He died on December 12, 2010 in solitary confinement in a top-security cell of the Ayalon Prison prison in the same cell which had previously held and been designed for Yigal Amir the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin. Dual Israeli-Australian Ben Zygier, also known by his Israeli name of Ben Alon, reportedly committed suicide by hanging himself on Dec. 15, 2010 at the age of 34.
Although the death occurred over two years ago details about the case are just now coming to light as the veil of secrecy has been partially lifted amid a growing diplomatic storm between Israel and Australia. Up until now the man was only known as “Prisoner X”, whose identity was vigorously guarded.
One of the facts that have recently emerged is that Prisoner X was an Australian citizen working for Mossad, the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service, although in what exact capacity has not been reported.
Another fact that has come to light is that he was already under surveillance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) who was investigating him on suspicion of espionage and for being one of three citizens reported to have been using Australian passports to fulfill missions for Mossad.
According to various media reports Mr Alon was also known by the name of Ben Allen, among others, and had changed his name four times in just as many years, which initially caught the attention of the ASIO.
According to the Guardian under Australian law citizens can change their name every year and Mr. Alon did so at least four times. This would have allowed him to put together several sets of documents, including Australian passports, which may have been used by Mossad, either as cover for Alon “X”, or passed along to other operatives.
The publication The Age reported that Ben Zygier had held or applied for Australian passports using the names Ben Alon, Ben Allen and Benjamin Burrows.
The case is particularly embarrassing for Mossad because it exposes one of the ways that they produce or obtain false identities for their operatives. This is not the first time that Australian passports have been linked to Mossad operations, nor is it the first time they have bungled operations or been exposed using foreign passports as cover for their agents.
According to media reports and other sources the assassination in January 2010 of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai was the responsibility of MOSSAD. At the time Israel received strong condemnation from Australia and Britain because apparently Mossad had use passports from their countries to carry out the hit.
There are not many details that have emerged about what Alon was really doing for Mossad, or even if he was in fact an agent, but what has is potentially damaging for Israel and the Israeli intelligence service if one is to judge by the official reaction. The potential fallout is apparently so great that Israel has effectively issued a complete bans on publishing details about the case.
After calling an emergency meeting between the editors and owners of major Israeli media outlets and Israeli security officials the government instructed them not to publish any new material or details on the case, however according to RT Israeli media are still allowed to cite reports from foreign sources.
There is speculation that Alon was providing passports for Mossad, however this is unlikely due to his military service for Israel and the way he was imprisoned and mysteriously committed suicide, in a cell with cameras and sensors which monitored heart rate and the physical condition of the prisoner.
Another clue as to the seriousness of the operations that Alon may have been involved with along with the mysterious other tow Australians was reported by Haartz, which quotes one Tzvika Levy, who heads the Lone Soldier Project: “Suddenly I made the connection, and realized that Ben Zygier arrived to Kibbutz Gazit as a lone soldier about 13 years ago, along with two other young men from Australia. I remember his friends went to serve in the Armored Corps, and he wanted me to help him get into the paratroopers. He served for two and a half years, even though his age required him to serve only six months. For that, he had to sign a form, agreeing to lengthen his service."
So who were the other two Australians? Why did Alon enlist for extended service? And why was it that he died in an Israeli prison without the proper Australian authorities being informed? There is speculation that he was a double or triple agent, and that his end was the obvious one for anyone playing both sides of the fence.
If he was working for the Australians as well as Mossad, his death is perfectly in keeping with what a former intelligence officer once told me, “Mossad always gets their man”, even if he is one of their own.