The Kamm Papers – Part II – Where the Left Went Wrong

Almost two weeks have passed since the gag order over the Anat Kamm affair was lifted and even though many of the details remain unknown, much can be said about the reaction of the right and the left.

When Israel took the (ridiculous) decision to charge Kamm with espionage, all hell broke loose. The atmosphere in the country against the left became (even more) vile and outright disgusting. From calls to string up Kamm on the gallows, or put her in front of a firing-squad, to numerous hate groups on Facebook against Kamm and the left.

The hatred seems so intense, and in a way so well prepared, so ripe – it seems as though the right was just waiting for such a moment to pounce on its nemesis and deal the final death blow.

As a result of the onslaught, the left has reacted with a knee-jerk response of support for Kamm and Haaretz, combined with a panic that seems to scream: “Oh boy, the shit really HAS hit the fan”.

While the right’s reaction was obvious, the left’s is by far more intriguing. As a card-carrying leftie, I certainly support what Anat Kamm did: she exposed the IDF’s absolute disregard for a key ruling by the highest court in the land. I’d go as far as to say that as a citizen of the state of Israel, Kamm had a duty to do what she did.

That said, I do have issues with three points the Kamm camp is using these days.

1) The number of documents is irrelevant

Ziad Malaisha. Killed by the IDF

While all (on the left) agree that the key issue is the IDF decision making process concerning targeted killings, there are also many who claim that the number of documents Kamm took is of no relevance. That it’s all part of a Shabak spin. That it’s cherry picking at it’s best. That they’re trying to steer the public debate from the real issue at hand – the targeted killings.

In a way, that’s true. Nobody is talking about the documents leaked and what they showed. But then again, of course they’re not. They didn’t talk about it in November 2008 – why should they talk about them in April 2010? The Israeli public could care less about their army breaking the law, especially when Palestinians are the ones who suffer from it.

Yes, the targeted killings are the main issue here, but that does not mean we don’t have to talk about how Kamm worked and systematically stole those papers. Just because she blew a whistle does not make her a saint.

And there’s a limit to what we can call a spin, as well: apparently she really DID take 2,000 documents because neither she nor her lawyers claim otherwise. We have, however, only seen two of them published – where are the rest? Were they of any importance, like the Shabak said?

To this, the Kamm camp says that what Kamm took is probably of no importance, since the papers published in Haaretz were approved by the military censor. Well, of course they were: it told what happened after the targeted killing took place. It wasn’t about any future plans. After those two Jihadists were killed, those papers lost all their confidentiality anyway.

Also, those papers had general guidelines in them – nothing about how the next guys were going to be killed. Can the same be said about those 1,998 documents left? Maybe there was important information in them, something that if they got to the wrong hands could endanger mine and my family’s lives. Is that so far-fetched? I don’t think so…

2) Kamm is our Ellsberg

Another strategy the Kamm camp uses is the comparison to Daniel Ellsberg. They say: “He didn’t steal 2,000 documents, he stole 7,000(!) and then became a national hero”. I actually agree with what Alan Dershowitz wrote Friday in Haaretz about that:

“The difference is that the material that was published by the Times and the Post raised no national security problems for the United States. It was historical material and went back to the origins of the great mistake that we call the Vietnam War. The government had lied when it told the court that publication would cost American lives.”

Also, one has to remember that Ellseberg did indeed steal 7,000 documents concerning a report on the Vietnam war, and that alone. If using the Kamm ratio (2,000 documents stolen:2 documents published) – I wonder how the American public would have reacted if he had stolen 7,000,000 documents, where 6,993,000 of them might have been about U.S. deployment worldwide, or nuclear missile deployment (a big no-no during the Cold War). Would he have still been a hero, even though his whistle-blowing was right? Would he have not sat a long time in jail?

3) Hey, everybody does it!

One of the points I also have a problem is that to defend Kamm, her camp often claims that many politicians, army officers and others have leaked top secret documents in the past. I hate to have to ask this, but: “Do two wrongs really make a right? Really?”

To sum things up, in my eyes, what Anat Kamm did was basically like giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Israeli democracy, only to later shoot it in the foot.

I encourage the left to have the pride to boast about the great service Anat Kamm did to Israeli democracy, but also the courage to deal with the grave mistake she made.

Now it’s up to the judge, who will have the hardest job of all after her inevitable conviction: what is the right punishment that will deter soldiers from leaking classified material and at the same time encourage citizens to stand and blow the whistle in a democracy that is in no doubt in danger.

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