Close up of Zygier's tombstone
Close up of Zygier's tombstoneReuters

In the wake of the publicity surrounding Prisoner X, Australian Jews are under attack by elements outside and within the Jewish community over charges of “dual loyalty.” The Australian media has been full of stories about Ben Zygier, and how he ended up dead in an Israeli prison, apparently a Mossad agent – and elements in the country are taking advantage of the stories to cast aspersion on the loyalty of Australian Jews to their country of birth.

On Wednesday, Joseph Wakim, who heads the Australian Arabic Council, wrote in an op-ed on an Australian news site Wednesday that the Taglit (Birthright) program, which takes college age students to Israel to familiarize them with the country, was “an indoctrination program” to give “Australian dual citizens an Israeli identity. The unanswered questions about Prisoner X go beyond the peculiarities of Ben Zygier,” wrote Wakim. “They go to the heart of the taboo question on dual citizenship that the Zionist President evaded: 'At what point does loyalty to Israel become disloyalty to Australia?'”

Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Saul, professor of international law at the University of Sydney who is himself Jewish, wrote Wednesday in the Sydney Morning Herald that “When it comes to the crunch, most Australians would expect Australian Jews to choose loyalty to Australia over Israel, or even hope that the Australians in Mossad are our double agents. Undoubtedly Israelis would wish them to side with Israel.

“There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose,” wrote Saul.

In response, Philip Chester, President of the Zionist Federation of Australia President wrote that “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. “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.”