Now that the gag order is lifted, we should remember what’s at the heart of the Kamm affair

Posted: April 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, war | Tags: , , , , , | 23 Comments »
anat kamm

Anat Kamm at court

The gag order over the Anat Kamm case has been lifted today. This ends the first stage of this affair, in which Israel’s security authorities tried to prosecute and jail a citizen behind closed doors, without the public even hearing about the case. Due to collective effort by bloggers and activists in Israel and elsewhere, they failed.

But the case itself isn’t over yet. Ironically, the lifting of the gag order might actually hurt Anat Kamm, as the authorities try to change the public framing of the case from that of freedom of speech and due process to espionage. This was the massage in the briefing that was personally given by the head of Shin Beit Yuval Diskin to Israeli reporters today.

Link to English translation of the Indictment against Anat Kamm

Public atmosphere is extremely hostile to both Anat and Haaretz newspaper right now. Ynet, Israel’s most popular news site, has called her “the soldier spy”, and their military analyst, Ron Ben-Yishay, accused her of risking the life of Israeli soldiers.

This is the time to remind people what’s at the heart of this matter: Anat Kamm did Israeli democracy a great service. She exposed the fact that senior IDF generals, including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, knowingly violated our own supreme court ruling by ordering the assassinations of Palestinians even when it was possible to arrest them, and when it was known innocent people might be killed. Again, this is not about Left or Right. It is about generals defying court orders.

The IDF and Shin Beit want the world to forget this. This is why they wanted to keep this case in the dark, and this is why they will work twice as hard to turn the public against Anat.


23 Comments on “Now that the gag order is lifted, we should remember what’s at the heart of the Kamm affair”

  1. 1 IsraeliMom said at 8:09 am on April 8th, 2010:

    I have to say, the headlines I’m seeing right now, on Ha’aretz and Ynet seem to favor Kam, as the quotes are by her lawyer.

    Look, she had high security clearance and access to documents. If she found out anything was wrong, she should have gone to the IDF’s Head Military Advocate (Patzar) first. Then she can go to the press without leaking out actual papers.

    We’re talking about dozens of classified papers here. I’m not going by the lawsuit here, which quotes 2000 documents. I’m going by Blau’s agreement with the Shin Bet which mentioned 50 papers. Please don’t tell me there were that many papers issued concerning the assassinations.

    I’m not outraged because the Hissulim thing was exposed. On the contrary, I am grateful to Blau for doing it. I am outraged by the fact that a soldier who’s been entrusted with access to classified material figured she could just take out anything she wanted.

    Did you actually read her line of defense? Both her lawyer and she (in quotes by friends) say that she didn’t think it was that wrong, because hundreds of soldiers had access to the documents. I’m sorry, but that’s like the lamest argument I’ve heard in a looooooooooong time.

  2. 2 daria said at 9:32 am on April 8th, 2010:

    Her line of defense is not relevant, and quite possible was poorly chosen.
    The applaudable thing is that she was willing to take the risk, and do something for her entire country at her own expense.

    Going to the Patzar would most probably get her into the same trouble, without the benefit of exposing this important information, and it is fair to assume this was her line of thought, given that what she found out would supply her no reason to trust the conduct of the higher ranks.

  3. 3 Sarkany said at 1:19 pm on April 8th, 2010:

    “Going to the Patzar would most probably get her into the same trouble, without the benefit of exposing this important information,”

    EXACTLY. When the channels are corrupt and you have integrity, what are you supposed to do? IDF needs a serious shake up- it’s obvious they’re bloated, sloppy and corrupt beyond words, if this one incident is anything to go on.

  4. 4 noam said at 1:43 am on April 9th, 2010:

    IM- 1. without a source there isn’t an article. so you can say that any news article concerning the security forces involves “stealing documents”. or would you rather have things kept in the dark?

    2. the number of the document is not relevant. the Pentagon Papers had 7,000 pages, all top secret, which were “stolen” and leaked to the press. and it was a good thing – both for freedom of speech and for the future of US.

    3. having said that, nobody thinks that Anat shouldn’t go on trail. but not for treason, and it is extremely absurd that there is not a word about the top generals who lied to the public and courts. they should pay a price too.

  5. 5 Ami Kaufman said at 11:02 pm on April 9th, 2010:

    Noam,

    I disagree with number 2.
    I don’t think the comparison with Ellsberg here is correct.

    Yes, the Pentagon Papers were 7,000 long – but why wouldn’t they be? They were a yearlong effort to analyze relations with Vietnam spanning more than 20 years. Taking that into consideration, 7,000 doesn’t seem like much. The NYT planned on publishing parts of them in numerous installments.

    The Kamm Papers, on the other hand, are much different. Haaretz decided to publish only a few papers in one article, and on one topic alone: Operation Two Towers. Everything else Kamm took out of the base, if I’m relying on what the indictment says, has nothing to do with that. Which is a shame, because it weakens her justifiable moral act, as I wrote:
    http://www.amikaufman.com/2010/04/the-kamm-papers-everyone-should-be-ashamed/

  6. 6 noam said at 12:48 am on April 10th, 2010:

    Ami – I find the whole argument regarding the number of the papers irrelevant, almost a distraction. nobody is arguing that leaking staff is an offense. but it’s no more than a security breach – not in a democracy. if it was up to me, I would have her spend a month in prison. Accusing her in treason and espionage is ridicules. Every military correspondent views Top Secret papers on a regular basis, So all the sources are spies? Even Netanyahu leaked a TS paper in 1995, from ideological reasons.

    If these documents were indeed so dangerous, as Diskin said, how come she was allowed to go back to work and later put in house arrest, with the ability to contact the entire world? how come the investigation – ordered personally by Ashkenazi – started with Haaretz, and not with Pikud Merkas, where the security breach occurred?

    More troubling is the fact that Shin Beit steals a reporter computer and than threatens him with criminal charges, or that the organization tries to put someone in jail without the public knowing it. these actions are far worse than the leak, and they have bad consequances for Israeli democracy. This was an attack on freedom of speech, caused by, as Yossi Melman put it, vengeance for the fact that Haaretz embarrassed senior generals.

    By discussing the number of papers we are aiding the Shin Beit spin, that’s all.

  7. 7 Ami Kaufman said at 1:54 am on April 10th, 2010:

    Of course she shouldn’t be charged with espionage, that’s plain outrageous.
    It’s funny, though – we differ on whether the number of documents is important or not, but we agree on the number of days she should sit (I also wrote in my piece 30 days…) :)
    My only argument is that before we turn Kamm into a hero, we should also look closely at the mistakes she made.

  8. 8 noam said at 3:40 am on April 10th, 2010:

    yap. the only thing is that by talking about Kamm, rather than on the way the IDF generals and Shin Beit act, we are helping their spin. This was what I meant by writing that “this is not the heart of the matter”.

    BTW, I’m afraid that with this public atmosphere, she will end up serving 3-5 yrs.

  9. 9 Ami Kaufman said at 4:05 am on April 10th, 2010:

    I agree, she might do some long time.

    BTW, I’ve been trying to find material on why nothing really happened since Blau’s piece in November 2008, and came up empty-handed. Do you have any idea why nobody ever dealt with the material seriously in the judiciary or parliament?
    Is it just a pathetic lack of public interest?

  10. 10 noam said at 4:55 am on April 10th, 2010:

    yes it is.

  11. 11 Yisrael Medad said at 1:47 pm on April 10th, 2010:

    Extraneously, is Uri Blau safe in London from any Arab intelligence service?

  12. 12 noam said at 2:12 pm on April 10th, 2010:

    Israel – good question, and another reason Shin Beit should have let him come back, if it was really about national security.

  13. 13 Yisrael Medad said at 8:45 pm on April 10th, 2010:

    Of course, if he is smart, he just might take his chances in Israel rather than being a potential target abroad. After all, he doesn’t want to take a dive off a balcony like Ashraf Marwan.

    But to the main issue, is there a difference between stealing evidence of, say, financial or safety irregularities of a company in order to be a whistleblower and the removal of army papers on the basis of a political approach? Or, why won’t the rest of the material be returned? Is it only a matter of IDF or Yair Naveh prestige, actual illegal actions or simply “I-don’t-like-Israel-in-the-Territories”?

  14. 14 Jameel @ The Muqata said at 11:10 pm on April 10th, 2010:

    Again, this is not about Left or Right. It is about generals defying court orders.

    Actually, had all she done was stolen and leaked a few documents about generals defying orders, then her case would be better understood.

    Stealing and leaking 2000 highly classified documents that threaten Israel’s security and IDF soldiers doesn’t do Israel’s democracy a favor.

    Unless someone considers harming Israel’s security, at the potential cost of loss of life to Israel’s civilians and soldiers, a good thing.

  15. 15 noam said at 1:04 am on April 11th, 2010:

    Yisrael: This is no difference, in my view, to any other security breach by a whistleblower. All those who publish or leak secret information break the law, but when putting them on trail, we should remember that sometimes their actions are in the greater interest of society. It’s a delicate balance. And it’s certainly not a case of espionage, like the Shin Beit and the prosecution want us to think. If it was, than every other military correspondent should be charged with espionage, as they all view, from time to time, secret material.

    Jameel: I wouldn’t take everything Diskin says about the documents for its word. If it was such a security risk, she wouldn’t have been allowed to go back to work, and the affair wouldn’t have been dragged for a year. At the end, I don’t think the number of the documents is the heart of the matter. Remember also that we hear all the time about “potential” damage to Israel’s security or to soldiers lives’ but no real damage, and the actual documents that were exposed cleared censorship. In fact, the chief censor told Kol Israel this week that the publication in Haaretz didn’t harm national security. So again, as history in Israel has taught us, we should take all this declarations about national security with some salt, and measure the steps taken by security forces also by the damage they did to the civil society in Israel.

  16. 16 Ori Folger said at 1:24 am on April 11th, 2010:

    Ami,

    I heard Michael Sfard, an attorney, on the radio (galatz) today, who represented the plaintiffs in the original assassinations plea.

    He made several points.

    First of all, following the publication of Blau’s article, Sfard approached the general attorney and asked for an investigation into violations by the named generals. The general attorney stonewalled him, and no investigation took place.

    Secondly, the original verdict on the assassinations plea (over 3 years old now) included an order by the high court to form an independent (non-military) committee to review all assassinations after the fact, and determine if the assassination was legitimate or not. Despite dozens of questions presented to the justice ministry by Sfard, no response on the status of this committee has been given.

    This is the legal system submitting to military rule in the fullest. If anyone wants to show how the legal system is not prosecuting Israeli war crimes, it is enough to look at the assassinations. This issue can be used to delegitimize the entire legal facade of the occupation.

    Ori

  17. 17 Jameel @ The Muqata said at 3:41 am on April 11th, 2010:

    Noam: In fact, the chief censor told Kol Israel this week that the publication in Haaretz didn’t harm national security.

    Everyone agrees that the Haaretz story didn’t harm national security. It was the transfer of the “other” documents which potentially did.

    I’m curious — had Anat Kamm been so gung- ho about doing a service to Israel’s democracy, why did she wait so long before doing anything with the documents (those relating to the IDF general’s alleged ignoring High Court rulings). Had she “blown the whistle” earlier, she might have actually made a difference “in real time.”

  18. 18 noam said at 4:29 am on April 11th, 2010:

    Jameel: the fact that we are discussing Anat Kam, her motives, what she could have done, should have done, etc. – this is exactly the problem I was talking about. we have our most senior generals violating court orders, and nobody cares! everyone are obsessed with the way this should have been brought to our attention: with less documents, through another paper, in a more formal way… we completely lost sense of what matters in a democracy. Security authorities are putting themselves outside and above the law, and Israelis are perfectly fine with this. you know what – charge Anat Kamm with whatever you want, but at least investigate the issue that she revealed! it is so absurd that Aluf Pikud Merkas will walk out of this with no harm, into a second career in business or politics, and Kamm will spend years in prison.

  19. 19 Ami Kaufman said at 8:11 am on April 11th, 2010:

    Ori -

    Thank you very much for the info. It’s very saddening, and I find it appaling that nobody in the media has written more about the facts you provided.

  20. 20 Yisrael Medad said at 5:41 am on April 12th, 2010:

    I still can’t figure out the reasoning you employ.

    a) whistle-blowing is good for democracy;
    b) all whistle-blowing requires “stealing” information either verbal (tapes), written (documents), visual (pictures/videos) or all of the above via Internet;
    c) whistle-blowing “stealing” is therefore not a crime.
    d) “stealing” from the IDF or better, the Mossad, is a higher moral victory than from the office of, say, Jerusalem’s City Engineer, yes or no?

    But now, in this specific case, things get sticky:

    d) did she “steal” for Israeli democracy, for her own ideological proclivities, for personal professional advancement, to stop a crime, et al.?
    e) is there a value difference in those categories in ‘d’?
    f) if she failed with the first reporter, did she reconsider her actions, for what reasons and if not, why?
    h) why did she give Blau so many documents? were all concerned with IDF “crimes” or were many of “show-off” content? (see d3)
    i) why should she now demand them to be returned by Blau? are they now not Blau’s problem?
    j) do you think a right-wing resident of a Yesha community if he/she removed documents on IDF plans to evacuate outposts should merit the same adulation and support as Kamm or is there a “proper” whistle-blowing and an “improper” one?

  21. 21 Yisrael Medad said at 5:43 am on April 12th, 2010:

    further to point “f”:

    is every citizen equal in ability to judge what is a “crime” from which Israeli democracy need be protected or dows on need special training?

  22. 22 noam said at 6:00 am on April 12th, 2010:

    Yisrael – regarding articles e-f: I don’t think the reasons behind Anat Kamm’s actions and the rationalizations are that important. it’s not just about this case, but my view of the world in general: i think people should be judged by their acts, and only later by the story they attach to them. a soldier who storms enemy position on a combat: maybe he did it for his friend, maybe for his country, maybe for his girlfriend – he deserves a medal anyway. the same goes for crimes.

    H. we need to ask her, but it’s very common that sources provide much more materiel than necessary to establish a case.

    I. kamm and Blau are no longer on the same sides. while Blau fights for what he sees as his right as a journalist, Kamm – who feels she was betrayed and abandoned by Haaretz – and now just want to minimize the damage and avoid a long prison term. this is totally understandable, considering the danger she is in.

    J: the answer is a big YES, with one small distinction: Blau never published something regarding future plans. but in general, settlers should enjoy the same rights in their struggle against any plan to evacuate them.

    I oppose the use of “administrative arrests” against settlers, the “warning talks” given to their activists by Shin Beit, and all other similar measures. part of the tragedy of the current political deadlock in Israel is that people on both sides fail to see past the distinctions of Right and Left the common things which are in the interest of all of us as citizens. protection against abuse from the government is exactly such a thing. I am critical of both my friends on the Left who would have Shin Beit do to settlers what they hate so much when it’s done to them, and of right-wing people who fail to see what’s waiting around the corner for them, and how much they might need these civil protections in the days to come.

  23. 23 Yisrael Medad said at 12:56 pm on April 12th, 2010:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1162458.html

    …the journalist and former IDF soldier said that the motivation behind her removal of sensitive military material was to expose “certain aspects of the IDF’s conduct in the West Bank that I thought were of interest to the public.”

    Kam added that her thinking behind taking the top secret papers was to ensure that “if and when the war crime the IDF was and is committing in the West Bank would be investigated, then I would have evidence to present.” …Presiding Judge Ze’ev Hammer wrote that “in order to inform the public of several aspects of IDF action in the West Bank, or to investigate war crimes in the West Bank, there is no need to gather and steal thousands of classified documents from the IDF which deal with the various military planning and action.”