I’ve found a terrific Israeli blog resource with more interesting, informed speculation about the strange, mysterious case of Azmi Bishara, the leading Israeli Arab politician who has been secretly charged with an unknown crime and apparently told to stay out of the country and resign his Knesset seat. Rehavia Berman, an Israeli journalist, writes in Ignore the Gag Order (great title!):
There are two kinds of espionage that are grave enough to trump parliamentary immunity. One is disclosing information, and the other is being an “agent of influence”. I find it hard to believe that Azmi Bishara has access to any sensitive information, and therefore we’re left with his being an agent of influence. If the proof for this is things Bishara has said or even done (such as participating in a demonstration, etc) that falls too close to the realm of legitimate activity in the course of his duty. The Supreme Court has already decided that for us. If the charge is agent of influence, we’re talking money. As in, he took it from someone.
As I have already mentioned (over at my Hebrew blog), I can definitely see Bishara pocketing money, (for himself or even for his party, without proper disclosure) from the Assad regime or any other foreign source that in the scheme of things would need disclosure. Definitely see it. The man is constantly checking to see how far he can go, and I find him to lack all vestiges of integrity.He could definitely persuade himself, I think, of some bullshit story to explain why it’s ok. So our heroic secret dudes may actually have a legitimate and well-founded case against Bishara, but this uber-secretive comportment a) severely damages the credibility of any such case, and b) is simply not allowed even if the case is more airtight than a hazmat suit and includes video of Bishara getting stacks of cash, mountains of blow and gaggles of ho’s doing the dance of seven veils from a Syrian intelligence officer.
I read a story in the Israeli media today saying that Israeli investigators have focussed on the funding Balad used in the last election attempting to uncover something “dirty” about it. If Rehavia’s theory above turns out to be correct then the story will prove prescient. But again, why impose a gag order if all you’re trying to do is prove a pol is dirty? It makes no sense unless you’re trying to protect your own intelligence sources which provided the “proof.”
Rehavia and I are completely on the same page in this affair. Bishara may espouse views I don’t share about Israel and Zionism. He may be an egomaniac. But that has nothing to do with whether a sitting Knesset member should be treated as a common criminal. It has nothing to do with whether even a guilty man (and Bishara is by means proven guilty of anything) has rights in a supposedly democratic society.
Berman adds further speculation on what charges may be pending:
Someone at my Hebrew blog claims to know that Bishara is suspected of handing “highly sensitive” information to foreign Arab countries he visited. I tried to think what Bishara – who despite being a MK has virtually NO security clearance – could possibly know, and Knesset security is the only thing I came up with.
Berman beseeches his journalistic colleagues to gird their courage and do the right thing by defying the gag order:
So I repeat again, dear colleagues, let’s not end up like the disgracefully complicit American media, which is just now beginning to wonder why the hell it was snoozing when the war in Iraq was happening. Sometimes, the most patriotic thing to do is to refuse to cooperate with certain orders from the authorities. This gag order is a frontal assault on what’s left of Israeli democracy. It can’t work without our cooperation.
Any journalist and any citizen who know pertinent details – what Bishara is charged with, is it certain that he will be arrested if he returns to Israel (relevant party at the PM’s office refuses to answer this question) and the general nature of the evidence – must publish the details at once, in order to prevent grave damage to our democracy, at the hands of those who ludicrously see themselves as its guardians. You can also send me the info and I’ll post it here.
Kol Ha-kavod to Berman. Defy the gag order! Defy the Shin Bet! Honor democracy. Don’t allow them to railroad someone merely because he espouses unpopular political views. Make them prove their case in the clear light of day. Don’t let them hide behind secret charges and tribunals.
These journalists should remember the brave example of the NY Times which defied the Nixon Administration and published the Pentagon Papers despite the danger it posed the newspaper. Moxie is called for in this case.
When the heads of Shas were investigated, it was the Ashkenazi establishment oppressing the Sephardim. When the heads of Likud were investigated, it was the left wing establishment oppressing the right. Now its some sort of nefarious plot to oppress Arabs, rather than an investigation against an Arab MK visiting Israel’s enemies and doing who knows what. In a country where several prime ministers, treasury, justice ministeres, MKs and the president have been investigated, charged and some have been found guilty, it’s hard to say that Bishara is being singled out because he is Arab. All these investigations usually have gag orders. To this the public does not knows who the accuser of Haim Ramon is. The trial was held behind closed doors. What security considerations could be behind a kiss. The public has no way of making their opinion about why their justice minister was ousted. This is not good, but it certainly is not unique to the Bishara case. Anyway, it is easy to understand why a gag order is implemented while evidence is being collected and a case is being made. You are very anxious for Bishara to come back and fight this. Perhaps he knows more than you do about what he did. Time will tell.
Richard Silverstein says
With Israel’s “vendetta style” of politics there often is an element of grudge-match vengeance in these investigations, not to mention the actual possibility of real corruption.
There is a very simple way to uncover the mystery here: remove the gag order & let the world know what the charges are. Until the Shabak does this they have only themselves to blame for the air of conspiracy & nefariousness that hangs over this affair like a pall.
I don’t have the source handy offhand but I read yesterday that EVERY Arab Knesset member has been questioned by the Israeli police for one possible infraction or another during the current Knesset. You’d have to forgive them for getting the impression that there WAS a nefarious plot against them. When every member of Kadima, Labor or Likud is investigated similarly then I’ll believe there is no special discrimination against Arab pols.
Protecting the identity of a female accuser in a sexual harrassment suit is not a blanket gag order. Everyone knew what the charges against Ramon were. He and Katsav have both spoken during legal proceedings. The press reported almost everything about the case freely except the accuser’s ID. Bishara’s case is a different order of magnitude & you know it.
Herbert Kaine says
What evidence is there of a gag order? Bishara has never been afraid of the Israelis, and would not be afraid to violate a gag order even if he were still in Israel. Now that he is out of Israel, he should be even more free to violate the gag order. The fact that he hasnt already done so brings into question whether a gag order exists. A more likely scenario is that he faces jail time for something that he might have difficulty fighting in court, and Israel let him flee the country
Richard Silverstein says
Ynetnews & JPost revealed that there is a gag order despite the fact that the gag order itself prohibited the media fr. even reporting that there was one! Just do a Google News search for Pete’s sake & you’ll find it.
Part of the reason he is not free to speak outside Israel is that he is subject to the ground rules imposed by whoever his host might be. In Jordan, the government refused to allow him to have a press conference & sent him packing. If he’s going into exile, he needs to find a host who will have him. If the Israeli gov’t has told all the countries to which Bishara might flee that it would view his jabbering away in public as a hostile act, then those governments have to take this seriously even if they decide to reject Israel’s wishes.
Herbert Kaine says
Bishara has never lacked the courage to flout Israeli law, so the gag order excuse seems a tad weak. Bishara could come to any number of countries, ie UK, France, Bahrain, and say whatever he wants. The editorial by Berman has the whiff of truth to it, that money came to the Balad party from an unkosher source, ie Syria or Iran. If Bishara wanted to talk about it, he would. The fact that Bishara is not open about it suggests to me that Shin Bet has some real goods on him. Anyhow, Bishara’ vision of dezionization would prompt a large Jewish migration from Israel, just as Christians have been forced to migrate from Muslim countries where they were once numerous, ie Turkey, Syria, and Egypt. This is Bishara’s real vision, and he is getting few takers among Jews.
Richard Silverstein says
Ridiculous and unfounded supposition.
Again ridiculous. Bishara accepts Israel’s existence. He just doesn’t accept Jewish domination of the state. He isn’t in favor of driving Jews away as Lieberman is in favor of driving Israeli Arabs out. He wants equality, not dominance. Unfortunately, you and Israeli rightists confuse the two just as southern whites confused integration with Black supremacy during the 1960s. White fearmongering didn’t work then & rightist fearmongering won’t work now.