When the Shin Bet removed the gag order against Anat Kamm recently and released a new indictment, it accused her of harming the security of the State of Israel by stealing documents whose contents would be much sought after by Israel’s enemies. At first, knowing that the basis of her indictment was for documents Uri Blau published in Haaretz which proved that IDF top generals knowingly ignored a Supreme Court ruling which limited targeted killings, I disparaged the Shin Bet’s claim. But the IDF is now putting out word that Kamm also stole sensitive military planning data and strategic documents which, for example, laid out the orders of battle for what would become Operation Cast Lead.
I read that, in fact, Uri Blau prepared an article for Haaretz before the war in which he laid out those orders and battle and explained why they were deeply problematic because they marked a radical departure from usual IDF procedures which attempted to protect enemy civilians during war. The reporter presented the article to the censor, who refused to approve it. This in turn would’ve alerted the IDF that their data had been compromised, The rightist Jerusalem Post is claiming that the IDF changed its tactics because it knew of the “mole.” This type and tone of reporting might do Kamm in in the court of Israeli public opinion by turning her from a whistleblower into a traitor.
But we need to look at this potentially damaging issue entirely differently. Let’s go back to the leak of the Cast Lead orders of battle. After the war, Haaretz did publish an article very similar to the one Blau might’ve published before the war (though it was written by Amos Harel) and it revealed a deeply disturbing perversion of standard IDF procedures. It showed that Gaza became a virtual free fire zone and that anything that moved in many sectors was destroyed, no questions asked. Many believe the changes in IDF strategic and tactical doctrine during the Gaza war amounted to war crimes. This is one of the primary contentions of the Goldstone commission.
Imagine that there was no military censor and Blau HAD published his article before the war. Imagine there could have been a wide public debate about the IDF’s new doctrine. Imagine that public criticism could’ve moderated such plans and lessened the death toll among Gazan civilians, 1,100 of whom were killed in the 2008 war. Viewed this way, Blau’s and Kamm’s acts are not espionage or treason or damaging to the State. On the contrary, they contribute vastly to the public good by revealing potential violations of international law before they happen, thus allowing Israel to turn away from danger.
On a related matter, Kamm did not leak these documents to “the enemy” as the government seeks to claim. She leaked them to an Israeli reporter and they didn’t damage Israel’s security because they weren’t published. So in effect, if you accept military censorship which I don’t, the system worked and the censor prevented a supposedly damaging document from being leaked in such a way that it might have betrayed Israeli tactics during a war.
Note: I’ve changed my spelling of Anat Kamm (from “Kam” as I originally spelled it) due to the fact that her e-mail address displays her name that way, which indicates that this is how she prefers it in English.