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15 Feb, 2013

Australian Report Exposes Global Security Threat Posed by Israeli Dual-Passport Holders

A gutsy piece of investigative journalism by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has blown the lid on the danger posed by dual-passport holding Israelis working for the country’s spy agency, the Mossad, as well as the supporting role played by Diaspora Jews in promoting the interests of the Israeli government.

In a Feb 12 report that attracted much attention in Israel and around the world, but was largely ignored by the U.S media, the ABC reported that a top-secret detainee known only as Prisoner X, who committed suicide in an Israeli prison in 2010, was in fact Ben Zygier, a 34-year-old Australian from Melbourne who allegedly had been recruited by the Mossad. The report indicated that there was no answer to the two most important questions posed by the story: Why he had been jailed in the first place, and why under such secret conditions?

The report also noted that the family of Prisoner X had declined to comment. In fact, Australian Jewish leaders, who usually make a big deal about Israeli “democracy”, are all reported to have declined comment. In Israel, the media reported that several editors had been called in by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and urged to exercise self-censorship, supposedly in the interests of national security.

However, the investigative report by the ABC programme Foreign Correspondent made clear both the nature of the threat and the reasons why the Israelis are keen to avert any form of scrutiny, accountability or transparency. Further revelations could unravel the entire global network on Israeli spies and informants, especially those holding dual passports.

Said the report, “Australia’s domestic intelligence agency ASIO has long scrutinised Australian Jews suspected of working for Mossad. The agency believes Mossad recruits change their names from European and Jewish names to “Anglo” names. They then take out new passports and travel to the Arab world and Iran, to destinations Israeli passport holders cannot venture.”

Warren Reed, a former intelligence operative for Australia’s overseas spy agency ASIS, told the ABC that Australians were ideal recruits for Mossad. “Australians abroad are generally seen to be fairly innocent,” he said. “It’s a clean country – it has a good image like New Zealand. There aren’t many countries like that, so our nationality and anything connected with it can be very useful in intelligence work.”

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Mr Zygier “also carried an Australian passport bearing the name Ben Allen.”

Asian diplomats, businesspeople and intelligence operatives know well that many Israelis holding dual passports are working all through the the Arab world and Asia and especially in the Islamic countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Although that would be technically illegal, as Israel does not have diplomatic relations with many countries worldwide, holding dual passports allows Israelis to work freely anywhere as there is no requirement for disclosure of dual passport status.

In recent years, Asia has become a major focus of attention for the Israeli security and intelligence agencies, with Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines being key countries targeted for expanding influence in the media, business circles, the military and in the fields of education, law and consultancy.

They are also working with intelligence agencies of other friendly countries under the guise of fighting terrorism. Israeli companies are at the forefront of providing security equipment at airports, visa processing services and various other forms of “protection” against credit card fraud, computer viruses, etc.

But the latest revelations have opened up the question of whether they are providing security or are in fact a security threat themselves.

A Feb 12 report in the newspaper Haaretz was headlined, “Does the Mossad still use the passports of immigrants to Israel?”

It reported, “Despite repeated promises by the Israeli government that the Mossad will cease to use the passports and identities of citizens of foreign countries, it seems that the practice has continued in recent years. Among countries involved have been Australia, Britain, France and Germany.

“The widest publication so far of the use Israel allegedly makes of foreign passports was in the wake of the assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010. The killing was attributed by foreign sources to Mossad. Dubai’s security services claimed following the assassination that they had identified a number of Mossad agents entering and leaving the hotel where al-Mabhouh was staying and where he was killed. These men and women used passports from Australia, Britain, France and Germany.”

Haaretz reported, “At least in seven cases, it turned out that the passports were in the name of Jews who had immigrated to Israel from Britain and Germany. These people, living in Israel, expressed astonishment when they were told that someone using their identity had visited Dubai. Israel was forced to hurriedly mend its relations with these countries and the British government announced that it was deporting the head of the Mossad station who was in London under diplomatic cover.

“Subsequently it also emerged that the identities of at least three Australians had been used. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service had been conducting an investigation, from before the killing of al-Mabhouh, regarding the use of their passports by Israel. In the Dubai case, the names on the passports had been changed to names which were not obviously Jewish. The Canberra government demanded explanations from Israel.”

Haaretz also cited other instances of the use of non-Israeli passports.

“In June 2010, the Polish police arrested in Warsaw a man travelling with a German passport under the name of Uri Brodsky who was identified by German media as being a Mossad agent. The man had allegedly obtained a year earlier, identifying himself as Alexander Verin, along with an associate named Michael Bodenheimer, German passports claiming their parents were Holocaust refugees born in Germany. The Bodenheimer passport was one of those used by the alleged Mossad agents during the al-Mabhouh assassination in Dubai.

“Exactly a year ago, the Times of London published accounts of two anonymous young men, one who had emigrated to Israel from Britain and the other France. Both young men, during their IDF service, were approached by a woman who identified herself as a Mossad official who asked to “lend” their passports for about eighteen months while they were still in the army. Upon the passports return, they contained stamps from different countries including Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. They were advised not to visit those countries over the next few years.”

According to the Haaretz report, “There is a long and glorious tradition of Diaspora Jews aiding Israeli intelligence, occasionally without their knowledge…. The illegal use of the passports of friendly nations is in clear contradiction of assurances Israel has repeatedly given these countries not do so.”

It added, “For agents operating in enemy territory, using passports of real live citizens has a major advantage over fake travel documents. Many countries have the capability to easily detect fake passports and most large airports are equipped with computer systems, connected with databases that can ascertain within seconds where a passport being used by a traveler has indeed been legally issued.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation story said that its investigations revealed Ben Zygier used the name Ben Alon in Israel and had changed his name several times. He was described “as an inmate whose presence has been acknowledged by neither the jail system nor the government.” The case is regarded as one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel’s intelligence community, with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organisations to expose the situation.

The Prisoner X cell was “a jail within a jail at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla. It was built for the assassin of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.”

An Israeli court order prohibiting any publication or public discussion of the matter is still in force; Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, has effectively blocked any coverage of the matter. Mr Zygier’s family has declined to speak to the ABC, and friends and acquaintances approached by Foreign Correspondent in Melbourne have also refused to comment.

When told details of Foreign Correspondent’s investigation, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he was concerned by the claims. “Those allegations certainly do trouble me,” Senator Carr said. “It’s never been raised with me. I’m not reluctant to seek an explanation from the Israeli government about what happened to Mr Allen and about what their view of it is.”

According to ABC, “The greater mystery is why Mr Zygier was imprisoned under such secrecy.” Former ASIS operative Mr Reed told the ABC: “However the transgression came about, it would have to be involved with espionage, treachery – very, very sensitive information that known to others would pose an immediate threat to Israel as a nation state.”

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