Yesterday, I reported that Haaretz journalist Uri Blau is in self-imposed exile as a likely result of his publishing top secret IDF documents allegedly provided to him by Anat Kam. Today, another reporter I was speaking to noticed that Blau has been publishing reports for Haaretz with a London dateline. Though that is not the country a different source identified as where Blau now resides. Wherever he is, we do know that he is a reporter in exile from his own country’s intelligence apparatus which appears to want to prosecute him for doing what good journalists do in virtually every democratic nation.
Blau left in December for a trip to Hong Kong with his girl friend. An informant tells me that while there the authorities seized his computer (apparently after arresting Anat Kam) seeking evidence of involvement with her. This may’ve been what caused him not to return.
When I began writing about this story I thought I was writing about a young do-gooder who leaked secret documents about IDF misbehavior out of a sense of duty to her country and its democratic values. Now, I think this may be a story about an intelligence apparatus run amok who wants to criminalize the practice of journalism when it afflicts the military/intelligence elite. It is bad enough that the Shin Bet secretly arrested Anat Kam and held her incommunicado for as long as it did. But in the effort to take down Uri Blau we may have an even more disturbing story.
If anyone ever wants to understand the problem with a country not having a constitution with enumerated rights, this case illustrates it perfectly. Israel has no freedom of the press in the sense that we do. Journalists are not a protected class. That’s why there can be military censorship (which operates under some supposed constraints established by the Supreme Court). That’s why they can go after Uri Blau. That is not to say that the Israeli press are docile and obsequious. They can be quite probing. But the fact that no Israeli publication has broken the Anat Kam gag order, despite the fact that The Independent’s Israel-based correspondent, Donald McIntyre, bravely reported this story yesterday, indicates how cowed the Israeli press can be regarding national security matters.
I remain concerned about the role that Anat Kam may be asked to play in this. I fear that she is the little fish that the authorities will attempt to use to catch the big fish.
In a comment earlier today, Shraga Elam speculates that one of the things the police may wish to question Blau about is whether he actively encouraged Kam to steal the IDF documents. My source tells me that Kam stole the documents without having any immediate media outlet for them. It was only after she had the documents that she coordinated an arrangement with Blau. Apparently, the two had already known each other before this incident occurred though I don’t know under what circumstance.
While I see Anat Kam as an individual having mixed motives, I am more sympathetic when I read how she is being trashed in the far-right Israeli online community. At the right-wing internet forum, Rotter, phrases used to describe her were “spy,” “traitor,” “lock her up and throw away the key,” “to prison like Vanunu.” It seems that extreme Israeli nationalism is ascendant and nothing can stand in its path in the current political climate.