Israel Shamir

2011-03-01 WikiLeaks Statement on Israel Shamir

Responding to the controversy today arising out of a publication by Private Eye, Wikileaks made a statement concerning its relationship with the journalist Israel Shamir, the subject of concerted speculation and rumour over the last few months.

The statement is as follows:

On Tuesday 1st March 2011, @wikileaks said:

WikiLeaks statement that was given to, but not used by, the UK satirical current-affairs magazine, Private Eye:

Israel Shamir has never worked or volunteered for WikiLeaks, in any manner, whatsoever. He has never written for WikiLeaks or any associated organization, under any name and we have no plan that he do so. He is not an 'agent' of WikiLeaks. He has never been an employee of WikiLeaks and has never received monies from WikiLeaks or given monies to WikiLeaks or any related organization or individual. However, he has worked for the BBC, Haaretz, and many other reputable organizations.

It is false that Shamir is 'an Assange intimate'. He interviewed Assange (on behalf of Russian media), as have many journalists. He took a photo at that time and has only met with WikiLeaks staff (including Asssange) twice. It is false that 'he was trusted with selecting the 250,000 US State Department cables for the Russian media' or that he has had access to such at any time.

Shamir was able to search through a limited portion of the cables with a view to writing articles for a range of Russian media. The media that subsequently employed him did so of their own accord and with no intervention or instruction by WikiLeaks.

We do not have editorial control over the of hundreds of journalists and publications based on our materials and it would be wrong for us to seek to do so. We do not approve or endorse the the writings of the world's media. We disagree with many of the approaches taken in analyzing our material.

2011-02-03 Shamir & The Guardian, Part 2: Censorship?

Israel Shamir's recent article on CounterPunch, Redacting Corruption: The Guardian's Political Censorship of Wikileaks, follows on from his previous piece, Paradigm in Belarus: The Minsk Election in a Wikileaks Mirror, in levelling some serious allegations against The Guardian newspaper and its journalistic practices.

The earlier piece was an odd amalgam of politically questionable apologism for the regime in Belarus and invective against The Guardian and the mainstream Western press, part of which provided valuable insight into the selection biases of newspapers (as I documented here) and part of which invoked conspiratorial motives that are unnecessary to explain those same selection biases.

Charges against The Guardian

The newest piece, published on January 11th, presents evidence that The Guardian has been engaging in strange redaction procedures on some of the cables it has been releasing, and infers from this that there is some foul play involved in The Guardian's editorial decisions. Because of Shamir's peculiar status, it is necessary to suject his claims to some scrutiny. As I will outline here, Shamir is mostly correct that The Guardian has been redacting the cables aggressively, and that the result of the redactions is, effectively, to conceal the correspondences of American diplomats writing candidly of a culture of corruption involving British corporations and high ranking officials in the former Soviet bloc. However, odious though this situation is, Shamir's inference to conspiracy or foul play in order to explain these redactions is, I believe, probably too quick.

2011-02-03 Israel Shamir's Relationship with WikiLeaks?

Updated: See end of article.

The exact character of the relationship between Israel Shamir and WikiLeaks has been of much interest in recent weeks, given that Shamir himself is a person who has been associated with much controversy in the media. It has been assumed that, to the extent that WikiLeaks and Shamir are associated, controversy that applies to Shamir applies also to WikiLeaks. But this is not necessarily the case.

Certain accounts have alleged that Shamir is an "employee" of WikiLeaks - a claim that is almost certainly false (Edit: although, see the update, below). In fact, Shamir appears to have been on the payroll of the the various Russian and former Soviet publications for which he wrote, and on whose behalf he served as an "accredited journalist" - an individual whose job it was to access a specific set of cables, and to distribute them among newspapers of the former Soviet bloc.

While this relationship is official in character, it does not appear to have been unique, in that it is apparent that many individuals, all over the world, were given access to specific sets of cables, to convey those cables to media organizations in a particular geographic area.

Furthermore, given this relationship, it is doubtful whether the controversies purportedly associated with Israel Shamir thereby taint WikiLeaks in turn, no more than they would if a journalist working for The Guardian turned out to be mired in controversy. An association of this type does not constitute an endorsement of every belief or activity of that associate. And even assuming some negligence on the part of WikiLeaks in the accreditation of, for instance, a malpracticing journalist, that mistake does not constitute a wholesale indictment of WikiLeaks' project, but a regrettable indication that WikiLeaks had not been careful enough, and ought to improve in future.

What is Shamir's relationship with WikiLeaks?

2011-02-03 Who is Israel Shamir?

Who is Israel Shamir?

The principal claims about Israel Shamir are drawn from an article by Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature at the University of Gothenburg, Magnus Ljunggren, in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen.

From: 2010-12-10: Expressen: "Daddy's Boy" by Magnus Ljunggren

[Shamir] is in fact one of the world's most notorious anti-Semites. He has gone by at least six different names. Growing up in Soviet Novosibirsk he was Izrail Schmerler. As a Jew, he took in 1969 to Israel. 1984 he came to Sweden as Israel Shamir. He became a Swedish citizen in 1992. During the years 2001-2005, he called himself Joran Jermer, and since then he transformed himself, in the population register, into Adam Ermash. Internationally, he is still Israel Shamir. He has held a variety of addresses around the world, mostly in Israel and Russia. In the early 2000s he adopted the Orthodox faith.

As Israel Shamir, this chameleon was regularly involved in the Russian "maroon" weekly bulletin Zavtra, at once nationalist, Stalinist, and militantly anti-Jewish. He uses this to an old Soviet-left jargon as he has declared - and proved - that he is prepared to cooperate with the far right at any time, for the good anti-Jewish cause.

He appeared at Förintelseförnekarkonferensen in Tehran in 2006. There also spoke of a former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who once wrote a preface to his article on "Jewish ritual murder."

2011-02-03 Sources on Israel Shamir

The sources of the Shamir controversy.

Recent writing about Shamir in connection to Wikileaks has been unduly polemical, preferring to telescope conclusions through the use of inflammatory and judgmental language. The matter at hand is certainly, and understandably, an inflammatory matter. But it will be necessary, for the sake of clarity, to examine the evidence with a certain emotional restraint. Judgment should be the consequence of critical thinking and reading, not its antecedent. In proper reportage, moral condemnation is not necessary: a deed speaks for itself.

The earliest controversy over Shamir I can trace follows on from his marginal success as an advocate of the pro-Palestine lobby, in the early years of the decade. Interestingly, at this time, he was even quoted by Christopher Hitchens, in The Nation. The discussions over this are conducted with more restraint than the recent ones, and are therefore more informative. I refer the reader to Shamir's correspondences with Ali Abunimah & Hussein Ibish over his views, compiled on Nigel Parry's site. Shamir's response is in his characteristic, ad hominem style.


2011-02-03 The Case of Israel Shamir

A volley of blog posts over the last two months has brought to the attention of the public a connection between Wikileaks and Israel Shamir. The connection was the source of much controversy. Among the charges against Shamir brought by the blogosphere are that of "notorious antisemitism," "holocaust denial," "Neo-Nazism," collaboration with dictatorships in the former Soviet area and the falsification of unreleased Wikileaks cables for nefarious ends.

Assuming the truth of these numerous allegations, bloggers have (rather shrilly) assumed that responsibility for all of these alleged misdeeds devolves upon Wikileaks, because of the nature of their relationship. That relationship itself has been shrouded in uncertainty. Shamir has been variously called a "Wikileaks employee," a "Wikileaks activist," "Wikileaks' spokesperson and conduit in Russia," "Wikileaks affiliate" and "Wikileaks accredited journalist." For substantiation of these characterizations of the relationship, bloggers have looked to the offhand remarks of newspaper articles in machine-translated Russian and Swedish.

These allegations have seen marginal takeup in the mainstream press. Israel Shamir has himself gotten involved in the controversy. In a sequence of articles on CounterPunch, and his personal website, he has defended himself against these allegations, distanced himself from Wikileaks, and mounted a counterattack on the mainstream press, alleging that the controversy is part of a smear campaign against Wikileaks by its commercial competitors. He has made reference to a forthcoming episode of BBC's Panorama, which appears likely to subject Shamir's relationship with Wikileaks to the closest scrutiny it has yet seen in the mainstream press, and which, claims Shamir, is unlikely to do so in a balanced way.

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