In a plea bargain that could serve as a precursor for what might be in store for Julian Assange should he ever be extradited to the U.S., Anat Kamm agreed to a plea deal with Israeli authorities by which she agrees to plead guilty to leaking top secret IDF documents to Haaretz journalist, Uri Blau. Her maximum sentence could be 15 years under these charges, though the prosecution has agree to nine years.
Under the original charges of damaging national security, she could’ve received a life sentence. Like Ameer Makhoul, who also received a nine-year sentence in a security case, Kamm clearly foresaw her own conviction and the possibility of spending decades behind bars. The difference between justice in Israel and the U.S. is that Daniel Ellsberg fought and won against similar charges levelled against him by our government. Kamm knew she hardly had a chance. As I’ve written here, if you’re a security detainee your odds are 1000 to 1 (or better) for conviction. Do you roll the dice with the conviction that you’ll be that 1 in 1,000? Or do you play the odds and plead out?
Kamm leaked 2,000 army documents about targeted assassination operations that violated Israeli Supreme Court rulings. She also revealed documents which pointed to the scorched earth policy followed by the IDF senior command during Operation Cast Lead. She has said that she was motivated to do what she did because she suspected her commander, Yair Naveh, recently promoted to deputy IDF chief of staff, and other officers were guilty of war crimes. There are numerous examples of IDF officers and politicians leaking top-secret documents to the Israeli media and facing no punishment. In cases where IDF soldiers have done so penalties have amounted to being confined to base for 30 days. In one case, someone received a two-year jail sentence. So Kamm is being singled out for blowing the whistle on IDF top brass and their participation in potential war crimes. That’s the sole reason why she now passes with her personal liberty.
This puts Kamm in the category of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning as a world-class whistleblower. That she will spend nine years in an Israeli prison as a figure reviled by many Israelis as a traitor gives a clear indication of the skin-deep nature of Israeli democracy. In the U.S., Daniel Ellsberg is a hero to many who champion civil liberties and freedom of the press. In Israel, Ellsberg would’ve gone to prison.
Anat Kamm deserves to be an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. And she deserves the support of all who support the principles of Ellsberg, Assange and Manning. Israel and the Shabak deserve opprobrium for putting her behind bars for years.
Recently, in a panel discussion moderated by Israeli journalists, Yuval Diskin had this to say about Kamm, Uri Blau and the relationship between the media and the secret police:
“My organization supports press freedom and the public right to know. The work the press does in a democratic country has existential importance and is no less important than the work done by the security service and the intelligence community. But I expect that the press will respect the the work of the security services and act responsibly when dealing with material of this sort.”
Diskin revealed that one of the prime motivating factors in investigating Blau was because he and his editors displayed an actual top-secret IDF document in the story they published about the targeted assassinations. He seemed to imply that this act crossed a red line. Which accords with my own criticism of Haaretz editors at the time, since it’s widely understood that Shabak agents used the published images of the documents to trace them back to Kamm herself.
What doesn’t pass the smell test though is Diskin’s claim that pursuit of Blau was not an act of revenge. Of course it was. Blau is probably the best investigative reporter inside Israel. One who consistently unearthed dirt that bloodied the noses of the IDF brass and secret police. Getting Blau had to priority number 1 for someone like Diskin. And Diskin’s words of warning at this press symposium were deliberately meant to lay down the law to the press and tell them they’d better be good little boys and girls or end up like Kamm and Blau.
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.