האם הצנזורה אוסרת פרסום מידע שכבר פורסם על האסיר המכונה איקס 2, ה”חפרפרת” של איראן בצמרת המוסד
Israel’s chief military censor, Col. Ariela Ben Avraham, has assumed unto herself new and unprecedented powers to restrict the freedom of journalists to cover stories related to national security. Yossi Melman in an interview with 7th Eye offers three examples of heightened censorship that goes far above any standard observed by previous censors. In the second example, he created a fictional incident set in a past era to exemplify the attitude of military censorship. Even though Melman’s copy specifically noted the incident was imagined, the censor made him remove it. When he appealed her decision, he was told:
“We know what you were referring to. You were alluding to something [a real event].” He protested: “First of all, I wasn’t hinting at anything. Second, what is this? The Thought Police? They know what I’m thinking? They must examine a text according to the words that are on paper and not the author’s intent. It [the appeal] was useless. They censored it anyway.”
In the third instance, Melman wrote about a series of national security lapses which damaged Israel’s military-intelligence capabilities. The censor disqualified one particular incident Melman wished to include in his article. He appealed this decision as well, pointing out that the year before he’d published a column in Maariv on the same subject and that other publications had also previously had articles approved as well.
It’s likely the incident above involved a figure whom I’ve called in the past Prisoner X2 : the Mossad’s former director of operations for Iran who became a double agent for the Iranians. His case has been covered by Amir Oren in Haaretz and I have written about it as well. The disgraced agent was exposed, presumably by counter-intelligence, arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to prison: all in secret. Much like the process Ben Zygier suffered before he committed suicide under the nose of his jailers. Oren begged the prisoner’s wife to speak to him about his case, but she refused out of fear, no doubt, that she would jeopardize his chances of going free. By the time he’s released he’ll serve about fifteen years in prison.
Interestingly, regarding Zygier (who was known as Prisoner X before his real identity was revealed), Rafael Epstein writes in his book that the disgraced Mossad agent also betrayed Israeli secrets to Iran, though inadvertently (Melman writes that Zygier spied on behalf of Iran, but I think that’s an exaggeration). During graduate studies at Australia’s Monash University, he befriended an Iranian businessman and shared stories of his Mossad exploits in Europe. There Zygier worked undercover for an Italian company which sold equipment to Iran. He himself traveled to Iran as part of his job. Zygier’s work was designed to permit the Israelis to penetrate Iran’s nuclear program. These are the secrets which the Iranian relayed back to Iran, causing “tens of millions of shekels worth of damage” (according to Melman) to Israel’s intelligence efforts. Among the secrets revealed to the Iranians by Zygier’s ultimate downfall, was that Israel’s Unit 8200 was monitoring its telecommunications throughout the world. As they discussed the information Zygier was exposing, the Iranians were vetting it through their intelligence channels. The Israelis picked up this chatter and that is how they ultimately discovered their agent’s fatal error.
Nostalgia for the Lesser of Two Evils?
While I railed against the past censorship regime run by Sima Vaknin-Gil, at least she permitted journalists to hint at the truth about sensitive matters. Ben Avraham has not only put the genie back in the bottle, she’s sealed it shut. This means that Israel’s press, which is purported to be freewheeling and independent, if you read the liberal Zionist panegyrics that David Remnick and others publish, is even more neutered than ever.
“I see this as a worsening of the current condition [for a free press] and selective enforcement [of censorship]. They’re refusing to acknowledge their own error [of overstepping the proper bounds of censorship].”
Ben Avraham’s response would be laughable if it wasn’t totally and abjectly exasperating in its effrontery:
“Due to ethical considerations and professional fairness toward the reporter in question, we cannot respond to his charges.”
The notion that a military censor has ethical considerations or feels any compunction about treating reporters fairly is beyond derision (if that’s possible).
On a side note: an Israeli security correspondent (not Melman) told me a few days ago that I should feel proud that figures like the censor and senior Israeli officials read this blog regularly. I can only hope Ben Avraham reads this post and realizes that there are eyes on her and what she does. Eyes that are not Israeli. The eyes of the rest of the world. A world which is truly democratic and which reacts with disgust at her version of what I’ll call “nanny state censorship” (i.e. Mother knows what’s good for you).