Free speech and the Military Censor
Free speech and the Military Censor

There is a fine line between freedom of speech and treason.  Mordechai Vanunu honestly believed that exposing details of the atomic core in Dimona was in the public interest but was convicted of treason.

The duties of the Military Censor are to prevent the publication of information that threatens the country’s security whilst allowing freedom of information and freedom of the press. The balance between the public’s right to know and what is prohibited and should be suppressed by controlling methods of communication is a controversial issue.  Currently, intervention by the censor in print, online, books and even government archives is minimal, mostly dependent upon agreements with publishers.

However, a dilemma: exists: Where is the boundary between censoring security matters and those where political censorship may be required?  Articles in the daily Ynet (Yediot Ahronot) have been distinguishing themselves by being very close to those in Al Jazeera.  Leftist organisations channel information to this news outlet that is harming the security of the State, labelling part of Israel as “occupied territory” and its citizens as “settlers.”

This harms security in two ways.

First it gives the enemy courage and an incentive to continue with large-scale plans to murder Jews, to encourage individuals to kill and maim us.    Enemies on our borders and even further away make statements to annihilate all Jews in Israel. The definition of treason is to give aid or comfort to one’s enemies which many of these articles are doing.  The issue is not one of political censorship but one of security. Even though in 1989 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the censor may only prevent publication if there is “tangible” and “clear and present danger” (Supreme Court 680/88) there is no doubt when both soldiers and citizens are being targeted and killed that the danger is tangible, clear and present.   We do not need to wait for another war to recognise this.

Second these articles distort the view of Israel to overseas decision-makers in power bases who read the English-language versions of the established news.  These are intelligent people who are bombarded with articles and information from all sides. When a major publication presents to the world a skewed version of Israel representing the left it becomes the responsibility of the censor to sift out the lies.  The truth may only be apparent years later, as we found out after the Gaza disengagement.  Again, the effects are security and not political, for example the supply of essential materiel and coordination for military affairs. Israel is always on a war footing, both internally and externally and unless other countries understand Israel as it is, the damage can be great if their cooperation is lacking.

The decision-makers of today, in particular the Military Censor, must take account of the shifting demographics, namely the Jewish population in Yehuda and Shomron, the exponentially growing religious population and their upcoming political clout. There is also the generation whose parents and grandparents were olim – they have only now become upwardly mobile and are definitely not left-leaning. Note should be taken of the recent Knesset legislation that Israel is a Jewish State. 

The perspectives of much of the information promulgated by the established media is not a reflection of the changing pattern of Israeli society today.  

Is the Military Censor listening?