Do the right thing: Open all the archives!

My former boss at Ma’ariv, Yaacov Erez, had a framed copy of an article hanging prominently on the wall of his office.

September 12, 2013 22:04
3 minute read.
AN IDF soldier reads ‘The Jerusalem Post’ during the Yom Kippur War.

AN IDF soldier reads ‘The Jerusalem Post’ yom kippur war 370. (photo credit: Jerusalem Post archives)


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My former boss at Ma’ariv, Yaacov Erez, had a framed copy of an article hanging prominently on the wall of his office. He had sent the article to the IDF censor to get approval before going to press on October 5, 1973, the day before the Yom Kippur War broke out.

The article described in detail how dozens of Egyptian anti-missile tanks and jeeps were amassing along the Gulf of Suez.

The censor crossed out just about everything except the byline, so instead the newspaper printed an article about how IDF troops were vigilantly following the movement on the Egyptian side of the border and that steps were being taken to prevent the possibility of a surprise attack.

But that’s just it – no steps were in fact taken.

Since then, IDF censorship has amended its protocol, but there is still plenty of room for improvements. Even today, in 2013, Israel is once again facing critical security decisions. The fate of the State of Israel is still an unknown. Despite the fact that a great deal of time has passed, and that Israel is stronger than it was then, we have not been able to let our defenses down even for a moment. Dangers are constantly developing and the decisions we make now are no less critical or important than they were back then. Perhaps they are even more so now.

There is a real need to examine and explore what happened just before the Yom Kippur War. And I’m not addressing the IDF, which has opened its archives. I’m talking about the state, the government, the political echelon, which the Agranat Commission so staunchly protected. The time has come for the State Archives to be opened so that we can address the secrets that are still relevant today.

On March 5, 2013, a group of senior officers, soldiers and researches led by Aviram Barkai sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu describing how they left their childhoods out on the battlefields of the Golan and Sinai back in the fall of 1973. They didn’t run away from danger, but stayed and fought valiantly for the Jewish state. Some 2,600 of their friends died in the war, 500 of them in the first 24 hours.

But when the war was over, they were angry. They wanted to understand how and why events happened as they did. But they received no answers. So they went on with their lives, found jobs, raised families.

They’ve waited 40 years since those traumatic experiences left them scarred. They demand that closed state archival material relating directly or indirectly to the war be opened to the public.

In the letter, they describe how they still feel that Israel is their only home and that they and their children and their grandchildren will stand and fight again for its survival.

And that is why they believe that the time has come to be courageous and to take responsibility for our history and open the archives. For them and their children and their grandchildren. For the future generations.

So that everyone will know and understand what happened. So that we can learn from our mistakes.

But there was no response. So on June 2, 2013, a follow-up letter was sent requesting that transcripts of discussions that took place in the months leading up to October 1973 relating to the possibility of war breaking out be released to the public. They also asked for information regarding actions taken by the government during the turbulent days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur 1973, as well as discussions and decisions that were taken from the outbreak and until the conclusion of the war.

They are waiting for a reply.

The letter continues, “Enough is enough.

We want once and for all to put behind us these difficult questions that for 40 years have given us no rest. We beg of you, order your subordinates to release the documents in question. We know that you are the one who can make this happen. The time has come. It’s now up to you to do the right thing.”

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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