The salt of the earth and ideological crime

Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin should save some indignation over the Anat Kamm affair for himself; it represents a serious failure for his organization.

diskin black and white 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
diskin black and white 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Anat Kamm, a former clerk in the IDF’s Central Command headquarters, allegedly stole thousands of classified military documents and passed them on to a journalist who is now a fugitive in London. Discussing the Kamm case on TV, Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), sounded indignant. Kam may not have sold documents to Hamas, but she allegedly acted with reckless – not to mention criminal – disregard for national security and the lives of her fellow citizens. The documents Kamm is supposed to have stolen include operational plans and mobilization schedules. If they fall into the wrong hands, they will jeopardize the lives of many soldiers and civilians. Nobody in Israel knows where the documents are.
By her own admission, Kamm was motivated by ideology. She objected strongly to something she came into contact with in the IDF; whether it was the role of Central Command, in charge of IDF operations in Judea and Samaria, or the role of the IDF in general, is still not public knowledge.
One hopes that Diskin is honest enough to save some of his indignation for himself, for the Kamm case represents a serious failure of the organization he heads. How did someone like Kamm come to be placed in a sensitive position that brought her into contact with top secret military information? How did she pass the security check required of anyone who is allowed access to an IDF regional command post?
Why wasn’t she assigned to making coffee in some less-than-vital military installation or to shuffling papers in the IDF’s pension department?
Her lawyer, the well-known attorney Avigdor Feldman, provides part of the answer. According to Feldman, Kamm is a just a regular gal, not someone one can seriously suspect of crimes against national security. She comes from a “good” family, an establishment family, a “Zionist” family. She’s “the salt of the earth.” She’s “one of us,” the invisible yet palpable community both Feldman and Diskin belong to, membership in which Feldman seeks to invoke in her defense. Though Feldman didn’t say it, she even comes equipped with all the correct political opinions; she just must’ve gotten carried away a little, as young people will. For all these reasons, Kamm slipped under the Shin Bet’s radar screen and was placed where, allegedly, she inflicted immense damage upon the state.
THE SHIN BET is not always so blind to the social milieu in which IDF draftees grow up. If Kam had been a male with a kippa on his head who had studied in a yeshiva high school, the IDF at the Shin Bet’s direction would not have taken any foolish risks with him. As part of his induction process, he would have been directed to an interview with a mental health officer. The interview would have had nothing to do with his mental health. He would have been questioned closely about his religious and political beliefs. If his answers had been less than satisfactory, he would have found himself in limbo – neither drafted nor excused from military service.
As the months, perhaps years, dragged on, he would have been unable to get on with his life – to go to school or get a job, because that’s the law regarding people who have not yet fulfilled their obligatory military service. Nobody would have told him what was going on. He would have nobody to appeal to. His crime? Nothing he may have done, just his background and community.
The Shin Bet is a secret organization that operates without adequate public oversight. Operating in a bubble of its own creation, it assigns grades to citizens based on its assumptions about their political reliability and honors or violates their rights according to the grades it assigns. Its assumptions reflect its own members’ insular social and political biases. It inflicts serious damage on the nation it is supposed to defend. Refusing to believe that someone like Anat Kamm could actually betray her country is one kind of damage. Branding entire communities as potential traitors is another and worse kind of damage.
It’s high time to put an end to the Shin Bet’s privileged insularity.The Knesset should conduct a searching investigation into the manner inwhich it presumes to evaluate citizens’ loyalty and the extralegalmethods it employs against those who fall afoul of its biases. All itsprocedures that affect citizens’ rights should require prior review andapproval by a multipartisan Knesset committee.
People suspected of no crime whose rights are curtailed by the Shin Betshould be informed that they are victims of its procedures. They shouldhave the right of appeal, and those appeals should be heard by judgesand/or elected officials, not faceless security bureaucrats. Thesereforms should be embodied in binding legislation.
The writer heads the Israel Policy Center, whose missionincludes reinforcing Israel's character as a Jewish, democraticstate.