Sunday, February 24, 2013

Two Deaths in Security State

ARAFAT JARADAT and Ben Zygier came from different backgrounds, and were on opposite sides in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Both have died in the custody of the Israeli state, in Arafat's case it appears directly, and in Ben Zygier's at least indirectly, at the hands of the security services which Zygier had served.
 jaradat_arafat   ARAFAT  JADARAT

Arafat Jadarat was born on January 14, 1983, and had just turned 30.  He is from Sa’eer, a village near Hebron. He is married and has two young children, a three year old and a two year old. Arafat and his wife Dalal were expecting their third child in June. Arafat was in his first year at Al Quds Open University.

Arafat was taken from his home on February 18, and was held in interrogation in Jalameh Detention Center, and then was transferred to Megiddo Prison. His brother says the Israelis who came for Arafat told him to "say goodbye " to his children. He was accused of throwing stones.

The family say when he was arrested, he did not suffer from any health conditions or problems. The lawyer from Addameer (Palestinian Human Rights Group) also reported that he did not complain from any pain except slight pain in his back.

Arafat Jadarat, 30, died in Israeli custody on Saturday, allegedly from a cardiac arrest.
Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainees Issa Qaraqe said Jadarat died after being interrogated by Israeli forces and demanded an international investigation into his death, which has caused outrage in the West Bank and Gaza.

Over 4,000 Palestinian prisoners have staged a 24 hour hunger strike on hearing of the young man's death.

There have been marches in protest in Gaza, and Israeli forces in the West Bank clashed with demonstrators in Hebron, Beit Ummar, al-Arrub refugee camp, and Tulkarem, with soldiers firing tear gas and sounds grenades at demonstrators, locals said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that "hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and burned tires in Hebron, and security personnel responded with riot dispersal means."

The Palestinian Ma'an News Agency says more than 202 detainees died or were killed in Israeli prisons since 1967; dozens of detainees also died after they were released due to diseases they encountered in prison or due to complications resulting from extreme torture and bad conditions in prisons.

Ben Zygier, Australian-born, was arrested exactly three years ago, on February 24 2010, according to some reports, and died later that year in a high security cell in Ayalon prison, yet it is only now that we are starting to learn about him, and questions are being asked about why he was there, and what really happened to him.

This is because until recently he was only referred to, if at all, as "Prisoner X". The Israeli news site Ynet posted an article in 2010 saying that a mystery prisoner was being held in total seclusion, in the special cell originally built for Yigal Amir, who assasinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and that not not even the guards knew of the prisoner's identity.

The item was soon taken down by YNet, and Israeli media were warned against touching the story.

Such was speculation that normally well-informed US blogger Richard Silverstein accepted a story from a "confidential Israeli source" that the man Israel had secretly detained was Iranian general Ali-Reza Asgari, allegedly kidnapped by the Mossad. This may have been deliberate disinformation planted to divert attention from the real prisoner's identity, enhance Mossad's prowess, and sow jitters among the Iranians. When spy ops give way to psy ops...
Meanwhile the Association for Civil Rights in Israel sent a letter to the Israeli Attorney General  Yehuda Weinstein, protesting the conditions of "Prisoner X"'s detention. The chief legal counsel for the Association, Dan Yakir, wrote: "It is insupportable that, in a democratic country, authorities can arrest people in complete secrecy and disappear them from public view without the public even knowing such an arrest took place." Weinstein's deputy replied that, "The current gag order is vital for preventing a serious breach of the state's security, so we can not elaborate about this affair".

Actually, this was not the first time the Israeli state had held someone a prisoner in secret. The scientist Marcus Klingsberg was an earlier "Prisoner X", detained for years because he had allegedly passed secrets to the Soviet Union. What Klingsberg may have known about was Israeli research on biological warfare.

Before this there was Avri Elad, imprisoned in 1954 after 11 Israeli agents had been captured in Egypt for "Operation Susanna",  a series of bombings of which the Israeli government denied knowledge, leading to the "Lavon Affair", when different ministers and officials blamed each other.
There may have been other cases about which we still don't know.

Exactly what Ben Zygier did or was accused of doing, that led to him, a Mossad agent, being locked up by his own government, we still don't know. It may be just a coincidence that he was arrested three years ago on the same day, February 24, that the police in Dubai revealed that four of the Israeli agents who had entered Dubai to murder Mahmoud al Mabouh, a Hamas official, were travelling on Australian passports.

On March 23, 2010, the British Foreign Secretary expelled an Israeli diplomat after the UK's Serious Organised Crime agency found evidence that Mossad had used fraudulent British passports. On May 24 the Australian government expelled an Israeli diplomat after concluding that there was "no doubt Israel was behind the forgery of four Australian passports" related to the assassination. Similar action was taken by Ireland.  There is no suggestion that Ben Zygier was part of the hit team sent to Dubai, but strong evidence that he wa sinvolved in procuring fake Australian passports.

 In April 2012 Australian journalist Trevor Bormann received a tip about the secret prisoner while on a visit to Israel. His ten month long investigation's findings brought to Australian Broadcasting Corporation(ABC)'s Foreign Correspondent programme this month revealed that Prisoner X was Ben Zygier, who held dual Australian and Israeli citizenship, and had an Australian passport in the name of Ben Allen, though he also used other names, including the more Israeli-sounding Ben Alon.  Like Arafat Adarat he was married with two children.

On December 15, 2010, the former Mossad agent was found hamged in his cell at Ayalon. His body was quietly transported to Australia, for burial at the Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemeterey in Melbourne.

Ben Zygier was born in Melbourne in 1976. His parents were prominent members of the Jewish community, his father being head of the B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission. Ben joined the left-wing Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, and in 1994 he "made aliyah" (immigrated to Israel) with a group of fellow Australians and joined Kibbutz Gazit.   

 But according to some reports he had also while a young man, become involved with the "Community Security Group" in Melbourne, which like the Community Security Trust (CST) in Britain recruits volunteers and provides security for the Jewish community, but like CST is said to have Mossad links and be trained by the Israelis. Possibly the trainers also act as talent scouts for the agency. .

 At any rate, Zygier appears to have joined Mossad after serving in the Israeli army. He was part of a team which set up an electronics business in Milan, supplying equipment to Iran among other countries, and thus having a cover not only for despatching agents but for obtaining intelligence on Iranian requirements and perhaps sabotaging Iranian projects?

 According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Zygier was investigated by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) for allegedly using his Australian passport to spy for Israel. He was reportedly questioned by ASIO during a visit to Australia. He also reportedly visited Iran, Syria and Lebanon with his Australian passport. In 2009, he briefly returned to Australia to obtain an MBA at Monash University.

The ASIO is one of the intelligence agencies that have collaborated with Mossad in the past, as with the CIA, but it is possible the use of forged Australian passports for an assassination in Dubai was a step too far, considered as damaging to Australia's interests. There are suggestions that the ASIO was able to use information obtained from Ben Zygier to tip off the Dubai police about what had happened, though this tip was plainly provided after the killing had been accomplished.

 If this was the only information which Zygier gave away, his treatment by the Israeli authorities appears severe. His lawyer Avigdor Feldman says Zygier was offered a plea bargain which would have reduced his sentence, but chose instead to have a full trial. Would the state have offered a plea bargain if the prisoner had committed a serious offence like treason? And would Zygier have chosen to go for trial, risking a longer sentence, unless he felt confident that he could prove his innocence, or that whatever he had done had been justified?

What if it was the State, and specifically its security and intelliegence organs, which, having held Zygier for so long in seclusion and secrecy, felt threatened by whatever it was that might come out when he had his say in court?

It can hardly have been about the Dubai killing, or the passports, because that horse had got well and truly away before they shut the stable door.

What if Zygier, the well-brought up young man from a respectable family and Hashomer Hatzair idealist had come upon something really dirty during his work for Mossad, such as to make him think again about what he was doing, and at very least, become The Man Who Knew Too Much?

So. we are asked to believe that after deciding to go for trial, and four days after the birth of his second daughter, whom he would never see, Ben Zygier decided to commit suicide. Although the Association for Civil Rights in Israel never succeeded in getting the case of "Prisoner X" opened to public knowledge, it did get a judge's inquiry into his death.

Explaining how Zygier could have hung himself while under surveillance, the judge finds that Zygier took a sheet into the bathroom, as though to wash it perhaps, then attached it to a bar of the bathroom window and hung himself, out of camera vision. She also notes that trace amounts of a tranquilizer were found in his blood (he would not have been tested until hours after his death, since the security services went into his cell, and would not allow other police and prison staff in until they had finsihed whatever it was they were checking). There were also bruises on his body.

By a coincidence, Mahmoud al-Mabouh was also administered a tranquiliser, before he was smothered with a pillow.

The judge's report, which has been released though the Israeli attorney general would have preferred it filed away from public gaze, says: "Though the deceased was found hanged in the bathroom of the cell, this does not negate the theoretical possibility of active intervention on the part of another person who intentionally caused his death in this way.”

The Australian government, which was apparently informed back in February 2010 that Israel was holding an Australian citizen, has said it will hold a full investigation into Ben Zygier's death. An Israeli newspaper, supporting the government, has chosen to focus  on alleged "Australian antisemitism". Presumably it would rather that other governments show no concern about the fate of their Jewish citizens?  But many Israelis, at home and abroad, and Australian Jews, despite an initial bewildered silence, are demanding the whole truth and posthumous justice for Ben Zygier.     

This might also help win justice for Arafat Jadarat, and for his people.

Marcus Klingsberg - another "Prisoner X"

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