Ben Zygier, the Melbourne-born Mossad agent who apparently killed himself in his cell at Ramle Ayalon Prison in December 2010, did not commit treason and did not do anything terribly evil, a veteran Israeli security analyst asserted Sunday.
Rather, the alleged crime that prompted Zygier’s arrest by the Israeli authorities was that he “might” have given or been about to give details of the Mossad’s alleged use of Australian passports in its espionage activities to an Australian journalist, who had been tipped off by Australia’s Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), according to analyst Ron Ben-Yishai.
The Australian journalist, Jason Koutsoukis, telephoned Zygier several times and published an article “ASIO targets new spy suspects,” on February 27, 2010, in the wake of his calls with Zygier and a second alleged Mossad agent. In those calls, the Australian-Israeli denied being a Mossad man “but showed a readiness to continue the dialogue,” Ben-Yishai wrote in a lengthy assessment for Ynet.
“At a certain stage” after the Koutsoukis article appeared, it was decided by the Israeli authorities that “there was enough evidence” to justify the arrest and investigation of Zygier, who was subsequently indicted on “serious” charges. “He did not carry out an act of betrayal, and he did not commit an iniquitous crime,” Ben-Yishai claimed. “He simply did not measure up to the expectations of his family and his environment and, most of all, himself.” This was apparently too much for Zygier to bear; hence his suicide on December 15, 2010, wrote Ben-Yishai.
The article claimed that the ASIO played “a substantive role in the tragedy of Zygier and his family,” flatly asserting in its headline that “The Australian secret service ‘burned’ Ben Zygier” by deliberately putting the Australian media on his trail.
Zygier was not a senior Mossad agent, Ben-Yishasi stressed, but rather filled a role as more of a “support operative.”
Ben-Yishai speculated that an officer or officers in the ASIO, which called in Zygier and two other suspected Australian-Israeli Mossad agents for questioning months before his arrest — reportedly suspecting espionage activities and abuse of Australian passports — may have leaked the names of the trio out of frustration that the suspects hadn’t cracked, or injured professional pride, or anti-Israeli sentiment. Later, another factor may have been anger at Israel’s reported use of Australian passports in the alleged Mossad assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, the Hamas weapons dealer, in January 2010 in Dubai. (A Kuwaiti claim that Zygier was himself involved in the alleged Mossad hit in Dubai has been widely discredited.)
Ben-Yishai said that Australian intelligence is apparently continuing to leak material relating to Zygier, including the assertion that Zygier worked for a Mossad front company on Italy selling electronics to Iran, and possibly the material that brought the entire case into the headlines early last week.
He also wrote that Zygier returned to Israel from Australia of his own free will before he was arrested, and stated that Zygier dutifully reported to his commanders that he had been questioned by the ASIO, and likely told them that two of his alleged colleagues had been questioned too.