Uri Blau focuses lens on the deterioration of Israeli democracy
Yet another nail in the coffin of Israeli democracy will be hammered by the nation’s attorney general, who announced that the State will prosecute one of Israel’s most distinguished investigative journalists, Uri Blau, for his reporting in Haaretz about the top-secret IDF documents leaked to him by Anat Kamm. Never, as far as I know, has a journalist been charged with a crime for publishing such leaked documents. There will be Israeli advocates who will attempt to use arguments of strict legalism saying Blau violated a law and therefore must be prosecuted, etc., etc. But by the attorney general’s own admission this case is one of revenge against a reporter who’s gored the ox of the intelligence apparatus one too many times with his sharp, incisive and damaging reporting of stories of outrages perpetrated by the generals and intelligence agents.
In a startling admission apparently made with the approval of the attorney general, a senior government lawyer told a right-wing columnist why the government was pursuing Blau, but not Haaretz itself or it’s publisher, Amos Schocken:
“…I [Mati Golan] got a phone call from [deputy Attorney General] Raz Nezri. He said he was calling me because I’ve written before about the problematics of not having Haaretz and Shocken put on trial. Alongside the decision to try Blau, Nezri said, the Attorney General decided not to prosecute Haaretz. Why? Nezri confirmed “Haaretz acted inappropriately when it backed and sponsored Blau’s stay abroad”, but “we thought it was more correct to go for the precedent-setting move of prosecuting a journalist for retaining stolen documents, and not a move against Haaretz for obstruction of justice…
Uzi Benziman goes even farther in the online media criticism journal, 7th Eye:
The announcement [of Blau’s prosecution] derives from [the State’s] anger that he has insulted Shabak investigators because earlier in the case he agreed to return secret documents to the Shabak, but did not return all of them. Shabak cannot stand lies.
Except its own. It’s darkly ironic that Shabak take such umbrage at Blau’s impudence in lying to it when this agency lies both to detainees, lawyers and the public with equal impudence. How does the Shabak or government make a serious claim regarding Blau’s ethical lapses when they violate such norms regularly?
I’ve written about Yuval Diskin’s public comments that Blau “stuck his finger in his agency’s eye and twisted it” when he not only published a top-secret IDF document, but a photograph of the document itself. This effrontery the agency could not stomach. Though he continued by claiming there was no motive of vengeance or settling scores, as Benziman notes, this is precisely what the attorney general’s prosecution reveals.
Can you imagine that there is an Israeli journalist who advocates that the publisher of a competitor be thrown in prison because he published a story based on top-secret IDF documents? Israeli defense reporters do this virtually every day. They are leaked top-secret documents and information that the generals WANT the public to know. But when a reporter writes about such a document that IDF doesn’t want the public to know about, only then does it become a criminal offense.
Make no mistake, this is the criminalization of investigative reporting. This is the State saying you may report what we wish you to report and nothing more. It’s not quite there yet. But I note the absolute cowing of the Israeli media in the face of the Dirar Abusisi story, which I offered almost a score of Israeli and foreign journalists before it broke widely. To this day, there are major aspects of the case not yet reported within Israel. Why? Because journalists are patriots? That’s what Yossi Melman once argued to me. But I don’t buy it. And even if it’s true, this means journalists are subordinating their obligation to their profession to their obligation to the State. An unwelcome state of affairs in any so-called democracy.
Not to mention that very few Israeli journalists have come to Blau’s defense. You’d think there would be thundering editorials in all but the most right-wing publications. There are none. You’d think columnists would rally to Blau’s defense. With only rare exceptions, they haven’t. Partly, this stems from jealousy at the audacity of Blau’s stories; partly it stems from a desire for self-preservation. Only the protruding nail gets clobbered by the hammer. Those journalists who keep their heads down and don’t threaten the established order or consensus will continue to have access to their cherished intelligence sources who dole out leaks to them at their pleasure.
One might easily argue that this is a case of legal double jeopardy since Blau has already signed a plea deal through which he returned all top-secret documents in his possession (not just those offered him by Kamm) in exchange for being allowed to come back to Israel and not be charged. Now the State has changed its mind and thrown the plea deal out the window and decided to go full steam ahead with a prosecution that makes a mockery of due process and fair dealing, not to mention commits a grievous violation of press freedom. It does so based, according to Dimi Reider, on the unsupported claim that Blau hasn’t returned ALL the documents in his possession.
Let us be clear, Uri Blau is no ordinary reporter and turning him into a convicted felon is no ordinary undertaking. Blau has unearthed some of the most damaging stories involving generals, politicians and their feudal dynasties that were published in Israel in the past decade. This would be the equivalent of the Justice Department trying Seymour Hersh for his reporting. Many have likened him to Julian Assange in terms of his breathtaking access to whistleblowers inside the belly of the beast. From the authorities point of view, if they can knock off Blau they will have struck a major blow for defanging the Israeli media. While there are other good reporters in Israel, ones who are courageous and principled, Blau has been in a class by himself. His downfall would be a tragedy of major proportions for Israeli democracy and the public’s right to know.
Benziman notes the critical importance of leaks to all democracies:
Israeli media serve their social purpose successfully only when journalists are able to obtain and publish leaks. And such leaks sometimes take the form of secret documents.
This prosecution reveals once again the inadequacy of the Israeli political system in the absence of a constitution or Bill of Rights, which clearly define the obligations and rights of citizens under the law.
- Internal Security violated agreement with Haaretz to get to Anat Kamm (promisedlandblog.com)
- Smothering the “Dynamic Debate” in Israel (mitchellplitnick.com)
- Uri Blau Returns to Israel for Questioning, Kamm Close to Plea Deal In a follow-up to a story first exposed here, Haaretz…
- Israel Plans Prosecution of Ameer Makhoul, Uri Blau The Israeli prosecutor has set a June 21st trial date…
- Anat Kamm-Uri Blau Case Enters Decisive New Phase The foreign media continue to open up the Anat Kam-Uri…
Israel Radio reported today (not sure whether this is a new ruling or goes back to last Thursday’s hearing) that the Petah Tikvah court rejected Dirar Abusisi’s appeal against the extension of his detention as requested by the Shabak and prosecutor. So this coming Thursday will bring another hearing at which it’s ‘put up or shut up’ time for Shabak. They’ve already extended his remand well beyond the normal 30 days which indicates clear due process violations. Smadar Ben Natan, Abusisi’s attorney told Kol Yisrael that Shabak will get no further extensions and must file charges by the next hearing.
I have appealed to Israeli human rights activists to demonstrate their solidarity at the Petah Tikvah court at 2PM on Thursday. I think we owe this much to Dirar and his family. In addition, it’s important that the security services know that there are Israelis opposed to Israel’s flagrant disregard for all norms of due process and international law both regarding his detention inside Israel and the collusion with Ukrainian and Jordanian Mukhabarat. We are accustomed to talking about the dark, violent nature of the Arab secret service agencies. But now we must acknowledge the existence of an Israeli Mukhabarat, which perhaps has learned a few lessons from their Arab counterparts.
- Israel’s Attorney General Signals Dissatisfaction With Shabak’s Abusisi Interrogation Yossi Melman writes in today’s Haaretz that Attorney General Yehudah…
- Israel Refuses to Charge AbuSisi, Extends Detention, Family to File European Court of Human Rights Complaint Today, the Israeli authorities held a hearing on the case…
- Jordanian Intelligence Services Implicated in Abusisi Kidnapping Yousef Abusisi, Dirar’s brother, tells me that after the latter…
The Jewish Chronicle is applauding the adoption of the so-called “working definition” of antisemitism by the students’ union at Birmingham University. Here’s the JC under the misleading headline, Birmingham embraces EU:
All speakers invited to appear at the University of Birmingham will, in future, be required to adhere to the EU Monitoring Committee’s working definition of antisemitism.Birmingham Guild of Students passed a motion last week requiring all societies and speakers to work with the EUMC guidelines to ensure incidents on campus do not allow antisemitic language or behaviour.
The move follows a controversial lecture in February during which US army veteran Mike Prysner, speaking to the Friends of Palestine Society, compared Gaza to a concentration camp..
I think this is quite important because, in spite of being hosted by what used to be the European Monitoring Centre on Xenophobia and Racism, now the Fundamental Rights Agency’s website, it has never been formally adopted by any part of the EU bureaucracy, commission or judiciary. It’s almost like the zionists that pulled it together don’t want it subjected to forensic, judicial or parliamentary scrutiny.
Since we’ve covered this on JSF before, let’s just have a quick look at what the dodgy definition consists of. It starts innocuously enough with an abstract definition headed, “Working Definition” and states, :
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
Ok, but when the American Jewish Committee first pulled the thing together, it said that
That was a bit too obviously designed to stifle criticism of Israel so they threw in a couple of sops to free speech involving “context” and the word “could”. So now rather than saying that “Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel include” it now says,
And then it sets out those various things by which “antisemitism” “could” manifest itself, subject to “context”. I’ve had some chats about this on line, and the Israel advocates are very quick to accuse a person of dishonesty if they fail to mention the “context” and the “could”.
The problem now is that this has been adopted by a students’ union because someone likened Gaza to a concentration camp at a public meeting on campus. So what happens now? Will people who want to give talks about Israel on campus be asked what they are going to say so that can be told they are not allowed to say a certain thing? Will they be vetted for what they have said in the past so that they can be banned forevermore? Will they have to sign a document promising not to say anything that sounds like it might be accusing Israel or bearing comparison to the nazis or of practicing apartheid, or of being generally not nice to the Palestinians but without criticising other states that do nasty things too? Was it even discussed before being adopted? I couldn’t find the new policy or discussion of it on the University of Birmingham Guild of Students website though I’m not the best of web searchers. If someone finds anything please let me know.
The fact that the working definition exists on line at all under the auspices of the EU is a disgrace. It clearly essentialises Jews as zionists and seeks to implicate Jews generally in Israel’s crimes at the same time as correctly pointing out that it is antisemitic to hold Jews responsible for the State of Israel. So it is antisemitic in itself though the clearest intention is the stifling, indeed preventing of meaningful criticism of Israel.
It is all the more problematic that it doesn’t inform the laws of any EU state as yet because that has enabled it to evade scrutiny and simply get adopted where activism outweighs forensics, like students’ bodies.
And this Birmingham Uni Students’ Guild decision is disgraceful, particularly as I understand it was proposed by the Guild’s anti-racism officer. But now it has been adopted by an organisation with the ability to approve or ban speakers, we might be able to see how the working definition, er, works. But I must say, that more needs to be done against it than the setting up of a facebook page.