Daily Israel Report

IDF Censor: Iran Debate Not Problematic

IDF censor Brig. Gen. Sima Vaknin said the debate on an Iran strike in Israel's press is not a security concern.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/8/2011, 6:17 PM

Sima Vaknin
Sima Vaknin
IDF Photo

IDF top censor Brig. Gen. Sima Vaknin told attendees at Haifa University lecture Wednesday that public discourse about a potential strike on Iran's nuclear program did not compromise Israel's national security.

Vaknin's statement came just days after it was reported the Prime Minister's Office had ordered a probe into leaks concerning sensitive discussions between ministers to the media.

"The interpretation of 'national security' touches on many spheres," Vaknin said. "So, I examined information that is not strictly security focused, but also issues related to foreign relations... relations between Israel and relevant countries, for example."

Vaknin said the views of senior ministers and security officials discussed in Israel's media did not contain sensitive operational or policy information, adding she felt the public interest was served by hearing opposing points of view.

Vaknin also discussed the principles guiding the censor's office and its relationship with the press, emphasizing its goals can only be achieved when both parties work in harmony to ensure freedom of expression is only impacted when a clear and present danger to lives or national security exists.

"I can say that Israel has a place of honor among countries that maintain freedom of expression, but not everything has to be public," Vaknin said.

However, critics of Israel's military censor note that the legal basis for the office's existance are vestigial 1945 defense regulations left over from the British Mandate era - which were formulated to quell indigineous populations in favor of the British Empire's colonial interests.

Vaknin herself has admitted in the past censorship and democracy aren't compatable - and that her office's existance raises uncomfortable questions about Israel's security culture.

"Censorship and democracy do not go together, by definition," Vaknin has said in the past. "Therefore, our job is to constantly regard Israel's democracy and ensure only the absolute minimal harm to free speech, while guarding the secrets only."

At the time she added, "Categorically, these [censorship powers] are draconian and grant the censor with far-reaching powers no democratic country should entrust to a single body."