Some in the Israeli media, legal and intelligence communities are trying to make Tikun Olam the blog that dare not speak its name inside Israel.
A bunch of nonsense has been published lately in Israeli media and blogs about the Yoav Even case and my breaking of the gag. But an article that just came out in The Marker, Haaretz’s business publication, really takes the cake. The reporters are shocked, I say shocked that when you insert Yoav Even’s name into a Google search the terms “rapist,” and “detained” display. The odd thing is that I did precisely what the reporters did and I didn’t get any results even close to theirs. No mentions at all of the word “rapist” or “detained.” Just references to his work at Channel 2 and the like.
And if you insert the name of another media personality accused of rape five years ago, holy mother of God, similar terms come up. I don’t know about you but it seems to me that these reporters need to do a reality check. Since when does Google determine reality? Last I checked, Google was a tool to aid users in obtaining information. I’d never understood that Google was the ultimate arbiter of reality.
It reminds me of someone I recently heard bemoan the fact that in times past she could tell people who hadn’t heard of her to look her up in Google and she was so proud of the results that they would see. But now, horror of horrors, people have said terrible things about her and her life is ruined, all because a Google search doesn’t bring up all the nice things she thinks the world should know about her.
Give me a break people. Get a life. If you must Google your name, why let it bother you if there is something published there that disturbs you? Google is not God. At least not yet.
The most chicken-shit thing of all about the article is that in referring to the role of this blog in breaking the gag they refuse to even name it as if poor old Tikun Olam has coodies. I can marginally understand refusing to link to the blog (more of that shortly), but treating us as the blog that dare not speak its name?? Really?
But here’s what really irks me. The reporters actually quoted an attorney, Chaim Ravia, who said that not only is it illegal for a journalist in Israel to break the gag, but it is a criminal act to LINK to any form of media anywhere in the world which breaks the gag. Now, I’ve heard of wildly extravagant claims before. Anyone who had to listen to Dick Cheney talk, for example. The word draconian comes to mind. But this goes far beyond the pale:
Links [by Israeli media, social networks, or bloggers] to foreign media, in my opinion, aid in the dissemination of the information forbidden by the gag, and likewise at the very least aid in the commission of a crime, if not actually being a crime. Anyone who adds a link concerning information about the incident could, at the very least, be considered an accessory to violation of the gag order and, in my opinion, someone who indirectly violates the gag order. If that individual does this knowing of the existence of the gag order then he has committed a criminal act [!] People must be extremely careful in these situations.
There is a major fallacy in the lawyer’s account. As any Israeli journalist will tell you, you’re only bound by a gag if you or your publication receive the gag order. If you haven’t received it you’re not bound by it and can’t be prosecuted for violating it. Now, if a blogger does receive a gag order (and very few do), that would be a different story. But Ravia doesn’t even make this point.
But let all Israeli Google engineers breathe a sigh of relief. The good solon relieves them of any responsibility for violating Israeli criminal laws because the algorithm is automated and not something they can control themselves. Phew!
The next question asked of the attorney by the reporters is another doozy: is there anything that can be done to prevent the Google search engine from violating gag orders. I kid you not. These reporters are the journalistic equivalent of Big Brother.
To his credit, even a lawyer with very dumb ideas has a few drops of intelligence. He responds that there is little one can do in such a case. Baruch ha-Shem, finally someone within ounce of seychel.
Let me speak plainly: I am war with notions like this. They are garbage. I only wish I or someone could test this in Israel; could dare the police to arrest you for publishing a link to a foreign source like this blog. Can you friggin’ imagine making the creation of a link a criminal offense? Is this North Korea? Iran? And what does this philistine take us for? Wards of the state who need to ask permission before we go to the bathroom?
In the age of the internet if you cannot link you cannot live. I don’t mean this literally of course. But I mean that the internet cannot live if we criminalize the act of creating a link. The link is the essence of free speech. It should be sacred.
This is the dumbing of democracy, maybe it’s even the death of democracy. Come let them take us away for linking to strivers for freedom outside our own countries. Let them criminalize social networks. Let them make us afraid to say our own names.
No link yet to the article. But when I do link to it, do you think I might be arrested by the internet police??
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.