by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
An Israeli journalist who went
into hiding after writing a series of reports showing lawbreaking
approved by Israeli army commanders faces a lengthy jail term for
espionage if caught, as Israeli security services warned at the weekend
they would “remove the gloves” to track him down.
The Shin Bet, Israel’s secret
police, said it was treating Uri Blau, a reporter with the liberal
Haaretz daily newspaper who has gone underground in London, as a
“fugitive felon” and that a warrant for his arrest had been issued.
Options being considered are an
extradition request to the British authorities or, if that fails, a
secret operation by Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, to smuggle him back,
according to Maariv, a right-wing newspaper.
It was revealed yesterday that
Mr Blau’s informant, Anat Kamm, 23, a former conscript soldier who
copied hundreds of classified documents during her military service, had
confessed shortly after her arrest in December to doing so to expose
The Shin Bet claims that Mr Blau
is holding hundreds of classified documents, including some reported to
relate to Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in winter 2008
in which the army is widely believed to have violated the rules of war.
Other documents, the basis of a
Haaretz investigation published in 2008, concern a meeting between the
head of the army, Gabi Ashkenazi, and the Shin Bet in which it was
agreed to ignore a court ruling and continue carrying out executions of
Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories.
Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin
Bet, who has said his organisation was previously “too sensitive with
the investigation”, is now demanding that Mr Blau reveal his entire
document archive and take a lie-detector test on his return to identify
his sources, according to Haaretz. The newspaper and its lawyers have
recommended that he remain in hiding to protect his informants.
Haaretz has also revealed that,
in a highly unusual move shortly before Israel’s attack on Gaza, it
agreed to pull a printed edition after the army demanded at the last
minute that one of Mr Blau’s stories not be published. His report had
already passed the military censor, which checks that articles do not
endanger national security.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
Lawyers and human rights groups
fear that the army and Shin Bet are trying to silence investigative
journalists and send a warning to other correspondents not to follow in
Mr Blau’s path.
“We have a dangerous precedent
here, whereby the handing over of material to an Israeli newspaper … is
seen by the prosecutor’s office as equivalent to contact with a foreign
agent,” said Eitan Lehman, Ms Kamm’s lawyer. “The very notion of
presenting information to the Israeli public alone is taken as an
intention to hurt national security.”
The Shin Bet’s determination to
arrest Mr Blau was revealed after a blanket gag order was lifted late
last week on Ms Kamm’s case. She has been under house arrest since
December. She has admitted copying hundreds of classified documents
while serving in the office of Brig Gen Yair Naveh, in charge of
operations in the West Bank, between 2005 and 2007.
Under an agreement with the Shin
Bet last year, Haaretz and Mr Blau handed over 50 documents and agreed
to the destruction of Mr Blau’s computer.
Both sides accuse the other of
subsequently reneging on the deal: the Shin Bet says Mr Blau secretly
kept other documents copied by Ms Kamm that could be useful to Israel’s
enemies; while Mr Blau says the Shin Bet used the returned documents to
track down Ms Kamm, his source, after assurances that they would not do
Haaretz said Mr Blau fears that
they will try to identify his other informants if he hands over his
Mr Blau learnt of his
predicament in December, while out of the country on holiday. He said a
friend called to warn that the Shin Bet had broken into his home and
ransacked it. He later learnt they had been monitoring his telephone,
e-mail and computer for many months.
In a move that has baffled many
observers, the Shin Bet revealed last week that Mr Blau was hiding in
London, despite the threat that it would make him an easier target for
other countries’ intelligence agencies.
Amir Mizroch, an analyst with
the right-wing Jerusalem Post newspaper, noted that it was as if
Israel’s security services were “saying to Syrian, Lebanese,
Palestinian, Hizbullah and Iranian intelligence agents in London:
‘Yalla, be our guests, go get Uri Blau’.” He added that the real goal
might be to flush out Mr Blau so that he would seek sanctuary at the
Ms Kamm is charged with
espionage with intent to harm national security, the harshest indictment
possible and one that could land in her jail for 25 years. Yesterday
another of her lawyers, Avigdor Feldman, appealed to Mr Blau to return
to Israel and give back the documents to help “minimise the affair”.
“The real question is whether
this exceptionally heavy-handed approach is designed only to get back
Kamm’s documents or go after Blau and his other sources,” said Jeff
Halper, an Israeli analyst. “It may be that Kamm is the excuse the
security services need to identify Blau’s circle of informants.”
Mr Blau has already published
several stories, apparently based on Ms Kamm’s documents, showing that
the army command approved policies that not only broke international law
but also violated the rulings of Israel’s courts.
His reports have included
revelations that senior commanders approved extra-judicial
assassinations in the occupied territories that were almost certain to
kill Palestinian bystanders; that, in violation of a commitment to the
high court, the army issued orders to execute wanted Palestinians even
if they could be safely captured; and that the defence ministry compiled
a secret report showing that the great majority of settlements in the
West Bank were illegal even under Israeli law.
Although the original stories
date to 2008, the army issued a statement belatedly this week that Mr
Blau’s reports were “outrageous and misleading”. No senior commanders
have been charged over the army’s lawbreaking activities.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human
rights group, said its research had shown that “in many cases soldiers
have been conducting themselves in the territories as if they were on a
hit mission, as opposed to arrest operations”.
It added that the authorities
had “rushed to investigate the leak and chose to ignore the severe
suspicions of blatant wrongdoings depicted in those documents”.
A group of senior journalists
established a petition this week calling for Mr Blau to be spared a
trial: “So far, the authorities have not prosecuted journalists for
holding secret information, which most of us have had in one form or
another. This policy by the prosecution reflects, in our view, an
imbalance between journalistic freedom, the freedom of expression and
the need for security.”
However, media coverage of the
case in Israel has been largely hostile. Yuval Elbashan, a lawyer, wrote
in Haaretz yesterday that Mr Blau’s fellow military reporters and
analysts had in the past few days abandoned their colleague and proven
“their loyalty to the [security] system as the lowliest of its
One, Yossi Yehoshua, a military
correspondent with the country’s largest-circulation newspaper, Yedioth
Aharonoth, who is said to have been approached by Ms Kamm before she
turned to Mr Blau, is due to testify against her in her trial due next
Chat forums and talkback columns
also suggest little sympathy among the Israeli public for either Ms
Kamm or Mr Blau. Several Hebrew websites show pictures of Ms Kamm behind
bars or next to a hangman’s noose.
A report on Israel National
News, a news service for settlers, alleged that Ms Kamm had been under
the influence of “rabidly left-wing“ professors at Tel Aviv University
when she handed over the documents to the Haaretz reporter.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and
journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and
the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle
East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments
in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.