Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ms.Kam "takes leave of absence"

AN Israeli journalist has been secretly held under house arrest for three months, and the country's newspapers and television ordered not to talk about it. Friends who wanted to make her case public have been told they had better keep quiet, for fear of making it worse.

Last week an Israeli academic working in the United States broke the story as following online:

The Israeli blogosphere is full now with rumors and speculations about the fate of the young Israeli internet journalist Anat Kam (born 1987), especially the circumstances of her so-called "disappearance." Officially, Ms. Kam took a leave of absence from her Internet portal Walla, but the rumours insist that in fact she is under some sort of house arrest, due to her role in the leak and publication in Ha'aretz in November 2008 of IDF highly classified ("top secret") documents on the IDF secret loose procedures of dealing with "wanted" Palestinians. The story indicates as of the IDF created engagement procedures that practically allow the IDF to shoot and kill "wanted Palestinians" even not in situation of self defense.

Avner Cohen added:
A Facebook group was quickly established today with an effort to spread the little information known on the Kam case. In response, friends of Anat Kam have asked to stop these activities, that they could undermine the hope to end this affair quietly, in a manner to that would allow to end the affair. Within an hour that Facebook was gone.

He went on:

'Well, I happen to have personal recollection about another affair, a decade ago, with some similar aspects to the Kam's case. This was the secret arrest of Brig. Gen Yitzhak Yaacov (Yatza) in March 2001. Yatza was under arrest for nearly a month before the story came out in public, during that period there was gag order (tzav isur pirsum) and the argument was similar to the one we hear now: there is a chance to resolve the issue quietly, so lets not undermine this chance.

I know that story well because my affair and Yatza were intimately tied. I knew about his disappearance almost from dayone. When I was finally allowed to leave the country, and Yatza was still under his secret arrest, I gave my word to the MALMAB people that I would would not leak Yatza's arrest overseas.

Indeed, I kept my word and did not leak the story. But then, almost a month into the secret arrest as I got a call from the Sunday Times senior correspondent in Washington who told me that the Uzi Machanaymi, the paper's representative in Israel, wrote the story but it is he, the Washington representative, who will have the byline, and therefore he needed to check whether the story (which he did not write) has some merit. Well, except the lone fact that was reported CORRECTLY, that is that Yatza was under a secret arrest for a month, almost everything else in the story was false. The story presumed as if Yatza was a real Soviet spy and Tania, hi s wife, was sort of Mata Harry. He wanted me to save himself from embarrassment and to get some advise whether to go along with the story or not.

My situation was not dissimilar with the situation involving the current story now. I felt a real dilemma. On the one hand, the secret arrest had been taken place for a full month, on the other hand there was my desire not to harm Yatza further and the "word of honor" I gave the MALMAB.

I decided then the following: while I contribute nothing new factual to the Sunday Times, I decided to confirm the arrest, to encourage the Sunday Times to publish it. I urged the journalist to be vague on everything else, hinting him that much in his story was inaccurate, did not say what and how, but encouraged them to publish it anyway. Well, within a day the story was out, the gag order was dead. Haaretz under Hanoch was the first one not to obey the gag order

For years I tortured myself whether it was good to Yatza or not. In retrospect, I think it was. Yes, Yatza had to face a trial, but he would have faced that in any case. Horev was determined to do it. This was the beginning of the fall of Yechiel Horev. The press asked for some answers. They forced the "system" to deal with it.

I think my dilemma then is not irrelevant to the present case. Mmuch food for thought.'

Today the story was taken up today by the Independent:

Israeli leak suspect held in secret house arrest

Gagging order in case of woman accused of leaking military information to press

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem The charges against Anat Kam, which could carry a heavy prison sentence if she is convicted, are believed to accuse her of photocopying classified documents during her period of military service.

Although the charges are not thought to specify a particular media outlet or article, there has been speculation that they relate to an investigation by the journalist Uri Blau in Haaretz magazine in November 2008. That report suggested that one of two Islamic Jihad militants killed in Jenin in June 2007 had been targeted for assassination in apparent violation of a ruling issued six months earlier by Israel's supreme court.

While not outlawing assassinations in the West Bank altogether, the ruling heavily restricted the circumstances in which they were permissible, effectively saying that they should not take place if arrest was possible.

Mr Blau's article said that the assassination of one of the militants killed in Jenin, Ziad Malaisha, had been approved in advance by officers, provided his car did not contain "more than one identified passenger". At the time of the shootings the military said it had killed Malaisha and another militant after they opened fire at a joint army and border police patrol.

Ms Kam was arrested more than a year after Mr Blau's report was published. At the time of her arrest, she was working for the news service Walla, which until recently was owned by Haaretz.

Discussions between the defence and the prosecution are under way and likely to be completed next week after the Passover holiday. A date for Ms Kam's trial has reportedly been fixed for 14 April, with the legal challenge to the gag order scheduled two days earlier in Tel Aviv district court.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the case yesterday.

One of Ms Kam's lawyers, Eitan Lehman, yesterday declined to discuss details of the case because of what he said was a warrant prohibiting publication. He said that leaks about the case had come from "the other side and not from us", including police sources. He added: "We are doing our best to abide by the terms of the warrant and to obey the law."

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), a long-established US-based news service which serves the Jewish diaspora, the November 2008 report in Haaretz was approved by Israel's military censor. The news agency said that the charges against Ms Kam – which she denies – were under Israel's espionage and treason laws. JTA quoted Dov Alfon, editor-in-chief of Haaretz, as saying it was "absurd" to link Ms Kam's arrest and the 2008 article. JTA said Mr Alfon had implied that Mr Blau had obtained his information without Ms Kam's help.

Mr Alfon was quoted as adding: "Haaretz asked the court to lift the gag order, not just in the public interest but also to allow us to defend ourselves from this absurd allegation. More than a year passed between the publication and her arrest, a year in which Uri Blau published several other front-page articles criticising the army's conduct."


On the 'Yatza' case recalled by Avner Cohen, here's a NYT report:

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