I view the freedom of the press as a sub-category of the general principle of freedom of speech, and believe that a free press is not only a sign of a healthy democracy, it is a prerequisite. Only with a free press can the actions of government be held accountable to the public which elected it. This is why the recent arrest of journalist Amira Hass in Israel is so disappointing, and yet not surprising:
Israel Police on Tuesday detained Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass upon her exit from the Gaza Strip, where she had been living and reporting over the last few months.
Hass was arrested and taken in for questioning immediately after crossing the border, for violating a law which forbids residence in an enemy state. She was released on bail after promising not to enter the Gaza Strip over the next 30 days.
Hass is the first Israeli journalist to enter the Gaza Strip in more than two years, since the Israel Defense Forces issued an entry ban following the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in a 2006 cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.
Richard Silverstein offers additional commentary:
This is nothing more than the rightist goons of the Israeli police and Bibiphiles thumping their chests and, like good gorillas everywhere, establishing their dominance (of the political process). The Israeli military and intelligence can brook no opposition, no chinks in the national consensus against Hamas. Anyone who challenges prevailing views much be criminalized. This is what they did to Azmi Bishara in their whispering campaign against him (with no charges filed), and Jeff Halper when he took the Free Gaza ship and later returned to Israel.
Undoubtedly, the police will decide not to pursue these charges. But the fact that they levelled them at all is disturbing, especially in a country that likes to call itself (inaccurately) the only democracy in the Middle East.
Of course, as Richard points out, the reaction of groups like Hamas to a free press is no better. But is that the standard for Israeli democracy “better than Hamas” ? Or Iran, or the UAE? Soft bigotry of low expectations, indeed.
Israel’s staunchest partisans insist it is the only democracy in the middle east, but as the extremist government and settler fringe continue to hold the national Israeli mainstream hostage in their pursuit of colonial imperialism, the inevitable collapse of the two-state solution approaches. As I repeatedly have said: Democracy, Jewishness, Greater Israel – pick two.