizen that has been arrested. I think—that has been made to disappear more than arrested.

JAY: Now, my understanding is—now, there was a journalist (I’m not sure he was Australian or Israeli; I think Australian) that uncovered that supposedly this fellow was in Mossad and was part of a Mossad unit that was operating in Europe. I mean, is—the Guardian piece is about they seem to be taking that as correct information.

HEVER: The only source, as far as I can tell, that Zygier was in the Mossad is based on testimonies of his friends, who said that he told them that he was in the Mossad. I can imagine that they’re probably not lying. Maybe he said so. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that he was a member of Mossad.

But I think if this was really a case—let’s speculate for a second—if this was really a case that he was a Mossad agent that was going to sell sensitive information or already sold sensitive information to an enemy state, then he would not have been made to disappear. Then, of course, there would be a public trial, and he would be branded as a traitor also in order to deter other spies from turning to the outside.

JAY: But isn’t part of the problem for the Israelis that he would have been conducting this spying with an Australian passport?

HEVER: This is a very big issue. And what we’ve seen with the assassination of Mabhouh in Dubai that Israeli assassins (of course, we’re not certain that they were Israeli—Israel never confirmed; but it’s extremely likely that they were) have been using Australian passports, as well as passports from other countries, the U.K. and so on. This could, of course, harm the relations between Israel and Australia.

The interesting thing is that the Australian government, which originally to a story that was reported in the Australian television said that they haven’t heard from Israel that an Australian citizen has been imprisoned, now have changed their story and now say that yes, they have been informed already in 2010 about his imprisonment. So at least from the point of view of the Australian government, it’s quite clear that either they agreed to this, or Israel put a lot of pressure and made them to agree to this.

By making Ben Zygier disappear, I don’t think Israel is in any way protecting its relations with the Australian government. What I think is much more likely is that the sort of secret that Ben Zygier was about to reveal is a secret that embarrasses the Israeli government very much, a secret that doesn’t expose Israel’s Mossad operations in terms of its operative ability, but more likely he was talking about something moral or ethical that has bugged him, that bothered him on a personal level. And then, if that would have come out, that he wanted to tell this kind of information not for personal profit but because of a troubled conscience, this could have caused serious damage to the Israeli government. And this is something that makes more sense why they wanted to make him disappear.

Netanyahu actually tried to convene an emergency conference of all the major editors of the major media channels in Israel to convince them to suppress the story. At the same time, the Israeli court issued a gag order making it illegal not only to say that there is a prisoner kept anonymously in the Israeli prisons, or that there was and he committed suicide, but even to report that there is a gag order; even that was illegal. And, also, the military censor, which is usually in Israel a passive kind of institution that only accepts for review articles before they are published, has actually taken an active position and demanded that certain articles would be removed or would not be published in advance.

JAY: And his family, which I think is mostly in Australia, I think—.

HEVER: Yeah.

JAY: Does he still have some family in Israel? But they haven’t said a word about any of this, have they?

HEVER: Now, according to the more recent reports, they have been informed of his death as early as 2010, and they reacted very badly, they took it very hard, to hear of his death. And I think it’s understandable on a personal level that they wouldn’t want to be involved. I think if they would want to accuse the Israeli government of mishandling the case, abusing the rights of their family member, they also run a certain risk of being ostracized by the pro-Zionist community, like, for example, we’ve seen with Justice Goldstone and his report, the Goldstone Report, which criticized Israel’s attack against Gaza in 2008-2009. Later, Goldstone was ostracized by the Zionist community in South Africa and suffered personal attacks because of his position.

JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Shir.

HEVER: Thank you.

JAY: We’ll keep following this to see if there’s any new breaks in the story.

And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Hever Report with Shir Hever. He now joins us from Germany. Shir is an economist who studies Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for the Alternative Information Center. Thanks for joining us again. SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Hi, Paul. JAY: So Prisoner X is in the news. What is that all about? HEVER: This is a very big scandal. Israel has imprisoned and actually made a person disappear. And what—we see here a person who is perhaps associated with the Israeli Mossad, perhaps not, that in 2010 was incarcerated, and he was not convicted in any crime. Nevertheless, he was disappeared from the media. It was completely illegal to write about his arrest and about the fact that he was in a very special cell in the Israeli prison. And he committed suicide—or so it is reported. There are severe doubts whether he was in a position that he could commit suicide. And only two years later we hear about this person, Ben Zygier or Ben Alon or Ben Allen (he had three different names, apparently), who was an Australian citizen but also an Israeli citizen, served in the Israeli army, and for some reason the Israeli secret police decided that they wanted this person to be completely erased. This sort of disappearance reminds us of maybe the junta regime in Argentina and other sort of totalitarian governments which allow themselves to make people disappear. And I think it’s also worthy of mention that he was Jewish. And although this of course doesn’t mean that he has any better rights or more than any other human being, but within the context of Israel that’s interesting because it has happened before several times that Israel made Palestinians or Arab people disappear and have arrested them without giving any kind of information, but here we have a case of a Jewish citizen that has been arrested. I think—that has been made to disappear more than arrested. JAY: Now, my understanding is—now, there was a journalist (I’m not sure he was Australian or Israeli; I think Australian) that uncovered that supposedly this fellow was in Mossad and was part of a Mossad unit that was operating in Europe. I mean, is—the Guardian piece is about they seem to be taking that as correct information. HEVER: The only source, as far as I can tell, that Zygier was in the Mossad is based on testimonies of his friends, who said that he told them that he was in the Mossad. I can imagine that they’re probably not lying. Maybe he said so. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that he was a member of Mossad. But I think if this was really a case—let’s speculate for a second—if this was really a case that he was a Mossad agent that was going to sell sensitive information or already sold sensitive information to an enemy state, then he would not have been made to disappear. Then, of course, there would be a public trial, and he would be branded as a traitor also in order to deter other spies from turning to the outside. JAY: But isn’t part of the problem for the Israelis that he would have been conducting this spying with an Australian passport? HEVER: This is a very big issue. And what we’ve seen with the assassination of Mabhouh in Dubai that Israeli assassins (of course, we’re not certain that they were Israeli—Israel never confirmed; but it’s extremely likely that they were) have been using Australian passports, as well as passports from other countries, the U.K. and so on. This could, of course, harm the relations between Israel and Australia. The interesting thing is that the Australian government, which originally to a story that was reported in the Australian television said that they haven’t heard from Israel that an Australian citizen has been imprisoned, now have changed their story and now say that yes, they have been informed already in 2010 about his imprisonment. So at least from the point of view of the Australian government, it’s quite clear that either they agreed to this, or Israel put a lot of pressure and made them to agree to this. By making Ben Zygier disappear, I don’t think Israel is in any way protecting its relations with the Australian government. What I think is much more likely is that the sort of secret that Ben Zygier was about to reveal is a secret that embarrasses the Israeli government very much, a secret that doesn’t expose Israel’s Mossad operations in terms of its operative ability, but more likely he was talking about something moral or ethical that has bugged him, that bothered him on a personal level. And then, if that would have come out, that he wanted to tell this kind of information not for personal profit but because of a troubled conscience, this could have caused serious damage to the Israeli government. And this is something that makes more sense why they wanted to make him disappear. Netanyahu actually tried to convene an emergency conference of all the major editors of the major media channels in Israel to convince them to suppress the story. At the same time, the Israeli court issued a gag order making it illegal not only to say that there is a prisoner kept anonymously in the Israeli prisons, or that there was and he committed suicide, but even to report that there is a gag order; even that was illegal. And, also, the military censor, which is usually in Israel a passive kind of institution that only accepts for review articles before they are published, has actually taken an active position and demanded that certain articles would be removed or would not be published in advance. JAY: And his family, which I think is mostly in Australia, I think—. HEVER: Yeah. JAY: Does he still have some family in Israel? But they haven’t said a word about any of this, have they? HEVER: Now, according to the more recent reports, they have been informed of his death as early as 2010, and they reacted very badly, they took it very hard, to hear of his death. And I think it’s understandable on a personal level that they wouldn’t want to be involved. I think if they would want to accuse the Israeli government of mishandling the case, abusing the rights of their family member, they also run a certain risk of being ostracized by the pro-Zionist community, like, for example, we’ve seen with Justice Goldstone and his report, the Goldstone Report, which criticized Israel’s attack against Gaza in 2008-2009. Later, Goldstone was ostracized by the Zionist community in South Africa and suffered personal attacks because of his position. JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Shir. HEVER: Thank you. JAY: We’ll keep following this to see if there’s any new breaks in the story. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.