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March 1, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 1, 2013

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PAGE 16A By Dan Goldberg SYDNEY (JTA)uAs more details have seeped out about the mysterious life and death of Israel's Prisoner X--iden- tiffed two weeks ago by an Australian TVprogram as Ben Zygier--the wall of silence surrounding those who knew him has begun to show some cracks. On Feb. 19, Israel released parts of a report into Zygier's death, confirming that he hanged himself with a bed sheet in the shower of his cell in Ayalon prison on Dec. 15, 2010. The report by Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai did not say whether there was any truth to the reports that Zygier, an Australian Israeli, worked for the Mossad; 20 of her report's 28 pages were suppressed by a gag order. Zygier's enigmatic story has transfixedl media outlets around the world and domi- nated headlines in Israel and Australia since the expose two weeks ago on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s"Foreign Correspondent" program. For Australia's 110,000 Jews, it also has sparked charges of dual loyalty. "Everyone here is talking about it--everyone," said a friend of Zygier, who like many of his associates interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The feeling is no one wants to talk. The family is very private, the parents are devastated. When HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 1, 2013 The Australian Broadcast- ing Corp.'s investigation alleged that Ben Zygier, seen here in his Israeli army uniform, was a Mossad agent but offered no proof. he died it was shock, shock, shock. We were all told he worked for Mossad and was killed in an operation." It remains unclear what prompted Zygier's imprison- ment, why he was held in a maximum-security cell reportedly built for the in- carceration ofYitzhak Rabin's killer, YigalAmir, andwhy the 34-year-old father of two, who immigrated to Israel from Australia and married an Israeli woman, killed himself. According to one friend, Zygier had a Facebook account under the name Ben Alon, the nom de plume he used in Israel; the account has been removed. He reportedly also held passports bearing the Prisoner X affair raises charges of dual loyalty for Australian Jews names Ben Allen and Benja- min Burrows. In early 2010, Zygier strenu- ously denied that he was a Mossad agent in multiple con- versations with an Australian journalist. On Feb. 19, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office issued a statement dismissing rumors that Zygier was some sort of double agentworkingwith the Australian'security services. "We emphasize that Mr. Zygier had no contactat all with the Australian security services and organizations," the statement said. In Australia, the case has prompted some to askwhether the country's Jews are loyal to Israerat the expense of their home country. "At what point does loyalty to Israel become disloyalty to Australia?" Joseph Wakim, a founder of the Australian Arabic Council, wrote July 20 on the Online Opinion politi- cal website. Wakim pointed to the Birthright Israel program, which provides free trips to Is- rael for young Diaspora Jews, as one example of the "indoc- trination of Australian dual citizens into Israeli identity." Zygier was himself a gradu- ate of the Zionist Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and later served in the Israeli army. Ben Saul, a professor of international law at the Uni- versity of Sydney, wrote online on July 20, "There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose." Antony Loewenstein, a Jew who is staunchly criti- cal of Israel, accused Jews in an Australian Broadcast- ing Corp. radio interview of dual, loyalties and suggested that Jewish schools encour- age kids to fight in the Israel Defense Forces, which may result in them "sometimes joining" Mossad. The president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Philip Chester, blasted as "totally uninformed and mischievous" claims that Zionist programs in Israel serve as recruitment camps for the Mossad. "Contrary to the asser- tions of these commentators, these programs are aimed at ed..ucating Jewish youth about their heritage and about contemporary Israel, and have nothing to do with recruiting people for intelligence orga- nizations," Chester said in a statement. Writing in Galus Australis, an online Jewish magazine, dual Is'aeli-Australian citizen Yaron Gottlieb said he has "complete loyalty" to both countries but that "Austra- lian Jews cannot have it both ways." "If we as a community' feel Uncomfortable with, for example, a Jordanian- Atistralian fighting on behalf of the Jordanian government to the extent that we would want such service banned, we cannot expect service to Israel to avoid criticism," he wrote. Ordinary Australians "will now be wondering about every Australian Jew and where our loyalties really lie: What proportion of Australian Jews sacrifice their passports to the Israeli government if asked?" For its part, Zygier's family has tried to tamp down any discussion of Zygier's personal and professional lives. Henry Greener, a family friend who spoke on Austra- lian TV two nights after the re- cent "Foreign Correspondent" investigation aired, said he was berated for going public. He said of Zygier's fam- ily, "They were horrified that I would go on air and say anything .... I didn't ask permission because it came across that I was representing the family." Greener, who hosts aweekly Jewish TV show, had warm recollections of Zygier. "I've known Ben all his life, he was a gorgeous kid, a top guy. He was locked up but nobody knows why," Greener said. "I want to see justice. He got justice behind closed doors; that's not real justice." At the time of Zygier's death, his father, Geoffrey, was the executive di'ector of the Jewish community in Melbourne. The current president of the community, John Searle, said he could not speak about the case. "I don't want to comment because the family is going through turmoil, anguish and grief," Searle said. "I think theyshouldjustbe left alone." Friends in Melbourne said the last time they saw Zygier alive was in late 2009. "He said he was leaving for a two-week visit to Israel and never came back, leaving his fiat with everything in it," a close friend said thisweek. Zygier was buried in a Jew- ish cemetery in Melbourne on Dec. 22, 2010. A friend of.Zygier from another Zionist youth move- ment told JTA, "I'm very confident he would never be a traitor to Israel. He was a proud Zionist. There's only one other person in my year who made aliyah out of dozens who said they would. He would never betray Israel.', He said Zygier's close friends are "very frustrated because if they would have had an inkling he was in jail, they all would have fought for him from here." Zygier's mother, Louise, who worked to raise funds for the Jewish center at Monash University in Melbourne, is still devastated, according to this friend. "Poor Louise, she hasn't really recovered from Ben's death two years ago. This has just revived it," the friend said. "You won't get anyone to talk publiclyIwe've all decided there's no good purpose. No- body knows the whole truth and it's unlikely we ever will." Late Applicants Fund established by the Claims Conference The Claims Conference has established a Late Applicants Fund ("LAF') of 50 million to accept applications from certain heirs of former Jewish owners of properties and as- sets located in the former East Germany forwhich the Claims Conference received proceeds as Successor Organization under the German Property Law of 1990. The Claims Conference has published on its website, www., a list of the properties/assets received by the Claims Conference as of the date of publication, and such assets for which claims by the Claims Conference are still pending under the German Property Restitution Law, including the name of the former owners and/or businesses, as well as the addresses of the properties/ assets. The detailed rules of the LAF, applications, and other information are also on the Claims Conference website, Applica- tions will be accepted through December 31, 2014, a total of two years. In 1990. the new demo- cratic government of East Germany introduced legisla- tion to restitute property that had been nationalized by the former East German Commu- nist regime. Even before the reunification of EastandWest Germany was finalized, the Claims Conference was able to negotiate that this legisla- tion included the restitution of formerly Jewish-owned property lost in the Holocaust. As a result, original Jewish owners and heirs gained the right to file claims for property in the former East Germany. The German governmenl FLORIDA Call us Today 4 C:ring for you in your home or facility part.time or hours 7 days a week. We always provide a C.N,A. Laundry Range of Motion Exercises " Walking Assistance CompanionServices Light housekeeping Meal prep and clean-up Medication Reminders Errands & Transportation Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Bathingrrransferring/Toileting FREEr. Call us TODAY for details... State of FLAHCA License # NR 30211467 State of FLAHCA Licetse # 231012 Insured and bonded imposed application deadlines of Dec. 31, 1992 for real estate claims and June 30, 1993 for movable property claims. Tens of thousands of owners and heirs filed claims and recovered assets under the legislation that resulted from these negotiations carried out by the Claims Conference. The Claims Conference also negotiated to become the legal successor to individual Jewish property and property of dis- solved Jewish communities and organizations in the for- mer East Germany that went unclaimed after Dec. 31,1992. Had the Claims Conference not taken this step, formerly Jewish-owned assets that remained unclaimed after the German-imposed filing deadline would have remained with the owners at the time or reverted to the German government. The resulting Successor Organization of the Claims Conference sells recovered property or receives compen- .sation and has been respon- sible for more than $1 billion in grants, primarily to social welfare agencies around the world that assist the neediest and most vulnerable Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. These grants provide the major funds to help provide a social safety net for Nazi victims around the world, providing homecare, food, and medicine for Holocaust survivors. The Claims Conference established tile Goodwill Fund in 1994 in order to enable for- mer Jewish owners and their heirs to receive a payment even after the German dead- lines of 1992/1993. Through the Goodwill Fund, certain former owners and heirs could apply for the proceeds of properties or compensation payments that the German restitution authorities had awarded to the Claims Confer- ence. After several extensions, the Goodwill Fund's final ap- plication deadline was March 30, 2004, with amendments made in 2009 and 2010 for certain heirs. With the time for the original filing period and the Claims Conference Goodwill Fund, original own- ers of and heirs to property in the former East Germany have had the longest filing period of any Holocaust restitution program of any asset (im- movable property, insurance, bank accounts, etc.). This final Late Applicants Fund adds an additional two years. The Claims Conference commitment to assisting close relatives who missed the deadline is borne out by the fact that it had, as of Dec. 31, 2011, paid approxi-. mately 637 million under the Goodwill Fund to original owners or their heirs. The Claims Conference had also set aside approximately $60 million for future payments from the Goodwill Fund, and a further $21 million has been designated for Goodwill Fund and Other Uses. With the recovery of prop- erties coming to a close, the Claims Conference needs certain knowledge of the Successor Organization funds available to it for future sup- port of homecare, medical care, food and other assis- tance to Holocaust victims. The establishment of the LAF, the final fund from which payments will be made to heirs, will enable the Claims Conference to ascertain with certainty the availability of Successor Organization funds for these services. LAF applications can be filed directly with the Claims- Conference for no fee. There is no need for applicants to pay a fee to any party. The LAF will be open for a period of two years com- mencing on Jan. 1, 2013 ("Filing Period"). Upon the expiration of the Filing Period, the Claims .Conference shall determine the payments that eligible heirs will receive. This determination will be based on a number of factors detailed on the Claims Conference website. It is not known when pay- ments will be able to be made to eligible applicants. All communications re- garding the Late Applicants Fund should be submitted to: Claims Conference Succes- sor Organiza6on Sophienstrasse 26 D-60487 Frankfurt am Main, Germany Fax: 49-69-97-07-08-11 Email: claims-conference- Hillary Kessler-Godin Director of Communications Conference on Jewish Mate- rial Claims Against Germany 1359 Broadway, Room 2000 New York, NY 10018 Office: 646-485-2021 Cell: 917-776-3695 Fax: 212-679-2126