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.