Shin Bet Climbs Down from Espionage Charges Against Kamm, Said; Stands Firm Against Makhoul (So Far)
Israeli prosecutors are close to offering Anat Kamm a plea deal that would remove the charge of espionage, which carries a possible life sentence. She took military documents while she served as a clerk in a senior IDF commander’s office and passed them to Uri Blau, who used them to write several stories that embarrassed the IDF. One in particular showed that Kamm’s commanding officer specifically violated a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the targeted killing of Palestinian militants if there was a danger of harming civilians or there were other options of apprehending them short of murder. She also passed documents which revealed that the IDF planned a scorched earth attack on Gaza (before Cast Lead began) that would not spare civilians. Though the military censor approved the story Blau wrote about this, it was later disapproved and the article was killed before publication.
Under the plea deal, she would be charged with passing a secret document to an unapproved source. This too is still a very serious charge with a possible 15 year sentence.
Though the Shabak would never concede this, dropping the charge of espionage directly contradicts Yuval Diskin’s repeated claims that Kamm damaged the security of the state and revealed secret information that would be a “wet dream” for any foreign intelligence agency. This represents yet another of many “climb downs” for which Diskin and the Shabak are noted.
They say the Canadian Mounties “always get their man.” The Shabak hardly ever gets their man. They just hold him or her in detention and hope to make a lesser charge stick with varying degrees of success. Chaim Pearlman faced down the secret police and is now free and faces no charges or trial though he is suspected of murdering several Palestinian civilians in his very own personal Jewish settler terror campaign.
Haaretz reports that there is a legal provision under which Kamm would not guilty of any crime at all:
There is also a legal defense enshrined in law for someone who has transferred information to another person without authorization. The law states that if a person has honest intentions and intends to change public policy by legal means, it is not considered a crime.
But the only way for her to test whether a court would apply it to her case is for her to go to trial. She has already served about nine months of house arrest.
In an unrelated security development, Omar Said, once accused along with Ameer Makhoul of engaging in espionage against the State in collaboration with Hezbollah, was released from prison today. He had served five months of a longer sentence which he agreed to when the Shabak offered him a plea on a lesser charge. In his case too, the Shabak dropped the most severe charge of recruiting Israeli Arabs to spy for Hezbollah against Israel. Note that in this case the Shabak didn’t have to prove anything to a court of law since Said copped a plea, which relieved the security agency of having to prove its case.
As Idan Landau writes so powerfully in his Hebrew post on this story, it looks like the mountain (that is, Shabak) gave birth to a mouse. It called Said and Makhoul conspirators in terror, traitors, etc. Headlines blared the charges. Rightists proclaimed all Arabs to be a Fifth Column. What did all amount to? Much of nothing. Or again in Landau’s memorable phrase, the balloon that is Shabak emptied of all its hot air.
Did Said’s alleged crime warrant “disappearing” him for weeks after his arrest from family and attorneys? Giving the Shabak an opportunity to both hold him incommunicado and abuse him? Is this the same dangerous man who served only a third of his original sentence and was let off on “good behavior?”
No, Said fell afoul of a comprehensive campaign by the security service to criminalize Israeli Palestinian nationalism and political activism. That is the true crime. The Shabak’s only problem? Israeli “democracy” hasn’t quite caught up with it and hasn’t yet labelled political activism a crime. That’s why it must dredge up these ridiculous charges, trumpet them before all Israel, and then fold it’s poker-hand quietly later. We should remember, as Landau notes, that no less a figure than Diskin himself broadcast in 2007 his intent to target Israeli Palestinian nationalists even though they had committed no crime. For him, the imaginary crime of “damaging the Jewish democratic character of Israel” would do as grounds for persecution. Clearly, this policy found favor in the eyes of the political echelon, as Diskin has not only not been criticized–on the contrary he has been lionized as a successful intelligence chief.
I am proud of the role playing by this blog and others in breaking the vow of silence imposed by Shabak on this case. They didn’t want any Israeli to know that they’d disappeared Said and Makhoul. It was thanks to us and the efforts of many others that the secret police were forced to concede that they had whisked them away (in Makhoul’s case in the dead of night) from family, friends and community. Together, the blogs and other activists told the world we knew what had happened and would not allow it. Shabak eventually folded on this as well. Or to be more exact, the courts realized the charade and allowed the secret to be exposed.
But justice has not yet been served in the case of Ameer Makhoul. He remains in prison and his next court date is September 16th. Though he has not yet been tried, he has already been imprisoned longer than Said and has fought a running battle with prison authorities demanding that they provide him the same rights criminal suspects are afforded. In Israel, security suspects are provided far fewer rights than criminal suspects. Again, the Shabak has not proved its case against Makhoul and I doubt it ever will if the detainee refuses to plea bargain. Though it appears he can be held almost indefinitely by the security agency by stretching out his trial over a long period.
In case you’re wondering what might make Makhoul a more dangerous man than Said in the eyes of Shabak: the former supports the BDS movement. And we have seen consistently that a government that imagines Iran poses an existential threat to the State can also imagine that BDS does the same. And if Israel is prepared to go to war against Iran, it is certainly willing to wage a slightly less intense form of warfare against figures like Makhoul. The truth is that BDS not only angers the powers that be in Israel, it actually poses, in their eyes, a supreme danger to it. It may be hard for some to believe this, but alas it is true.
Paranoia strikes deep, and into your heart, Israel’s leaders, it will creep.