APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday February 14, 2013
Quote of the day:
Likud MK Miri Regev "should learn a thing or two about the duty of lawmakers and the reason for their immunity."
--Meretz party leader MK Zahav Gal-On chides her colleague for condemning her for raising the issue of Prisoner X during a Knesset session, despite a gag order.**
Front Page News:
- Serious criminal file #8493 - State of Israel vs. John Doe - After security establishment attempts to cover up - 'Prisoner X' affair revealed
- The failure is Israeli // Amir Oren
- Yesterday: Senior Iranian official assassinated in Lebanon
- Decade after Remedia affair: Managers acquitted, food technologist found guilty of negligent homicide
- Mayor of Nesher waiting for indictment on building violations, the municipality is taking care to legalize them retroactively
- Obama: Minimum wage to increase, government to grow - US President presents left-wing economic vision in State of Union address
- ¼ page ad: Could there be an Israeli apartheid? Conference on the subject at the Van Leer Institute
- "Mossad agent committed treason?" Prisoner X affair - "Ben Zygier worked in a Mossad shell company that sold Iran electronic equipment"
- Failure of the secret // Ronen Bergman
- Investigation now // Shimon Shiffer
- Security above everything // Eitan Haber
- Mossad chief: I have no complaints against the MKs (who raised the issue), they were fulfilling their roles and we ours
- Australian investigation: Mossad agent Ben Zygier was Prisoner X. State of Israel admits: Prisoner held under false name, Prisoner found dead in his celll two years ago. It was suicide. Examination of negligence. Other details cannot be revealed for the sake of state security (Hebrew)
- Guardian newspaper: "Zygier worked in a Mossad straw company that sold electronic equipment to Iran" (Hebrew)
- The life of a spy // Gad Shamron (Hebrew)
- Digital lies // Nadav Eyal (Hebrew)
- Because of immunity // Prof. Suzy Navot (Hebrew)
- The internet is not enough // Dr. Tehila Schwartz-Altschuler
- Prisoner X affair: Expansive coverage
- Prisoner X: The publication and the damage; After the blackout: Affair of the prisoner who committed suicide revealed, the debate begins
- The cover up could cause damage // Yoav Limor
- Reveal, then shut up // Dan Margalit
- The Mossad is not the enemy // Amos Regev
- Dangerous exercise // Gideon Alon
- Remedia affair: Food technologist found guilty of negligent homicide
- Hotline: Top experts in treating cancer answered your questions
- Today: Education system doing exercise of entering bomb shelters
- Dr. Nili and Dr. Avichai Segel don't part for a moment - even in the operating room
- Report: Senior official in Iranian Revolutionary Guard killed in Lebanon
There was one main story today in the Israeli press and that was what is known as the Prisoner X affair. In other news, Israeli officials are concerned about US stance on Iran after a speech in Tel-Aviv by one of its diplomats, Turkish cooperation with Israel brought the extradition of an Israeli and the 'leftist' Ben-Gurion University is trying to change its image.
After many of the details had already gone viral on the internet following an ABC Australia TV report, the State of Israel partially lifted a gag order on the affair and acknowledged that 'Prisoner X' existed. Ben Zygier, a native Australian with Israeli citizenship, died two years ago in his jail cell. Until the investigative report, the State managed to keep his identity a secret. He was imprisoned at some time in 2010 and died in his cell in December of that year. The state revealed that an investigation into his death was only completed six weeks ago; the investigators declared it was suicide. The state announced that Zygier's family was notified immediately when he was arrested and that he had lawyers representing him, despite his name not being known to the public. Moreover, Australian authorities were also informed that one of their citizens was being held. The state said it held him under a fake name because the case was deemed a highly classified security case, the crime he allegedly committed endangered the state's security. Meretz party MK Nitzan Horowitz said he had filed a grievance with the Attorney General over Zygier's detention conditions back in 2010, when it was only known that a prisoner existed, but his name was being withheld.
Many questions remain unanswered: What was his alleged crime? Why did the state hide it and why did it take two years to determine he had hung himself? How had he hung himself if he was in a cell with closed-circuit TV? Israeli human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman said he saw Zygier in his cell the day before he died and that he was negotiating a plea bargain and did not appear that he wanted to commit suicide. So why did Zygier take his life?
The Australian media reported that Australia had questioned Zygier for alleged espionage several years prior to his arrest in Israel. Zygier denied all allegations in a 2010 interview with journalist Jason Koutsouki that took place shortly after the February 2010 Mabhouh assassination connected with the Mossad and before his incarceration. The UK's Guardian interviewed the Koutsoukis about information he had received that Zygier was a spy working for a Mossad front in Europe, selling electronic goods to Iran. Some journalists managed to find people who knew Zygier and would talk about him. The married father of two, "talked too much," according to one friend. The papers also discussed extensively what damage the State's media blackout did to Israel.
**Meanwhile, both the Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo and the Chief Military Censor backed the MKs who exposed the Prisoner X affair. Pardo told his associates: "I have no claims against them. It is inconceivable that someone would try to limit MK's (freedom of speech)." [Note: News Nosh mistakenly wrote that Nachman Shai was one of the three. Shai did discuss the issue, but that was after Meretz's Zahava Gal-On, Ra'am-Ta'al's Ahmed Tibi and Hadash's Dov Khenin broke the silence, when they raised the questions during a Tuesday Knesset session, when there was still a gag order on the subject despite the story being broadcast on ABC Australia TV.] This was a slap in the face for the right-wing MKs, who said the three undermined the State's security. Former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu and former IDF spokeswoman and chief military censor, Likud MK Miri Regev, both slammed the whistle-blowing MKs. Regev also turned to the Knesset's Ethics Committee to "discuss this violation" and said she would also turn to the attorney general. Meretz party leader MK Zahav Gal-On said that security was an excuse used to justify silencing people.
Israel is concerned that the US is not really considering attacking Iran, Maariv reported. Deputy Secretary of State Rose Gotmuller gave a speech at the INSS at Tel-Aviv University in which she compared the present situation with Iran to the Cuban missile crisis and emphasized that dialogue between the sides prevented a disaster.
More cooperation between Israel and Turkey, the papers write. Israel allowed Turkish trucks to enter Gaza this week to bring materials to build a hospital. Now it was revealed that, a year and a half ago, at Israel's request, Turkey arrested an Israeli, who was one of the biggest human traffickers in Europe. Guy Hasid of Ashkelon had been in hiding in Turkish Cyprus. He is suspected of selling over 10,000 women into prostitution. Russian, Ukrainian and Belarus police units also cooperated in the investigation.. Israel and Turkish Cyprus do not have an extradition agreement, but yesterday, the extradition to Israel was completed, 'despite Israeli fears that the bad relations between Israel and Turkey might harm the move,' Yedioth wrote.Yedioth implied that Hasid moved there for that reason.
Ben-Gurion University in the Negev is starting a program next month whose goal is to instill Zionist values and prepare students to act as PR people abroad in order to justify Israel's policies in regards to the Palestinians. The new academic program in public diplomacy was initiated by students, who founded an organization called 'Whatisrael,' and it was given full financing by university President Rivka Carmi. It comes in the wake of the threat to close the politics department at Ben-Gurion University, which was found too 'leftist.' That program was adjusted and this week the threat of closure was removed. The students in the new "Zionist" program will tour Hebron and Sheik Jarrah and learn to defend Israeli policies there, Maariv wrote. The students will go to Europe for Apartheid Week and the university will pay for the flights.
- Israeli residents oppose plans to build power plant near Gaza Strip - Security fears, including rocket attacks, outweigh facility's use of environmentally friendly fuel. (Haaretz)
- Terror cell that assaulted a soldier, stole his weapon apprehended - The cell that allegedly assaulted an IDF soldier and stole his M-16 belonged to the Palestinian terrorist group, the Tanzim, and comprises four Palestinians and one Arab Israeli from the Qalandiya refugee camp near Jerusalem. (Israel Hayom)
- IDF razes Gush Etzion (settler outpost) homes; 4 families evicted - In last few years, demolition notices were issued against most homes in outpost adjacent to Nokdim. 'This is state land, there was no reason to destroy,' residents protest. (Ynet)
- IDF holds siren drill across Israel today to prepare to students for mass missile attack - Exercise geared toward Israeli students, to improve readiness in case of massive missile fire. (Haaretz)
- Tzipi Livni and Hatnua moving away from joining the government coalition - After it was thought she would be joining, the former foreign minister conditioned her party's entrance to the freezing of settlement construction in the West Bank. (Maariv, p. 14/NRG Hebrew)
- Habayit Hayehudi rejects PM's portfolio offer - Bennett's party dismisses Likud's initial proposal; says it means to 'drive a wedge in alliance with Yesh Atid/' (Ynet)
- Israel accused of coercing Eritrean refugees to 'volunteer' for deportation - Local UN official, NGO claim Israel tells Eritrean nationals that they can either go back to home, where their lives would be in danger, or remain in jail. (Haaretz)
- Senior Iranian commander reportedly killed - dependent Tehran news website says Revolutionary Guard general killed by 'mercenaries of the Zionist regime.' (Agencies, Ynet)
It is forbidden to 'disappear' people (Haaretz Editorial) Secrets of the state should be kept, but it cannot justify violating its citizens' human rights.
There is a partner - Free Marwan Barghouti (Amnon Shamosh, Yedioth) In my humble opinion and limited understanding of the changing Middle East, the right man - not to mention the only man - that can be elected joyfully by both parts of the Palestinian people and be a serious partner to peace is Marwan Barghouti. I know what he did and I remember his trial and it is not easy for me to stand in the storm of feelings that will rise against his release, but only this daring step can be the ignition of a car that is stuck a hundred years, blocking traffic and costing us and them in blood. ...There are judicial and political ways to release Barghouti. For example, a pardon by the President. It would be a real act for peace, which our President, awarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace, strives for. It might be an opportunity to get the release of Pollard. Such things were done in history. Prime ministers who were arch terrorists and were accepted and admired by their many peoples and even by our people. There are two sides - what one calls a terrorist another calls a freedom fighter. Hated by his enemy, loved by his people. Only a blind person does not see this. Does not understand this. ..
Israel's dark deeds (Gideon Levy, Haaretz) It is still possible to make people disappear even in the Israel of 2013. On whom can Israelis rely to report how many there are and who are they?
Many questions remain unanswered (Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet) 'Prisoner X' affair shows Mossad, PM's Office does not understand how media works in information revolution era.
Where have all the elitists gone? (Yossi Klein, Haaretz) Once there was a time when the cultural elite made sure people listen to intellectuals who tell us when we were wrong.
The N. Korea, Iran, Syria axis (Prof. Uzi Even, Israel Hayom) The Middle East will feel the shock of North Korea's recent nuclear test.
It's the hard drugs that matter (Ari Shavit, Haaretz) In avoiding the hard questions of Iran, the settlements and the Middle East, Israeli politicians have disengaged from reality.
Begin from the end (Shimon Shiffer, Yedioth/Ynet) No point in asking PA to recognize Israel as Jewish state, remove inciting textbooks from schools.
Status quo of Israel's West Bank occupation is catastrophic illusion (Carlo Strenger, Haaretz) Israel's political discourse is largely based on the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unlikely to change.
Israel poses a serious dilemma for Europe's Jews (Diana Pinto, Haaretz) Are Israel's actions truly protecting the Jewish people? Or is it forcing Jews outside Israel to defend a state that has abandoned the post-war values that define Europe and the West, values that lie at the heart of their own legitimacy as Jews in democratic countries?
A Zionism of the left (Rami Livni, Haaretz) Zionism, combined with universal and Jewish values, is the only path to creating a common, basic political language for religious and secular Israelis alike.
Digital lies (Nadav Eyal, Maariv/NRG Hebrew) Eyal writes that the original Australian Broadcasting Corporation expose presented a very dark and sinister portrayal of an anonymous person being held in isolation, without trial, without representation, "the Count of Monte Cristo of the State of Israel...What did the State of Israel do? It was silent, it censored, it convened the editors committee, it issued gag orders and then lifted them. Only last night did sense take hold of security establishment, which issued a statement," to the effect that the prisoner's family had been notified, that he had legal representation and that he had been held pursuant to an arrest warrant that had been issued against him. Eyal also notes that social media and the Internet effectively bypassed the censorship.
The Prisoner X affair is a classic story of Israeli failure (Amir Oren, Haaretz) This story is not about Ben Zygier's double identity, it's about how Israel's most sensitive government agencies are not functioning. If indeed the reports are correct, the State of Israel still doesn't control the basics.
When democracy goes silent (Arye Aplatoni, NRG Hebrew) How is that only a few MKs from the left dared to ask about the fate of Prisoner X? Are there no politicians from the center and the right to whom the severe damage to democracy bothers them?
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.