Avner Cohen brought me news that Ron Kampeas broke the Anat Kam story today in JTA for the mainstream Jewish media. Kol ha-kavod to him. And thanks also for his tip of the hat acknowledgement of my contribution to the story.
Ron does provide some “value-added” reporting noting that Kam faces up to 16 years in prison for her alleged role in leaking top secret IDF memos to Haaretz. Those memos proved that the army was ignoring a major Israeli Supreme Court ruling that prohibited targeted assassinations except under certain limited conditions. I’ve been told by an Israeli who spoke to her that her attorneys are hoping that she can cop a plea for no jail time.
Which leads me to ask how can someone spilling such important IDF beans ever hope to get no jail time? I speculate (emphasis on the word “speculate”) that she may be offering, or the IDF/Shin Bet/Attorney General may be seeking to use her to fry a much bigger fish: the Haaretz reporter to whom she leaked the memos, Uri Blau.
I’ve been mystified how the Haaretz story passed military censorship, given that it included physical reproductions of the two secret memos. I’ve never heard of the IDF allowing such material published before this. There has to be a reason we’re not aware of that the IDF felt compelled to allow this through censorship. At any rate, after allowing it to be published it would seem to me that Uri Blau would have to have a target on his back as far as the IDF and Shin Bet was concerned.
Today, brings an unconfirmed (by me) report via a knowledgeable journalistic source that Uri Blau has left Israel. [UPDATE: I have heard several somewhat conflicting reports about this. One says that left Israel in December (the same month Kam was arrested) on a trip to China with his girlfriend. Another report says that he was on an extended honeymoon. His Facebook page says that he’ll be returning to Israel today.] Again, one can only speculate why, but we should have a pretty good idea. It’s the same reason that Azmi Bishara left Israel before he was charged by the Shin Bet with the equivalent of treason. Blau would not have left the country unless he had a strong conviction that the Shin Bet and police were about to either arrest him or charge him in the case. He knew what they’d done to Kam by secretly arresting her and slapping an infinite regress gag order preventing publication about her detention and the reasons for it. He chose to leave rather than face prison for merely doing his job. As in the Bishara case, if Blau did leave the country one might ask why the Shin Bet allowed him to do so? I suspect it would’ve faced a massive firestorm of protest from the few Israeli democrats remaining inside the country.
My only hope, and one first offered to me by Avner Cohen, who’s experienced some of the same harassment by the intelligence services, is that disclosure of this sorry mess by Ron Kampeas will force the security services to back off. That’s the reason I have reported this story myself. I only hope that what Kampeas and I have done, and hopefully the follow-up reporting by the thus-far spineless Israeli and foreign press corps, will stop this thing before it turns into a real mess and stain on Israeli democracy.
Keep in mind that Walla until recently was owned by Haaretz. I’m sorry to raise such cynical speculation but it may be warranted. Can it be an accident that Kam leaked the memos to Haaretz during her military service and that after she left the army she went to work for a Haaretz subsidiary? Instead of a do-gooder whistleblower, might we have a mole seeking to build a career for herself as a journalist? I’m not dismissing the chance that there was some moral motivation in her actions. But given that she wrote a disparaging Walla piece about Israeli conscientious objectors, one wonders how strong that motivation might’ve been.
Another interesting matter: one Israeli source said that Kam, after her arrest was suspended without pay. A different source tells me that Kam was actually fired. If you were a Haaretz or Walla editor would you suspend or fire a journalist who’d been arrested for leaking documents to one of your reporters? It doesn’t make sense if you value whistleblowers and hope to have any turn to your reporters in the future. I’m guessing that there was some major parting of the ways involving the legal manuvering in this case, that caused Walla to dump her.
The fact that a source told me that Kam has blamed Haaretz for ‘outing’ her is yet another indication that all is not well between these two parties.
Finally, Kampeas quotes Haaretz’s editor denying any connection between Kam and the IDF memo story:
Dof Alfon, the editor in chief of Haaretz, said the linkage between Kam’s arrest and the 2008 article, made in a number of blogs, is “absurd.” He implied that the investigative reporter, Uri Blau, had obtained the information without assistance from Kam.
I hesitate to say this since so much of this story is based on rumor and speculation, but Alfon’s denial doesn’t seem credible.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.