Vapid conspiracy theory? Mossad, #eqnz and you

Readers in Aotearoa/Te Wai Pounamu will be now be doubtless aware of a news story this morning alleging secretive Mossad activity in Christchurch post the quake. In case you’ve missed today’s news cycle or are in foreign climes, here’s the story and the follow-up.

Long story short: After the February 22nd earthquake down in Christchurch a number of Israeli citizens acted in an odd fashion and one of them is said to have had a number of different passports in his possession. Family members of one of the missing men sent out a search and rescue party which, as it was not affiliated with the United Nations, was refused access to the red zone. The SIS are concerned that the Israeli citizens were, in fact, Mossad agents and that the search and rescue team may have hacked into the police database. The Israeli ambassador has, of course, denied all charges.

Analysis: There is something about stories to do with Israel and the legendary (or infamous, depending on what you think of the spy game) Mossad agency which makes even good journalists turn a blind eye to argument and come up with vapid conspiracy theories. The original story which I woke to this morning was heavy on implication and very light on evidence. I would also suggest that either my fellow citizens need reading comprehension exercises or the article was written in such a way to strongly suggest that the police database had, in fact, been hacked by Mossad, because the majority of the tweets I was seeing on the issue were taking it as true that Mossad had run away with our criminal databases when, really, SIS just thought they might have done.

The conspiracy theory being put forward here (leaked by SIS, it seems) is unwarranted because the evidence presented does not support the explanatory hypothesis. All we have is implication; the Israelis in Christchurch might have been Mossad agents (or, as Paul Buchanan claims, proto-Mossad agents in this ridiculous article in which new theories are made up to make a story seem much more interesting than it really is) and they might have been escorted out of the country by a handler and the search and rescue team or the identity team might have used a thumbdrive to upload a bot to hack into the police database.

Notice all those “mights?” Notice, if you read the article, how no evidence that any of those activities or affiliations is provided?

Frankly, this sounds like a controlled leak by the SIS to make it look as if the agency is relevant and doing stuff. I’ve no evidence that is the case, but if the standard of evidence for the Mossad claim is so low, then I think I’m allowed this one. It is, I would argue, a more plausible explanation than a highly conditional claim about Mossad running a spy ring in Christchurch, especially when there are much more plausible rival explanations.

Let me put it this way; when people were asserting that the HAARP installation in Alaska was responsible for the September earthquake, where were the print stories in our national papers then? That particular conspiracy theory alleged that there was a CIA base and auxiliary weather control installation somewhere around Lyttleton. Now, as far as I know, we haven’t had SIS leaks about terrible CIA plots, or MI5 plots, even though American and British subjects were also in Christchurch.

So why Mossad? Why the Israelis? Now, I do realise that Mossad have engaged in illegal activities both here and internationally; whether or not you think Mossad’s actions were justified in those cases, they do routinely flout the laws of the countries their agents spend time in. However, in this case I really do think, given the evidence presented in the papers, that SIS are either suffering from a delusional state of self-importance or are trying to justify their existence by claiming “Look, spies! In New Zealand! Don’t worry; we’re on top of this one!”

The explanation for the investigation run by the SIS, based on the evidence (such as it is) which has been leaked by someone associated with that investigation is not grounds to believe that Mossad were up to no good in Christchurch. The explanation is grounds, however, to be worried about what the SIS are up. If the story we’ve been told is true and the SIS has inferred the existence of a Mossad intelligence gathering conspiracy merely because there were some Israelis in Christchurch who, say, wanted to go home quickly after one of their number died in the February earthquake, then we need to ask “Why was an investigation by our intelligence agency launched?”

I realise there might be some private evidence that swings the story in favour of the SIS and their investigation, but, at the moment, we do not have that evidence and do not know that evidence exists. We also have little ground for trust in the SIS, in part because we don’t know what they do, so can’t appraise their activities and, in part, because the things we know they do are often dubious, symptomatic of a dysfunctional organisation and seem quite paranoiac.

So, long story short (again): the leaked story about the alleged Mossad activity in Christchurch is, with the available story, is more an indictment on the SIS than it is proof that Mossad were up to good (in our Christchurch neighbourhood).

(Also, I realise that any SIS personnel who are reading this or my tweets might want to add this either to my file or start a file on me. That sounds a bit paranoiac but, frankly, it fits standard SIS operating procedure. There’s already a file with my name on it in the Vatican… True story.)


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.