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!
  • 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
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • 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.