Today may mark a milestone in this blog’s history–or at least a mini-milestone. Before I identified Yitzhak Ilan as the director-designee of the Shabak recently, I wrote to two Israeli reporters seeking more background information on Ilan. No one replied possibly for the reason that Ilan’s name was verboten for public consumption in Israel. But one of my correspondents did reply in a different form.
Yossi Melman, Haaretz’s security correspondent, wrote this passage today about my work in uncovering some of the secrets locked up tight in the impregnable Fortress Shabak-Mossad:
Land of Secrets
The American blogger Richard Silverstein has transformed himself into a veritable international message board of information which military censorship and Israeli courts forbid publishing. In the past, he reported on the Anat Kamm case while Israeli authorities gagged the mouths of Israel’s media.
Currently Silverstein, who calls his blog, Tikun Olam, claims he knows the identity of Y., deputy director of the Shabak, and even published it. According to him, the prime minister decided that Y. would replace Yuval Diskin when the latter’s term as director ends in May 2011. Silverstein is fed by information that comes to him from Israelis. In his reports, there is usually a grain of truth, if a few speculations as well.
There is great doubt whether the prime minister has already decided who will be the next Shin Bet chief and whether that person will come from within the service. Nevertheless, Silverstein’s blog is important because he exposes the security services and the courts in all their nakedness. They use the instruments of the 20th century to protect secrets which aren’t really secrets in the age of 21st century technology. In the past, it was permitted to publish the names of senior Shabak officials once they were identified abroad, but in this nation of miracles called Israel, a stranger place than the imaginary world of Alice, you can’t do that according to the laws that apply to Shabak, which forbid publishing the names of its officers even if they’ve already been published [abroad].
In this, I can hear the frustration of an Israeli journalist who wants to do his job, but who is prevented from doing so by the iron hand of both military censorship and the Shabak itself. One has to keep that in mind when one is tempted to tear into Israeli journalism itself for its timidity in the face of such restrictions. It’s a complicated issue.
There are literally scores of pro-Israelist naysayers and doubters lined up in the comment threads to pooh-pooh the post I wrote about Ilan’s imminent appointment. Yossi Melman has other ideas. And we shall see who’s right.
At any rate, it is very sweet to be validated by a veteran Israeli reporter like Melman.
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.