The recent arrest of an Israeli journalist who allegedly leaked materials to a reporter, and the gag order that followed, is just the latest in a long string of Israel's systematic attacks on press freedom.
Today in Israel, a nation so often hailed by Western commentators as the lone shining beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East, sits Anat Kamm. Kamm is a 23-year-old muzzled female journalist, under house arrest for her role in exposing a secret Israeli assassination plot by leaking government documents to Ha’aretz, one of Israel's most prominent dailies. She faces the possibility of life in prison. Uri Blau, a reporter for Ha'aretz who covered the covert plot, has fled to London, fearing for his safety and freedom.
Kamm's story has been difficult to piece together, since there was a gag order that kept anyone from covering her arrest and surrounding events until April 8. Violating the gag order can carry harsh punishments, including shutting down a publication. We do know from recent reports that Kamm’s house was vandalized by Israeli settlers, and that Blau will be returning leaked documents to the government. But the details are foggy. Israel essentially made a journalist - and her story - disappear.
Dov Alfon, the editor-in-chief of Ha'aretz, acknowledged his paper is challenging the gag order and standing by their reporter, telling the UK Guardian that, “Israel is still a democracy and therefore we intend to continue to publish whatever public interest demands and our reporters can reveal."
Alfon is absolutely right to make the connection between freedom of the press and democracy. One cannot truly exist without the other, and this point is often made by staunch defenders of Israel when they attack nations such as Iran for lacking press freedom. This is precisely why this incident should be so troubling to Americans. In the US, it is often taken for granted that Israel, which receives more than $3 billion annually from the US in aid, is a true democracy, despite its harsh treatment of Arab citizens in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. President Obama has claimed that the US-Israel relationship is "mutually beneficial" as both countries "share common values, histories, and a dedication to democracy." But clearly the values are not identical. Unlike Israel, in the US freedom of press is seen as essential to a functioning democracy.
Read the rest at at Truthout.