Friday, April 02, 2010

Don't Mess with the IDF:
Israeli Journalist in Hiding

Related to my previous posting about the secret arrest and trial of Israeli journalist Anat Kam, it now turns out that another journalist, Haaretz senior correspondent Uri Blau, is in hiding in London fearing that he too will be arrested and held in camera if he returns to Israel.

According to the Independent (and thanks to the Promised Land blog for the lead):
An Israeli journalist is in hiding in Britain, The Independent can reveal, over fears that he may face charges in the Jewish state in connection with his investigation into the killing of a Palestinian in the West Bank.

Uri Blau, a reporter at Israel's liberal newspaper, Haaretz, left town three months ago for Asia and is now in London. Haaretz is understood to be negotiating the terms of his return to Israel with prosecutors, according to an Israeli source, who declined to be identified, because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The news of Mr Blau's extended absence comes just days after it emerged that another Israeli journalist, Anat Kam, has been held under house arrest for the last three months on charges that she leaked classified documents to the press while completing her military service.

Although no media outlet or journalist has been specifically named as the recipient of the classified information, there is speculation on Israeli blogs that Ms Kam gave documents to Mr Blau that formed the basis of a story he wrote in November 2008.
Why the heavy handed and Kafkaesque crack down? The Independent continues:
In his article for Haaretz, Mr Blau reported that one or 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.
The story alleged that the order to assassinate Ziad Malisha was given by General Yair Naveh and approved and modified slightly by Gen Moti Ashkenazi (photo above), now chief of staff of the IDF. If true, both these generals would be liable for criminal charges in Israel (though the likelihood of any Israeli prosecutor attempting this are close to zero.) More to the point, they would be open to a civil suit in Israel, and possible criminal charged in various international courts.

And IDF generals don't like having their ethics challenged and more importantly having to worry about travel to Europe. Look at how hard they have resisted the Goldstone Report's call for an open and independent investigation into the Gaza War. (The Israeli press indicated that both the PM's office and the Israeli Foreign Ministry were inclined to agree to one, in light of strong international pressure, but it was vetoed by the IDF with strong backing from Defense Minister - and former IDF Chief Of Staff - Barak.)

Secret arrests and trials are rare in Israel, and have never (as far as we know) been used against journalists. I guess the generals are getting particularly testy, and in Israel the military brass usually gets what they want.

I am sure the lesson will not been lost on other Israeli journalists. The "free press" better not mess with the IDF.


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