Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor at the Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), has already authored, or co-authored, six separate reports (totaling over 5000 words) in less than two days at the Guardian on the row over ‘Prisoner X’.
Prisoner X is believed to have been a Mossad agent (reportedly an Australian Israeli dual citizen named Ben Zygier) jailed by Israel because he was about to reveal Mossad secrets to Australian authorities or the media. He reportedly committed suicide in his cell in 2010.
Due to the secrecy involved in any alleged spy case, there is a relative dearth of verifiable facts regarding Prisoner X’s background and incarceration. However the absence of such information hasn’t prevented Beaumont from advancing the desired Guardian narrative regarding alleged Israeli violations of human rights and international legal norms.
Though the Observer is supposedly the more moderate of the two Guardian Group publications, Beaumont’s framing of the spy row has included one particularly hysterical political analogy, casually leveled without even an attempt to support its validity.
One of Beaumont’s reports from Feb. 14 includes the following passage:
“The latest revelations come amid a growing outcry over the case in Israel, with some comparing the treatment of Zygier to that meted out in the Soviet Union or Argentina and Chile under their military dictatorships.”
Naturally, Beaumont doesn’t inform us who specifically is making such a comparison, and even a cursory look at the judicial process, and the rights afforded Prisoner X, makes a mockery of the charge.
First, the prisoner’s incarceration was supervised by the Israeli judiciary, the original arrest warrant was issued by the authorized court, and the proceedings were overseen by the most senior Justice Ministry officials. We also now know that Prisoner X was legally represented by a top Israeli lawyer who reported, after meeting with his client, that he was in good health, was considering a plea bargain and didn’t appear to have been mistreated.
After the prisoner was found dead in his cell roughly two years ago, the President of the Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court held a coroner’s inquest into the cause of death and, though it was determined that suicide was the cause, “the Presiding Judge sent the file to the State Attorney’s Office for an evaluation regarding issues of [possible] negligence” by prison authorities.
Further, the prisoner’s family was notified during the course of his incarceration, and Australian officials knew of the proceedings.
Though Prisoner X likely represented a serious security risk for Israel, he was afforded due process in a manner which certainly seems consistent with democratic norms.
To evoke a comparison with the USSR – where, for instance, several million Soviet “enemies of the state” died (due to overwork, starvation, torture or summary executions) after being sent, without trial, to Gulag camps spread out across the entire country – is beyond parody.
Indeed, it’s likely that the true identity of Beaumont’s unnamed commentators comparing Israel’s handling of the spy case to that of the most repressive totalitarian regimes of the 20th century will prove to be far more elusive and mysterious than the identity of Prisoner X himself.