The English language Ha’aretz newspaper that was delivered to my doorstep this morning did not include many details about today’s big story in Israel.
ABC Australia broke the story yesterday in a television documentary that claims to reveal the following: An Australian man who immigrated to Israel and worked for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was secretly tossed into a super-maximum security prison and then committed suicide in his cell in December 2010.
The Israeli government, the documentary claims, has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent details of the story from getting out. Watch the half-hour piece here. Warning: there’s a copious amount of cheesy music and hokey dramatization.
It’s all pretty juicy stuff for the news business. But Israeli officials quickly slapped a gag order on local news organizations yesterday.
That’s why my Ha’aretz had a piece lamenting censorship this morning. But nothing on “Prisoner X” himself.
Rather helpfully, however, the International Herald Tribune, which is delivered together with the Ha’aretz English edition in Jerusalem, did have the story.
Later on today, the gag order was partially lifted. And Israeli news outlets have been reporting on “Prisoner X” by citing foreign media sources.
Since then, some more details have come out. The Sydney Morning Herald says Ben Zygier, the man who died in the Israeli jail cell, was being investigated by Australian intelligence in early 2010. Here are some more personal details about the alleged Australian-Israeli spy. But there are still lots of unanswered questions.
A former Shin Bet official I spoke with on the phone today told me he was astonished by the whole story and he expects lots of information to come out very soon.
Another retired Israeli intelligence man that I requested an interview with wrote back an email saying, “I don’t think my appearance today would be productive either for you or for me.”