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Zygier affar in an Australian paper Photo: AFP
Zygier affar in an Australian paper Photo: AFP
 
 

Australia's Jews fear 'Prisoner X' consequences

Australian Jews express concern over Zygier affair; 'this is our Pollard affair,' says Jewish lawyer. Jewish activist Antony Loewenstein: This is a wake up call, Jews should reexamine stance on Israel, IDF service

Nitza Lowenstein
Published: 02.17.13, 14:56 / Israel News

MELBOURNE – The "Prisoner X" affair has raised concerns in the Jewish-Australian community and some fear anti-Semitism is rearing its head in their once peaceful country.

 

"Now anyone who supports Israel will be accused of dual loyalty, maybe even treason," says Robert, a Jewish lawyer from Melbourne, "this is our very own Pollard affair."

 

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Robert, like all the Australian Jews interviewed in this report, asked Ynet not to reveal his last name, saying that "the situation is sensitive."

 

The son of Polish Holocaust survivors, Robert said that the Jewish community in Australia is going through exactly what his parents came to Melbourne to avoid.

 

"My mother and father went through hell to find shelter in Melbourne, the farthest place in the world from Europe, so their children would not suffer anti-Semitism," he said.

 

"But it seems you can't run away from it. It comes up everywhere, whatever chance it gets.

 

"Today, some colleagues who never cared for news before, asked me if I'd seen today's papers, and every comment they made held hidden criticism of Israel and of us, Australian Jews. This affair will haunt us for a long time."

 


Family was notified

Ben Zygier, 'Prisoner X,' and family

 

The Jewish community is worried that after the use Israel made of Australian passports in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in 2010, the diplomatic relations between the two countries cannot be remedied.

 

"I'm afraid the Zygier affair will damage the long-term relations between Israel and Australia," said a Melbourne resident who wished to remain anonymous.

 

"Australia has already banished an Israeli diplomat after the passports affair and didn't vote in favor of Israel in the UN like it had in the past. Who knows if it will remain a loyal friend as it was until now?"

 

Alex, an Israeli citizen who immigrated to Melbourne, said the deterioration in relations is already felt.

 

When he tried renewing his Australian passport, previously a formality, he ran into unexpected difficulties.

 

"The authorities are suspicious, especially when it comes to Israelis," he said.

 

"It didn't interest them that I already have an Australian passport. I had to bring my original birth certificate, translated by a government approved translator.

 

"They didn't accept my daughter's translated birth certificate, and I couldn't do anything about it."

 

A wake up call

Far from mourning the lost relations between Israel and Australia, an Australian Jewish journalist said the affair should encourage the Jewish community to reexamine its uncritical stance on Israel.

 

Antony Loewenstein, founder of the Independent Australian Jewish Voices organization, said in an interview to Australian radio program "AM" that the big question is the Jewish community's promotion of bias in favor of Israel.

 

Loewenstein cited the community's pressure on young Jews to be involved with Israel, visit the country and enlist in the IDF, which according to him, should not be tolerated by Australia.

 

The Mossad's actions are not considered controversial by the Jewish community, Loewenstein said, and if an Australian Jew is involved in actions of this sort, it will not be seen, as it should, as an ethical or legal problem.

 

Lowewenstein's urgings may already be realized: Some of Melbourne's Jews have already declared that they would avoid going to Israel, and deter their children from visiting, as well.

 

"There's no way I'll let my kids fly to Israel now," clarifies Brenda. "I'll definitely not encourage them to do so."

 

Even the once widely-accepted service in the Israeli army is now being reconsidered.

  

Richard, Brenda's neighbor, remembers the glorious return of one soldier. His name was Ben Zygier.

 

"He came back with the aura of a hero," he said. "But now his family doesn't dare show their faces around the community out of remorse and shame," he said. 

 

 

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