A female soldier takes documents allegedly showing that the IDF violates supreme court decisions on procedures for targeted assassinations, gives them to a reporter who writes a shocking story; the Shabak [General Security Service] places her under house arrest and slaps a gag order on the press.
A shocker: Interference in the public’s right to know, the army using its power to hide despicable violations of the law, the persecution of a honest whistle-blower. A perfect subject for a true-to-life Hollywood treatment: courageous, attractive young girl risks her freedom and perhaps her life to follow her conscience, the dashing reporter, too, is in danger — but they do the right thing anyway, and fall in love (this didn’t happen in real life as far as I know but is a must for a successful movie), tragically, ultimately to be crushed by the massive power of the military and secret police.
The world media and the left-wing Israeli media concentrated on her ‘secret arrest’ and the ‘suppression of free press’ angle. Here’s the lead from a story in The Daily Beast that captures the feeling:
A 23-year-old journalist is under arrest for exposing a secret Israeli assassination plot, and another has fled to London, afraid for his life. Judith Miller talks to insiders who have been gagged by the government about the scandal rocking Tel Aviv, and Israel’s slide toward Iranian-style censorship.
Anat Kam did far more than provide information about whether proper procedures were followed when the army killed terrorists. According to the charges, as part of her military job at the IDF’s Central Command from 2005-2007, she had access to documents of all kinds, including
plans of military operations, summaries of discussions within the IDF, deployment and order of battle (ORBAT) of IDF forces, summaries of internal IDF inquiries, IDF situation estimates, IDF targets, and so on and so forth…
During this period she systematically copied files; when she was about to leave the service she moved them to several CD’s which she took home. She is charged with having copied over two thousand documents and an unspecified number of ‘presentations’. Over 700 of the documents were classified ‘secret’ or ‘top secret’.
She is being charged with espionage, and if convicted can be sentenced to a long prison term.
She gave some of the documnts to Ha’aretz reporter Uri Blau, who wrote several articles based on them, including one in 2008 which accused the IDF of killing Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Malaishi in Jenin in 2007 when he could have been captured, in violation of a Supreme Court ruling. Blau alleged in his piece that high officers, including the Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, had known about and sanctioned the killing.
Blau returned some 50 documents, but Kam had admitted to having given him more; authorities believe that he may still have them. Meanwhile he is doing his writing for Ha’aretz from London and apparently is staying there to avoid having to answer further questions.
The army really wants all of the documents out of circulation. Yuval Diskin, head of the Shabak said that the documents could cause “grave damage to state security” and were “the kind that any intelligence agency would be delighted to get its hands on.” I see no reason to doubt this. The news that the army had killed a terrorist murderer when it might have been possible to capture him would not shake the foundations of the government and army, and anyway it has already been announced that Ashkenazi will not be continuing as Chief of Staff.
I think what’s notable about all this is the kid gloves with which the Shabak and the police handled Kam and Blau. After all, she was held on house arrest, not thrown into prison and tortured; and Blau was allowed to escape the country — something that many are very critical of the Shabak for having allowed to happen.
Kam is reported to have said that she did what she did for ‘ideological’ reasons (her lawyer seems to think this is a mitigation of guilt). In other words, sheer political arrogance led her to think that it was acceptable to violate the trust that the nation and the army placed in her. Yaakov Lozowick, not a right-winger by any means, put it this way:
“Ideology”, of course, means left-wing dissatisfaction with Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians and the way Israel defends itself from its enemies. Let us be clear about that. Yet another incident in which some people on Israel’s Left cannot accept actions of its democratically elected executive or official organs.
Blau and the Ha’aretz newspaper share her arrogance. Ha’aretz is really remarkable. It is the ‘newspaper of record’ in Israel, often compared to the NY Times or Washington Post, but it maintains what can only be called an extreme left-wing editorial policy. Now, as Lozowick points out, the newspaper is paying to support a fugitive.
Israel is a small country and it is quite vulnerable. What Kam and Blau did really could end up killing people.
*The title of this post recalls the movie about Daniel Ellsberg called “The Most Dangerous Man in America.”