The Zionist Federation of Australia has blasted several claims in the media that Israel programs serve as recruitment camps for the Mossad, calling such assertions “totally uninformed and mischievous.”
In a statement on Wednesday, ZFA president Philip Chester wrote, “Contrary to the assertions of these commentators, these programs are aimed at educating Jewish youth about their heritage and about contemporary Israel, and have nothing to do with recruiting people for intelligence organizations.
“Much rumor, innuendo and speculation surround the death in custody of Ben Zygier," Chester continued, referring to the alleged Mossad agent who was found dead in his cell in an Israeli prison last week. "The ZFA respects the Zygier family’s privacy as should the media. It can only be hoped that they will be left to contend with their loss without continued intrusion fueled by intense media interest and speculation."
A spokesperson for the Zionist movement in Australia said the statement was not referring to any individual article; rather it was a response to the "tenor" of the debate in the Australian media since last week's explosive broadcast on ABC TV linking Prisoner X to Ben Zygier, a Melbourne-born Zionist who graduated from Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, made aliyah, was reportedly a Mossad agent and apparently committed suicide in a maximum security prison cell in December 2010.
Since the shocking revelations were exposed last week, the story has dominated the news headlines in Australia, in part fueled by the veil of silence from family and friends and a partial gag order by Israel.
Some Jewish and non-Jewish critics of Israel have exploited the story to accuse Jews of dual loyalty and Israel of defrauding Australian passports, citing claims that Zygier reportedly had three other aliases – Ben Alon, Ben Allen and Benjamin Burrows.
Joseph Wakim, a founder of the Australian Arabic Council, writing in an online political website on Wednesday, pointed to the free Birthright Israel trip as an example of the “indoctrination of Australian dual citizens into Israeli identity."
Imagine if Prisoner X was an Australian dual citizen who was recruited and incarcerated by the Syrian Mukhabarat rather than the Israeli Mossad," he wrote.
"Would our Zionist leaders remain silent as they are now, or demand the loyalty of Syrian dual citizens? “The unanswered questions about Prisoner X go beyond the peculiarities of Ben Zygier. They go to the heart of the taboo question on dual citizenship,” he wrote. "At what point does loyalty to Israel become disloyalty to Australia?"
Dr. Ben Saul, professor of international law at the University of Sydney, wrote on Wednesday: “There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose,” he said, taking a swipe at Israel by suggesting that Australia’s intelligence service does not assassinate people, torture them, occupy foreign land or have hidden nuclear facilities.
Chester noted in his statement that joining the Israeli military does not contravene Australian law. "As a multicultural society Australia has long recognized and accepted that its citizens have the right to hold dual nationality," he added.
Another senior Jewish leader said, "Dual loyalty charges have been the stock in trade of anti-Semites for centuries."
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