Haaretz reports today that the state will remove its support for the gag order on the case of the detained journalist. For those of you who want to catch up, there’s a trove of information on Richard Silverstein’s Tikun Olam blog and a neat summary by Max Blumenthal.
Here’s a detail that caught my attention, though; it’s more ironic than genuinely alarming, but it’s worth noting nonetheless. According to the Haaretz report, the gag order will be decided upon by Justice Ze’ev Hammer, deputy-president of the Tel Aviv District Court. Justice Hammer’s illustrious legal career contains one slightly unusual chapter: For 1 year of his military service and for the all 8 years of his legal studies, Hammer worked both for the General Security Services (Shabak / Shin Bet), and for the Mossad; it says so on his official Judicial Authority webpage – see for yourself.
I should stress I don’t know of any political cases over which Justice Hammer presided in the last decade, and I have no grounds to claim his nearly decade long involvement with the two agencies automatically disqualifies him for trying in this case; what’s more, if the state does indeed withdraw its support for the gag order, there’s nothing he can do to retain it anyway. Plus, Hammer is only trying the gag order issue – other judges will preside over the trial of the journalist herself. All I know is that somewhat like the record of the magistrate judge who granted the gag order in the first place, this is making me feel slightly queasy about this legal process.
Meanwhile, to cheer you up ahead of tomorrow’s inevitable propaganda assault against the journalist, here’s a jaw-dropping Fox News scene. I never thought I’d live to see an indignant Shep Smith comparing Israel to Fidel Castro (03:06 – you can almost see him bend the Fox value scale with his bare hands into a near circle); and saying how disgusting it was that anyone saying anything other than “We luv you Israel” is being labeled as an anti-Semite (06:00). Worth a watch.
I notice this post is the second most read on this subject, after the indictment translation, and I feel I need to stress something. At least until we know more of the hearing processes, we have no basis to conclude the judge’s past affiliations make the trial a kangaroo court. As a matter of fact, his conduct at the one hearing we do know about was fairly reasonable – unless you expected him to shed a tear, dismount his bench, and crown Kamm with laurels, in which case you’re 100% bound for disappointment, no matter how the trial turns out.
Importantly, Hammer rejected out of hand the authorities’ pleas to have Kamm sequestered until further notice, ruling she clearly posed no further risk to state security, and released her to house arrest; curiously for a case concerned with illicitly distirbuting classified information, Kamm wasn’t at all constrained in her communications. She continued writing for a privately owned publication for 3 out of the 5 months of her arrest, and remained in contact with the outside world until at least last week, unrestricted except by fear of wiretapping.
Moreover, while Hammer rejected Kamm’s claim to being able to identify war crimes – a deplorable statement on his part, even if legally understandable – it seems most of his ire was directed at the military data security regulations: “”I was astounded by the inconceivable failure, as well the faulty and negligent data security arrangements,” he said, “”no one asked questions or showed interest in why she needed the files of secret material on disks before her discharge.” Haaretz splashed the first quote across its front page this morning, and for a fine reason: Spreading the blame around the military apparatus is good news for Kamm, even if doesn’t do justice to the war crimes she was signaling about.
Finally, a legal source of mine who declined to be named, voiced the following opinion on Hammer:
“Hammer’s past with the Shin Bet and the Mossad may well have a positive side: Knowing the system from within, he is likely be a lot more level-headed about such voodoo terms as “top secret evidence,” “classified information,” “state security” etc, which all too often dazzle Israeli judges.”