Sorry, I know my title contains strong language, but what Israel’s attorney general, Yehudah Weinstein, has done is to rape freedom of the press in Israel. The first violation of the body of journalism occurred when he pursued espionage charges (charge sheet in Hebrew) against Uri Blau for accepting top-secret IDF documents offered to him by Anat Kamm. The second violation occurred when he offered a plea bargain to Blau, which the latter appears to have accepted, forcing Blau to admit to a criminal offence of possessing secret documents. Blau would receive a four-month jail sentence commuted to community service. Imagine, as Uri Horesh has suggested, two individuals who performed patriotic national service–yet one is in jail, and the other must perform community service to expiate his “sins” against the State. The irony is painful to apprehend.
There are far more painful aspects of this plea deal. Weinstein, in his statement, explains the “light” sentence he accepted by saying that it was necessary to protect freedom of the press. That’s like saying after you’ve raped someone twice that you didn’t do it a third time in order to spare her sense of self-respect. Further, Weinstein argued that Blau’s possession of the secret documents in no way constituted legitimate practice of journalism.
The level of willful delusion in this is astonishing. Blau did what journalists in democracies around the world do every day. They receive and report on government secrets. If journalists did not do this they would be maidservants to official power. That, of course, is what the State wishes them to be, but not what the charter of journalism calls for them to be.
The 7th Eye also notes (Hebrew) that the Shin Bet lied to Blau when they told him they were not interested in pursuing his source, but rather only interested in retrieving the documents.
Let us state things clearly: Israel is not a democracy. Any attorney general who can criminalize the practice of journalism is not enforcing the laws of a democratic state. He’s enforcing a code of silence of an authoritarian state. Yes, OK Israel isn’t as authoritarian as, say Saudi Arabia. It does have vestiges of democracy. But those vestiges are rapidly falling by the wayside, thanks in part to a resurgent ultra-nationalist movement represented by the governing Likud and its farther-right coalition enablers (now including its more centrist Kadima enablers).
It is an absolute shandeh for the “democratic Jewish state” to imprison a journalist, especially one who was ferreting out major wrongdoing by IDF generals in violation of Supreme Court guidelines. Yes, it’s true the spineless Court refused, after the fact, to even hold said general to account for his murderous acts. But that doesn’t obviate the fact that the nation’s highest court told the IDF not to assassinate unarmed Palestinians and it did exactly that. Any judicial body worth its salt in any real democracy would jump all over such an individual and take the first opportunity to bring him to heel. Instead, in Israel, the perpetrator, Yair Naveh, was promoted to deputy chief of staff.
This is the same individual who not only killed unarmed Palestinians, but whose internal security procedures were so lax they allowed Anat Kamm to copy 2,000 documents and do so completely undetected. Not a single mainstream journalist in Israel has remarked upon this flagrant lapse of security and whether a general guilty of it should be promoted to the rank he has.
This is a perfect example of the hermetically sealed Israeli society in which the legal system and politicians wash the hand of the IDF, all for the sake of the greater good of the State. Not the greater good of the people. But rather for the institutions and power of the State.
There are those perhaps even reading this for whom honoring state power is more important than press freedom or individual liberty. They will point to Uri Blau’s alleged sins as so egregious that his punishment is justified. To which I reply, I’ll accept his punishment when Israel places every military correspondent in the dock for the same crimes, since every single one at one time or another has received and published information from such secret documents. Further, let’s prosecute every general who’s leaked them and every defense minister too who’s given or leaked such information to journalists. When Israel does that, then I’ll be happy for Uri Blau to join them. Till then, this reeks of rankest hypocrisy.
On a different, but related subject: yesterday, the BBC World Service aired a segment (if you can find a link to it please let me know) about the African resident of Israel who was locked in a room at Dana Children’s Hospital in Tel Aviv along with his sick nine-month old child for over two hours. When medical staff did come to treat the child, they were dressed in hazmat suits as if he had Ebola fever. After waiting for several more hours and receiving no lab results and approaching the nursing staff for them, he was told only doctors could talk to him. This despite the fact that the test results were negative.
During the program, the hospital chief of staff defended treating Africans as if they were infected with plague by claiming that an African child had contracted measles and forced the hospital to notify ten other patients that they might be exposed. The doctor erroneously claimed there were 100,000 Africans in Tel Aviv (there are around 60,000) and that his hospital is bearing the brunt of the irresponsibility of the political echelons in dealing with this flood of sick immigrants.
We should explain that such racist sentiments aren’t restricted to Israel. Anti-immigrant sentiment is probably as old as the human race has been migrating. The U.S. certainly has had its share for as long as there has been a republic. But the difference is that Jews themselves have known the sting of racism and anti-immigrant hate. Now that they have their own State, I suppose this signifies a perverse sort of “progress” in that now Jews can hold equally rancid views as those of their defamers. Back in the old days of early Zionism its adherents were even pleased with the prospect of the new state having Jewish criminals. That was supposed to mark “progress” of sorts. Now Zionism has produced its own very special breed of racists as well. Kol ha-kavod–yet one more achievement of the Zionist miracle.