How much do we really know about Israel’s reach in Australia?

A story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald – on an issue I’ve been receiving information about recently, privately of course, though something I could never prove – suggests that Israel’s infiltration of Australia (and many Western states) is something crying out to be discussed:

ASIO is investigating at least three dual Australian-Israeli citizens who they suspect of using Australian cover to spy for Israel.

The investigation began at least six months before last month’s assassination of the Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, widely believed to have been carried out by the Israeli security agency Mossad.

Authorities in Dubai have revealed that three people suspected of taking part in the assassination were travelling on Australian passports, using the names of three dual Australian-Israeli citizens.

The three Australian names linked to the assassination are in no way connected to the three people being investigated by ASIO.

According to two Australian intelligence sources who have been in contact with the Herald, the three men under surveillance all emigrated to Israel within the last decade.

Each has travelled back to Australia at different times to legally change their names and obtain new Australian passports. One of the men has changed his surname three times, the other two have changed theirs twice.

The men have changed their names from surnames that could be read as European-Jewish to ones more typically identified as Anglo-Australian.

Australian citizens are generally allowed to change their name once every 12 months, as long as it is not for criminal reasons.

The new passports have been used to gain entry to a number of countries that are hostile to Israel including Iran, Syria and Lebanon. All three do not recognise Israel and forbid Israelis from entering. Israel also forbids its citizens from travelling to those countries for security reasons.

The Herald understands that the three Australians share an involvement with a European communications company that has a subsidiary in the Middle East. A person travelling under one of these names sought Australian consular assistance in Tehran in 2004.

The Herald has contacted two of the men, both of whom emphatically denied they were involved in any kind of espionage activity.

Both men confirmed they had changed their surnames, but said that the proposition they had done so in order to obtain new documents to travel throughout the Middle East were, in the words of one, “totally absurd”.

“This is a complete fantasy,” said the man when contacted in Israel. “I have changed my name for personal reasons.”

The other man, who was not in Israel when contacted, expressed shock at the suggestion he was under any kind of surveillance and said that he had also changed his name for personal reasons.

“I have never been to any of those countries that you say I have been to,” he said. ”I am not involved in any kind of spying. That is ridiculous.”

The same man is also believed to hold British citizenship, and is believed to have come to the attention of British intelligence after he had changed his name.

In January the Herald visited the offices of the European company that connects the three men.

The company’s office manager confirmed to the Herald that one of the men being monitored by ASIO – the same man believed to hold a British passport – was employed by the company but was “unavailable”.

The company’s chief executive later emphatically denied that this man was ever employed by his company, and totally rejected that his company was being used to gather intelligence on behalf of Israel.

ASIO said it had no comment to make on the case.

Meanwhile, the government confronted Israel for a second time yesterday over the Dubai plot, with the acting ambassador in Tel Aviv, Nicoli Maning-Campbell, conveying the government’s concerns to officials in Israel.

The Israeli embassy in Canberra said it had relayed Australia’s demands to Israel but would not comment.

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