Suppression of key report on Cast Lead in Israel a democratic failure
Just a quick one today folks. I would like to draw your attention to something that popped up in The National a few days ago. Arab-Israeli MP Haneen Zoubi is demanding that Haaretz be allowed to publish an investigative report that was suppressed days before Operation Cast Lead was launched on Gaza. Here are the choice bits:
The investigation by Uri Blau, who has been in hiding since December to avoid arrest, concerned Israeli preparations for the impending assault on Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead.
In a highly unusual move, according to reports in the Israeli media, the army ordered the Haaretz newspaper to destroy all copies of an edition that included Mr Blau’s investigation after it had already gone to press and been passed by the military censor. The article was never republished.
She [Zoubi] said publication of the article was important both because Israel had been widely criticised for killing many hundreds of civilians in its three-week assault on Gaza, and because subsequent reports suggested that Israeli commanders sought legal advice months before the operation to manipulate the accepted definitions of international law to make it easier to target civilians.
Shraga Elam, an award-winning Israeli reporter, said Mr Blau’s suppressed article might also have revealed the aims of a widely mentioned but unspecified “third phase” of the Gaza attack, following the initial air strikes and a limited ground invasion, that was not implemented.
Not only has this report been suppressed in Israel, a so-called bastion of free speech and democracy in the Middle East, but it has contributed to greater hostilities between the Haaretz newspaper, a widely respected alternative to more right-leaning newspapers such as the Jerusalem Post and the Yedioth Ahoronoth, and members of the Government and media.
On Monday, an MP with the centrist Kadima Party, Yulia Shamal-Berkovich, called for Haaretz to be closed down, backing a similar demand from fellow MP Michael Ben-Ari, of the right-wing National Union.
She accused Haaretz management of having “chosen to hide” over the case and blamed it for advising Mr Blau to remain abroad. She said the newspaper “must make sure the materials that are in his possession are returned. If Haaretz fails to do so, its newspaper licence should be revoked without delay.”
Another Kadima MP, Yisrael Hasson, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet, this week urged Haaretz readers to boycott the newspaper until Mr Blau was fired. [The National]
So not only has the report been suppressed and its author driven into exile, his career as a journalist in Israel possibly ruined, but MPs are actually calling for the newspaper to be closed down. And these aren’t just crazy right-wing MPs either, but an MP from Kadima, the supposedly centrist party. The overwhelming lack of support for Haaretz, apart from a few journalists, is an indicator of how far away from democracy and free speech Israel as a country has gone. A free press is a cornerstone of a free and democratic nation and Israel is failing the test.