In the 1920s, Harry Pollitt, a key leader of British Communism, fell in love with a young activist called Rose Cohen. By his own reckoning, he proposed to her (unsuccessfully) 14 times.Cohen later moved to the Soviet Union, where, in 1937, she was arrested as a spy. The Russians never reported her fate but we now know that in November that year, guards dragged Cohen to the basement of Moscow's Lubyanka prison and shot her in the back of the head.Coincidentally, Pollitt was in Moscow when the secret police came for Cohen. Behind the scenes, he lobbied on her behalf with high profile officials, including, it seems, Stalin himself. Yet when Pollitt returned to London, he and his Communist Party colleagues refused to call publicly for Cohen's release, going so far as to denounce others who did.'Any charge that may be brought against [Cohen],' wrote the Daily Worker, 'will be tried according to the forms of Soviet justice. The British government has no right whatever to interfere in the internal affairs of another country and its citizens. It is not surprising that the reactionary press is in full cry in support of the British protest ...'The Cohen affair comes to mind in the reaction to the extraordinary tale of Israel's 'Prisoner X'.Back in 2010, the Israeli news site Ynet reported that an anonymous prisoner was being kept in solitary confinement, in conditions of secrecy so great that even his guards didn't know his name. That report was taken offline within hours, after pressure from the Israeli government.Last week, ABC television identified Prisoner X as the Australian-Israeli man Ben Zygier - and Israel once more sought to gag the media. Nonetheless, we now know that Zygier was detained in early 2010 and then died later that year, supposedly by hanging - despite 24 hour surveillance in a 'suicide proof' cell.Even from this sketchy information, an obvious question arises: why has there been such little public outrage about Zygier's treatment?
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