Before I get to the subject of this post I wanted to make a pitch for you to support this blog. The Anat Kam case is the first time this blog has broken a major story concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I’m damn proud of it and all the readers and other sources who contributed to it. You understand that Tikun Olam plays an important role in monitoring not only the Israeli media, but also serving as a watchdog over those who would trample over Israeli democracy and Palestinian rights. You also know we play a role in advocating an assertive engagement by the U.S. government in the peacemaking process. Imagine what it would be like if blogs like this one didn’t exist.
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The Israeli gag order in the Anat Kam is slowly being broken down by reporting from outside Israel. After this blog broke the story, JTA followed suit. Then the Arab service of the Israel Broadcasting Authority picked up on the JTA piece. Today, Donald McIntyre, The Independent’s Israel correspondent wrote a report. This is an especially important development, as he is the first Israel-based reporter to publish a story in an overseas publication. It may embolden the Israeli press to finally break the gag.
Astonishingly so far, the gag seems to be holding despite the holes in the dike I’ve pointed out above. On April 12th, there will be an appeal hearing brought by Haaretz and Channel 10 before the court which approved the original gag orders. If we can get enough reporting published in other places before then, the court will have to lift the gag order. Anat Kam’s trial is scheduled to begin on April 14th if she doesn’t cop a plea before then.
I am working with a publication similar to The Independent to publish a news story and possibly a commentary on the case in the coming days. Perhaps with a few more cuts like these, this ogre will die a death by a thousand such journalistic paper cuts.
I wrote yesterday that Uri Blau, who allegedly wrote stories for Haaretz based on the top-secret IDF documents leaked to him by Anat Kam, was scheduled to return yesterday to Israel from a long trip/honeymoon to China that coincidentally began in December, the month Kam was secretly arrested. A journalistic source tells me that Blau did not return to Israel and that he is in a western country I’d prefer not to name at this time.
After consulting another journalistic source, I feel strongly that there is no coincidence in Blau’s departure from Israel at the same time Kam was arrested. Just as it is no accident that Blau has elected not to return to Israel. Not only would Blau be liable to prosecution if he returns, I have a strong hunch that the negotiations between Kam’s attorneys and the attorney general may involve her getting no jail time in return for testifying against Blau. I repeat that I do not know this for a fact and cannot document this. If I am wrong, I will be delighted. If I am not, I will feel sad to have two parties who collaborated in a righteous cause be driven to battling over who gets to go to prison for 10 or 20 years for their actions.
This case is extraordinarily important for many reasons, and it seems to me that neither the Israeli press nor the overseas press has paid proper attention to it. Everyone no doubt has a reason and can defend or explain why they couldn’t do anything. Which only adds to the shame. The story is significant not just because it vividly confirms the disdain felt by the IDF toward the Israeli Supreme Court and the rule of law; and not just because it illuminates the absolute power the Israeli intelligence services have virtually to disappear citizens, and this in an alleged western-style democracy; but it is especially important because of the bitterly hostile political environment in Israel right now toward human rights and democratic values. For those of you who remember personally or learned about the McCarthy era in school, Israel is closer to this dark age than any time in my lifetime.
I read on another blog that Israel today has the type of government, adhering to the type of policies that Dick Cheney would’ve imposed here if he could have. Think of Dick Cheney ruling an incipient police state. That’s what Israel resembles more and more. No, it hasn’t quite come to that yet. There are brave democratic forces fighting back like those in Sheikh Jarrah, like Naomi Chazan and the New Israel Fund. There are journalists like Gideon Levy and others fighting the good fight. But they are no match for the overweening force of the national security state.
My friend and ally Avner Cohen told me when this story was breaking that the case is larger than what was known at that time. I didn’t know what he meant but now perhaps I have a better idea (though I still don’t know all and have no idea whether this was what Avner was referring to). A source who spoke with someone well-placed, claims that Anat Kam didn’t take just the two documents that were displayed in the 2008 Haaretz report. In fact, she may’ve taken as many as 1,000 documents. If this is true, then it explains why the original story might’ve passed military censorship (a development I found astonishing considering that it allowed the Israeli public to view highly damaging top secret IDF documents in the public newspaper). The censor might have negotiated with Haaretz to allow this report to be published in return for embargoing any other future stories related to the other documents.
This might also explain why the military is very eager to get Uri Blau. It must make an example of an Israeli journalist who has violated the code of secrecy that envelops the IDF and its security operations like targeted assassination. It must do so for the sake of any other future journalist who considers getting out of line as Blau did.
Finally, I want to concede that I am no Seymour Hersh. I do not have well-placed sources in every corner of Israel nor do I have a staff who can vet every piece of information I learn for accuracy. But I hear what I hear and know what I know. Considering the shroud of secrecy both Anat Kam, the Shin Bet and IDF have dropped over this incident, I think we’re doing a pretty good job. I know I haven’t gotten everything right. But when the gag order is dropped and sources begin to speak more freely, I’d be willing to bet that you and I are doing to be damn proud of the reporting on this story.
In the meantime, let’s do what we can to slay the beast of opacity, secrecy and the national security state.
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