Ben Zygier and the dual loyalty canard

There is no evidence that Jewish Australians are anything other than Australian citizens

Despite an avalanche of requests from media networks across the board to become part of the unfolding story, the response from Australia’s Jewish community to the Ben Zygier tragedy – the Australian-born Israeli who reportedly worked for the Mossad and hanged himself in a top-security Israeli prison – has been understated, low-key and considered.
The community’s decision was based on the fact that it was caught as unawares by the revelations and allegations on ABC Television’s “Foreign Correspondent” as the rest of the country. Added to that, the community’s abiding concern is the well-being of the grieving family and the need to convey compassion over the unfathomable tragedy it has suffered.
Yet none of that deterred habitual critics from pointing fingers and invoking the ageold canard about Jews and loyalties. University of Sydney Law Professor Ben Saul published a particularly nasty piece in the Fairfax press – the media stable, which employed Jason Koutsoukis, the journalist who received the unexplained leak about Zygier’s alleged Mossad connection that led to his incarceration.
Raising the allegation of dual loyalty, Saul instructed Jews to decide whether their allegiance is to Australia or Israel. “One has to choose,” he declared. However, he neglected to add that 90 percent of Australian Jews are not dual nationals. Moreover, since 2002 dual citizenship has been legal in Australia and there are six million dual nationals – over a quarter of the population – and Saul said nothing about applying the same criteria to them.
In the ensuing public debate, Saul’s assertions were rebutted by Gerard Henderson, executive director of the influential Sydney Institute, a private non-profit foreign affairs forum. Henderson dismissed Saul’s piece as “the kind of lightweight analysis that is written when facts are scarce” and went on to cite some damning examples: “Saul implies that Zygier betrayed Australia to help Israel. There is no evidence for this allegation against a deceased person who cannot defend himself. Saul asserts that ‘Zygier was under investigation in Australia for illegally misusing his passport to help Israel.’ There is no evidence to support this assertion.
“Saul runs the line that dual Australian/ Israeli citizens ‘put themselves in a position of having to choose between competing obligations of different countries, whether by spying or through military service.’ He focuses on Jewish Australians who are also Israeli citizens and also mentions ‘Americans’ and ‘Chinese.’ But not Lebanese or Turks or Egyptians...
Henderson concluded that “despite Ben Saul’s imputations, there is no evidence that Jewish Australians – whether or not they hold joint nationality – are anything other than Australian citizens loyal to Australia.
Saul’s article also contained an unfavourable comparison between Australia and Israel, which overlooked the fact that, unlike Australia, Israel is fighting for its very existence against nations and forces that want to destroy it.”
In another slur, ABC presenter Elizabeth Jackson attempted to incite an interviewee to even lower depths of insinuation: “Jewish institutions, and perhaps it even happens in the synagogues, I don’t know, facilitate this kind of mentality” in which young Australians are supposedly encouraged to join the Mossad. She was right – she doesn’t know. There is not a shred of evidence that Jewish organizations encourage anyone to join the Mossad.
Jackson then took a swipe at the “deafening silence” from the community “and perhaps most perplexing of all, silence from Ben Zygier’s family.” The implicit criticism of Zygier’s family was reprehensible.
Moreover, 24 hours earlier, Zionist Federation of Australia president Phillip Chester had assured ABC in regard to Jews migrating to Israel, “I don’t believe they abandon their love and affinity for Australia.
Australia is a wonderful country where Jews have thrived and …made a wonderful contribution. I don’t think an issue of dual loyalty arises for Australians when they move to Israel.”
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has lodged a complaint with ABC about Jackson’s interview. Watch this space.
Vic Alhadeff is Chief Executive Officer of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies in Sydney.