Israel's security scandal: silencing journalists

israel_flag.jpgThe cat is well and truly out of the bag concerning the attempt to prosecute the journalist Anat Kam for revealing state secrets. She has been under secret house arrest since December and is to be put on trial on treason and espionage charges. She is accused of appropriating 2,000 documents, 700 of which were classified as “top secret” while serving in the IDF’s Central Command in 2007. These documents, it appears, were passed onto Haaretz reporter Uri Blau and used by him in an article published in Haaretz Magazine in 2008. After her army service, Kam went on to work for the Walla news agency–which reported some time ago that she had gone on “leave”.
The censorship regime made it impossible to reveal anything about the affair within Israel, until the last day or two. This web site, and a number of others, have blogged what has been going on prior to that. However, all bets are now off in Israel, as the Hebrew language sites of Haaretz and Maariv reveal.
The UK Guardian reports that the Uri Blau is now in hiding in London for fear of arrest. He has been responsible for publishing other reports on security scandals. He has defending is publication of the Anat Kam material.
As Yossi Melman also put it in Haaretz,
“The Anat Kam affair raises serious suspicions that the law enforcement agencies in question – the Israel Defense Force’s information security unit, the Shin Bet, Israel Police and the State Prosecutor’s Office – are good at coming down hard on the powerless, while overlooking similar suspicions when attributed to senior officials. It’s the “sentinel syndrome”: the weak are persecuted and dealt with a heavy hand, while the deeds of the strong are slighted.”
A string of other reports (of course, all hated by the right), have voiced similar opinions in Haaretz, and the Haaretz editorial offers a detailed defence of its actions in the public interest, based on its long experience, as a ‘loyal’ member of the 4th estate. The editorial includes the statement that:
“In reality, however, the crime in question is far more severe – the one committed by the security apparatus (GOC Central Command in particular) in ignoring a High Court order and approving the targeted assassination of wanted men who could otherwise have been detained, in strikes that claimed the lives of innocent civilians.”
Considering the free hand that corrupt politicians have in Israel to play with issues of security (and private donors) to their heart’s content, once again, the principle of an open society is under challenge in Israel.
Gideon Levy, in Haaretz also added :
Are Israelis entitled to know that the IDF’s highest ranking officers gave advanced written permission to fire at innocent people during “targeted assassinations?” Isn’t the media’s supreme duty, not only its right, to report this?
Are Israel’s citizens entitled to know that IDF commanders approved killing people even when it was possible to apprehend them, in blatant violation of the High Court’s ruling?
Aren’t we entitled to know about a secret Defense Ministry report saying about 75 percent of settlements construction has been carried out without a permit? That public structures in more than 30 settlements were built on private Palestinian land?

What is of real concern, is that the concern with security first, as usual, diverts attention from the strategic outcome of what is being covered up– one key issue being targetted assassinations contravening rulings of the Israeli High Court. The broader issue, of course, is whether or not this policy of state killings does anything except create more willing terrorists. The other solution–political compromise is avoided. It also has to be noted that the state is increasing its harassment of civil society groups that oppose the occupation. ‘Traditionally’ this has included Palestinians and foreigners, but it now includes Jewish Israeli opponents.
The affair is going to grow, and will be covered, obviously, through Haaretz and other quality publications such as the Guardian, the New York Times and so on. Of course, according to the Israeli right, these papers are all violently anti-Israel. The scandal will also only add to international contempt for Israel’s claims to be a democracy in contrast to its neighbours. Another self-inflicted wound.

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