by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
An Arab member of the Israeli
parliament is demanding that a newspaper be allowed to publish an
investigative report that was suppressed days before Israel attacked
Gaza in winter 2008.
The investigation by Uri Blau,
who has been in hiding since December to avoid arrest, concerned Israeli
preparations for the impending assault on Gaza, known as Operation Cast
In a highly unusual move,
according to reports in the Israeli media, the army ordered the Haaretz
newspaper to destroy all copies of an edition that included Mr Blau’s
investigation after it had already gone to press and been passed by the
military censor. The article was never republished.
Mr Blau has gone underground in
London after the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, demanded he return to
Israel to hand back hundreds of classified documents they claim are in
his possession and to reveal his sources.
He published several additional
reports for Haaretz in 2008 and 2009 that severely embarrassed senior
military commanders by showing they had issued orders that intentionally
violated court rulings, including to execute Palestinians who could be
Haneen Zoubi, an MP who
previously headed an Israeli media-monitoring organisation, said it was
“outrageous” that the suppressed report was still secret so long after
the Gaza attack. She is to table a parliamentary question to Ehud Barak,
the defence minister, today demanding to know why the army suppressed
the article and what is preventing its publication now. Mr Barak must
respond within 21 days.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
She said publication of the
article was important both because Israel had been widely criticised for
killing many hundreds of civilians in its three-week assault on Gaza,
and because subsequent reports suggested that Israeli commanders sought
legal advice months before the operation to manipulate the accepted
definitions of international law to make it easier to target civilians.
“There must be at least a strong
suspicion that Mr Blau’s article contains vital information, based on
military documentation, warning of Israeli army intentions to commit war
crimes,” she said in an interview.
“If so, then there is a public
duty on Haaretz to publish the article. If not, then there is no reason
for the minister to prevent publication after all this time.”
Ms Zoubi’s call yesterday
followed mounting public criticism of Haaretz for supporting Mr Blau by
advising him to stay in hiding and continuing to pay his salary. In chat
forums and talkback columns, the reporter has been widely denounced as a
traitor. Several MPs have called for Haaretz to be closed down or
A Haaretz spokeswoman refused to
comment, but a journalist there said a “fortress mentality” had
developed at the newspaper. “We’ve all been told not to talk to anyone
about the case,” he said. “There’s absolute paranoia that the paper is
going to be made to suffer because of the Blau case.”
Amal Jamal, a professor at Tel
Aviv University who teaches a media course, said he was concerned with
the timing of the Shin Bet’s campaign against Mr Blau. He observed that
they began interviewing the reporter about his sources and documents
last summer as publication neared of the Goldstone report, commissioned
by the United Nations and which embarrassed Israel by alleging it had
perpetrated war crimes in Gaza.
“The goal in this case appears
to be not only to intimidate journalists but also to delegitimise
certain kinds of investigations concerning security issues, given the
new climate of sensitivity in Israel following the Goldstone report.”
He added that Mr Blau, who had
quickly acquired a reputation as Israel’s best investigative reporter,
was “probably finished” as a journalist in Israel.
Shraga Elam, an award-winning
Israeli reporter, said Mr Blau’s suppressed article might also have
revealed the aims of a widely mentioned but unspecified “third phase” of
the Gaza attack, following the initial air strikes and a limited ground
invasion, that was not implemented.
He suspected the plans involved
pushing some of Gaza’s population into Egypt under cover of a more
extensive ground invasion. The plan had been foiled, he believed,
because Hamas offered little resistance and Egypt refused to open the
On Monday, an MP with the
centrist Kadima Party, Yulia Shamal-Berkovich, called for Haaretz to be
closed down, backing a similar demand from fellow MP Michael Ben-Ari, of
the right-wing National Union.
She accused Haaretz management
of having “chosen to hide” over the case and blamed it for advising Mr
Blau to remain abroad. She said the newspaper “must make sure the
materials that are in his possession are returned. If Haaretz fails to
do so, its newspaper licence should be revoked without delay.”
Another Kadima MP, Yisrael
Hasson, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet, this week urged Haaretz
readers to boycott the newspaper until Mr Blau was fired.
A petition calling on the Shin
Bet to end its threat to charge Mr Blau with espionage has attracted the
signatures of several prominent journalists in Israel.
“We believe the Blau case is
unique and are concerned this unique case will create a dangerous
precedent,” their letter states. “Until now, prosecution authorities
have not sought to try reporters for the offence of holding classified
information, an offence most of us are guilty of in one way or another.”
A group of Israeli human rights
organisations is due to submit a letter this week to the government
demanding that the investigation concentrate on lawbreaking by the army
rather the “character assassination” of Mr Blau and his sources.
Yesterday, the supreme court
tightened restrictions on Anat Kamm, one of Mr Blau’s main informants,
who has been under house arrest since December for copying up to 2,000
military documents while she was a soldier. She is accused of espionage
with intent to harm the state, a charge that carries a tariff of 25
years in jail.
The papers copied by Ms Kamm,
23, included military orders that violated court rulings and justified
law-breaking by soldiers.
Judge Ayala Procaccia said: “The
acts attributed to the respondent point to a deep internal distorted
perception of a soldier's duties to the military system he or she is
required to serve, and a serious perversion from the basic
responsibility that a citizen owes the state to which he or she
Ms Kamm, the court decided, must
not leave her apartment and must be watched by a close relative at all
Media coverage of the case in
Israel has been largely hostile to both Ms Kamm and Mr Blau. Gideon Levy
observed in Haaretz today: “The real betrayal has been that of the
journalists, who have betrayed their profession -- journalists who take
sides with the security apparatus against colleagues who are doing their
job bringing light to the dark.”
Calling Israel “a Shin Bet
state”, Mr Levy added: “If it depended on public opinion, Kamm and Blau
would be executed and Haaretz would be shut down on the spot.”
Jonathan Cook is a writer and
journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and
the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle
East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments
in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.