Some secrets are meant to be kept

Against the ultimate evil, one cannot fight with an arsenal of human rights and enlightened values.

February 14, 2013 21:22
4 minute read.
Ben Zygier at his wedding, captured from an image broadcast by ABC News.

Ben Zygier at his wedding 370. (photo credit: ABC Screenshot)


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I don’t know about you, but I am on the Mossad’s side. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for all the Mossad agents wherever they may be around the world. I pray that all Mossad operations be successful, and that as many as possible of the people or institutions whose aim is to destroy the State of Israel and its citizens just disappear, and I don’t care how. I am an Israeli, a Zionist, a journalist, in that order. (And what about a Jew? Yes, I am a proud secular Jew, who does not connect religion to nonholy things. Religion is in the synagogue and in the heart.) Theoretically, if I chanced upon an incredible story, one that would make sensational international headlines and make me a famous journalist overnight, but at the same time thwart a Mossad operation to, let’s say, destroy Iran’s nuclear program, I would happily forgo the story and I would fall asleep that night with a smile on my face.

By the way, I also wouldn’t try to pass off the story to a foreign journalist, in a shady collaboration that would allow me to then be the first Israeli journalist to quote “foreign sources.” I believe that the State of Israel still has plenty of secrets that should be kept. I know that most of the hair-raising operations carried out by Mossad agents around the world have never been acknowledged and never will be, and that is a good thing.

No, I don’t think that everything should be open for “public discussion.”

Some things are better left unsaid. Some secrets should be taken to the grave. And no, this doesn’t make Israel a dark regime or a dictatorship.

What Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is doing to the Israeli media is much worse. The pursuit after the last strongholds of the free media is endangering our democratic rights much more than an attempt to keep Mossad operations a secret. The fact is, a Mossad operation went wrong. Somebody spoke when he shouldn’t have. Or someone betrayed his country.

And the terrible Prisons Service botch that provided ex-Mossad agent Ben Zygier the opportunity to commit suicide in Israeli prison in 2010 is saddening, but it’s part of life.

The circumstances of the incident need to be investigated behind closed doors, as far as possible from the public eye. No, this is not similar to the 1984 Bus 300 affair, in which Israeli state operatives carried out the most serious criminal offenses, and then afterward lied about it and slandered an innocent officer in an effort to deflect the blame. If we are to assume that Ben Zygier did in fact commit suicide (and was not murdered), then what we have here is a serious operational failure. We must quietly patch things up and move on. Historians in the distant future will be far less interested in an agent who committed suicide than in the Iranian nuclear threat.

Let’s look for a moment at our most important friend, one that symbolizes democracy, human rights and freedom of speech: the United States of America. President Barack Obama is a liberal, enlightened warrior for human rights. In his first-term campaign speeches, he declared that he would shut down the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison.

In this prison, which does not fall under US legal jurisdiction, American personnel try to crack the toughest al-Qaida detainees and use controversial “interrogation methods” to retrieve information.

But lo and behold, Obama reached the end of his first term and was reelected for a second one. And Guantanamo is still operational. Obama has finally understood that in this age of global terrorism, when so many people are striving to kill as many people as possible, and to carry out terrorist attacks, sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty in human sewage.

Things are not always as they seem. The American pursuit of Osama bin Laden proved this.

Against the ultimate evil, one cannot fight with an arsenal of human rights and enlightened values. Period. And if the Americans have reached this conclusion, then we, who are hanging on by a thread in the midst of a hundred million people who hate us, certainly should, too.

Although we are in the Internet age, there are still situations in which state secrets should be kept, and military censorship should be implemented, even though it only affects Israeli media. Israeli journalists have much greater access to state secrets than do foreign journalists, and I am not offended when a foreign journalist publishes state secrets when I couldn’t. Israel is the only country that continues to struggle for its existence and be accepted as a legitimate entity in a world that is becoming more and more dangerous all the time.

And the only thing that is more important to me than the public’s right to know, freedom of information and democracy, is the very existence of our country. Because I still remember how it was before Israel was established, upon the ashes of the six million. And therefore, even though I tend to quarrel quite a bit with the military censorship, at the end of the day I agree that when the publication of a specific item would constitute a real danger to national security, to people’s lives or to the country’s vital foreign relations, it is preferable that the item not be published.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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