New Zealand Christchurch earthquake_311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Domestic New Zealand politics is behind allegations that erupted in the New
Zealand press this week that one of the Israeli backpackers killed in February’s
devastating Christchurch earthquake was a Mossad agent, Israeli officials said
According to the officials, as New Zealand heads toward the
polls at the end of November, opponents of Prime Minister John Key are trying to
portray him as “lenient” on Israel.
New Zealand PM says Israeli killed in quake was not a spy
Israeli citizen confirmed dead in New Zealand quake
Amid local media reports of another
Israeli spy scandal in New Zealand, Key, currently on a visit to the US, issued
a statement Tuesday claiming that an investigation carried out by the Security
Intelligence Service showed no connection between the Israeli who was killed –
or the three surviving Israelis with him in a van crushed during the devastating
earthquake – and Israeli intelligence.
“The Government takes the security
of New Zealand and New Zealanders very seriously. That’s why the relevant
agencies conducted a thorough investigation,” Key said in a
“The unusual circumstance which triggered the investigation
was the rapid departure from the country of the three surviving members of the
group of Israelis in question,” he said. “Security agencies conducted the
investigation and found no evidence that the people were anything other than
Israeli officials said the conspiracy theories linking the
Israeli youths to the Mossad were “astounding.”
Israel’s ambassador to
New Zealand, Shemi Tzur, was quoted in the New Zealand press as calling the
allegations “science fiction.”
Key refuted New Zealand media reports that
the Israeli killed in the van, Ofer Mizrahi, was carrying five passports. He
carried two passports, an Israeli one and a European one. Many young Israelis
eligible to hold European passports procure them before traveling abroad to
facilitate easier entry into various countries.
Along with Mizrahi, two
other Israelis were among the 181 people killed in the earthquake.
Zealand’s Southland Times reported that the police national computer had been
“under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake” out of fear
that Israeli agents may have hacked into the network, providing a backdoor
entrance to sensitive information.
Israeli diplomatic officials said
stories such as these fall on fertile ground in New Zealand, where two Israelis
whom Auckland said were Mossad agents were convicted in 2004 of passport fraud
in an incident that severely strained bilateral ties for a number of years.