Uri Blau (Hebrew: אורי בלאו; born 1977) is an Israeli investigative journalist writing for Haaretz newspaper and other publications. He is specialized in military affairs, corruption and "follow the money" investigations. Blau was convicted of possession of classified IDF documents and sentenced to community service for his role in the Kamm-Blau affair.

Blau in 2018

Career edit

Blau began his journalistic career in Kol Ha'ir, a Jerusalem weekly newspaper. He specialized in exposing cases of misconduct by IDF soldiers. Unlike other military correspondents, he did not join the Military Reporters Section[1] and tended to rely on low-ranking enlisted personnel, rather than high-ranking officers.[2]

In 2005 Blau joined the daily Haaretz and published a articles exposing alleged corruption by Ehud Olmert, then leader of Kadima Party, candidate for Prime Minister and later Prime Minister. This exposé has led to a criminal investigation and to Olmert's indictment. Another investigation that led to a major police investigation was about Avigdor Liberman, head of Israel Beitenu party. Blau revealed that a company owned by Liberman's daughter, who was in her early twenties, received unexplained payment in the millions of dollars [3] Other investigations focused on former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Former IDF Chief Moshe Yaalon, the Kabbalah Laam organization and more, such as an article about exploring his roots in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Israeli connections to a mine in Kosovo. IN 2014 Blau completed a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He has published articles and investigations in various publications, including AP, ProPublica, Washington Post, Quartz, The Nation, Mashable, Times of Israel and more.[4]

Blau is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ICIJ. He is a member of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning team for the Panama Papers project, and contributed to other global investigations such as the FinCEN Files. As part of that investigation he co-produced the BBC documentary "The Settlers’ Billionaire Backer" [5] about the role of Roman Abramovich owned companies in supporting settler group Ir David Foundation.In 2021 Blau led the Pandora Papers investigations in Israel. Later that year Blau joined OCCRP as the Director of the Global Anti Corruption Consortium (GACC).

In 2022 Blau joined Israel-based nonprofit investigative platform Shomrim as an investigative journalist and Director of Global Investigative Projects.

Anat Kamm affair edit

Background edit

In November 2008, Blau published a story in Haaretz[6][7] saying that the targeted killing of one of two Islamic Jihad militants killed in Jenin in June 2007 had violated a prior ruling of the Supreme Court of Israel. The ruling had "heavily restricted the circumstances in which they were permissible, effectively saying that killing should not take place if arrest was possible."[8] The report reproduced two IDF memos classified as top secret, indicating that the IDF had ignored the Supreme Court ruling. Publications dealing with military affairs have to be submitted to the Israeli Military Censor; the censor approved the publication of this report. This fact would later be used as argument that no damage was done by the publication.[9]

Speculation began immediately about who Blau's inside source was. It took a year before attention focused on Anat Kamm, a former clerk in the office of a senior IDF commander. She had worked as a journalist before and after her military service.

A week before Operation Cast Lead began (December 2008), Blau submitted to the censor an exposé revealing he had possession of IDF military plans for the Operation. At first, the report was approved for publication. Then, just before it was distributed the censor changed its mind and Haaretz agreed to withdraw the story.[10]

Arrest of Anat Kamm edit

In the year, leading up to Kamm's arrest, Blau also published another article regarding Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi.[11] The reporter claimed that Barak, on becoming minister, had transferred his private consulting company to his three daughters, violating the regulation allowing such a transfer only if the daughters were actually employed by the company. Furthermore, the company which he gave to his daughters took in nearly $2-million from unknown sources after he entered the government. Blau also claimed that after leaving the army and joining the private sector, Ashkenazi approached Barak about entering into business with him.

In September 2009, the Shin Bet negotiated a written agreement with Blau to hand over 50 classified documents and destroy his work computer. In return the IDF agreed not to pursue or prosecute his source. In December 2009, the Shin Bet secretly arrested Anat Kamm and began interrogating her. Eventually, she was accused of leaking as many as 2,000 documents to the reporter. Blau and Haaretz viewed the soldier's arrest as a violation of their agreement.[12]

Blau, who had left Israel on an Asian backpacking trip that same month of Kamm's arrest, decided to remain abroad pending resolution of the case and eventually ended up in London. The Shin Bet publicly announced that they want to question and perhaps prosecute him.[12] He claimed journalistic privilege and refused to return until he has guarantees about the outcome of his case.[citation needed]

On October 24, 2010 Uri Blau returned to Israel.[13]

Israelis have exhibited mixed feelings about Blau. Some view him as little better than a traitor out to harm the national security. Others support his work. A group of 12 senior Israeli journalists petitioned the government not to prosecute Blau if he returns from London and gives back any outstanding documents he may still possess.[14][15] After Blau became the first journalist in Israel convicted for possession of classified information, Freedom House dropped Israel to ‘Partially Free’ status in its 2013 “Freedom of the Press Index”.[4]

Indictment of Blau edit

In March 2011 the Israeli Ministry of Justice announced its intention to put Blau on trial, subject to the hearing, charged with maintaining classified items without authorization.[16]

In May 2012 it was announced that he will be indicted for "possession of classified IDF documents."[17][18]

In July 2012, Blau accepted a plea bargain that would see him sentenced to four months' community service but avoid serving any time in prison.[19] He completed four months community service in January 2013, publishing an article about the experience in Haaretz newspaper in August 2013.[20]

Civil Lawsuit edit

In April 2013 Kamm sued Haaretz, its publisher and Blau for allegedly operating in a negligent way that eventually led to her exposure as Blau's source.[21] In 2018 Tel Aviv District Court accepted Kamm's lawsuit.[22] Haaretz and Blau appealed to Israel's Supreme Court against that verdict. Their appeal was accepted. In January 2020 Supreme Court dismissed the District Court verdict in its entirety. As a gesture of good will Haaretz has agreed to participate in paying part of Kamm's legal fees, at the amount of $100,000.[23]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Elbashan, Yuval (12 April 2010). "Israel's military reporters deserted Uri Blau in the field". Haaretz. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  2. ^ Blau, Uri; Haran, Tal (April 2002). "See for example". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 2014-02-05.(subscription required)
  3. ^ "Who's the boss? - Haaretz.com - Haaretz.com". Archived from the original on 2020-07-28. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  4. ^ a b "Uri Blau".
  5. ^ "BBC News Channel - the Settlers' Billionaire Backer".
  6. ^ Blau, Uri (27 November 2008). "License to kill". Haaretz. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Israeli journalist Anat Kam under secret house arrest since December". The Guardian. 2 April 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  8. ^ Sengupta, Kim (2 April 2010). "Journalist on the run from Israel is hiding in Britain". The Independent. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Archived". www.nextbookpress.com. Retrieved 2023-04-11.[dead link]
  10. ^ Drucker, Raviv (9 April 2010). בלאו רומז: אחרי שקם הודתה אני יכול להחזיר את המסמכים [Blau hints: Afterwards I can return the documents] (in Hebrew). Nana 10. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  11. ^ Blau, Uri (15 October 2009). "Ehud Barak & Co". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 16 April 2010.
  12. ^ a b Kampeas, Ron (12 April 2010). "Shin Bet details efforts to bring Blau back to Israel". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  13. ^ Editorial (25 October 2010). הודעת "הארץ" בנוגע לאורי בלאו [Haaretz message about Uri Blau]. Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2014-08-11.
  14. ^ Edelman, Ofra (14 April 2010). "Israeli journalists urge Shin Bet: Don't press charges against Uri Blau". Haaretz. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  15. ^ Sobelman, Batsheva (14 April 2010). "Case involving military documents roils Israel". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  16. ^ Edelman, Ofra (23 March 2011). העיתונאי אורי בלאו יועמד לדין בכפוף לשימוע [Journalist Uri Blau to be put on trial subject to hearing]. Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  17. ^ Glickman, Aviad (30 May 2012). "Journalist Uri Blau to be indicted". Ynetnews. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  18. ^ Zarchin, Tomer (2012-05-30). "Haaretz journalist Uri Blau to be indicted for possession of classified IDF documents". Haaretz. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  19. ^ "Israel reporter sentenced over secret army papers". AFP. September 3, 2012. Archived from the original on September 8, 2012.
  20. ^ Blau, Uri (1 August 2013). "Crime and punishment: Following the Anat Kamm affair, Haaretz's Uri Blau documents his community service". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  21. ^ Tucker, Nati (5 April 2013). "Anat Kamm suing Haaretz for revealing her as paper's source". Haaretz. Retrieved 22 March 2022.
  22. ^ "Court orders Haaretz to compensate whistleblower Anat Kamm $20,000". Haaretz. 28 December 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2022.
  23. ^ Bandel, Netael (13 January 2020). "Settlement between Haaretz and Anat Kamm: Her suit is dismissed, paper to share in her legal expenses". Haaretz. Retrieved 22 March 2022.