Over the weekend Shai Hazkani published a long article in Haaretz about Israeli crimes in 1948 and attempts to cover them up, first by David Ben Gurion and now, in recent years, by the archives. I'm not going to deal with the content of the article itself. However, I was perturbed by Hazkani's claim that unpleasant files which had been opened in the 1990s have recently been re-sealed, even though in the meantime historians had seen them and quoted from them. Given that I"m the State Archivist, I received a number of enquiries from various folks: "Tell us it ain't so, Yaacov!"
So I looked into the matter by contacting Haaretz and eventually talking to Hazkani so as to understand what he was describing. The answer is troubling.
First, it's not the censor. There is a censor in Israel, but she and her team don't deal with influencing historical narratives, only with stopping publications which contain an immediate danger to Israeli security, and they're watched closely by various agencies, chief of them being the Supreme Court. They have a very narrow mandate, and they stay within it.
It's not the State Archives, at least not as a policy of blocking uncomfortable or unpleasant documentation. The readers of our blog may have noticed this. However, it turns out there have been cases where declassifiers have re-sealed files, when their directives have been sharpened. Finally, there are the declassifiers at the IDF Archives: when I asked them they confirmed that indeed, some files have been re-sealed because of their content.
So Hazkani at Haaretz was right.
Now what? Since I stopped being a blogger and became a civil servant, I acquired authority and responsibility, but lost the luxury of simply speaking out on whatever topic crossed my mind. (I also mostly stopped bogging). On this matter, also: I can no longer simply say how I think things need to be without much chance of influencing them to be that way. I need to address the full complexity of the matter, and deal with all the stakeholders. I can hope to change things within my sphere of authority, but I must use the tools the system has given me, not those I used to use. It's trade-off: I may be able to change things (and I many not), but I can't simply spout opinions.
So on that note I'll have to end this report, at least until - and if - there's something else to report on.