Shin Beit to brief Israeli reporters on Anat Kamm affair Thursday morning, as gag order about to be lifted

Posted: April 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

Security authorities have agreed to a partial lifting of the gag order regarding the investigation that led to the arrest of former soldier Anat Kamm. Kamm is to be charged with “espionage”, after  leaking hundreds of secret documents to Haaretz’s reporter Uri Blau, and possibly to other journalists.

Israel’s internal security agency has announced a special briefing to Israeli reporters tomorrow (Thursday) morning. It has been said that the head of Shin Beit, Yuval Diskin, is the one who insisted on the gag order (even the Knesset speaker didn’t know about it), and now wants Kamm to receive the maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

A 2008 article based on the documents allegedly leaked by Kamm revealed that senior IDF generals, including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, knowingly violated Supreme Court ruling by ordering the assassinations of Palestinians who could have been captured alive. These charges were never investigated by any authority in Israel. Uri Blau, the author of the article, had his computer seized by Shin Beit and is now hiding in London. Haaretz’s editor, Dov Alfon, stated that Blau “will get all the help we can provide him.”

UPDATE: Shin Beit briefed reporters this morning. The gag order is being discussed right now. Kamm’s family to speak to the media in the afternoon.
UPDATE II: gag order lifted. Here are the first reports: Haaretz, Jpost, Ynet.


Yedioth challenges Israeli censorship, publishes Judith Miller’s article blacked out

Posted: April 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This is how page 9 of Israel’s most popular tabloid, Yedioth Ahronoth, looked like today.

miller

The item shown is a translation of Judith Millers’ account of the Anat Kamm affair in The Daily Beast (downloadable PDF version here). The blacked out parts make the Hebrew text meaningless, thus forcing readers ask themselves what is it exactly that they don’t know.

[The answer: that the state is trying to secretly punish the source of a front page story in Haaretz, which reveled that senior IDF generals, including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, knowingly violated Supreme Court ruling by ordering the assassinations of Palestinians who could have been captured alive.]

Tel Aviv court is about to rule next week on a request by Haaretz and Channel 10 to lift the gag order on the affair, which also caused Haaretz’s correspondent Uri Blau to flee to London.

By publishing the blacked text, Israel’s leading tabloid is signaling the court that if the gag order isn’t lifted, the paper might publish more details, and force security authorities as well as the court to decide whether they want to go head to head with the media. My guess is that the court will give up, and the gag order will be lifted.

Talk radio host Nathan Zehavi revealed details of the affair on his show today.

In 1984 the tabloid Hadashot (published by Haaretz’s owner, Amos Shoken) was shut down for three days after publishing a picture which proved that two terrorists were killed cold-bloodedly by Shin Beit after being captured alive. The affair ended in the resignation of the head of Shin Beit. But these were different times.


Cultural boycott? It’s already happening in Israel

Posted: January 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: culture, In the News, media | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

The only democracy in the Middle East is getting a little less democratic by the day

I’m traveling abroad (currently in San Francisco), and so far I didn’t have much time to catch up with the local news; that’s the reason I haven’t been blogging for more than week. However, there is one recent affair I want to comment about – that of the Israeli film Lipstikka.

Lipstikka was originally planned to deal with director Jonathan Segal’s mother’s experience in the Holocaust.  Later on Segal decided to move the plot to Ramallah, and to tell the story of two girls struggling to end the Israeli occupation. Like almost all Israeli films, Segal received financial support for his film from the Israeli Film Fund (IFF).

Last Friday, Israel’s most popular columnist – and channel 2 anchorman – Yair Lapid of Yedioth Ahronoth, quoted on his weekly column a passage from a pre-production brochure advertising Lipstikka, which compared Israeli occupation to the Nazism. As a result, Minister of Culture and Sports Limor Livnat (Likud) contacted the IFF, which immediately decided to freeze all support for Lipstikka. Director Segal claimed later that the brochure was written by a British PR woman who was sacked from the production two years ago – and that Lapid never contacted him to get his comment on the issue – but at this point, nobody really cared to listen.

Basically, what the IFF and the Minister for Culture did was little more than censorship. It is important to understand that it’s almost impossible to produce a film in Israel without the IFF’s help. Allocating funds according to the political message of films means that from now on only certain views would be allowed to be shown.

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Israel never misses an opportunity to remind the world that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. To me, this has always been an empty argument (because even a democracy can’t decide to withhold all civil rights from millions of people – who get nothing to say about this – as Israel is doing for more four decades), but it sounds today more hollow than ever. Israel is getting less democratic by the way. Examples are easy to come up with – from the arrest of the head of the Association for Civil Rights during a protest in Jerusalem, to the deportation of “pro-Palestinian” journalists. However, let’s stick to cultural affairs in this post.

Last year, the most important literary prize in Israel – the Sapir Prize – was striped from author Alon Hilu, which was even forced to give back the money that came with the prize. The official reason referred to some irregularities in the process of selecting Hilo as the winner, but throughout the public debate on the matter, it seemed that the main problem was that Hilu’s House of Dajani was, as the tabloids kept reminding their readers, “a post-Zionist novel”.

Most Israelis don’t view both cases – Lipstikka and House of Dajani – as censorship. They simply say that the state of Israel shouldn’t support those who are publicly criticizing it. But these are no more than technicalities. The issue at hand is the growing involvement of politicians and bureaucrats, under the influence of pundits and tabloid journalists, in cultural works. There is an ongoing effort in Israel to portray some views and acts – mostly those involving harsh criticism of the occupation and questioning Zionism altogether – as illegitimate. It can happen through legislation – such as the ban on teaching the Nakba – and it can happen in a ways of withholding support from films and books. In both cases, it won’t end here. Many people are already demanding to stop funding Israeli universities who teach “anti-Zionist” courses.

Censorship is a double edge sword. The next time Israelis would cry that boycotting our films or our universities is an act against freedom of speech which would even hurt the peace effort – since most criticism for the occupation comes from the cultural elite – they should be reminded of Lipstikka.