Too much to blog about, #1: Anat Kam

The ‘Anat Kam’ story has been developing a lot over the past week. It’s the story of two Haaretz journalists, Anat Kam and the older Uri Blau, who have been hounded and gagged by the Shin Bet for having leaked– about a year ago!– some serious stories about how the Israeli security forces developed a protocol for sending troops in on the ground to assassinate wanted Palestinians in cold blood and then cover it up.
The best coverage of this story, without a doubt, has come from West Coast U.S. blogger Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam. read his latest post, up today, and then read back from there. (Or, probably, forward as well, as the story develops.)
The case has so many angles it’s hard to know where to start.
One is the whole phenomenon of this ‘gagging’, which seems to operate very much like ‘banning’ in the old South Africa. Except in the old S.Africa, the ‘banning’ orders slapped onto Winnie Mandela and hundreds of other activists were at least public knowledge. Wheras in the case of Anat Kam, the gag order itself is subject to a security blackout and she has been rendered– far more than Winnie Mandela ever was– into a complete non-person.
(Blau escaped, with help from his bosses at Haaretz, by being sent to London. But the Shin Bet got ahold of his computer in Israel.)
Another strange aspect of this case is the bit-part played in it by Judith Miller, of all people. Yes, the same woman who played such a role in helping peddle the fabricated evidence that jerked the U.S. political elite into supporting the invasion of Iraq is now playing, in a small way, a bit of a good role in this story.
Richard has been writing about the story for more than a week now on his blog– and has done so despite much personal agonizing over whether this was the right thing to do, or whether it might jeopardize Ms. Kam’s situation even more. But then on Sunday, Judith Miller got a big piece about the Anat Kam affair published in Tina Brown’s ‘Daily Beast’, which is much more of a crossover journalistic operation, straddling the divide between personal blogs and the MSM.
What she wrote was, in general, pretty good. Sh went a bit overboard when she described Israel as “a nation that prides itself on its vibrant discourse and a free press”… I mean, it’s a country in which military censorship is omnipresent. (Which means, for example, that journos of all nationalities who’re based there aren’t allowed to report on any Palestinian projectiles that fall on Israeli military bases, as many do… leaving readers with the impression that they all fall on civilian areas.)
Until yesterday, the Israeli media referred to the whole Anat Kam affair only using elliptical references and by writing ‘hypothetical’ stories about “what would happen if there were a country that did something like this?” This, though it’s a small country and all the journos there (and just about everyone else, too) already knows what’s been going on.
Then yesterday, Yediot Aharonot reprinted the J. Miller story and left in the big black slugs imposed by the censorship. (You can see it here.)
But as Richard and others have noted, Israel has a very lively “Web 2.0” crowd; and on Facebook and Twitter etc there’s been a lot of commenting on Anat Kam’s gag order.
This far, just about all of the commentary in the media has been on the “freedom of the press” aspects of the whole affair. And there’s been precious little discussion of the underlying revelations that provoked the state’s actions against Blau and Kam. They are deeply shocking– much more shocking than the question of temporarily ‘gagging’ someone. Namely that the Israeli security forces– not sure if this was the IDF/IOF or the Border Police, or which units– had been systematically sending units into, I believe, the West Bank with orders to kill certain named suspects, and then make up a story that they’d been been shot “in the heat of combat” or shot “trying to escape”, or whatever.
Just like poor Steve Biko– or those hundreds of other South African freedom strugglers who were either targeted for assassination in the streets or were shot while in the custody of the security forces, or were shot shortly after leaving the formal custody of the security forces.
That is a story we cannot lose sight of.
Richard wrote about that a bit here.
Thanks for your great work, Richard.