We 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.
â€œWe 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.â€