SYDNEY (JTA) – The Zionist Federation of Australia slammed media claims that Israel programs serve as recruitment camps for the Mossad.
In a statement Wednesday, federation President Philip Chester wrote that the claims were “totally uninformed and mischievous.”
“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," he said.
A spokesman for the Zionist movement in Australia said the statement was not referring to any individual article but was a response to the “tenor” of the debate in the Australian media since last week’s broadcast on an Australian Broadcasting Corp. news program linking Israel’s Prisoner X to Ben Zygier, a Melbourne native who moved to Israel, reportedly was a Mossad agent and apparently committed suicide in a maximum-security Israeli prison cell in December 2010. Zygier graduated from the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement.
“Much rumor, innuendo and speculation surround the death in custody of Ben Zygier,” Chester said. “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.”
Fran Kelly on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Radio National had asked Chester last week, “Would you be surprised to learn that Australians you send to Israel could be recruited by Mossad?”
Joseph Wakim, a founder of the Australian Arabic Council, writing in an online political website on Wednesday, pointed to the free Birthright Israel program as an example of the “indoctrination of Australian dual citizens into Israeli identity.”
“At what point does loyalty to Israel become disloyalty to Australia?” he wrote.
Ben Saul, a professor of international law at the University of Sydney, wrote in Fairfax Media news websites on Wednesday, “There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose.”