Ben Gurion U
Tel Aviv U
U of Haifa
Israeli Academic Extremism
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Anti-Israel Petitions Signed by Israeli
How to Complain
Hebrew University - Bernard Avishai (Dept of Business
Administration) celebrates the espionage and treason of Anat Kamm
'But what if the military, acting as
an occupation force, is itself violating bounds set by the
judiciary, and its actions are arguably
making citizens less safe? What if a whistle-blower leaks documents
to a journalist, who then uses them to write a story questioning the
legality or efficacy of the military's actions?'
Israel's Pentagon Papers
None of what has happened changed the importance of airing the
question of whether targeted assassinations by the IDF are morally
By BERNARD AVISHAI
Common sense tells you that the IDF, charged
with keeping citizens as safe as possible, should have the right to
keep operational plans secret, and that the government – acting
within bounds set by the judiciary – should have the right to censor
any stories about such plans and prosecute the people who leak them.
But what if the military, acting as an
occupation force, is itself violating bounds set by the judiciary,
and its actions are arguably making citizens less safe? What
if a whistle-blower leaks documents to a
journalist, who then uses them to write a story questioning the
legality or efficacy of the military's actions? What if the story is
itself passed by the censor, but the government opens an
investigation into the journalist's sources?
What, then, if the journalist, cooperating with
the investigation, hands over documents in an agreement that
stipulates that they could not be used to prosecute the source, if
found? And what, nevertheless, if the government finds the
whistle-blower and charges her under laws
written, not to deal with the press, but to prevent espionage by a
hostile foreign government? What if the government refuses to
renounce the option of arresting the journalist for holding
prohibited documents – so he remains in
London, refusing to return to the country?
THIS, IN a nutshell, is the troubling case of
Anat Kamm, who allegedly (well, apparently) leaked documents from
the office of the Central Command headquarters to
Haaretz journalist Uri Blau,
showing that the IDF systematically issued operational
guidelines to its soldiers quite different from regulations the
courts have required. The latter decreed that the military may not
simply engage in targeted assassination in the occupied territories,
that, rather, soldiers must at least try to take Palestinian
suspects alive, and not unreasonably endanger innocent bystanders
during search operations. Blau's original piece exposed how the IDF
ignored these bounds. He explored cases in which Palestinians who
might have been arrested were killed, as were bystanders.
Haaretz is defending its journalist with
all its force. I won't attempt to compete with its Friday edition,
that gives any patient reader the full picture,
including its editorial detailing how military intelligence broke
the deal it made with the paper, and its follow-up by Blau.
I will, however, make one point the paper does
not make, about the efficacy of targeted assassinations themselves.
Presumably, they are justified, and the regulations issued to
facilitate them justified, because occupation forces preempt attacks
on Israeli civilians by getting the bad guys before they get us. I
have no doubt that, in some cases, this preemption has saved lives.
But what if, on the whole, the opposite is true, that shooting
preemptively and recklessly raises the likelihood of violence
Anyone who gives this a moment's thought must
see this is at least possible.
The University of Toronto sociologist Robert Brym, for
example, carefully studied all 138 suicide bombings between
September 2000 and mid-July 2005. He concluded that, in the vast
majority of cases, the suicide bombers themselves – whatever their
"ideological" predispositions, or the groups that claimed
responsibility – had lost a friend or close relative to Israeli
fire. They acted, he wrote, "out of revenge."
Which is precisely why the newspaper was as
justified in exposing these secret documents as The
New York Times was in publishing the Pentagon Papers.
Akiva Eldar connected the dots when he wrote that he
expects the real story of how the al-Aksa intifada got started is
buried somewhere in similar documents – the ones we have not yet
seen – documents pointed to by Kamm's leaked ones, testifying to the
IDF's vendetta culture:
"Right now, hundreds of clerks and officers are
sitting in the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the army
lacking the courage to contact a journalist and divulge that the
ministers or commanders in charge are endangering their children's
future. Some are keeping to themselves the real story behind the big
lie peddled by
Shaul Mofaz and
Moshe Ya'alon – the falsehood that "Yasser
Arafat planned the intifada," which gave rise to the
disastrous "there is no partner" ideology. The real story, of
course, is contained in documents stamped with the words 'Top
I EXPECT we will soon hear stories about Kamm's
youth, or ingenuousness, or narcissism, which all may be as true as
Daniel Ellsberg's depressions. None of this changes the importance
to Israeli democracy of airing the question of whether targeted
assassinations as practiced and sanctioned by the IDF are either
morally acceptable in a country of law or will allow any of us to
sleep more safely, even if not more soundly.
The writer is adjunct professor of
Hebrew University and the author of the recently
published The Hebrew Republic. This article was originally
published on www.bernardavishai.com.