Considerations for declassifying records stored in the Israel State Archive (ISA) lack transparency. Reality shows that often, arguments concerning national security, foreign relations, or privacy protection conceal a different truth. Often, too often, documents are redacted in full or in part in order to protect Israel’s image.
Recently, following a request made by Akevot Institute, the Israel State Archive (ISA) reevaluated redactions made in cabinet meeting minutes from 1948 and 1949. These minutes were first opened for public access in 1995, but large portions of them remained redacted. Evyatar Friesel, who served as Chief State Archivist at the time the documents were opened to the public, wrote about the planned declassification of the meeting minutes in October of 1994, stating that 98% of the material had been declassified. In a letter he sent to the Government Secretary, Friesel added, “Allow me to predict the future: when the public examines these minutes, it will be pleased to read 98% of the material offered to it, but ask about the 2% that remain closed. Our answer will be that this was done in keeping with directives.”
So, what is included in the redacted 2%? We have written about it at length here (Hebrew only).
And what are the directives the Chief Archivist mentions? Another example of records recently opened for public access from those same government meetings offers a glimpse into the type of content redacted by ISA declassification staff in 1995.
“[W]e have created a special ghetto with barbed wire fencing and appointed a special person to handle them.” This is a statement made by Minister of Minority Affairs Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit in a government meeting held on February 23, 1949. The minister was referring to a ghetto erected for Palestinians who remained in Jaffa after the war by the Jaffa Military Rule, which operated in the city briefly. It is extremely doubtful that publicizing this paragraph in 1995 was in any way a threat to national security.