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Yediot Achronot: ‘Poor Pitiful Me, I Want to Tell You About Anat Kamm, But the Bad Censor Man Won’t Let Me’

I’m growing very tired of the Israeli media’s whiny self-pity in writing about why they can’t write about the Anat Kam story.  Take a story in today’s Yediot Achronot:

For Foreigners Only

What Does the Shabak Want You Not to Know?

Foreign media outlets publish about an incident whose details you can also discover on the internet.  Only Israeli resident cannot know about them.

What citizens around the world are allowed to know is concealed from Israelis: foreign newspapers and media report an incident which cannot cannot be reported in Israel.

Among the foreign news outlets many of the details of the incident and information about the subjects of it are reported.  All these details one can find also on the internet if one searches under the keywords “Israeli journalist gag.”

As has been reported here in the past, Israeli courts easily accede to requests from the police and Shabak for gag orders.  The gag only impacts one party, the one which investigates.

In a situation like this one, Israeli media outlets have no opportunity to present in a timely way their position opposing the gag order and supporting publication.

If this is such a crappy system, why doesn’t the Israeli press and Knesset unite to amend laws and eliminate the stranglehold that military censorship has over the media?  Instead of complaining, why don’t they actually do something?

In many previous similar instances, an Israeli reporter has offered a story to a foreign news outlet.  Once reported abroad the Israeli publication can reprise the story.  The first part of equation has has already happened.  The Independent reported the Anat Kam story.  JTA also reported it.  As a result of that the Arabic service of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority broke the story in Israel.  A few hours ago, the independent Palestinian news agency, Maan, broke the story.

So under conventional terms, this story should be all over Israel–well it is, it’s just not in the newspapers or on the news.  Israeli friends tell me that newspapers value their licenses and don’t deliberately court big fines and legal entanglements spanning years in order to uphold freedom of the press.  Well, yes I can understand that.  But if you take that approach, then you can’t expect anyone outside Israel to praise Israeli’s so-called free press.  Because it isn’t really free.  It’s fully subservient to the military-intelligence apparatus.

And it’s not just the press, the courts too are generally acquiescent.  They don’t probe too closely when cases involve national security, or at least the claim of it from the military or intelligence side.

So my attitude is: if you don’t want to stand up for your journalistic principles that’s a decision you make; but don’t come bellyaching to me like in this Yediot piece.  Sorry, but I don’t have any sympathy for it.  If you really care, you know what to do.  If you don’t, you have no one to blame but yourselves.

Nor am I letting the foreign news outlets off the hook.  Why has a story this important languished in obscurity?  Yes, I understand why the N.Y. Times won’t report it because of their reluctance to be out front on any story this controversial.  But what about The Nation, Christian Science Monitor, the Times of London?  Why aren’t they panting after this story and giving it column inches?  I’m half tempted to call this entire incident, The Day the Media Slept.

I also wanted to touch on a slightly different subject.  The Israeli press is terribly insular.  You might argue that this is only natural.  But think about it: Haaretz & Ynetnews online English editions derive a major amount of their traffic from the Diaspora.  Yet they hardly cover the Diaspora and when they do they do it perfunctorily and often badly (Haaretz’s coverage of the U.S. is a case in point).  They hardly ever publish material from Diaspora writers.  I’ve had a grand total of one commentary published in Haaretz.  Subsequently, the editor told me it was highly unlikely anything further would be published.

In normal times, a news website can get away with such insularity.  But in times like these, when the Israeli press can’t do its job, then it has to rely on Diaspora sources like this blog.  That’s why Haaretz’s editor yesterday began following my Twitter feed.  I’m pleased with this.  But I’d like a lesson to be learned.  That is, we’re in this together.  There should be a dialogue between Israel and Diaspora in the media.  But there largely isn’t.  And it ain’t because people like me aren’t trying.

If this happened, it could only benefit both sides.  It would increase interest in the sites from the Diaspora and would introduce Israelis to voices and ideas from outside their comfort zone.  But it probably won’t happen because editors don’t have the vision to make it happen.

H/t to O.A., a journalist doing his part.

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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • ziv April 1, 2010, 12:31 AM

    One correction. Anas Kam’s arrest is not submitted to military censorship, but rather to a gag order of the court. Israeli court is independent, and has the authority to turn down the state’s attorney.

    • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2010, 8:58 AM

      The military is actually enforcing the gag order or at least warning media sites to abide by it. So yes, it is an order of the court. But if it is violated publications hear fr. the IDF that they’ve broken it.

  • efi April 1, 2010, 1:37 AM

    who is the whiny one? “they’re so insular…” don’t be so surprised that israeli media outlets are going to be focusing on israeli affairs, what exactly do you expect? with all due respect to the diaspora it really is not that interesting. if you really want to be part of the israeli news agenda you need to be in israel. if you choose to observe from afar that’s fine, just don’t whine about it.

    • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2010, 9:04 AM

      You’re a perfect example of the insularity & provincialism of latter day Israel. A perfect example of the conventional Zionist notion of shlilat ha-galut (denigration of the Diaspora). So if Israel ever topples like a house of cards due to the burden of Occupation & internal contradictions of its society don’t come whining to us to save you.

      Yr attitude is perfect idiocy & one of the reasons that Zionism as you define has made such a bollocks of things.

      • efi April 1, 2010, 3:34 PM

        first of all who is “us?” you hardly represent most diaspora jews let’s be honest. we are talking about you. secondly don’t worry, somehow i think we will get by without your kind offer to “save us” :) but thanks for the laugh.

        also if you take an honest look at intermarriage rates, you can not deny the obvious fact that the numbers of American Jews will dwindle hugely in the coming years. israel is here to stay. there are more Jews in Israel than anywhere else on earth. there is nothing ideological about this, these are just facts. you are free to deny them, but they remain facts. have a nice day…

        • Dana April 1, 2010, 3:59 PM

          efi, you should be glad then that the jewish people in the world and the ones who call themselves jewish (and are anything but) and happen to reside in Israel, are fast diverging in every way that counts. In fact, soon we who live in the civilized world (more or less) may soon disclaim kinship, commonality or relationship with the israelites who have chosen to go the way of the Judeans of old. Who knows/ we might even end up as different sects – like the sunnis and shiites?

          In fact, I always wondered; just what is it that allows this little middle eastern country to make any claim on judaism in the first place? some geographic digs? a bunch of haredis dressed as they did in middle age poland? a few anachronistic notions of biblical-style law of conquest? an apartheid regime that’s trying to turn palestinians into modern day untouchables?

          To me, the typical zionist attitude and outlook both remind me more of tPisaro’s conquistadors than anything else.

          besides, you forgot perhaps than more than half of israel’s population is probably already the result of “mixed” marriages (you should look sometime into just how many of Europe’s post WWII refugees from central and Europe were of “pure” blood. Or how about the latest influx of Russians? jewish all?). Why not relish the improvement in the stock than cast aspersions on those who believe in sharing equal rights and non-discrimination, real jewish values that seem to be of little use in Israel.

          • efi April 1, 2010, 4:11 PM

            i tried to read your post but it was filled with so many distortions lies and hatred of Israel that I found it wasn’t worth finishing. I will only tell you what I told Richard. obviously, these twisted views do not represent most diaspora Jews in any way. you are embarassing yourself by spouting this stuff. if you choose to despise your own people in Israel to please anti-Semities, that’s your choice. it won’t affect israel, it only affects you. ciao.

          • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2010, 7:43 PM

            You’re being an idiot, efi. Dana IS an Israeli, not a Diaspora Jew, though I believe she’s living in the States now. Don’t make a fool of yrself. How do you think she knows as much as she does about the way Israel works internally? She doesn’t despise Israelis as you so stupidly claim. She KNOWS Israelis & how Israel works. There’s a difference. And I won’t have you violating one of my major comment rules. So accuse one other reader or me of despising Israel & you’ll be gone like a wisp of smoke.

        • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2010, 9:08 PM

          you hardly represent most diaspora jews let’s be honest

          You wouldn’t know a Diaspora Jew, or a fact for that matter, if one bit you in the tush. You’ve admitted that you think we’re pretty near worthless anyway. So why should we accept anything you say about the Diaspora? BTW, my views are far more representative of the Diaspora than yours.

          I have absolutely no interest in intermarriage rates. I’ll leave that for raving nationalists like you. American Jewry will be quite strong for many decades to come. And at the rate Israel is going, you all may be taking shelter over here some day when you smash that lovely place called Israel to shreds.

          • efi April 2, 2010, 3:13 AM

            sounds like you would really love for that to happen, actually you sound pretty similar to someone who supports hamas, how do you feel about that? does it worry you? it should. like i said, i really appreciate your offer to save us but we will make it without you, i think! in any case i have forwarded your generous offer to the prime minister, just in case.

            i notice you like putting words in my mouth – can you tell me when I said the diaspora was “worthless?” of course i never did say that. what i said was diaspora will naturally take a backseat in the israeli news agenda. not because diaspora jews are “worthless” as you try to say, but because this is a natural news order of a country where lots of things are hapenning every day here at home. and i think most diaspora jews would understand that, and that most of them do not sound like rabid hamas supporters who foam at the mouth when they talk about our destruction, like you sound.

            you do not take an interest in intermarriage rates? well that is the problem, is it not. fact is american jewish population is shrinking fast, if it were not for russian jews who came over it would be much smaller already. so you can ignore the fact that Israel is clearly the center of the Jewish world and the only place where the Jewish population will continue growing passing the 10 million mark in the coming decades, while diaspora communities will assimilate and dwindle, or you can stay in touch with reality. but either way i do not have any doubt that most diaspora jews would have nothing to do with you.

          • Richard Silverstein April 2, 2010, 10:29 PM

            you sound pretty similar to someone who supports hamas

            Big violation of comment rules since it is a lie. Future comments will be moderated. Violate another rule & you’re gone.

            we will make it without you

            Left to your own devices, you’ll disintegrate into the mire of your own vile nationalist irredentism taking Israel along w. you.

            can you tell me when I said the diaspora was “worthless?

            Perhaps you forget that you said nothing much of any interest happens in the Diaspora & that intermarriage would cause us to disappear. Did I missing something? Does that mean you think the Diaspora has any value?

            most of them do not sound like rabid hamas supporters who foam at the mouth when they talk about our destruction, like you sound.

            Lie about my views once & you are warned. Lie about them twice & you’re history. So long.

            american jewish population is shrinking fast,

            That too is a lie unsupported by any actual research.

            either way i do not have any doubt that most diaspora jews would have nothing to do with you.

            You’re an utter idiot. Do you know how many Diaspora Jews read my blog? Over 400,000 unique visitors read this blog every yr. many of them Diaspora Jews & many also Israeli. So much for yr dreck.

  • Gene Schulman April 1, 2010, 5:18 AM

    Hmmmm. I notice a distinct lack of commentary on these recent posts. Is it due to lack of interest? Or is it that everybody’s still celebrating Pesach.

    BTW, has anybody ever read Maxime Rodinson? I just finished his “Cult, Ghetto, and State: The Persistence of the Jewish Question” published in 1981. An eye-opening selection of essays about the Zionist movement that precedes such books as Shlomo Sand’s “The Invention of the Jewish People” and Shahid Alam’s “Israeli Exceptionalism. If you can find a copy – it’s out of print – it is well worth while, and relevant to today’s issues.

    Happy holidays.

    • Dana April 1, 2010, 8:15 AM

      Gene, I think the lack of comments is because there is nothing too controversial about the case Richard is making about the lack of press freedom in Israel. It is something even most of us who read his and similar blogs take for granted, and so we are neither surprised nor disappointed – any more than we already are. OTOH, military censorship is the rule in Israel and people there completely accept that as a “fact of life”, like the measles. Or death. You know it’s there for “others”, you even accept that some day it might be for you. But for now “life goes on” – as it should – because “there’s nothing you can do about it”. There are many stories that never see the light of day in that little, so-called “free” country, largely because it is, in fact, a thoroughly militarized society, and they have, for the most part, been acculturated through their own military service not to question certain things too deeply.

      I kinda wish Richard talked more about the implications of the actual story Anat kam may have whisleblown to high heaven: the fact that Israel is a country where the Rule of Law has well proscribed parameters. It’s the Law unless the military says it isn’t. Which, BTW – is what makes it more similar – to a mafia law – than to an actual, real democracy. What I, personally, would like to see is a lawyer take on the case of “deliberate assassinations and “shoot to kill” directives and the way in which this attitude corrupts the media and the government, and not just in Israel. After all, the mind frame of “it’s a terrorist” because we say it is” and “a good radical/militant/insurgent/terrorist is a dead one” has infected the US military and intelligence communities as well. I think that this topic would get more than its share of comments as it has much to bite on, whether in Israel, China, Russia or the US.

      • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2010, 9:09 AM

        I’ve written at least 6-7 posts on this overall story & in a few of my earlier ones I deal in great detail w. the issues raised by the original Haaretz story, the fact that the IDF thumbed its nose at a Supreme Court ruling, & the fact that the very same Supreme Court & the justice system has done nothing to bring the IDF to heel in the aftermath of this. Yes, this is a very important story & yes it’s a shame it doesn’t attract a huge level of comment fr. readers here as well as not drawing more attention fr. Israeli or world media.

        I know for a fact that many are reading these posts who may not have followed this blog before this. But it’s not translating into anyone doing much of anything to make a dent in the problem. At least not yet.

        • Dana April 1, 2010, 11:26 AM

          Richard, I know you’ve written much to expose this issue from several angles, because I read them all, and am certainly glad to see that you’ve done so much to expose this sordidness of the way israel dealt with the entire affaire. I also understand that sometimes, just as in Watergate, the cover-up of illegality can garner more attention than the actual illegal act.

          Still, I just find myself wishing there would be some lawyerly-type person – or two – commenting on the way the IDF is, in effect, choosing to define itself as above the law in Israel. This is something we all know about (house demolitions, wall route, highway 443, etc) but there’s still a significant angle, IMO, that has not received much coverage, which goes to the fundamental question of what does it mean to a democracy when laws are simply ignored by the establishment and/or military. Can a country still be considered law-abiding just because it has courts which issue rulings? I am also especially interested in the parallels with what we see nowdays transpiring in the US and the way freedom of the press is curtailed by both hook and crook.

          The Anat Kam affaire highlights some issues that should absolutely be disturbing to everyone who believes in the rule of law – whether in Israel or in America or in Britain. I will pass along the links to your posts to Glenn Greenwald – and hope others will do so too. The legal angle I would like to see covered in depth is definitely smack in the middle of his little pond.

          • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2010, 9:03 PM

            Thanks for that & yes all those issues are very important. That’s why I don’t concede Israel is a democracy in the usual sense of the term: partial democracy or truncated democracy or ethnocracy, but not democracy.

            I e mailed Glenn Greenwald about this story some time ago. He was one of many who never replied.

      • Gene Schulman April 1, 2010, 10:30 AM

        Dana, for an interesting take on terrorism, go to Jerome Slater: On the U.S. and Israel, and read his latest post Explaining Terrorism.


  • Kalea April 1, 2010, 12:47 PM

    This story IS very important for this reason:

    Why target the IDF only for thumbing its nose at the rule of law? Will ranting and railing against the IDF solve the problem, when the problem is INHERENT in Zionist ideology?

    Just like the prosecution is using Kam to get the BIGGER FISH, so too, we should use the actions of Shin Bet or the IDF in this case to get to the BIGGER ISSUE, which is at the heart of this question: Why is the rule of law not really supreme in Israel, because it’s obvious to the entire world that it’s not?

    The problem is not restricted to the military; it is more widespread than that and there is a system or chain complicit in sustaining it. The reason it’s been “deliberately” ignored is because it rarely affects Israelis, except maybe for non-Jewish Israelis.

    So, the significance of this story goes way beyond this case and the parties involved, journalists vs the IDF, it’s real importance lies in the incompatibility of Zionism with the rule of law, and this is why this story should be kept on the front page.

    The gag order in fact is not merely a means to obscure the facts of the case from the public, but ESPECIALLY to DISCOURAGE discussion on this very subject that I just mentioned (Zionism vs the Rule of Law) in order to avoid cracks in the foundation upon which that State of Israel is built, namely Zionism.

    But isn’t cracking this fragile foundation a good thing? How can you build a strong foundation unless you get rid of the existing one that is endangering the entire house? I believe Avrum Burg compared “Zionism” to the scaffolding that was required to build the house that today is no longer necessary. He’s coddling too much. Maintaining the scaffolding does not endanger the house. It’s merely unnecessary, and yet he knows the house is in danger of collapsing, so what he fails to admit is that the danger lies in the foundation and he used the wrong analogy.

    And how do you destroy the old foundation without having the entire house collapse? This is where the settlers and illegal settlements come in. The pillars that will sustain the house while a new foundation is set are these: Remove the settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, give back the territory plundered in 1967, allow for a sovereign, free Palestinian state, and since Palestinians were forced to build those settlements to survive, give those homes to the refugees whose homes were stolen and/or destroyed as compensation for what they lost…this is the minimum.

    If Israelis refuse to do this, that foundation will continue to crumble, the pillars will become non-existent, and the whole house will come crashing down.

    Zionism without justice cemented in the rule of law is a tragedy away from disaster waiting to happen.

    • topdog April 5, 2010, 3:13 PM

      Plundered? The Arabs initiated a war, they lost, and they lost territory with it. Why is 1967 so important to you? You are presumably aware that the Green Line is not and never was a border. Why not get Jordan and Egypt to take some responsibility in this mess?

  • Ilene April 1, 2010, 2:36 PM

    I, for one, am very interested in this story. It illustrates both the lack of a free press and the lack of the rule of law.
    You know you’re looking at a police state when a young reporter has to go into exile in London. It’s a great story that Richard broke.

  • Ilene April 1, 2010, 3:15 PM

    AP just picked up this story and it is in the Washington Post. They cite JTA as breaking this story. You should be ticked Richard.

    link to washingtonpost.com

    • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2010, 9:05 PM

      I AM. Thanks for letting me know. I’ve written to AP asking for a correction. Do you think I’ll get it?

  • topdog April 5, 2010, 3:10 PM

    You whine endlessly then call others whiny. And when anybody challenges your well-meaning but naive world-view, you can’t take it one little bit. Ironic considering you claim to preach tolerance. Your endless “why isn’t anybody taking notice of me” allusions would appear to be easily explained. I assume you’ve heard of Occam’s Razor, as you appear to be the sort of person who is well-schooled, whilst having almost zero common sense or understanding of the situation on the ground.

    • Richard Silverstein April 5, 2010, 9:36 PM

      This is comment #100 in “you’re a whiner” series. But unfortunately the previous 99 comments said virtually the same stupid, snarky irrelevant things that you did. Do you use a script or did all 100 of you come up w. this insightful line of reasoning on yr own??

      You are presumably aware that the Green Line is not and never was a border.

      Here’s what I’m aware of: you’re a right wing Israeli or pro Israel type. Yr arguments haven’t improved since the day you first became a right winger. This one for example: whether you concede it or not or agree or not, the world considers the Green Line an international border or the closest thing to it. You’ll just have to get over all the ridiculous pilpul attempting to deny this fact.

      As for the mess Israel created, you want Egypt or Jordan to fix it for you? Why should they? Is it their perogative to recognize a Palestinian state & end a 4 decade Occupation??

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