June 20, 2017
The memoir of an imprisoned former Israeli Prime Minister has led to multiple police raids
by Chad Felix
Ehud Olmert has seen better days. The George W. Bush-painted former Prime Minister of Israel (he served the office from 2006 to 2009) is currently serving out a prison sentence for corruption and obstruction of justice (expanded from eighteen months to twenty-seven a few months after it was pronounced last year).
His publisher has seen better days, too. As reported by the Editorial Board of the Jerusalem Post, it seems Olmert’s attempt at writing a memoir from behind bars has led to state-organized raids on the offices of his publishing house and his lawyers, as well as the home of Yehuda Yaari, his editor.
The problem, according to the police tasked with leading the raids, was that certain materials being sent by Olmert’s lawyers directly to the offices of Yediot Aharonot, the book’s publisher, are classified. Such documents are supposed to be vetted by the Defense Ministry before being seen by others.
And while that makes a degree of sense—states really like it when their classified information stays classified—it’s important to note that, in the past, Olmert complied with government requests that he not publish any information about a particular military action. This time around, Olmert wasn’t given that chance. Nor were those subjected to these raids: his publisher, editor, and lawyers. Furthermore, it was understood by all involved that, before publication, the complete manuscript would be submitted to military censorship and put before a special committee for approval. All that known, it’s pretty hard to view Israel’s actions—three sudden raids on innocent people doing their jobs—as anything other than willfully overzealous. A phone call might have worked just as well.
Curious, isn’t it? The Jerusalem Post sure thinks so:
Particularly problematic is the timing of the raid.
Olmert is serving a 27-month sentence on corruption convictions and is currently in the process of requesting a lessening of his prison sentence for good behavior.
The state prosecutor tried to use the raid and the probe as reasons for postponing a meeting with the Ma’asiyahu Prison parole board that is dealing with Olmert’s request for a one-third reduction of his prison sentence.
But a judge denied that request by the state prosecutor, and Olmert did meet Sunday with the parole board.
The state prosecutor is expected to oppose a reduction of Olmert’s sentence. Even if Olmert’s behavior is not tantamount to a criminal act, claims the state prosecutor, it reflects negatively on his request for a shortened sentence for good behavior.
Whatever the government’s real reasoning, its handling of the matter is troubling, since, as as the Post notes: “Clamping down as the censor is doing on Olmert’s freedom of speech is the sort of action carried out by autocratic regimes that do not see themselves as committed to democratic ideals.”
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.