[Marxism] Israel’s Prisoner X Is Linked to Dubai Assassination in a New Report

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 15 08:13:29 MST 2013

NY TImes February 14, 2013
Israel’s Prisoner X Is Linked to Dubai Assassination in a New Report

JERUSALEM — The Australian-Israeli man recently identified as Prisoner X 
— found dead in 2010 in a maximum-security prison cell — may have been 
involved in the assassination of a Hamas leader that year, an episode 
that was among the most embarrassing in the history of Israel’s 
intelligence agency, Mossad.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida reported Thursday that Ben Zygier, who 
immigrated to Israel from Australia and apparently spent a decade 
working for the Mossad, was among the 26 suspects in the assassination 
plot, in which Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas official, was drugged and 
suffocated in his hotel room in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Al Jarida, a liberal opposition newspaper, said that Mr. Zygier had 
provided the authorities in Dubai with “names and pictures and accurate 
details” in exchange for protection, but Israel kidnapped him from a 
hiding place and imprisoned him on charges of treason about a month 
after the Jan. 19, 2010, operation.

The Dubai plot, for which Israel has never acknowledged responsibility, 
led to diplomatic sanctions against Israel because fake passports from 
Europe and Australia were used in the operation. Australian journalists 
reported Thursday that Mr. Zygier, one of several people under 
investigation by the Australian intelligence service on suspicion of 
passport fraud, was arrested just before he was set to disclose Israeli 
secrets about the passports to the Australian government or the news media.

The reports quoted a security official with knowledge of the case as 
saying that Mr. Zygier “may well have been about to blow the whistle, 
but he never got the chance.”

The Israeli prime minister’s office and the Justice Ministry declined to 
comment on the emerging details in a case that has dominated the news 
here for days, more than two years after what appeared to be the suicide 
of a man known only as Prisoner X was revealed in local news reports 
that the government immediately quashed.

Politicians, journalists and human rights advocates have questioned the 
appropriateness of My. Zygier’s secret detention; the circumstances 
around his death by hanging, which was ruled a suicide despite his cell 
having been under constant surveillance; and the extraordinary court 
order that banned local reporting on the entire episode.

“The Prisoner X affair is a classic story of Israeli failure,” read the 
headline over a column by Amir Oren in the left-leaning daily newspaper 
Haaretz. “The most sensitive agencies aren’t functioning,” Mr. Oren 
wrote. “In its 65th year, the State of Israel still doesn’t control the 

The news blackout was only partially lifted Wednesday evening and may 
have done more damage than it prevented. Much of the outrage revolved 
around reports, none of them true, that Prisoner X was denied visitors 
and that a lawyer, his family and the Australian Embassy were never 
informed of his detention.

On Thursday, a lawyer hired by the family said he had met with Mr. 
Zygier a day or two before his death to discuss a plea bargain. “The 
crimes he was suspected of were serious,” the lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, 
told Israel’s Channel 10 news, refusing to elaborate. “He denied the 
charges,” Mr. Feldman added.

In a separate interview with Army Radio, Mr. Feldman said that Mr. 
Zygier, a lawyer who worked for a year at a prominent Israeli firm, “had 
been informed that he could very likely expect to be sentenced to an 
extremely lengthy prison term and to be shunned by his family — and this 
affects a person’s soul.”

It is unclear how a Mossad agent who had revealed details to a foreign 
government about an assassination, particularly one as fraught as the 
Mabhouh affair, would be eligible for a plea bargain. But if the secrets 
had not yet been shared, and they were limited to information regarding 
passport fraud rather than murder, a reduction in charges might be more 
realistic, experts said.

Mr. Feldman said that Mr. Zygier, who was 34 and whose second child, a 
girl, was born four days before his death, had not shown any suicidal 
signs. “He sounded rational and focused and he spoke to the point,” the 
lawyer told Army Radio. “He did not display any special feeling of 

Mr. Feldman was one of many in Israel who called for further inquiry 
into Mr. Zygier’s death. “Those responsible for him should have taken 
clear steps to watch over him,” Mr. Feldman said.

In Australia on Thursday, the foreign minister revealed that his 
government had learned of Mr. Zygier’s detention on Feb. 24, 2010, 
contrary to an earlier ministry statement that it had been unaware until 
the family requested repatriation of his remains in late December. The 
minister, Bob Carr, declined to say whether the government knew the 
specific charges, saying only that officials were informed that Mr. 
Zygier had been detained “in relation to serious offense under Israeli 
national security legislation.”

Australia was one of several countries whose relations with Israel were 
strained by the revelations that the Dubai authorities made after the 
assassination of Mr. Mabhouh, a founder of Hamas’s military wing who 
played a role in the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 
1989 and who helped supply Hamas with weapons from Iran.

In a confidential diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, Australia’s 
Foreign Ministry told the United States Embassy in Canberra that the 
Dubai affair had made a coming United Nations vote more complicated. 
“Australian officials are ‘furious’ all the way up the chain of 
command,” it said. “In the wake of revelations from Dubai, the 
government is in no hurry to reassure Israel of its support.”

The cable was dated Feb. 25 — one day after Mr. Carr said Australia was 
notified of Mr. Zygier’s detention.

Gad Shimron, a former Mossad agent who wrote a book about the agency, 
described Mr. Zygier’s case as “so unusual and so extraordinary,” but 
not unique.

“Throughout the Mossad’s history there are plenty of stories about 
people who at one point or another behaved in a way that is so bluntly 
different than the James Bond kind of manner they were expected to be,” 
Mr. Shimron said in a radio interview.

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting from Cairo, and Myra Noveck from 

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