Why The Case Of Israel's 'Prisoner X' Is So Mysterious — And So Important

Ben Zygier 010

Photo: ABC TV

Israel was rocked this week with reports from Australia’s ABC News alleging shocking new details about “Prisoner X” — a now infamous prisoner believed to have committed suicide while being kept in extreme isolation in an Israeli jail in 2010.”Prisoner X” was a 34-year-old Australian national named Ben Zygier who had been recruited by Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, ABC alleged. Zygier had assumed the name Ben Alon after moving to Israel around 2000 where he later “disappeared”. He wound up in a “jail within a jail at Ayalon prison”, according to ABC, where he died in 2010.

Today Israel’s justice ministry confirmed a man with dual citizenship was arrested, but will not say under what charges or that he was Zygier. It has also been confirmed that the man is believed to have committed suicide in 2010, despite reports he was being kept in a “suicide-proof” cell. The Australian foreign ministry have told journalists they knew of the case in 2010, but never received a request for consular support.

The confusing case may end up revealing a lot about modern Israel, Max Fisher of the Washington Post observes. For one thing, there’s a remarkable amount of censorship being placed on Israeli media outlets from the government, which is understandably provoking some debate in the country, and leading some to wonder why the extreme measures are necessary (the government has partially removed the gag order today).

There’s also the damage to the relationship between Australia and Israel, which Fisher says is an example of “Netanyahu government’s emphasis on security over diplomacy.”

Then there’s just the key questions about that remain about the case. If Zygier really is “Prisoner X”, what was he doing for Mossad? What had he done to deserve imprisonment, and how did he die?

Despite the lack of information and censorship, amongst foreign policy circles various theories are forming. Dimi Reider of 972 Mag suggests — in a manner he admits is speculative, but relatively convincing nonetheless — that Zygier could have been working as an Israeli agent under the “false flags” operations (as described by Mark Perry in a Foreign Policy expose last month) and may have been suspected of blowing an operation with Iranian terrorist group Jundallah.

Could that theory be true? We have nowhere near enough information to say so. But you can bet one thing — as more information trickles out, the theories are going to get harder to contain.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.