Yesterday, I wrote a somewhat uncharitable post asking people to vote in the Brass Crescent competition for Best Non-Muslim blog. I recommended voting for several blogs and not voting for one in particular. While I don’t take back what I wrote about Lisa Goldman or her blog, I feel chastened by the fact that the Israeli press today revealed that she and two other journalists are being investigated by the Israeli police for reporting from Lebanon. Why should that be you might rightly ask? What’s wrong with Lebanon? Well, it appears that in the twisted minds of some Israeli right-wing politicians and police officials Lebanon is an enemy state and those who visit it are betraying the State in some vague way.
Lisa is one of those journalists. She reported from Lebanon twice for Channel 10. I want to make clear that whatever quarrels I have had with her, I support her right to report from Lebanon and excoriate the Israeli police for attempting to criminalize the profession of journalism. Goldman and the other two reporters were doing what any good reporter would do–finding a good story and telling your audience about it. Lebanon is Israel’s neighbor and therefore an important journalistic story. Israel fought a war against Lebanon in 2006. It is now in the midst of social and political upheaval that could have a great impact on the prospects for peace with Israel. It’s only natural that Israeli reporters go there. Israelis want to know about Lebanon–why shouldn’t they go?
The fact that the Israeli police want to prevent such associations indicates how much certain political echelons within Israel fear rapprochement with Israel’s Arab neighbors. Based on this statement I’m convinced that right-wing politicians leaked reports of the investigation:
Lisa Goldman confirmed…that she had been interrogated a month ago, but expressed great surprise that details of the investigation had emerged, given that the police had told her not to discuss it.
“I have no idea who leaked this story,” she said. “I was completely flabbergasted when an Israeli reporter telephoned me today to inform me that the investigation had been announced…I have no idea who leaked it and very surprised that it’s now been released. The police told me not to discuss the interrogation and I didn’t. Therefore I am very surprised that the matter is now being exposed in the media.”
I did find one aspect of Lisa’s comments about her experience odd though. First, she says she did not realize visiting Lebanon was against the law. She went there on behalf of one of Israel’s main TV stations and no one there realized she was committing a potentially illegal act? I’d feel a whole lot better if she and her bosses HAD realized the legal implications and deliberately decided to go anyway and dared the police to charge them. That’s the sort of thing Uri Avnery and Abie Natan used to do all the time. That was gutsy journalism.
Lisa, on the other hand, told Haaretz that she would never have gone if she’d known it was against the law. That’s one of the problems I have with Lisa as a political blogger. I wish she would’ve said instead if she’d realized it was against the law then “hell yes I would’ve gone anyway.” Instead she seems to be toeing a party line. Now, it could be she was directed by attorneys to respond in this way. In which case she may not feel free to speak her mind. But I’d guess that she was speaking her own mind in trying to “walk back the dog” and say she wouldn’t have gone.
In closing, I wish Lisa well in this fight and we should all be there to back her up. If Israel is a real democracy it should not criminalize the reporting of the news.
Lisa Goldman’s trip happened a long time ago so I think it’s quite odd that the police are just investigating her now.
I think it’s also worth noting that Lisa’s trip to Lebanon caused a major stir and a great deal of outrage in the Lebanon because Lebanese law forbids Lebanese from having any sort of contact with an Israeli whatsoever. Lisa was heavily vilified in the Lebanese media, even papers like the Daily Star published vicious and misleading stories about her. When it comes to preventing people to people contacts I’m afraid the Arabs have Israel beat.
Hunh – very strange for several reasons.
1) Israeli government is ALWAYS asking Lebanese, usually Christians and usually right-wing, to visit Israel. There was a Lebanese blogger in the past year who went to Israel, got quoted “anonymously” in the Israeli press, and was very quickly found out – all you had to do was google a phrase and you went right to his blog,, written under his real name. (Dumb IMHO). In 1982 a close relative of mine was invited by the Israeli occupying army in 1982 to tour Israel and give his opinions to their “experts” (he declined).
2) Lebanese who go to Israel and are found out are supposed to get into terrible trouble. It’s against Lebanese law to even email Israelis. My mother, an American who also possessed a Lebanese passport, was teaching at the American U. of Beirut in the 1990s when she made contact with Israeli peaceniks by email. She was warned by her department chair to cut it out or lose her job. She was also told that if she did attend a big professional conference in her field to be held in Israel, she would lose her job. “Lebanon is at war with Israel, and you are teaching at a university in Lebanon. You may not go there under any circumstances, even as part of resisting Israeli occupation.”
I always thought this Lebanese horror of any contact with Israelis was counterproductive. Hey, if they’re your enemies, don’t you at least want to find out a little something about them? Now it seems that the Israeli government, when it suits its own purposes, enforces the same kinds of laws against its citizens. But when it doesn’t suit, of course they let in Lebanese and wine them and dine them, cozying up for whatever reasons, and use them for propaganda purposes in the Israeli press.
Let’s face it, none of these countries are devoted to a free press. (and how devoted is our American government to same?)
Richard Silverstein says
Yes, it is all a very silly, cynical game.
In fact, this is what Zvi Solow, a professor at Ben Gurion University wrote me about his take on this incident which he thought was much ado about nothing & stirred up by some mid-level police operative: