Smothering the “Dynamic Debate” in Israel

Dimi Reider, over at +972Mag, alerts us to some disturbing developments in Israel regarding freedom of the press.

In summary, this is a continuation of the Anat Kamm case. Kamm was convicted in February for passing classified documents on to Ha’aretz reporter, Uri Blau. As Reider explains, it seems that the target of the state’s efforts was not Kamm, primarily, but the reporter, Blau, she passed the material to, and Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper which, more than any other media source in Israel, is the reason Israel has a reputation for open media and a vibrant discussion of issues often considered difficult or even taboo in the United States.

Anat Kamm

I urge my readers to look not only at Reider’s excellent piece at 972, but also Richard Silverstein’s piece from last month regarding Kamm’s plea bargain as well as his original reporting on the Kamm affair. The work they’ve done is outstanding, and I’m not going to cover ground here that they’ve already done so well.

I’ll focus on two main points here. The first is the use to which the Kamm-Blau Affair is being put.

As Reider points out, virtually any reporter, Israeli or otherwise, has probably come into possession of classified documents at some point. We certainly know this to be the case in the United States, and the important uses this can be put to. We can also see not only what might have happened to Daniel Ellsberg and his exposing of the Pentagon Papers, but also the implications today for such groundbreaking incidents as Wikileaks and the Palestine Papers.

Israel is trying to cast a major chill on such investigative reporting.  They are trying to put Uri Blau in jail for years for doing his job. The implications for investigative journalism, as well as independent blogging are enormous. Moreover, while the state declined to file any charges against Ha’aretz, it’s very clear that the desire is to send the paper a message about exposing Israeli crimes. The loss to Israel and the world if Ha’aretz is intimidated would be incalculable. Continue reading