SYDNEY – The Zionist Federation of Australia blasted as “totally uninformed and mischievous” several claims in the media that Israel programs serve as recruitment camps for the Mossad.

In a statement Wednesday, Zionist Federation of Australia President Philip Chester wrote: “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.”

A spokesperson for the Zionist movement in Australia said the statement was not referring to any individual article; rather it was a response to the “tenor” of the debate in the Australian media since last week's explosive broadcast on an Australian Broadcasting Corp. news program linking Prisoner X to Ben Zygier, a Melbourne-born Zionist who graduated from Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, made aliyah, was reportedly a Mossad agent and apparently committed suicide in a maximum-security prison cell in December 2010.

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.

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