A few weeks ago the tiny activist circuit in Israel was abuzz about news of a gossip journalist that was under secret house arrest for revealing secret army documents that incriminate the most high-ranking army officials, including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. We were all on the verge of making a huge ruckus, when word came from her and her lawyers that they don’t want the media attention at this time. Last I heard this was still the request, but if Fox News is reporting it, I think it’s time for me to stop respecting her erroneous wishes.
The Real Scoop – Institutionalized Murder
Let’s begin by stating a simple fact: Anat Kam isn’t the scoop. Kam’s story is very important, in respect to our local, deteriorating non-existent-democracy, and I’ll get to it in a moment. But first let’s talk about Kam’s findings, which have bearing on the lives of Palestinians, Israelis and international community as a whole- should it choose to allow such flagrant breaches of international law.
Our story begins in the edges of journalism, where only activists reside. The main scoop, can be found in the breaking news Ha’aretz article, by Uri Blau, titled Secret IDF Documents: The Chief of Staff and the IDF Elite Authorized the Termination of Wanted People and Innocents:
On June 2007 the army sent out a press release stating that there was “fire exchange” between the army and armed Palestinians, in which two Palestinians were killed. Blau recognizes the name of one of the Palestinians, Ziad Malisha, as a wanted person- as such a termination target waiting to happen. He later mentions that this isn’t the first documented incident, in the past two years and a half, of a targeted killing being reported as a “fire exchange”.
Blau also states the context: In the end of 2006 the Israeli supreme court put certain (and frighteningly loopholed) limits to murder of “terror active civilians” (after concluding that “it shall not be pre-determined that all targeted killings are prohibited by international law, as it shall not be pre-determined that they are permitted.”):
It is required to have highly founded and convincing information in order to classify a civilian with a group of civilians that carry out hate operations [another name for “terror attacks”]; It is prohibited to assassinate a person if there’s a possibility of using other, less damaging methods, and it is prohibited to hurt the person more than is necessary for security reasons. That is to say, it is prohibited to assassinate a person if it’s possible to apprehend, interrogate and bring the person to trial. Nonetheless, if the apprehension involves serious risk to the lives of the soldiers, there’s no need to take this precaution; After the carrying out of any assassination there must be a thorough and independent investigation as to the levels of accuracy of the person’s identity as a terrorist and in the case of mistaken identity, compensation should be considered; Innocent civilian casualties, during assassination, must be avoided at all cost. “accompanying strikes of innocent civilians will only be legal if it stands the test of proportionality.”
More details of this specific case come later in the article: While at first Major General Ya’ir Neve states that the operation’s goal is to arrest, but if the suspects identified are one of the top officials of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad then there’s authorization to shoot down, unless “there are women and children in the car, in which case the method is arrest”. Less than a month later, the Major General calls another meeting in which the orders change:
There’s authorization to “terminate the target and two additional at the most”. The Operations Unit officer, Sami Turgeman, stated that this is a “rare case” of “preemptive strike” and that it’s important to minimize “unrelated” casualties, in order not to “appear to be shaking the attempts at stabilization”. As such, the operation should be limited to 5 people at the most, including the driver. Turgeman added, in shameless disregard for the security of Israelis, by the army’s own terms, that “in light of… the prime minister’s meeting with Abu Mazen and the visit of the American defense minister, [he] recommends… executing afterwards.” In addition, because of the supreme court’s decision to appoint a committee (that will be appointed by the army), who’s job will be inquiring targeted killings, Turgeman also recommended creating a snuff film (I think the precise word was “documentation”).
If all this institutionalized and carefully premeditated murder isn’t enough, the final draft was finally sent to the Chief of Staff. In this 20 minute meeting that included the Chief of Staff’s lieutenant, Head of Operation’s Unit, Head of the Military Attorney’s Office, a representative of Central Command, and a representative of the Shabak, Ashkenazi stated that the line up of the inquiry committee must be decided upon immediately, and also that even though Malisha was considered a “ticking infrastructure” (?!), because of the scheduled political meetings of that week, the “operation” should be delayed. He also prohibited the attack of the car if there’s even one unidentified passenger.
Two months after all this cold planning, the “operation” was carried out. Blau adds that B’tselem documented the testimony of Malisha’s neighbor:
I started hearing cries for help… I stood near the window that oversees the yard and opened a bbit of it. I saw a man on the floor, about 20 meters away from my house, it was a wounded person calling for help… After a few minutes, I saw some 5 soldiers with rifles, one of them was holding a hand gun. The soldiers were looking through the pockets of another man they brought, while another one or two soldiers were kicking another man that I think was injured. As this was happening, it seems the soldiers noticed my presence and fired in our direction. I sat on the floor… Meanwhile I heard the sound of hwo-three bullets- their sound different from the shooting before. I think the soldier that held the hand gun was the one that fired. Afterwards I didn’t hear any groans or calls for help from the young man.
The Supreme Court Abates in Murder and Silencing of the Press
It’s not enough that the Israeli supreme court plays with lives as though they were a pawn in a Saturday chess game, it also covers the army’s back with decisions based on the ever-mysterious claim of “security”. Apparently, Kam was under house arrest for months after Blau published his story. Astonishingly enough, he never published a follow-up, telling of Kam. No one did. The reasons became clear only after the story was revealed from international sources: The supreme court issued a gag order.
While whistleblowers should be protected by law, in Israel, the only law of the sort is an employee act and so doesn’t protect army whistleblowers. Instead of indicting the perpetrators of war crimes and murder, the supreme court is indicting Kam for espionage, even though her information wasn’t sent to an “enemy entity”, but an Israeli journalist. Uri Blau, by the way, is hiding in Europe, in the hopes of reaching a settlement with the Shabak, that will allow him to return safely to Israel, without also being indicted for espionage.
Letting the Lapdogs Run Free… In the Yard
Freedom of the press is not in Israel’s nonexistent constitution. Another scoop, in this story of militarism and KGBism is that this article, which details how the army ignores or bypasses international law and local supreme court rulings, was never published in the English version of the Ha’aretz website. One can only assume the damage to Israel’s image, under the shadow of the Goldstone Report, that such a news item could bring. Without a doubt the previous sentence was on Ha’aretz’s editors mind, when they decided to deny this information from their English-speaking readers: Mostly American Jews.
It seems politics indeed plays a role for Ha’aretz, the “leftist elite’s paper for thinking people”. Did Schocken himself make this crucial decision of aiding and abating institutional murder, or did the editor, Dov Alfon, make the decision for him? Maybe the army pulled its well known weight of censorship? And what do they teach these people in journalism school, anyway?
Now that the cat is out of the bag, you’d think the media would be all over what it should have been, when Blau’s article was first published: Institutionalized murder by the most moral army in the world. It seems, however, that just like nobody but the accused cared then, they don’t care now. The papers are full of Anat Kam and Uri Blau, but avoiding dealing with the real issue. It seems that the Zionist left is doing what it always does: forgetting the Palestinians. Just like in Sheikh Jarrah, many people come to protest because Jews are being arrested, in this bloody case, there’s continual reportage and analysis of the journalists facing wrongful espionage charges, but no one is talking about the dead Palestinians.