Israel's reaction to the revelation that it selectively assassinates suspected Palestinian militants in the West Bank exposes disturbing developments in the West Asian state. Anat Kam, a former soldier who was under house arrest for nearly two years, has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for leaking the explosive documents to Uri Blau, a journalist on the newspaper Haaretz, which published articles based on them in November 2008. The principled leak comprised 2,085 documents, including 700 classified as top secret, on a disc Ms Kam had copied while, in the course of her compulsory military service, she was a junior clerk in the office of General Yair Naveh, then responsible for the Israeli military in the illegally occupied West Bank. The Tel Aviv District Court's sentence follows a plea bargain whereby Ms Kam admitted the unauthorised possession and distribution of classified information; the state had planned to pass on classified information with the intent of harming state security, conviction for which would have meant life imprisonment. Mr. Blau, for his part, went to the United Kingdom in April 2010, returning only in October 2011, after his source waived immunity and he agreed to tell the Shin Bet security agency where the materials were located.
The case is highly significant. To start with, Ms Kam could copy the documents involved only because General Naveh did not like reading them on a computer, so his staff had copied them from a secure machine to one from which soft and hard copies could be made. The Israeli judge Zeev Hammer has severely criticised both this and Shin Bet's failure even to find the discs afterwards. Secondly, Mr. Blau himself submitted the articles to the military censor, who cleared them for publication. Thirdly, the authorities banned any reporting of Ms Kam's house arrest, though blogging and international press coverage led to a partial removal of the embargo after four months. In addition, the attorney general has cleared the officers who failed to keep the documents secure; one of them is now deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Worst of all, the IDF ignored a High Court order not to kill suspected militants when arrests could be made. Such killings are war crimes. In effect, the Kam verdict means the Israeli press will be less able to scrutinise official bodies, and whistleblowers, especially in the armed forces, will hesitate to reveal official crimes of any kind. In combination with the documented increase in repressive action against Israeli citizens who happen to be Arabs, the evidence shows the Zionist state in the worst possible light.