We’re defending the wrong guy
So who am I trying to protect? Not the Prosecutor’s Office, not by any means, but rather the undisputed facts, and, at the risk of sounding pretentious, sanity itself.
A full week has gone by since by Ehud Olmert had his big day in court, and the celebration is still on. The first wave of euphoria enveloped the verdict. The major acquittals, compared to the oh-so-minor matter of being found guilty of breach of trust − anyone can live with that. The victors of the day then turned on the State Prosecutor’s Office, and forgot not the hostile journalists. We’ve heard that one before: Several journalists, bloodthirsty by nature, were led astray by the equally vicious Prosecutor’s Office staff.
On the day of the verdict, I had a lively exchange with a journalist who wrote and expounded his message in every possible media outlet: “Fire the state prosecutor now.” A few days later, he attacked those in the media who, in his opinion, stand on their hind legs to defend the Prosecutor’s Office. He was still adamant that Moshe Lador should be fired without delay, and I asked him if, now, after the glorious victory, he would want to see Olmert back in the prime minister’s office. “Of course!”, he replied. But is it possible to fire a state prosecutor who failed to prove two central charges against a reigning prime minister, I asked, and to reinstate a former prime minister who is now a convicted criminal? The prominent journalist had no problem with that. “Of course!”, he retorted again, before adding with a sneer: “Come on, what kind of crime is that anyway?”
I answered − well, at this point it sounded more like I was shouting − “breach of trust,” meaning the politician had acted in his personal interest, rather than the public interest, in matters of economic importance.
Some things must be made crystal clear: These same journalists who go on about the Prosecutor’s Office being guarded by their colleagues (we’re often known as the notorious “Rule of Law Gang”) are the very same ones who orchestrated the public defense of a former justice minister who imposed himself on a young officer in the Prime Minister’s Office; the same ones who gleefully promoted the possible return to politics of a former minister who was convicted and imprisoned for accepting bribes.
Who really enjoys blind faith? The Prosecutor’s Office, which failed to prove the main charges against the former prime minister? Or, rather, Olmert, Haim Ramon and Aryeh Deri, politicians who went down a crooked path, surrounded by journalists who melt at the sound of their charismatic voices?
A couple of days ago my colleague, Gideon Levy, issued an emotional call to journalists to apologize to Ehud Olmert. I’m awfully sorry, but I think I’ll pass on that opportunity. In fact, I would beseech Levy to read the full verdict, like he would if he were reading a report by the B’Tselem human rights organization.
All the facts reported by journalists who were truly familiar with the charges were accepted by the court. Our role as journalists is not to adopt judicial opinions − guilty or not guilty on which charge − but to find the undisputed facts.
In that matter, the Olmert case was much easier to cover than the Moshe Katzav case. In the latter, the prosecutor said one thing − rape − and the defendant said the opposite − no sexual relations whatsoever. The Olmert case never questioned the central facts, but only their judicial significance. Some journalists are going on about how the judges allegedly described the central witness, Moshe Talansky, as “an incoherent, weird witness,” but actually they are just sloppily quoting each other. The judges never categorically defined the witness as such, but were referring to specific passages in his testimony. Besides, in any case, it doesn’t really matter. Even if the judges believed that the witness was deaf, dumb and blind, they fully accepted his testimony about hundreds of thousands of dollars he gave Olmert. And then they determined that accepting the money wasn’t a crime.
So who am I trying to protect? Not the Prosecutor’s Office, not by any means, but rather the undisputed facts, and, at the risk of sounding pretentious, sanity itself. The Rule of Law Gang? I don’t consider myself part of any association, but nevermind. This one is far better than the gang protecting politicians convicted of breach of trust or sex offenses.