lisagoldman.jpgWe can only hope somebody in the Israeli police isn’t going to be stupid about this, although the leak of this news suggests that things may have already gone too far to pull back.

The lovely, superb reporter Lisa Goldman (who is justifiably a little angry with me right now) is being investigated by Israel’s police for having visited Lebanon without official permission. Apparently she was told to keep this matter quiet…only to have somebody leak it to the media.

Along with Lisa, two other Israeli journalists are being investigated for visiting “enemy” countries. Ron Ben-Yishai, visited Syria and openly reported about his visit, as did Tsur Shezaf who visited Lebanon and wrote about it openly in an Israeli magazine.

Apparently, visiting enemy countries without official permission can result in up to 4 years in prison and the Israeli police has been conducting an investigation into these visits by the journalists. Their plan is to send the collected evidence to Israel’s state prosecution, so this could become a serious problem for Lisa and the others.

Here is Lisa as described and quoted in Ha’aretz:

Lisa Goldman confirmed to Haaretz on Thursday that she had been interrogated a month ago, but expressed great surprise that details of the investigation had emerged, given that the police had told her not to discuss it.

“I have no idea who leaked this story,” she said. “I was completely flabbergasted when an Israeli reporter telephoned me today to inform me that the investigation had been announced on the radio. I have no idea who leaked it and very surprised that it’s now been released. The police told me not to discuss the interrogation and I didn’t. Therefore I am very surprised that the matter is now being exposed in the media.”

Goldman said that she had been unaware that she had broken any laws, adding that, “if I had known there was no way I would have gone.”

She told Haaretz that she had received congratulatory calls from “very senior members of the Prime Minister’s Office” after her report from Lebanon had been broadcast on Channel 10 television, and it seems that they “were not aware of the law either.”

Goldman said that she had been surprised by the fact that police were investigating the issue at all, given that a significant number of Israeli journalists had traveled to Arab states in recent years.

“I’m very surprised that the police have now opened an investigation against three Israeli reporters when there must be at least 10 who traveled to Arab countries using foreign passports over the last couple of years alone, and there are certainly many, many precedents over the last decade.”

Lisa, get a good lawyer, and fast.

Searching led me to what may have caused the police to act. They were challenged last year by Arab Israeli Balad party politician (who, incidentally, received his BA, MA and PhD in Phamacology at the apartheid-lovin’ Hebrew University) Jamal Zahalka, who visited Syria in contravention of the Knesset’s own law prohibiting Knesset members from visiting enemy states. Zahalka is quoted as saying that what he did is no different than what journalist Ben Yishai did by visiting Syria and therefore warrants no punishment.

With regards to the committee members’ feelings on their visit to Syria, Zahalka explained that, legally, they were participating in political activity under the umbrella of immunity each MK is granted.

“We don’t need advice from Bar-On or Effie Eitam. We have relations with Arab states on a regular basis and no one asks us what the purpose of our visits is. It is only when we visit Syria that everyone makes a big deal. Two weeks ago, journalist Ron Ben Yishai visited Beirut, on journalistic assignment. Political assignment is just as important as journalistic assignment, especially if our messages prevent war and advance peace.”

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  • No, not “enemy” countries –
    enemy countries. Enough with the naivety already. Yes, there are a lot of nice, western, modern people to talk to in Lebanon, but there is also Hizballah (and a lot of Palestinians who really, really hate us – far more than the local ones).

    Can’t you imagine what it would have cost this country (not to mention cost her and her family personally), had she fallen into Hizballah hands? Didn’t we pay enough for that fool Tenenbaum? And for what?

    I doubt she’ll get prison, if she’s charged and then eventually convicted. Probably a few months of community service. But, if charged, she’ll go through a lot of unpleasantness on the way. Luckily for her, she’s not as high profile as that pompous ass, Ron Ben Yishai (besides being a much nicer person).

    I truly hope for her that they don’t charge her and it just fizzles out. However, much as I don’t want anything nasty happening to Lisa, I’m not at all sure that closing this case is in the best national interest.

    One possibility is that the investigtion was on the verge of fizzling out, and that’s why someone leaked it – so it wouldn’t be able to fizzle out.

  • Whatever. I wrote “enemy” countries because I was trying to emphasize the status of those countries, not because of any political intent.

    Lisa is a good person. If she made a mistake in this instance, she can receive the same treatment as Israeli Arab politicians who go to those countries. Nothing happens to them unless they actually support the enemy.

    Anyway, doing nothing is precisely in the national interest. If nothing was done to that fucking drug smuggler, Elhanan Tannenbaum, for whom hundreds of security prisoners were released, then why pursue these journalists?

  • Aw, TM, I wasn’t really angry at you – just teasing. I understand the time limitations of a short visit. Next time, yes?

    Thank you for the supportive post. I will publish my response to the story on my own blog pretty soon.

  • Next time, definitely. I just hope it won’t be at a prison. 😉

    Seriously, get a very good lawyer please.

  • If they have dual citizenship and travel with their foreign passports, I see no way of constructing a case against them. Unfortunately I have seen enough questionable legal trouble in Israel to believe that almost everything is possible. If someone in the state prosecution wants to make a to make an example, it could mean a lot of trouble (bli ayin harah).
    Anyway, it’s always a good idea to keep a low profile. And to have powerful protekzia.

  • Jon C: Pretty? Dude, Lisa is hotness incarnate!

    Lisa: Why you gotta be that way?

  • The whole investigation is crap. Lisa’s report from Lebanon was a big step forward in understanding between the two peoples. Israel shouldn’t practice this sort of repression. Go Lisa go!

  • Joel,
    the only thing I remember from the whole story on TV was a taxi driver being cited saying something like “cus ohkt hizb’allah”.
    So, yes. As far as this opinion is concerned there is certain level of understanding. Apart from this I didn’t see the big journalistic insight from this story.

  • David, the point is not whether or not you think my piece for Channel 10 or my article for Time Out were good journalism.

    The point is that the government is trying to limit the freedom of the press by selectively enforcing a law that was passed in 1954 in order to prevent infiltration from enemy states.

    There has not been a single case of that law being enforced, despite the fact that Israeli journalists have been routinely traveling on foreign passports to enemy states for many years. I did not invent the wheel by reporting from an enemy state.

    Ron Ben Yishai reported from Beirut one day after the ceasefire in August 2006 but the police said nothing. Itai Anghel reported from Iraq a few months ago, but he has not been interrogated. These are only two examples out of approximately one dozen – all recent occurrences – none of which has been mentioned by the police.

  • Lisa,
    so you have a new story. Probably something with more relevance.

  • Hi, I have an opinion about Lisa. The problem is the people running this site have just edited my idiotic comment because I’ve also posted as Alex (the antisemitic idiot), Greg, Kirk, Steve and some others the person editing this can’t be bothered to list.

    I really ought to figure out something better to do with my sad life.