After holding back for so long, the mainstream media have now unleashed an absolute deluge of information. The gist of the the coverage is available to English readers via Haaretz, YnetNews and the Jerusalem Post. I’ll confine myself to picking out the nuggets:
Haaretz is on the war path, unequivocally defending Blau and Kamm. At the top of the list is obviously Blau’s own testimony; it’s followed closely by an editorial trying to move the focus back to the very serious crimes Anat exposed through what in comparison looks like a minor misdemeanour; and by a scathing op-ed from Akiva Eldar, who says the very people who are hounding Kamm have given him secret documents over the years:
Some of the same prominent politicians and security figures who are today expressing shock at Kam’s alleged misdeeds have, during my decades of journalism, in fact given me material for countless articles related to strategic issues.
The difference between the journalist who thrives off of access to classified material and the kind who earns his livelihood printing the statements of spokespeople is akin to the difference between a democratic state and a totalitarian regime. A democratic government does not, as a rule, stem leaks. Nor does it interrogate journalists.
Yossi Melman also reminds readers that not so long ago, the deputy-head of the Mossad (!) was suspected of near-identical offences and got off very lightly indeed. Melman’s article, bizarrely, was removed from the Haaretz Hebrew website hours after publication, but is still available on the English website and in some Hebrew blogs.
It bears remembering, however, that Haaretz itself had been accused of compromising Kamm by printing the original documents and enabling investigators to trace their source; and, more crucially perhaps, Oren Persico in last night’s Seventh Eye says Kamm may not have been told told of the agreement between Blau and the Shin Bet. Had she knew, Persico says, she may well not have confessed to taking any more documents than the ones Blau already published – which, incidentally, may have spared Blau his exile, since if she didn’t confess the Shin Bet wouldn’t have known he’s roaming the globe with a treasure trove of classified information. Haaretz disagrees.
Incidentally, disclosing this fact by the Shin Bet among shrieks of horror of what-will-we-ever-do-if-enemy-agents-get-their-hands-on-Blau constitutes, in fact, a loud and clear invitation for enemy agents to, err, get their hands on Blau. Jerusalem Post’s Amir Mizroch writes on his blog:
Why, if there is an Israeli journalist somewhere in London who has in his possession thousands of top-secret IDF documents, would Israel’s security agency want everyone to know?
Wouldn’t this information, disseminated around the world over the Internet, radio, TV and print, paint a big, bright bulls-eye on Haaretz journalist Uri Blau, waiting out the storm in London? Wouldn’t it make Blau an attractive target for enemy intelligence agencies and terrorist groups operating in the UK? It’s almost as if Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, by releasing all of this information Thursday, was saying to Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Hizbullah and Iranian intelligence agents in London: “Yalla, be our guests, go get Uri Blau.”
I’m afraid Mizroch’s right, and although Yuval Diskin said yesterday his agency was “taking off the gloves” (and people like Diskin only do that to punch someone), it sounds like he doesn’t mind if someone else got to Blau first. This, incidentally, also indirectly supports Kamm’s lawyers assertions that both the numbers and the sensitivity of the documents are being exaggerated by the state – if the documents WERE sensitive enough to put Blau’s and other’s lives at risk, the Mossad would be trying to apprehend him and Israeli journalists could easily be persuaded to keep mum about this particular detail of the story. It looks like the information Blau has is only dangerous to top brass, and/or that the main objective of the authorities here is to get even. Mizroch stipulates that the purpose of this Blau-baiting is to get him to return home “for his own good.”
Also in the blogosphere, Jeryy Haber has summarised some important points made by the esteemed Yossi Gurvitz. If there’s one Hebrew blog English readers can’t afford to miss, it’s Gurvitz’s “George’s Friends” (named, and deservingly so, after George Orwell’s essay work):
1. It’s not espionage. Anat Kamm has been accused of spying, no less. But Shabak Chief Yuval Diskin does not claim that the Uri Blau Haaretz articles damaged Israeli security. (He can’t, can he? After all, it passed military censorship) So he can only refer to the “thousands of documents” that Kamm has confessed to stealing, and which she passed to Uri Blau (according to Diskin). And what is the argument? “Those documents are full of security and operational secrets that would endanger the lives of soldiers were they to fall into enemy hands.” But they haven’t fallen into enemy hands, so this is not espionage, nor is there intent. They were leaked to a journalist who has them in his possession (according to the Shabak). So whatever Kamm did, it was not espionage.
2. The Shabak’s history of exaggerated accusations. Gurvitz points out that Diskin in his briefing said that the media should not compare Kamm to Tali Fahima. And why not? Because in several well-publicized cases, the Shabak and the media initially painted the accused as endangering the security of the state — only to see that accusation wither away. Tali Fahima was accused of being an enemy agent, and planning terrorists attacks. When the trial began, the prosecution said (generously) that they would not seek the death penalty. Pretty good move, since she ended up getting a few years in jail. And let’s not forget Sheikh Raad Saalah who was arrested in a big public way for contacting foreign agents, and ended up being convicted of some minor money crimes. In other words, the tactic scare the accused to death, then get a plea bargain. Gurvitz asks how credible is the charge that Blau has in his possession documents that will damage IDF soldiers, and he is refusing to return them? It seems more likely that he has potentially damaging documents to the IDF brass.
3. Discrimination based on rank. Gurvitz points out that other IDF brass have removed documents from bases, and in one case, Elazar Stern, the head of the Education Corps leaked classified documents to Yair Lapid, a columnist. Some of these people were disciplined; Stern had to pay damages to the soldier whom he had ratted on; but nobody has been brought up on charges of espionage. Many other lower ranks of soldiers have “informed” against their superiors to human rights organizations, and their military careers have ended as a result (Gurvitz did that himself during the first intifada.) But none of these were considered more than minor offenses.
In a piece posted earlier this week, removed on Kamm’s request and now reposted, Gurvitz also explained the (jaw-dropping) Supreme Court ruling that makes it possible to accuse an Israeli passing Israeli documents to an Israeli journalist for publication in Israel of espionage:
As we may recall, former nuclear reactor technician Mordechai Vaanunu fled the country with a number of documents ripping apart the curtain of Israel’s “nuclear ambiguity”. Vaanunu gave the information to the Sunday Times in 1986, and shortly afterwards was abducted by the Mossad in Italy and taken to Israel. He was tried on charges of grave espionage, and convicted.Vaanunu then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing he was not a spy and had never met with foreign agents. The Supreme Court, led by its then-Preisdent Meir Shamgar, rejected the appeal. Shamgar wrote (.pdf, Hebrew; paragraph 28b):“I find this argument unacceptable. The appealer’s acts are no less grave than directly divulging secret information to a foreign agent. Quite the contrary. The agent is, indeed, an agent for an enemy state or a terrorist organisation, and the information he collects are used by the state or organisation in their various military preparations against Israel. But the fact that the informations is published simultaneously, without exception to all enemy states and their agents, and to all terrorist organisations, doubles and triples the gravity [of Vaanunu’s acts]”.