Ben Zygier at his wedding 370.
(photo credit: ABC Screenshot)
BERLIN – Two leading experts in the field of Israeli intelligence — Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman — have strongly questioned the veracity of an article last month by German media outlet Der Spiegel, claiming that Ben Zygier, the alleged Mossad agent known as “Prisoner X” who committed suicide in Ayalon Prison in 2010, endangered Mossad sources.
According to an article on Raviv and Melman’s website, named “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars”, after their highly acclaimed book from last year, “recent articles by Der Spiegel and some Australian and Israeli newspapers stated that Zygier’s leaks put Mossad agents in extreme danger — specifically, Lebanese inside the Hezbollah organization who were secretly working for Israel. The latest sources disagree with that.”
According to German and Australian media reports, Zygier was arrested for passing sensitive information to Hezbollah that led to the arrests of two informants within the ranks of the Shi’ite organization. They also alleged that Siad al- Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awadeh were arrested in May 2009 for spying for Israel in Lebanon and sentenced to long prison terms after Zygier passed their names to a Hezbollah operative, according to the article.
Veteran Mossad agents and critics challenged the accuracy of the reports.
According to the article titled “Partial exposure of what ‘Prisoner X,’ who committed suicide, did to anger Mossad – not quite what recent newspapers’ probe suggests” on the Spies against Armageddon website, the sources said that, in the Mossad’s view, Zygier did do damage — and some operatives could have been in danger because of what he revealed — but they refute the claim that the operations concerned were aimed at Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
“Officials also seem convinced that if similar circumstances were to recur — with a former or current Mossad operative, no matter where he had been born, being perceived as dangerously talkative — then Israel would probably handle things almost exactly the same way: Get the suspect to Israel, arrest him and make him vanish,” the article said.
“But this time authorities would take more care to ensure that the suspect not commit suicide — and might reconsider the wisdom of imposing a complete blackout regarding the person’s identity.”
Melman and Raviv have written extensively on Israel’s intelligence agencies and have earned a reputation for exhaustive reporting and analysis in the opaque world of intelligence.
Raviv is a national correspondent for CBS News and hosts a show on the CBS Radio Network.
Melman worked for Haaretz as a security and intelligence reporter and columnist.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.