Daily newspapers are supposed to put the most important news right at the top. But today's New York Times article about Shamai Leibowitz leaking documents to blogger Richard Silverstein waits until the 6th paragraph, on an inside page, to tell us why he took the step that landed him in federal prison for 20 months. He did not pass on documents for money, or for vindictiveness. He broke the law because he was afraid Israel was going to launch a dangerous and disastrous strike against Iran's alleged nuclear program, and he wanted to sound a warning. He broke the law because he was answering to a higher law, and his name should go down in history as an example of courage.
Shamai, who was born and raised in Israel, had a job translating F.B.I. wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington. Something he heard in those wiretaps spurred him into action. Israel's campaign of threats against Iran was no secret, but quite a few people interpreted it as just noise.
Shamai Leibowitz is a 40-year-old lawyer, clearly intelligent, a family man with 2 small children. Something he heard coming out of the Israeli embassy must have clearly frightened him to the point where he had felt he had to act, despite the risk to himself and his family.
So far, Shamai Leibowitz, who is still in federal custody, is declining to comment about the case. His right to move on with his life must be respected. But that does not mean we cannot salute him, and add him prominently to the long list of people who over the decades of conflict in the Middle East have put humanity first.
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