I guess this is the way justice works in Israel. A political party and two national newspapers petition to remove a gag order on reporting about possible national security charges against a sitting member of parliament. The judge deigns to go so far as to reveal that there IS an investigation of said individual (which in itself would’ve violated the previous gag order); but then refuses to say anything farther. Here’s the marvelously Orwellian world of Israeli justice:
“Bishara is indeed being investigated regarding various suspicions which he knows about,” wrote Judge Lia Lev-On. “We are in a stage of the investigation which does not permit disclosure, especially given that the suspect did not appear before me and did not ask for anything.
“The rumors and the publication of details in the foreign press and in a language which only part of the population understands cannot serve as a reason to justify disproportionate damage to the investigation and the rights of the suspects, all the more so since we are talking about an extremely sensitive matter.”
Lev-On added that Bishara’s investigation was secret until a month ago and was being carried out carefully and under the supervision of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.
If the suspect HAD appeared before her and asked for her to remove the order would she have ruled differently? C’mon. And the fact that the suspect’s political party appealed to her has no merit?
And I do so love her logic that removing the gag order would damage the “rights of the suspects.” She must be deeply concerned about Bishara’s rights, right?? Notice she said ‘suspects’ and not ‘suspect.’ What can that mean? Are they charging other Balad members as well? That would get interesting.
Bishara has been talking about resigning his Knesset seat. This makes no sense to me unless he somehow is daring the Shin Bet to charge him by removing his parliamentary immunity shield. But if I were him I would retain the shield and make his enemies fight every step of the way to prosecute him. The longer this thing drags out the better it would be for the defense.
AlJazeera provides some illumination on Bishara’s thinking about whether to fight the charges against him:
Bishara…said: “What is the meaning of me spending the coming 10 years proving my innocence to the Israelis?
” … I am sure that all of the charges would fall but the process that you have to go through is what worries me.”
Bishara, who heads the anti-Zionist party Balad, has clashed with Israel’s justice system in the past by making “solidarity” trips to Syria and Lebanon and invoking parliamentary immunity to evade prosecution for visiting “enemy states”.
“I believe that the larger Arab world as a whole is my homeland,” Bishara said. “I am an Arab Palestinian.”
Though I think Bishara is wrong in his thinking since it is critical that he stand and fight to clear his name WITHIN Israel, how can anyone fault him for thinking about the damage this might do to his personal and family life, not to mention his ability to earn a living or do anything for that matter that doesn’t involve defending himself? It’s a hard row to hoe.
The Jerusalem Post story reveals that the gag order is scheduled to end on April 23rd. Let’s wait and see what that date brings.
With every day that goes by and the Israeli and world media refuse to defy the gag order and fully report this story it is a deeper black eye against the standards of good journalism and press freedom. I have written to the NYT’s deputy foreign editor to complain about their silence. Nothing so far from the American Jewish press either. Not even a hostile article. I just don’t understand it.
UPDATE: The AP has finally become the first western news agency to publish anything about this story. It ran in the International Herald Tribune today. About time. Will they make up for lost time by reporting the story as intensively as it warrants?