Anat Kam: An Israeli Tale of Censorship and Espionage Charges
Her name is Anat Kam and at the tender age of 23 she is in the eye of an Israeli tornado, charged today with espionage and endangering the security of her fellow citizens for stealing some 2,000 documents while serving in the army, among them top secret files. But is Anat Kam really Public Enemy Number One or, as her defenders say, the victim of an overzealous security establishment — an establishment allegedly angry at her for leaking documents that exposed the army’s apparent disregard for a Supreme Court ruling about targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants
Here’s one of the stories in the Israeli daily Haaretz that was traced back to Kam and led to her eventual arrest.
Until today her story – and the fact that she has been under house arrest for over three months — had officially been under censorship in Israel. But this being the 21st century, the story had spread like wildfire on-line, first on Hebrew-language Israeli blogs before it was broken by JTA, a news agency covering the Jewish world, and then other international media.
The scandal over the censorship and its background itself was laid out by Judith Miller in The Daily Beast, in The Forward and dissected again here by Israeli pollster Dahlia Scheindlin who takes issue with Israeli security officials’ determination to keep the Kam story quiet.
She writes critically of what she describes as a near blind reverence many Israelis have for the army: “Israel lives in a cult of securitism, a glorification of the army and security matters. Its believers are suffused with nothing less than full-blown religious awe, including deep reverence for the unknowable aspects of this deity.”
But now that the charges are public (television broadcasters broke into noon-time programs to air the news), the discourse will quickly shift from the public’s right to know to what the public thinks of Anat Kam. It’s likely to be a polarizing discussion.
“She’s an Israeli, she’s a Zionist,” said Nissim Duek, a spokesperson representing Kam on Israel’s Channel Two after the gag was lifted. She had, he said, “no intention of harming the security of Israel. This is a dangerous precedent.”
Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s version of the FBI, meanwhile told journalists in a rare briefing today that the information she smuggled out could have fallen into enemy hands. “We see this is a very serious matter in terms of the potential security damages it could save caused.”
In the television footage she looks like a bookish college student with thick dark glasses and a chin-length bob. Israelis are now set to debate the meaning of the severe charges laid against her and the prospect she might spend many long years in prison.
See here for an English translation of the indictment.
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