Anat Kam at court
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Interview with a spy

Special: Anat Kam talks about everything, explains why she's far from being the Left's darling

Even when she stood before Judge Nurit Ahituv and heard her announce that she was "convicted of espionage by her own confession," Anat Kam didn't feel anything special.


She knew that the prosecution was hoping to send her to prison for a good long time, that in a few moments she would have to face dozens of reporters and cameras and that at the end of the day she would have to go back to her extended house arrest, this time as a spy – yet she felt no sadness.


"It all felt like some kind of show," she said the day after her conviction in February. "It isn't a nice feeling, the espionage charge, but it has little relevance and there were two important soccer matches yesterday. I can't say that my mind wasn't in the courtroom, but the pressure ahead of the games diverted my mind."

Kam's rational analysis and high levels of intelligence – in the 98th percentile according to tests, can be misleading. They create a sense of control, as though she has control over the situation and plans her every step in detail, covering for the fact that she is completely lost within the situation she has created.


The gap between her intellectual capabilities and her emotional connection to reality is immense. She doesn't cry, shows no emotion. She saves those for the soccer matches. She doesn't seem frightened over the possibility of a long prison sentence and it is doubtful whether she even understands how unforgivable the majority of the Israeli public found her actions.


The meetings with Kam were held during her months of house arrest. It's the first time she's willing to be interviewed and she speaks honestly and openly about everything: The moment she decided to burn 2,000 classified documents on to a CD, the Shin Bet investigation, the moment the story leaked out, the extended house arrest and most of all – why she decided to take the step that changed her life.


'I felt no pride'

Kam's final moments of anonymity came to an end during the weekend of March 12 last year. She had already been under house arrest for three months, the media knew about the probe involving the low level local reporter, bloggers were already discussing the affair but officially – the gag order was still in place.


Kam, who enjoyed the sudden attention, knew that the publicity would harm her image in Israel. He attorneys were trying at the time to reach a potentially lenient plea bargain that would include a non-publication agreement.


Anat spent that weekend hectically trying to reach various bloggers and convince them to remove any mention of the story if they didn't wish to harm her case. By the time it was taken down, the damage had been done. Facebook groups were discussing it, foreign bloggers started covering the story and after a few days rumors of her arrest were spreading in official media outlets in the US and Europe.


"It was weird," Kam repeats the only word that helps her describe extreme feelings, "like seeing a monster in the making – the moment I was no longer just 'Anat Kam' but was now 'The Anat Kam Affair'. The reverberations it had amazed me. I'd look up my name in Google every 60 minutes and every time I did it there were more and more results in different languages and locations around the world.


"I'm no Daniel Ellsberg (major leaker in the Pentagon in the 70s) and I wasn't trying to embark on an Ellsberg-style campaign, but no one in the world missed an opportunity to taunt Israel over my arrest and that wasn't even the story."


How did you feel? Pride, shame, fear over what you did and was about to become public knowledge?


"I didn't know how to take it. It all happened so fast and it was out of my control. It was so easy to stand on the sidelines and watch the hysteria, not comprehending that it had anything to do with me. I felt no pride, certainly not when I stood before my family. Seeing my face spread all over the TV screen during the evening news with the anchors sitting there with their serious faces talking about the 'affair' - it's ridiculous but in a way, also exciting.


"I don't like thinking of myself as naïve but what characterizes my actions plenty of naïveté. The thought that you can take documents off of an army base without getting caught, that you can hand them over to a journalist and he'll protect you. Today I can say that at the time I didn't understand the full meaning and the severity of my actions."

Kam recounts the time she was summoned to the Shin Ben offices, not fully knowing what to expect.


"I showed up at 12:30 at the Tel Aviv offices. Everything was done in a pleasant, easygoing atmosphere…they were sophisticated. An agent named Rani received me with a smile and made me sign a secrecy agreement, whereby I pledge not to speak with anyone. I signed because he opened the conversation with this and the curiosity to hear what he has to say overcame anything else. After that, he asked if I knew why I'm there."

Long months in house arrest - Anat Kam


"I told him that I sent my CV and was looking for a job, but he said he wanted to talk about my army service. At that point, I already realized what it was all about," she says.


"There was some sweet talk and plenty of cigarettes. My body language told the story…I estimated back then already that even if I deny, they'll have a way to prove it was me, so I better not get mixed up with lies too," she says. "Today I assume that they already knew. Very quickly I told him that I was the one who handed over the documents."


When addressing the reports about her actions, Kam is angry about what she says was inaccurate information.


"One of the things that most bother me about what was published about me is the claim that I snuck into the Command Chief's computer and removed documents. That's not true – all the documents I removed were ones I was exposed to during my job," she says. "I'm aware that removing the documents was forbidden and I should pay for it. It's a violation of the law, I'm not making pretenses. Yet I have no doubt that I wouldn't have done it had it not been so easy to do."


'Israel isn't like Germany'  

When referring to the way she views Israel's presence in the territories, Kam says that in her view Israel's conduct is "fundamentally flawed."


"I don't think the Israeli presence is the same as the German presence in Poland; we did not massacre people indiscriminately," she says. "However, occupation is a flawed reality any way you look at it, and I, as one who served in the Central Command of the Israeli occupation in Judea and Samaria would not be able to say that 'I saw no evil or heard no evil.'"


"This wasn't a way to spare myself, because had they decided to indict everyone, it wouldn't have saved me," she says. "But my thinking was that I'm a party to something that is not right in essence, and that I need to have evidence."


However, despite her views, Kam says she is bothered by the fact that she has become a champion of Israel's leftist camp following the affair.


"It bothers me to some extent, because they attributed to my acts things that weren't there," she said. "There are serious ideological gaps between me and the classic Tel Aviv leftism. For example, I'm not in favor of insubordination. That Left is premised on plenty of ignorance. People talk about the ills of the occupation and about the evacuation of the settlements without seeing a settlement even once in their lives, and that makes me angry."


"My leftist views moderated in the army of all places, because I realized that nothing is the way it seems. It's easy to say that the occupation is corrupting and terrible, yet on the inside reality is very complex," she says. "The demonization of the settlers, which to a great extent I adopted like any good leftist, was watered down over there. There were violent hilltop youth, yet in the friction between Jews and Palestinians, I saw how much the moderate camp among the settlers despises it."


"If before that I thought we should return to the 1967 borders and evacuate everything, there I realized that Ariel is not the hilltop youth…nonetheless, it was still clear to me like it is today that the occupation is not a proper thing," she says.


Kam's worldview, especially on the socioeconomic front, is far from leftist. She keeps characterizing herself as a selfish person mostly interested in self-fulfillment and believes in personal responsibility and capitalism.


"My sister doesn't understand how I vote for Meretz with my views," she says. "My mom says I lack compassion. A good friend told me with a sort of disgust: 'you're a Republican.'"


"When rallies are held against expelling foreign children, I prefer to sleep at home. Just give me the time and my peace and quiet. I have no explanation for what I did…it's not something I would expect myself to do."


Kam says she didn't realize how serious the offence she committed was.


"It's reasonable to assume that I didn't understand how big it was. As though something that's so easy to do cannot have such fateful implication," she says. "I'm not thinking about it much because is frustrated me. The more I think how uncharacteristic this act is for me, the more I feel like banging my head against the wall."


Kam was convicted in February of possessing and handing over classified information, under the aggravated espionage clause, in the framework of a plea bargain. However, she was not convicted of an intention to undermine national security. At this time, the State demands a lengthy prison sentence, while Kam's defense attorneys won't compromise on even a brief prison term.



פרסום ראשון: 03.28.11, 19:49
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