Ben Zygier (known as Prisoner X) was the Australian-Israeli Mossad agent imprisoned at Ayalon Prison in Ramla on espionage charges who committed suicide in his cell in 2010.
The 2013 row over revelations regarding Zygier’s incarceration and suicide received saturation coverage at the Guardian, and included this claim by Peter Beaumont – then foreign affairs editor for The Observer, sister site of the Guardian – in a report on Feb. 14th.
“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.”
The comparison, as we noted at the time, was simply bizarre. Indeed, the very term “Prisoner X”, implying that his identity and whereabouts were mysterious, was itself a misnomer, as Zygier’s original arrest warrant was issued by an authorized court, his incarceration was supervised by the Israeli judiciary, and the proceedings were overseen by the most senior Justice Ministry officials. Zygier was also legally represented by a top Israeli lawyer.
To evoke a comparison with the USSR – where several million Soviet “enemies of the state” died (due to overwork, starvation, torture or summary executions) after being sent, without anything resembling due process, to Gulag camps – is risible.
More recently, we found another example of the media’s use of a blatantly false analogy – in an article published at i100 (The Independent’s Buzzfeed-style news brand).
The Nov. 10th article by i100’s news editor Matthew Champion leads with the following strap line:
As the western world marks 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down, a group of Palestinian youths have reminded people they still live behind a wall.
It also included this quote, attributed to the protesters seen in the photo:
It doesn’t matter how high the barriers will be, they will fall. Like the Berlin Wall fell – the Palestinian wall will fall
The Berlin Wall was seen as a symbol for oppression under communism and its fall is regarded as the key event in German reunification…In Arabic it is called ‘the wall of apartheid’, and allusions to the Berlin Wall are common.
However, other than the fact that both are walls – though in Israel’s case, the overwhelming majority is a chain-link fence – it’s difficult to find any substantive relationship between the two. Whilst the Berlin Wall was constructed by the totalitarian East German government to keep its own citizens from fleeing to freedom in the West, Israel’s “wall” was constructed to keep violent Palestinian extremists from crossing into Israel to ignite deadly suicide bombs at crowded cafes, bus stops and markets.
The former represented a tacit acknowledgement of the abject failure of the communist government to provide basic freedoms to its citizens, while the latter merely represented a rational decision by Israeli leaders to protect its citizens from harm. (Indeed, such security related fences are common in many parts of the world)
Note to British journalists: just because Palestinian activists routinely advance such ahistorical political analogies to demonize Israel doesn’t mean that you need to legitimize such intellectually unserious agitprop.