Not much seems to be happening lately regarding the Shin Bet’s prosecution/persecution by public vendetta of Azmi Bishara. But there have been a few interesting pieces in the news about it. Israeli TV journalist, Amnon Levy, publishes a highly skeptical piece at Ynetnews, Don’t Believe the Shin Bet:
To tell you the truth, I wanted to write about the Bishara affair for quite some time, to say that I feel there’s something wrong with the whole deal; I don’t believe the Shin Bet, and I believe that a red line has been crossed in our relationship with elected Arab officials.
I wanted to say all this, but I was afraid, because how would I know? Did I see the classified information? Did I hear the information revealed through phone-tapping? Do I know exactly what they found out there?
They are talking about Bishara receiving money in exchange for classified defense information handed over to Hizbullah during wartime. If that’s true, that’s very grave…
I decided to overcome the fear and write. For too long we have allowed what is referred to as “classified security considerations” to scare us. Too often the public debate had been silenced because of secret evidence that nobody saw, but security officials who waved it in our faces promised that it included clear-cut proof of a grave offence.
…The time has come to overcome the fear and say what appeared quite clear from the start: I do not believe that Bishara handed over intelligence information to the enemy.
First of all, in order to hand over intelligence information, the traitor must possess such information. Does anyone believe Bishara knew something that was not published in the press? Does anyone think that any security official ever handed him sensitive information? That he has access to such information? After all, to this day Arab political representatives are kept away from any location that has sensitive information.
…[Interpreting] such talks [between Bishara and Lebanese journalists] as treason is…very dangerous…Arab Knesset members serve as a very important and authentic mouthpiece for their constituents in the Knesset. It may be unpleasant to hear their words, but it’s necessary. In the framework of their job, they represent the constituency that elected them not only before the State of Israel’s institutions, but also in the world, and particularly in the Arab world. This is their role. They were elected for that purpose. This is how it works in a democracy.
Azmi Bishara was the most fluent and challenging Arab-Israeli spokesperson in recent years. Silencing him and making him run away from Israel not only constitutes the crossing of a red line – it is also an idiotic act: There is an attempt here to make the difficult political and ideological argument with Bishara shallower, and bring it back to a security argument like we used to have when Israeli-Arab communities were under a military administration.
Instead of facing him at the Knesset, security officials brought the argument back to the interrogation cells. And so, we reverted to the classic role played by Arab-Israelis: Not partners for dialogue, but rather, mere enemies. Not partners, but rather, mere traitors. Not people that should be convinced, but rather, mere Arabs that must be imprisoned.
On a parallel track, Bishara published his first interview with an Israeli Jewish publication (also Ynetnews) and confirmed much of what Levy supposed:
Former MK Azmi Bishara mocked the treason allegations against him in his first interview with the Israeli press since his abrupt departure from the country in April…
“What intelligence information could I have? If anything, Hizbullah could sell me information,” Bishara said.
Bishara refuted claims of his suspected role in directing Hizbullah rockets during the Second Lebanon War.
“In the conversation that they recorded, I said, ‘How come the rockets are falling on Arab villages? We understand that as far as Hizbullah is concerned, it is targeting Haifa, so why fire at Arab villages, what’s going on here?’ That was the daily small talk every single Arab had at the time. That’s what they call handing Hizbullah information?”
Bishara also said that he did not leak any sensitive information that was not already circulating.
“If I tell a friend, a Lebanese reporter, ‘Listen, there are rumors that some sort of operation by Hizbullah was foiled during the war. All the journalists are saying it, they just haven’t published it yet.’ Is that disclosing information? Shin Bet views the Lebanese reporters I spoke to as foreign agents.
“Should I fear that the Shin Bet is watching me? I know it’s watching me. If I’m afraid of anything, it’s the atmosphere of incitement against me, which could cause people to act. I’m not afraid that Israel, as an institution, would dare to assassinate anyone. That’s not the situation today.”