At last month’s Digit2012 conference on Israeli digital journalism, the IDF chief censor participated in a panel about conflict between censorship on the one hand and the freewheeling social media networks and freedom of the press on the other. I’m of two minds about the entire discussion. On the one hand, my name and record were important enough to be discussed (starting at 11:30 in this Hebrew language video) by panel members who were journalists, judges, editors, defense attorneys, and military officers. But on the other, the approach of the censor was entirely dismissive and mendacious.
In discussing the issue of blogging and foreign media and the impact we are having on public discourse in Israel, Sima Vakhnin Gil, the censor claims that the only story I ever exposed was related to Anat Kamm. She means of course, the only stories I ever exposed which were under censorship. Because there are many stories I broke which were under judicial gag but not censorship. Besides stories I first broke which weren’t either censored or gagged.
But let’s stay within the bounds of her jurisdiction. Besides Anat Kamm, I broke the following stories that were under censorship:
1. Israel’s kidnapping of Dirar Abusisi in Ukraine
2. Mossad and MEK responsibility for assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists
3. appointment of Tamir Pardo as Mossad chief and the name of the new chief of the Border Police
4. secret arrest, detention and torture of Israeli-Palestinian activist, Ameer Makhoul
5. the Israeli security cabinet had never previously met to discuss an attack on Iran until this month
6. the identity of the Palestinian killers of the Fogel family
7. IDF violation of Egyptian sovereignty using a drone to assassinate Sinai Bedouin militant
8. Defense minister Barak refused to allow IDF chief of staff Gantz to testify about Iran before a Knesset committee
9. a former IDF pilot arrested in Zimbabwe for smugging $2.5 million worth of conflict diamonds
10. notorious IDF torturer, Doron Zahavi (aka Captain George), appointed by national police as “liaison” to East Jerusalem Palestinian community
11. Israel’s test launch of a Jericho III missile
12. Iran supported Sinai militants who attacked Eilat
13. Mossad chief Tamir Pardo shut down a Knesset committee hearing because it would reveal that Israel’s major shipping company allowed its vessels to transport Mossad agents for operations inside Iran.
14. Israel created the Stuxnet and Flame computer viruses as part of a major covert campaign against Iran’s nuclear program
15. Sdot Micha is home base to Israel’s Jericho III missiles
So the question is, why would the IDF chief censor need to either lie or diminish my role? Of course, she may be ignorant. No one ever lost money betting on the IDF to simply be ignorant about its claims on many issues. Or she may need to dismiss my work because admitting that I’ve played a significant role in breaking military censorship would be an admission that there was something wrong in the system. If Israel were a free and open society it wouldn’t need someone like me. Israelis themselves could do what I do and possibly do it better. She may need to diss me because (to her) there is something wrong with the fact that I can report and she can’t stop me.
At any rate, when your opponents diss you whether they be military censors or cyber-hacker-attackers, you know you pose a threat. You know you’re doing your job and that it’s something important.
As an aside, the censor also insulted another friend of mine, Avner Cohen, who wrote the first major expose of Israel’s nuclear program. That book, which he refused to submit to the military censor, earned him many enemies inside the intelligence apparatus. He was forced to leave Israel for a time. Since then, he’s become kosher and his last book was not submitted and did not raise a similar stir. Vaknin-Gil said that if the State believed Cohen had broken Israeli law in publishing his book it had the right to prosecute him. It’s precisely this sort of Neanderthal thinking which has gotten Israel into the mess its in and endangered, even nullified, democracy.
It’s unfortunate the organizers of this conference didn’t invite me to address any of these issues since I’ve played an important role in digital media regarding Israel’s national security apparatus. It continues the echo chamber effect of Israelis only hearing from a limited number of voices about issues critical to them, their State, and their democracy (such as it is). But I suppose it’s better to be talked about, even if erroneously, than ignored.
Not that we here in the States are doing much better under the national security president, Barack Obama. He’s made mincemeat out of the Bill of Rights and Constitution. He’s made secrecy and opacity into a watchword for his counter terror program. We have nothing to boast about on this score.
Thanks to many folks who’ve stepped forward with donations in the aftermath of the cyber-attack against this blog. Keep it coming. The best revenge against the bullies and vandals is to give ’em hell. We’ll tell this story in the MSM, get our voice heard by a far wider audience, and encourage donations to cover the extra expenses of protecting the integrity of this site. Thank you for all of it.