Perhaps the highest calling of a free press is to serve as society’s watchdog through conscientious muckraking. In that spirit, Haaretz chose to publish articles based on classified documents that raised questions about the IDF’s targeted-killings policy against Islamic Jihad terrorists.
Anat Kamm stole those documents, and many, many more, during her army service from 2005 to 2007 in the office of the commander of the Central Command. The very fact that these documents had been stolen, and the indiscriminate nature of her theft, might have given the newspaper pause, but it acted properly within the framework of military censorship by getting approval from the censor before publishing specific articles based on particular documents.
It argued that this material fell firmly within the definition of public interest. And it gave the IDF advance notice of the articles, to enable the IDF to respond.
From this point onward, however, Haaretz
’s behavior deviates
from acceptable journalistic practice. Most troubling is the paper’s
willingness to back reporter Uri Blau, presently in self-imposed exile
in Britain, if, as is alleged by the state, he is holding on to what
may be some 2,000 sensitive documents, 700 of which are judged by the
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to be of a confidential or highly
Security sources say the
documents contain top-secret information concerning General Staff
orders, personnel numbers in the Central Command, intelligence
information, information on IDF doctrine and data on sensitive military
exercises, weaponry and military platforms. The files also allegedly
contain details on what the Central Command does in the event of a
major escalation – how it deploys forces to the West Bank and where it
stations them there.
Far less comprehensible
than Kamm’s alleged ideologically motivated decision to steal so many
documents is Blau’s refusal to hand them back. He’s had the documents
since at least October 2008, when he began publishing reports based on
Damage control is possible only after
the Shin Bet verifies precisely which classified documents were taken
by Kamm and who received them. The public interest in such damage
control, given the sensitivity of the material, should be obvious to
Blau and to Haaretz. This is a matter of life-and-death national
According to Shin Bet chief Yuval
Diskin, Blau reneged on an agreement to hand over the documents – under
which he would nonetheless still have had the opportunity to write
articles based on them – running off first to China, and then to
Britain. His refusal to return the papers, and to return himself,
implies he has something to hide.
that Blau’s refusal to hand over the documents lies in his desire to
protect Kamm, furthermore, is no match for the wider national security
interest, but it is also contradicted by the fact that Haaretz
potentially incriminating photocopies of documents taken by Kamm before
she was arrested in December 2009.
drama touches on fundamental ethical dilemmas that face the State of
Israel as it strives to maintain freedom of press while fighting
adversaries that couldn’t care less about such an ideal. The success of
Zionism is emphatically about nurturing the Middle East’s only true
democracy and ensuring freedom of expression as well as about providing
for the physical protection of the Jewish people.
These two goals are not contradictory, they are mutually
dependent: The knowledge that Israel fights its wars in accordance with
ethical directives provides Israel’s citizens with the conviction of
the justness of its cause. A free, inquisitive press helps ensure that
the IDF maintains those ethical standards. If the targeted-killings
policy, or any other IDF policy for that matter, is out of line with
the rulings of the Israeli judiciary, this requires our
Regrettably, however, the
unwillingness of Blau and his newspaper to meet the Shin Bet’s demand
to return stolen documents whose content would aid our enemies and
render our people more vulnerable raises grave questions about the
the radical agenda of some of its writers, who
focus obsessively in its pages on Israel’s purported brutality while
ignoring Palestinian terror, violence and incitement? Or is the paper
truly interested in strengthening Israeli democracy via constructive
criticism? The way to clear up the doubt would be to return the stolen
documents to the Shin Bet as quickly as possible.
As the Jewish people gathers to commemorate the memory of the six
million, this is an opportune time to recall the events that led to the
creation of the State of Israel. The Jews returned to their land not
out of a desire to wage war with the Palestinian people, but out of a
realization that they could rely on no one but themselves to survive.
Six decades and countless battles later, Haaretz
would do well to
remind itself what is at stake if the security of the Jewish state is