Eli Cara, left, with Uriel Zoshe Kelman, right, during sentencing at Auckland High Court in July 2004. [Source: nzherald.co.nz]


By Murray Horton

In 2024, New Zealand leaves no doubt where it stands on the Gaza War. It is firmly on Israel’s side, having said nothing beyond general tut-tutting about the genocide being inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel.


And New Zealand has become directly involved in the Western military support for Israel, specifically by sending New Zealand military personnel to join the U.S./UK-led coalition attacking Yemen and fighting the Houthis (who, as their act of solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinians, are attacking and disrupting shipping in the Red Sea). It is a token commitment—only six military personnel who are not directly involved in combat—but they are there to provide what the Government calls “precision targeting.”

It was all very different 20 years ago, when New Zealand took a radically different approach to Israel. One of the sensations of 2004 was the unmasking of an Israeli intelligence operation in Auckland (New Zealand’s largest city) and the arrest of two operatives of Mossad (that country’s external security agency), followed by their conviction, imprisonment and deportation.

Two Caught, Two Got Away

To briefly summarize: In March 2004, New Zealand police arrested two Israelis, Eli Cara and Uriel Kelman, in the act of collecting a fraudulently obtained New Zealand passport (it was in the name of a New Zealand cerebral palsy sufferer who had certainly not applied for a passport and was in no position to ever travel). The passport was sought, not for either of them, but for their ringleader, Zev Barkan, who had been an Israeli diplomat in Europe for a number of years. Barkan fled the country and has never been brought to justice.


There was a fourth man also involved (classic spy rings always have a mysterious Fourth Man), whom media inquiries identified as a New Zealand citizen, Tony Reznik. He is a New Zealand citizen who had lived for many years in Israel and who is believed to have been the one responsible for selecting the disabled man for the identity theft. (Reznik worked as a paramedic and would have come into contact with the unknowing victim. Barkan also lived in a street near the disabled man.) Reznik, and his family, also hurriedly fled the country without being brought to justice.

Murder Inc.

The question remains: Why would Israeli intelligence go to such lengths to secure, fraudulently, a New Zealand passport? The answer is sinister in the extreme, because Mossad is not just any old run-of-the-mill spy agency, which simply spies on people. It specializes in murdering them. Ed Blanche wrote in Beirut’s Daily Star: “Intelligence operations, by definition, are always murky, opaque and hard to pin down, but one could be forgiven for tracing a link between the July 15, 2004, conviction in New Zealand of two alleged Mossad agents for trying to illegally obtain the passport of a bed-ridden disabled man and the assassination of Hezbollah official Ghaleb Awali in Beirut’s southern suburbs last Monday, allegedly by Israeli-run agents.”


Major Diplomatic Breach

When Cara and Kelman were sentenced to prison, in July 2004, the Prime Minister (Helen Clark, Labour Party) broke the official silence on the case that had been deliberately kept in place until then, and well and truly put the boot into Israel. “You do not expect your friends to do this to you…We look forward at some point to the Israeli government swallowing its pride and offering the explanation and apology we’ve asked for” [Colin Espiner, “Clark Lambasts Israel; Diplomatic Sanctions Imposed After Spies Are Sent To Prison,” Press, July 16, 2004.]

New Zealand basically took every step short of breaking diplomatic relations. Clark suspended high-level visits to and from Israel; declined permission for Israel’s President, the Head of State, to visit New Zealand; implemented visa restrictions on all Israeli government officials visiting New Zealand; suspended Ministry of Foreign Affairs consultations with Israel; and delayed indefinitely the appointment of a new Israeli Ambassador.

Because the case was so clear-cut and the criminals had been caught in the act, the government’s measures were supported by all political parties and the media. This represented a major public relations embarrassment and diplomatic blow for Israel. Its local supporters tried to make light of the whole incident, pointing out that New Zealand and Israel have a very limited relationship, with minimal trade between the two.

It was suggested that the Labour government’s harsh measures against Israel were further proof of its alleged pro-Palestinian bias (in the recent past, Phil Goff, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited the Palestinian leader, the late Yasser Arafat, in his besieged compound in Ramallah). Local Zionists even pulled out the old canard that criticism of Israel is proof of anti-Semitism, and tried to directly link the government’s measures with the coincidental and despicable mass vandalism of Jewish graves in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. More reasoned commentators correctly stated that this crime bore all the hallmarks of the local neo-Nazi lunatic fringe and had nothing to do with the exposure and punishment of an Israeli spy ring.

Australia Secretly Expelled Israeli Diplomat

The ramifications of this international incident continued to play out. It was revealed, in February 2005, that Australia had asked Israel to withdraw a diplomat from its Canberra Embassy. This had not been publicly announced and, when the Australian media exposed it several weeks after the event, the Australian government refused to comment. But the seriousness of this unusual move is underscored by the fact that Australia and Israel were (and are) good friends. The unnamed diplomat had visited Cara and Kelman when they were in prison in Auckland.


New Zealand Green Party Member of Parliament Keith Locke, was the only one to ask the obvious question: “We need to know whether last year’s attempt by a Mossad agent to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports was run out of Israel’s Embassy in Canberra. The expelled diplomat was cross-accredited to New Zealand and visited the two Mossad spies jailed here. It is bad enough that Mossad was infringing on New Zealand’s sovereignty and laws. It is even worse if the Israeli diplomatic post responsible for New Zealand was involved.’”

According to JustPeace, “Locke said there was prima facie evidence the Mossad operation against New Zealand was run out of Australia. ‘One of the jailed spies, Eli Cara, was based near Sydney, running a dummy tourism agency. He crossed the Tasman 24 times. In addition, the third Mossad agent, Zev Barkan, who managed to escape New Zealand, had been an Israeli diplomat in Austria and Belgium.’ Locke said the New Zealand government must not be caught up in an Australian government cover-up of the affair.”


But things had obviously been happening behind the scenes. In early 2005, Cara and Kelman withdrew their appeals, which was followed, in February, by media and official speculation that Israel was preparing to apologise to New Zealand. The timing was significant, as this speculation was just before the visit of their President to Australia, indicating that Israel saw the need to restore good relations with both countries.

The Government wasn’t kidding—in March 2005, Israel expressed surprise that a reserves general was refused entry into New Zealand to speak at a fundraising event organized by the local Jewish community. Phil Goff, the then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that all such visa requests would be refused until Israel apologized. It also emerged that month that Israel’s Ministry of Defense was the only client of a New Zealand manufacturer of military equipment to have been vetoed by the Government.

Israel Had Previously and Fraudulently Obtained Other New Zealand Passports

The pressure paid off. In June 2005, Israel apologized and the sanctions were lifted. This followed months of diplomatic wrangling about the wording of the apology and, in the end, Israel did not confirm that the two men were agents, merely referring to them as citizens. Helen Clark correctly said: “It is clear that the Israeli government will not apologize for criminal activity by just any citizens. There was a reason to apologize for the actions of these two citizens.” [“Sanctions Lifted After Israel Apologises For Passport Incident,” Press, June 27, 2005.]

Israel provided no explanation as to what the New Zealand passports were going to be used for. Clark said that an international arrest warrant had been issued for the New Zealander, Tony Reznik (by then safely in Israel) and she also revealed that other New Zealand passports had previously been obtained by Israeli agents. The government had decided not to pursue them, as they had now all been detected and all relevant passports had been cancelled.

The government had the support of the public and media throughout this whole squalid affair. To quote from a Press editorial (“Humiliating Apology” June 28, 2005): “However humiliating it might be, for a beleaguered nation which requires international goodwill, it was an apology that had to be made…The New Zealand government was correct to take a hardline stance over the passport fraud.”


In fact, stupidity seems to be a hallmark of Mossad. A February 2005 article by Nicky Hager in the Sunday Star Times (cited in “Israeli Jailed in New Zealand Headed Cyprus Spy Ring,” Haaretz, February 27, 2005) revealed that Kara, one of the two agents imprisoned in New Zealand, had sent two Mossad agents to Cyprus in a 1998 operation which resulted in them being arrested and serving nine months of a three-year prison term.

Kara’s friendship with a senior Mossad official got him posted to Australia, from where he worked on the ill-fated New Zealand passport operation. Apparently, after his return to Israel from a New Zealand prison, he decided to leave the world of intelligence and took a job with Visa, the credit card transnational. Probably a good career move.

Besides, Mossad had found another willing helper—in January 2006, The Jerusalem Post reported that, once New Zealand no longer became a source of fake passports, the German intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) stepped in to ensure a steady supply of fake German passports to enable Mossad to place agents in Middle Eastern countries. The Post said: “During the 90s, Mossad agents often used passports from Canada and New Zealand when travelling in enemy territory, but once the practice became widely known, they stopped.” [“Germany ‘Helped Agents,’” Press, January 19, 2006]

Where Are They Now?

At least one of the Mossad squad continued working for it, including involvement in what the spooks call “wet jobs” (murder), namely Barkan—who started life as an American named Ze’ev William Brokenstein. “Former Israeli diplomat to New Zealand Zev William Barkan leads a life akin to that of novelist Frederick Forsyth’s Jackal—emerging from the shadows only to be named by authorities in connection with various crimes before again disappearing.”

According to Stuff magazine, “Barkan is still wanted in New Zealand as the alleged ringleader of an illegal passport scam in 2004; last year [2010] he was named as a suspect in the slaying of a Hamas operative in Dubai. Barkan is one of 32 people Dubai police suspect as having a role in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel room in the emirate in January 2010.”

A simple Google search reveals that Barkan is now working in Israel’s technology industry, specifically a cloud security company. He makes no secret of his past: “Before becoming XM Cyber’s VPO, Zev Barkan spent over 30 years with the Israeli Intelligence Community,” wrote Stuff.

U.S. Disparaged New Zealand’s Reaction As a “Flap”

And what did the U.S., the major ally of both Israel and New Zealand, make of the abortive Mossad operation? “Almost six years later, the scandal would rear its head again when in December [2010] cables released by WikiLeaks said United States diplomats disparaged New Zealand’s reaction to the suspected spy ring as a ‘flap’ and accused New Zealand’s government of grandstanding in order to sell more lamb to Arab countries.”


Via https://covertactionmagazine.com/2024/06/06/today-new-zealand-is-a-willing-accomplice-of-israeli-genocide-but-20-years-ago-it-busted-mossad-op-jailing-deporting-agents/