The Prisoner X affair shows that Israel is not committed to peace, not committed to respecting basic human rights, and still wedded to a mentality that is incompatible with American constitutional values.
The most disturbing thing about right wing prime minister Bibi Netanyahu's remarks about the whole affair was his claim that Israel is not like other countries:
“We are not like other countries,” Mr. Netanyahu told his cabinet, in his first public comments on the case of Prisoner X, which made headlines on at least three continents last week. “We are an exemplary democracy and maintain the rights of those under investigation,” he said. “However, we are more threatened and face more challenges; therefore, we must maintain proper activity of our security agencies.”In other words, the basic laws of human rights do not apply to his country.
The next thing is, who gets to decide whether something is a threat to Israel or not? I seem to remember someone not too long ago who smirked as he said, "I'm the Decider!" Bibi is obviously a very good pupil of his lord and master. The problem with that line of reasoning is that anytime you use national security to justify depriving someone of their basic human rights, it opens the door wide open to dictatorship if you're not there already. That is the same sort of twisted reasoning that led to the Patriot Act.
And what's worse, there are basic violations of freedom of the press at work here. Here in this country, we still have freedom of the press and if you decide to print something, there is nothing that the President of the United States can do about it, as George Bush found out when he tried unsuccessfully to stop the Times from printing something that he thought was damaging to national security. But in Israel, if the dictator deems something to be a threat to national security, he can go to the courts and get it censored. Trust us:
“Let the security forces do their work quietly so that we can continue to live in security and tranquillity in the state of Israel.”Suppose Ben Zygier, aka Prisoner X, really did plan to reveal information about the use of Mossad's use of foreign passports or set up a front company that sold electronics equipment to Iran. People still have the right to know why he was arrested; that can be done without revealing classified information. There are procedures here in the US for protecting both the rights of defendants and the government in the event that classified information is to be used in a court case:
After a criminal indictment becomes public, the prosecutor remains responsible for taking reasonable precautions against the unauthorized disclosure of classified information during the case. This responsibility applies both when the government intends to use classified information in its case-in-chief as well as when the defendant seeks to use classified information in his/her defense. The tool with which the proper protection of classified information may be ensured in indicted cases is the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). See Title 18, U.S.C. App III.And here in the US, there already are adequate punishments for the disclosure of classified information.
CIPA is a procedural statute; it neither adds to nor detracts from the substantive rights of the defendant or the discoery obligations of the government. Rather, the procedure for making these determinations is different in that it balances the right of a criminal defendant with the right of the sovereign to know in advance of a potential threat from a criminal prosecution to its national security. See, e.g., United States v. Anderson, 872 F.2d 1508, 1514 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1004 (1989); United States v. Collins, 720 F.2d 1195, 1197 (11th Cir. 1983); United States v. Lopez-Lima, 738 F. Supp. 1404, 1407 (S.D.Fla. 1990). Each of CIPA's provisions is designed to achieve those dual goals: preventing unnecessary or inadvertent disclosures of classified information and advising the government of the national security "cost" of going forward.
The SEALs were given a non-judicial punishment that includes letters of reprimand and the forfeiture of half their pay for two months, said Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory. An investigation will determine whether more personnel were involved, he said.In other words, charge people with a crime or administrative violation as the case may be, set appropriate punishments, and disclose what can be disclosed without revealing any national secrets.
As long as arbitrary detentions are part of Israel's policies, then they cannot credibly claim to be a democratic state. This creates the images of people being whisked away to some secret prison just because some bureaucrat in some pent-up office decides that they are somehow a threat to national security. This is the sort of thing that creates a chilling effect on dialogue and debate; this is noted in the Times article.
“The overexposure of security and intelligence activity could harm, sometimes severely, state security,” he [Bibi] added. “The security interest cannot be made light of, and in the reality in which the state of Israel lives, this must be a main interest.”In other words, they are not a democracy; they are a police state.