Israel’s most famous journalist this month is a 23-year-old Tel Aviv University undergraduate named Anat Kamm. Charged in December with leaking to a journalist some 2,000 classified documents obtained during her army service, she is now under house arrest at her parents’ East Jerusalem home. If convicted, she could serve 20 years in prison. Her case was under a court-issued gag order since her arrest three and a half months ago. Today, on the heels of a blast of international press coverage, a Tel Aviv district court lifted the gag order.
Who is Anat Kamm?
Her mother is a senior civil servant at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, where she works with the handicapped; her father is a tourist guide. Born in Jerusalem, Kamm joined the Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation and attended one of the country’s most prestigious high schools, the Hebrew University Secondary School, known as Leyada, graduates of which include the writers David Grossman and Meir Shalev. Acquaintances describe her as opinionated, very assertive, and politically active from a young age.
Some saw in her the makings of a future political leader. Though by no means a member of the anti-Zionist left, she has throughout her life demonstrated an acute concern with social and political justice, acquaintances say. Her interest in journalism blossomed in high school, where she began writing for several youth publications.
After graduating she began her compulsory military service in the office of Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, then the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command, which has responsibility for military operations in the West Bank. Having shown promise in Naveh’s office, she was sent to an officer training course, which she failed to complete because, she told friends, she realized she didn’t want to be an officer.
When her service ended in spring 2007, she found a job at Walla, one of Israel’s most popular news and entertainment websites, owned partially by Haaretz and primarily by Bezeq, a major Israeli telecommunications company. Then, working as Walla’s media reporter, she covered, in autumn 2008, a meeting of Haaretz journalists and editors then trying to organize into a trade union, which the owners of Haaretz did not want to recognize. The meeting took place in the central hall of Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolov, or Journalists’ House.
At the meeting, she approached the Haaretz investigative reporter Uri Blau, a relatively young man in his mid-thirties, who began his career at a local paper in Jerusalem. Though Kamm and Blau were from the same city, they had never met. Kamm, who admired Blau’s writing, told him she had stolen copies of secret documents during her military service at the office of the head of the IDF’s Central Command. Sometime later she gave Blau some of the documents, which she had been holding for 18 months. (A first attempt to hand off documents to Yossi Yehoshu, a reporter for Yediot Aharonot, failed.) Haaretz published articles based on a few of them not long after, in November 2008.
Kamm’s motive, colleagues say, was to expose the IDF’s egregious violation of Israeli law, clear evidence of which was in her dossier. Of its 2,000 documents, 700 were classified as “top secret” and only a handful were used by Haaretz. But sources familiar with the case say the most damning of them were used in Blau’s reporting.
Blau revealed that in March and April 2007, while Kamm was working at the office of the IDF’s head of Central Command, the army’s highest ranking officers knowingly planned to violate a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that forbade the assassination of Palestinian militants when their arrest was possible. In April 2007, the IDF’s Central Command received permission to assassinate an Islamic Jihad leader named Ziad Malaisha. The assassination, Kamm’s documents reveal, was planned and approved in meetings with the head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate, Brig. Gen. Sami Turjeman, and the IDF’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.
Summaries of the meetings reveal that the officers were aware of the Supreme Court ruling they would soon violate. The assassination, which was postponed because of the April 2007 visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, took place in June 2007, the month Kamm left the army.
Israel’s military censors approved Blau’s article, finding that its publication would not damage Israel’s national security. Yet an intention to do such damage is precisely what Kamm is now accused of.
Whether or not Blau’s article damaged Israeli national security, it appears to have ruffled the feathers of quite a few senior officers: Soon after its publication the military ordered what was then called the Department of Field Security and is now called the Department for the Protection of Information to open an investigation. Ashkenazi, the chief of staff, had said after the Lebanon War of 2006 that it was his mission to end leaks from high-level officers.
The investigation of the leak at Central Command, an operation codenamed “Double Take”—a reference, some believe, to the army’s intention to prosecute both Kamm and Blau—lasted a year before Kamm was arrested. Until then, her life appeared perfectly normal. She moved to Tel Aviv, where she studied history at the university and continued to work as a journalist for Walla.
In September 2009, Israel’s domestic security service approached Blau, who consulted with Haaretz’s lawyers and agreed to cooperate with investigators, who wanted him to return the documents. In return, Shin Bet agreed not to indict him and not to use the documents as evidence against his sources. Now, however, the agreement appears to have broken down, as Haaretz and the Shin Bet accuse each other of violating it. Blau, meanwhile, went with his girlfriend on a previously planned trip to China.
When the investigators found Kamm in late 2009—after obtaining her phone records, which are believed to reveal communication with Blau—she had been a civilian, which is to say outside the jurisdiction of military investigators, for two and a half years. Her case was referred to the Shabak, Israel’s domestic security agency, which promptly called her to a police station, where she was interrogated and is believed to have confessed to leaking the documents. Under Israeli law, providing classified documents to a journalist is no less treasonous than providing them to a terrorist group or foreign government.
After Kamm’s arrest, a court in the city of Petah Tikva issued a gag order forbidding any Israeli media from reporting on the case or on the existence of the gag order. Kamm’s family hired two lawyers, Eitan Lehman and Avigdor Feldman, an articulate leftist and prominent litigator who had previously defended Israel’s most famous accused spy, Mordechai Vanunu, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Kamm was granted permission to serve her house arrest at her Tel Aviv apartment and her mother’s home in Jerusalem, and to continue working at Walla. The judge who issued the gag order, Einat Ron, had served as a colonel in the IDF’s military prosecutor’s office. In 2001, Col. Ron made headlines as the IDF’s chief military prosecutor when she chose not to open a criminal investigation after finding that a group of soldiers had violated army regulations by killing an unarmed 11-year-old Palestinian boy.
Despite the wide coverage of the case in international media, Ron had for months refused to lift the gag order. Pressure from the IDF and the security services forced a higher court to lift it today. But a lifting of the gag order will not ensure leniency in Kamm’s trial. The judge overseeing that trial, Zeev Hammer, is known to be very friendly to the security establishment.
Uri Blau, meanwhile, has not returned from his trip to China. As the case unfolded, he moved to Britain and refused to return to Israel to face interrogation. A lawyer from Haaretz went to see Blau in Europe, where he had gone after visiting China. Haaretz was then negotiating with the authorities to see if he could return without facing arrest. The authorities refused.
CORRECTION, April 8: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article erroneously described the noted Israeli author David Grossman as a physicist. It has been corrected.
Yossi Melman covers intelligence and military affairs for Haaretz.