The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
The Zionist Federation of Australia blasted as “totally uninformed and mischievous” several claims in the media that Israel programs serve as recruitment camps for the Mossad.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp last week delivered a bombshell report that linked “Prisoner X,” who committed suicide in an Israel prison two years ago, to Ben Zygier, a Melbourne-born Zionist who graduated from HaShomer HaTzair youth movement. He later made aliyah and at one point worked as a Mossad agent. It is assumed he was jailed for a serious crime that damaged the security of Israel.
Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National asked Chester last week, “Would you be surprised to learn that Australians you send to Israel could be recruited by Mossad?”
Joseph Wakim, a founder of the Australian Arabic Council, writing in an online political website on Wednesday, pointed to the free Birthright Israel program as an example of the “indoctrination of Australian dual citizens into Israeli identity.”
“At what point does loyalty to Israel become disloyalty to Australia?” he wrote.
Dr. Ben Saul, professor of international law at the University of Sydney, wrote on Fairfax Media news websites Wednesday, “There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose.”
Federation President Philip Chester replied in a statement, “Contrary to the assertions of these commentators, these programs are aimed at educating Jewish youth about their heritage and about contemporary Israel, and have nothing to do with recruiting people for intelligence organizations.
“Much rumor, innuendo and speculation surround the death in custody of Ben Zygier. The ZFA respects the Zygier family’s privacy as should the media.”
A spokesperson for the Zionist movement in Australia said the statement was not referring to any individual article and was a response to the “tenor” of the debate in the Australian media since last week’s report.
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