Israeli Outrage at Reporter's Prosecution

Splintered Media Unites Over Threat to Press Freedom

United Outrage: Israeli journalists demonstrate against the prosecution of reporter Uri Blau, who is accused of illegally possession leaked Army documents.
getty images
United Outrage: Israeli journalists demonstrate against the prosecution of reporter Uri Blau, who is accused of illegally possession leaked Army documents.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published June 07, 2012, issue of June 15, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In Israel’s highly polarized public square, the ideological lines dividing the country’s major media outlets are clear to all. Among daily newspapers, Haaretz stands on the left, Yediot Aharanot in the center, Ma’ariv on the center-right and Israel Hayom, owned by American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, on Israel’s nationalist right.

But the government’s recent decision to prosecute a prominent investigative journalist for what the prosecutor is publicly calling “espionage” has provoked a rare consensus among seven of the country’s highly competitive defense correspondents from these and other media outlets.

The indictment of Haaretz investigative reporter Uri Blau, the journalists declared in a May 30 public statement, represents “the crossing of a red line that constitutes a dangerous precedent for press freedom in Israel.”

Notable among the signatories was Yoav Limor of Israel Hayom. Haaretz’s own defense correspondent, Amos Harel, was not a signatory. The newspaper itself has declined to comment on the issue, as has Blau.

Channel 10 TV’s senior defense correspondent, Alon Ben-David, who signed the statement, told the Forward that he sees Blau’s indictment for possession of military documents as an affront to his profession, which brings accountability to the defense establishment by keeping the public informed about its work. “That’s what I do for a living — I collect what we call secret information,” he told the Forward.

It was on May 30 that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he would soon indict Blau, who published a series of stories that purported to expose wrongdoing — including an alleged wrongful assassination — by Israeli security forces, based partly on a cache of more 1,500 classified documents. Blau obtained copies of the documents from Anat Kamm, a woman then serving as a soldier in the Central Command. Kamm has said she was motivated by what she viewed as shocking military misconduct.

Kamm, who passed hundreds of classified military documents to Blau during her army service, is now serving a prison term of four and a half years for her actions, under the well-established principle that the person who actually purloins a classified document in violation of her security clearance is the one exposed to legal risk.

Blau’s possession of these documents was also a violation of Israeli law, but one that has been, until now, routinely accepted by the state under the unwritten rules of jounalists’ privilege.

On June 3, a crowd of about 50 protesters, including many journalists, gathered outside the Justice Ministry with placards warning that press freedom was in danger. “Am I also a spy?” asked one of the placards a journalist carried.

Though Weinstein’s office announced that Blau would be indicted on “espionage” charges, it is not claiming that he intended to harm state security or spied for a foreign government. The prosecutor claimed instead that the case is serious because the “potential for damage” from Blau holding the documents was “enormous.”

The attorney general’s office declined to comment to the Forward, but its statement on the indictment said that it had taken account of the importance of “preserving the character of the press in Israel as a free press.”

Kamm gave Blau her stash of documents in the summer of 2008, but the army didn’t know about them until November of that year, when Blau published a story that angered top military brass. Citing and even reproducing documents to support his story, Blau suggested that Israel had violated strict guidelines issued two years earlier by the Supreme Court by assassinating Palestinian militants in so-called “targeted killings” — for example, by killing even when the target did not pose an immediate security threat. He also published some other stories via the documents.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.