To my great delight, Israeli bloggers, unlike their journalistic counterparts, are defying the Shin Bet’s gag order on reporting the secret arrest of Ameer Makhoul, director of the Israeli Palestinian human rights NGO, Ittijah. Kol hakavod to friends and allies Uri Breitman, Yossi Gurvitz, Idan Landau for their bravery in the face of the machinery of the secret police. Now, if only the Israeli mainstream media would follow suit. But it will be just like Anat Kamm. It will take days for the satirists will begin whispering word of the event with oblique jokes and derision directed at the Shin Bet for prohibiting Israelis from knowing what half the rest of the world already knows.
I particularly liked Uri’s blog post which satirically claims that the Shin Bet’s is Google’s best friend since whenever it bans someone as it did Kamm and Makhoul, it sends every Israeli to Google to find out what’s going on. Breitman, with savage wit, predicts that in time there will no longer be any need for Israeli newspapers or TV news at all, since Israelis will turn en masse to Google to find out what’s going on inside their country, whether the news be secret or otherwise. I await an attempt by the security apparatus to do a China and begin censoring Google results from Israeli searches. Could it come to that?
Gurvitz speculates why Makhoul may’ve run afoul of the security services. This past Wednesday, Makhoul announced his support for the campaign to boycott Israeli products from the settlements. He notes that former IDF spokesperson and current Knesset member Nachman Shai claims that such support for boycott coming from Israeli Palestinians raises doubts about their loyalty to the State. If true, what this means is that the Israeli secret police have decided that even legal means of democratic protest should be criminalized. There is not yet a law in Israel forbidding citizens from boycotting settler products. Yet it appears the Shin Bet is establishing such a ruling for Palestinian citizens of the State. Which means that the agency is in effect creating pro forma laws for Arabs and thereby bypassing the Knesset.
And as it did with the Anat Kamm story, Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Arabic service is first among mainstream media to break the gag and report the story (in Arabic). The Shin Bet seems much less threatened by reporting in Arabic or English than it is by reporting in Hebrew.
One effective way of fighting the Kamm gag was through Facebook, since so many Israelis use it to communicate with each other in normal circumstances. That’s why I’ve created a Free Ameer Makhoul Facebook group (there is also a separate Arabic-language group). Please consider joining and tell those you know about it.
And tell the foreign press in Israel to get off their tushes and do their job. Yes, their licenses may be placed in jeopardy. But do you want to continue being scooped by bloggers on stories like this? Do you want to acquiesce in the security services running roughshod over not just Israeli citizens but the foreign press and its right to report the news?