(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
More accustomed to defending Israel than being labeled a risk to national security, journalist Lisa Goldman said she had been shocked a month ago when she found out that she was the focus of a major police investigation, and even more surprised Thursday to discover that the police had leaked the information about her case to the media.
Goldman, a Tel Aviv-based freelance reporter who has written for The Jerusalem Post, visited Lebanon twice last summer, working on articles for Channel 10 television news and for a Tel Aviv magazine.
Her Channel 10 piece from Lebanon, in particular, won praise. "Senior members of the Prime Minister's Office called to congratulate me after seeing my report on Channel 10," said Goldman.
The last detail made it particularly shocking for Goldman when, last month, she received a phone call from the police.
According to Goldman, a man identifying himself as an officer with the International and Serious Crimes Unit of the Israel Police called, telling her she was a suspect in an international crime, and that she must report to the unit's Petah Tikva headquarters to be interrogated the next morning.
"I just about fell off of my chair," Goldman recalled. "I thought, this is the craziest phone call that I have ever received in my entire life." Disbelieving, Goldman asked why she was under investigation. The officer responded that he could not tell her, citing that it could enable her to interfere with the investigation.
Within an hour after the call, a police officer reported to her house, carrying a formal document summoning her to be questioned under warning.
"I pretty quickly arrived at the conclusion that it could only be because of my trips to Lebanon," said the veteran journalist and internationally-known blogger. She called other journalists whom she knew to have visited enemy states, such as Iraq, and found that none of them had ever been investigated for their travels. In at least one case, one reporter said that the Mossad had asked him for information after a similar trip, but that he had politely refused to help and the matter was closed.
"There are so many precedents for this sort of trip," said Goldman, citing at least 12 other prominent journalists known to have visited countries considered to be enemy states for the purpose of writing articles.
Goldman said it was only after being notified about the investigation that she contacted legal experts and found that her visit, which she made carrying a foreign passport, had violated the law.
'While I think that this law is unjust and violates freedom of the press, I would never have made the trip had I been aware at the time that it was illegal," Goldman said, adding that she thought it was crucial for Israeli journalists to be able to provide the public with first-hand accounts of news in Arab states, including those listed as enemies.
Goldman said that she was interrogated for four hours, and that her investigators clearly had not read any of her English-language publications. "They didn't know that I spent basically the whole war defending Israel at my own expense while working as a journalist," Goldman recalled, emphasizing that she had given an Israeli perspective on BBC and CNN broadcasts and a number of leading newspapers.
Following the interview, investigators told Goldman not to tell anyone about the investigation. "I didn't even tell my own mother that I was interrogated," she said. Goldman said that she figured that the police would adhere to the same standards.
Shortly after noon on Thursday, the Israel Police Spokeswoman for the Investigations and Intelligence Division, Dep.-Cmdr. Michal Hayyim released a message to national-level police reporters regarding the investigation.
'In the ISCU, within the Security-Economic Unit, there is an ongoing investigation against journalists who left to enemy states, without permission from the Interior Ministry as required by law" Hayim wrote.
"This morning a reporter was questioned about his departure to Lebanon, and in the course of the past month, two reporters were questioned - one for his departure to Syria and one (female) for her departure to Lebanon."
'The police see as serious the departures of citizens of Israel to an enemy state, even if done using foreign passports that they hold. Beyond the danger to their lives, their departure to enemy countries necessarily threatens a danger to national security," Hayyim continued. "To emphasize - this is an offense of up to four years' imprisonment."
Within minutes after her name was mentioned on the next hour's news broadcasts, together with those of the two other journalists - Ron Ben-Yishai and Tzur Shizef - Goldman began receiving calls from acquaintances who had heard about the investigation.
At first, Goldman said, she did not understand how anybody had heard about the investigation which she had kept secret.
The police, she said, still haven't contacted her since the day of her interrogation.
"I think that there is domestic persecution going on here," said Goldman. "I always used to take pride in what a democratic country this is, with such broad freedom of the press."
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