Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why I Was Right to Publish Secret Anat Kam Material

By Uri Blau

The telephone call I received about a month ago should not have been a surprise. "Your apartment in Tel Aviv has been broken into," the voice on the other end of the line said. "Everything's in a mess and it's not clear what has been taken."

Half an hour later, sweating in a Bangkok phone booth, mosquitoes flying around me, I spoke to the policeman who came to the apartment.

"Looks like they were looking for something," he said.

I had been told of Anat Kam's arrest earlier, in China, where I landed with my partner at the beginning of December. When I left Israel I had no reason to believe our planned trip would suddenly turn into a spy movie whose end is not clear. I certainly didn't think I'd have to stay in London and wouldn't be able to return to Tel Aviv as a journalist and a free man, only because I published reports that were not convenient to the establishment.

But the troubling information from Israel left me with no alternative.

Experiences I had read about in suspense novels have become my reality in recent months. When you're warned "they know much more than you think," and are told that your telephone line, e-mail and computer have been monitored for a long time and still are, then someone up there doesn't really understand what democracy is all about, and the importance of freedom of the press in preserving it.

When you discover that anonymous complaints about you containing a lot of detailed personal information have reached various investigation authorities, it is clear you have been marked by forces bigger and stronger than yourself. These forces won't hesitate to take steps reserved for states I don't think we want to resemble. So when they explained to me that if I return to Israel I could be silenced for ever, and that I would be charged for crimes related to espionage, I decided to fight. Sorry for the cliche, but this isn't only a war for my personal freedom but for Israel's image.

The Kafkaesque situation I found myself in forces me to return to basics. I am a journalist and my aim is to provide the reader as much information as possible and in the best way, with maximum objectivity. It's not a personal agenda, or a matter of Left or Right. In my years of work for Haaretz my name has appeared, alone and with others, above exposes dealing with public figures and institutions of all kinds, from Avigdor Lieberman, through Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak to the Peres Center for Peace. None of those exposes could have been published without the help of sources and corroborating documents.

All the exposes in military or defense matters were vetted by military censors before publication, whether regarding the time Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was a civilian and businessman or about the IDF's priorities in tracing Gilad Shalit. Or the story about how the IDF apparently violates the High Court of Justice's instructions regarding targeted assassinations. This story showed the readers authentic documents exposing the banality of executions with no trial.

It is clear to me that these reports were not always pleasant to read - neither to their subjects nor to the reader. But it doesn't matter, because the journalist's job is not to please his reader, employer or leaders. It is to provide people with the best tools to judge and understand the goings-on around them. Every journalist knows that exposes cannot be released without evidence - but no Israeli journalist has known until now that such exposes could have him declared an enemy of the state and find himself in jail.


J Thomas said...

It appears to me that the problem is that you have a vision of Israel as a democracy with freedom of press and freedom of speech.

But in reality Israel is in a permanent war, a war in which Israeli public opinion and US public opinion and even world public opinion all play an important part. Therefore it is important for the security of the nation that things which make Israel look bad should not be published or spoken.

So it makes sense that a journalist from a neutral nation who publicises news which is bad for Israel might be considered at least as much of an assassination target as a palestinian terrorist. After all, if the terrorist kills people that will create publicity that favors Israel.

Someday Israel may become the sort of democracy you want. Someday, after it has peace.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J Thomas said...

If I am wrong about what Israel is, then you can go home today. So I am not wrong about that.

When I say it is inevitable that Israel must be this way, I hope I am wrong. I hope you are right and that your efforts will help to create the nation you want.

You have my sincere best wishes.

Jerry Haber said...

J Thomas,

I am sorry. I misunderstood your comment. I thought you were defending Israel. You were just telling it as you think it is.

I am deleting my original response to you.

YMedad said...

You saw today's news:

פרקליטה של ענת קם: "מרשתי תוותר על החיסיון העיתונאי"

פרקליטה של ענת קם, עו"ד איתן להמן, אמר כי מרשתו תוותר על חיסיון המקור שיש לה. "ענת לא רצתה מעולם לפגוע בביטחון המדינה והיא לא חשבה שאורי בלאו ישחק משחקים עם השב"כ", הוסיף

In English: Anat Kamm's attorney: My client will yield her journalist immunity

Adv. Eitan Lehman said that his client will yield her journalist immunity and that Anat never intended to harm state security and she never presumed that Uri Blau would play games with the GSS.

Oh my, what will Richard say now?

Y. Ben-David said...

The question was raised about Kamm's motives....was she doing it out of "concern" that the IDF was doing illegal things, or was it in order to become famous and secure a nitch in journalism or whatever for her future? It was pointed out that if she really was concerned about the IDF's actions, instead of stealing all the classified documents and giving them to Blau, she could have gone to someone like Yossi Sarid, who has impeccable "progressive" credentials but also has been involved in security matters for years and gotten him to act. The problem is that she wouldn't have gotten well known by the left-wing journalist world of Ha'aretz and so she wouldn't have the option of cashing in on her fame.
What do you think?

Alex said...

In the Anat Kam affair, one thing to be mindful of is the fact that is appears to be part and parcel to the general war on dissent that is going on. Parallels with Daniel Ellsberg are telling; that case ended with the recognition that the government had gone too far, and that Ellsberg was not the criminal for exposing criminal actions by his government, as Ms. Kam has done. It would be great if the people at, which is a good Jewish media hub, could get a hold of her if she escapes house arrest for an interview.