Israeli Wikileaks: Journalists demand not to try Haaretz reporter

Posted: May 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has summoned Haaretz journalist Uri Blau to a formal hearing – the last procedural step before prosecuting Blau in a criminal court. The 7th eye website reports [Hebrew] that the hearing will take place towards the end of the month. Last March, The Tel Aviv Office for the General Prosecution announced that it was considering prosecuting Blau for unauthorized possession of classified information.

Following the procedures against Blau, dozens of Israeli journalists have signed a petition, demanding not to put Haartez’s reporter on trail (my translation from Hebrew).

We – journalists and media people who fear for our professional freedom – call upon the Attorney General not to prosecute Haaretz’s journalist Uri Blau for holding classified documents. Some of us have our reservations regarding the conduct of Blau and Haaretz throughout the affair. Yet we are all concerned about the consequences of the Attorney General’s decision regarding the work of all journalists in Israel.

Putting a journalist on trial for possession of secret documents constitutes significant injury to the independence of the media. The immediate significance of the decision will be in putting restraints on our ability to reveal injustice and corruption [...] This precedent would severely harm the [ability to conduct] investigative journalism, which is at the heart of the free press. It is impossible to expose corruption—in any field—without holding documents, also those that are considered classified [...]

Uri Blau, an investigative reporter, received hundreds of classified IDF document from former soldier Anat Kamm. Blau published several pieces in Haaretz based on the documents, including one story which revealed that senior IDF officers—including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazy—might have knowingly violated a Supreme Court decision when they ordered targeted killings of Palestinian militants even when those could have been captured alive.

The story was approved for publication by the Army Censorship.

Later on, the Internal Security Service (Shabak) conducted an investigation which led to Anat Kamm, a former soldier at central command HQ, as the source for the leak. Kamm has been under house arrest for more than a year now. She recently agreed to a plea bargain with the prosecution which would mean up to 9 years in prison.

Following Kamm’s arrest, Blau left the country to London. Attorneys for Haaretz have negotiated his return with the Shabak; according to the agreement between the two sides, Blau will return the documents to the state. The Security Service later claimed that Blau violated the agreement. According to Blau, all the documents Anat Kamm handed him were returned to the Army. Blau also agreed to have his computer destroyed by the Internal Security Service.

Blau is to be charged according to article 113C of the criminal law (holding secret information), which is part of the espionage law.

Technically, every reporter in Israel who has witnessed or held a secret document can be charged with the same offense.


The organizers of the petition against the prosecution of Uri Blau urge foreign journalists to support their call to the Attorney General. If you are a journalist or a media person and you wish to add your name to an English petition (to be published soon), please send your full name and organization to the following e-mail:

Internal Security violated agreement with Haaretz to get to Anat Kamm

Posted: July 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Anat Kamm in court (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills)

The prosecution in Anat Kamm’s trail admitted today that the Shabak (Israel’s internal security service, formally known as Shin Beit), ignored the agreement it signed with Haaretz reporter Uri Blau in order to expose the source for a story he published.

In a research article published two years ago in Haaretz, Blau reveled that senior Israeli generals, including chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, knowingly violated Supreme Court rulings by ordering the assassination of Palestinians militants even when they didn’t pose an immediate threat or when it was possible to capture them alive.

After the story was published, the army began an internal investigation to locate the source responsible for leaking the operative orders cited by Blau in Haaretz. At the same time, the Shabak demanded Haaretz to return the documents in order to avoid a national security breach. Haaretz and Blau agreed, on the condition that the documents will be used only for damage control, and not to locate the source for the story.

According to a reports on Israeli media (Hebrew) the state admitted today that the Shabak did use the documents to get to Kamm.

Kamm, then a soldier at the central command HQ and later a reporter for the Israeli portal, was arrested, and Israeli media was prevented from reporting the story. Only after details of her arrest were published abroad, the gag order was lifted.

Kamm is charged with espionage, and could face up to 20 years in prison. Uri Blau is in London, fearing that his return would lead to his arrest and prosecution.

The Persecution of Haaretz

Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily paper, has a status that exceeds its limited circulation. Israel’s supporters who whishes to portray it as a thriving democracy give Haaretz as an example; Critics of Israel use Haaretz when claiming that the US media is too easy on Israel (“The NYT would have never printed Gidon Levy’s op-ed“). Even after suffering loses during the financial crisis and going through major cuts the paper remains the best source for information on human right issues and on Israeli politics. It is also the only Israeli newspaper to have an internet site and printed editions in both Hebrew and English.

These days, Haaretz is under attack. Rightwing groups, pundits, politicians and competing media organizations go after the paper. They accuse it of being “too liberal”, “too lefty”, even “anti-Israeli”. The attack was triggered because of the Kamm-Blau affair, but the case against Haaretz is far wider and deeper, and has a lot to do with the dangerous nationalistic mood in Israel right now.

Two articles on the front page of Maariv’s weekend edition took shots at Haaretz: Ben Dror Yemini accused the paper of aiding “the industry which demonizes and delegitimizes the State of Israel,” and Columnist Menahem Ben simply called for the paper to be shut down and its editor and publisher arrested for treason.

After the exposure of the Kamm affair, MK Michael Ben-Ari, a former student of Rabbi Kahana, cancelled his Knesset subscription for Haaretz and called interior Minister Eli Yishay to use his authority and immediately forbid the printing of Haaretz. Surprisingly enough, Ben-Ari was joined by two MK’s from Kadima: MK Israel Hason, a former Shin Beit man, called for readers to boycott Haaretz, while MK Yulia Shmuelov wrote her own letter to minister Yishay demanding Haaretz to be shut down.

Radio Host Avri Gilad said last Sunday on the IDF station that “I mourn what happened to the Left and to the Left’s journal [Haaretz]… it is making the left irrelevant in Israel… every sensible person today understand that the Left has made the state of Israel its enemy.” There wasn’t even a slight protest heard.

And this is what rightwing columnist and editor for Jerusalem Post (who is rapidly becoming the Israeli Pravda), Caroline Glick, had to say:

By collaborating with Kamm first by publishing her stolen documents and hiring her as a reporter, and finally by covering up her crimes while suborning Blau’s perjury, Haaretz has demonstrated that leftist traitors have a powerful sponsor capable of exacting painful revenge on the State of Israel for daring to prosecute them.

In facilitating and supporting treason, Haaretz itself can depend on a massive network of supporters in Israel and internationally. Reporters, self-proclaimed human rights groups, and the leftist blogosphere in Israel and throughout the world as well as foreign governments happily swallow whole Haaretz’s manufactured stories about Israel’s purported venality.

I agree with Hanoch Maramri, Haaretz’s former editor, who wrote in The 7th Eye that Haaretz will survive this attack. The paper suffered boycott attempts during the first and second Intifada, when its editors insisted on reporting cases of abuse and illegal actions by IDF soldiers. But these were different times for journalism, and the real danger is that the delicate financial situation affecting all newspapers will make Haaretz change its line a bit so it wouldn’t bleed too many readers.

Even more important is what these events teach on the current moment in Israel. Most people outside this country fail to notice it, but we are at the dangerous turning point in which words and ideas, and not just acts, are becoming illegitimate in this country, even criminal. Haaretz won’t be the last victim.

What happened to the previous Anat Kamm?

Posted: April 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

History repeating itself, with slight changes.

8 years ago, a soldier who served as a secretary in an IDF regional HQ, handed some classified documents to (then) Kol Ha-Ir reporter (a local paper from Haaretz group), one Uri Blau. The documents had to do with a charge that was set off in Gaza and Killed 5 Palestinian children.

The army started an internal investigation and was able to trace the soldier who leaked the documents. She was tried by her CO and sentenced to 35 days in army prison.

Around the same time, an IDF Brigadier general was forced to retire from the service after leaking to reporters the content of a classified meeting with the Chief of Staff.

Read the report from 2002 on Ynet [Hebrew] (hat tip: Amitai Sandi).

Anat Kamm, a former secretary in an IDF HQ, was recently charged with espionage for leaking secret army documents to Haaretz’s reporter, Uri Blau. An article based on two of the documents suggested 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.


(illustration by Mish)

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.

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.


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.

Haaretz’s reporter flees to London after revealing illigal IDF tergeted killings

Posted: April 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, war | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

This is from the UK’s Independent:

An Israeli journalist is in hiding in Britain, The Independent can reveal, over fears that he may face charges in the Jewish state in connection with his investigation into the killing of a Palestinian in the West Bank.

Uri Blau, a reporter at Israel’s liberal newspaper, Haaretz, left town three months ago for Asia and is now in London. Haaretz is understood to be negotiating the terms of his return to Israel with prosecutors, according to an Israeli source, who declined to be identified, because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The news of Mr Blau’s extended absence comes just days after it emerged that another Israeli journalist, Anat Kam, has been held under house arrest for the last three months on charges that she leaked classified documents to the press while completing her military service.

More details here. I hope I will be able to write more on this story in two weeks.