Israeli military censorship prohibits revealing the identity of the new commander (Hebrew) of the Border Police’s elite counter-terror unit, Yamam (this post displays a priceless photo of Shimon Peres mugging with weapons with Yamam personnel). Not only am I not under the jurisdiction of Israeli censorship, I make a point of bucking censorship because most of it is, as in this case, ludicrous. An Israeli confidential source informs me the new commander, which the Israeli media may only call “Colonel Shin,” is Col. Shlomi Michael, former head of Central Unit of the Tel Aviv police (Yamar). Among the many crimes his unit failed either to prosecute or solve since he assumed command, was the Tel Aviv gay community center murders and the alleged rape of P. by television journalist, Yoav Even. In fact, there is still an Israeli gag in place prohibiting mentioning Even’s name in connection with the rape.
Before assuming command in Tel Aviv, Michael commanded a unit of Mistarvim, the controversial forces which infiltrate Palestinians towns and villages in order to arrest or kill suspected militants. They also arrest Palestinians demonstrating peacefully and brutally manhandle detainees in the process. I’ve featured photos of such treatment here.
Today’s Haaretz reveals that a Mistarvim unit infiltrates the Bilin anti-Separation Wall protests in order to provoke violent outbursts by protesters. The undercover officers throw stones at the IDF forces on patrol in order to permit the latter to unleash their overwhelming and regularly lethal firepower against unarmed civilians. In fact, such soldiers arrested Israeli MK Mohammed Barakeh, claiming he assaulted one of them when this photo clearly shows HIM being assaulted. So much for reality as seen by Israeli security forces. In any other democratic country police would be fired for throttling an elected national official. In Israel, they give them medals if they’re Israeli Palestinian leaders.
Michael is moving up in the world to an elite SWAT-type unit charged with policing domestic terrorism and hostage situations. One of their snipers was killed during the Sinai Islamist terror assault on Eilat last summer. Among other controversial actions in which Yaman played a role: its snipers killed a number of the Israeli Palestinian unarmed protesters in the protests of October, 2000 in Umm al Fahm. It also has been responsible for a long list of targeted killings as documented in the Hebrew (though not the English) Wikipedia article.
UPDATE: I posted this scoop to the Israeli news portal, HaKafe (motto: “THE Democratic Forum”) and it was taken down. The site wasn’t prepared to buck the Israeli censor unfortunately. I’ve asked other Israeli bloggers whether they might be willing to join a campaign to challenge censorship en masse by reporting it.
A few days ago I read the obituary of Edward Kennedy, a courageous American journalist who violated WWII military censorship by reporting the surrender of Nazi forces a day before the U.S. wanted the news reported. For his trouble, his bosses at AP fired him and apologized to the U.S. military. Kennedy spent the rest of his life seeking vindication that he’d made the right decision. Recently, the current head of AP apologized profusely to his family and praised Kennedy for being a courageous journalist who did the right thing.
I understand the Israeli system of censorship is difficult to face alone. But I’m convinced that if enough websites and media outlets could join together they could make a dent in this noxious system. It would be much harder for the censor to take on a group of sites acting in defiance.
I recognize that I’m not as vulnerable as anyone in Israel is. Therefore, I can’t expect anyone to take a risk when they are the ones who would pay the price. Very few journalists in Israel have been willing to do what Edward Kennedy did. Only two by my count over the past 50 years or so. But Kennedy is testament to the fact that even if you lose your job over something this, there can be a second act. Kennedy went on to be the editor of the Santa Barbara (CA) newspaper and the owner of a newspaper in Monterey, CA. His life had that second act, fortunately and his courageous defiance of censorship was vindicated in the long run.
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.