Israel hides truth about ongoing colonization

The government is refusing to publish a database containing
full details about the settlement enterprise in the territories,
including outposts and neighborhoods built across the Green
Line. In response to a High Court of Justice petition on the
matter, the Defense Ministry is arguing that publication would
harm state security and Israel’s foreign relations.

In October 2006, Haaretz revealed the existence of the Spiegel
Report – the largest database ever compiled by the state on the
settlements, by then special adviser to the defense minister
Brigadier General Baruch Spiegel. The report, whose
preparation was kept secret, revealed that extensive building
was carried out without permits on dozens of veteran
settlements – not just outposts – often on privately owned
Palestinian land. Spiegel’s data came from the Civil
Administration and other government agencies, as well as from
photographic sorties carried out by civilian aircraft leased by
the military establishment.

The data collection began after Spiegel and other Defense
Ministry officials realized that the state’s figures on the
settlements were incomplete. It became clear that often the
state’s own information was incomplete in comparison with the
data presented by the U.S. administration or gathered by Peace
Now’s monitoring staff. The lacunae stemmed from the
government’s policy of looking the other way. In some cases,
information was deliberately kept hidden in order to help the
settlers expand their control over land without having to
contend with judicial oversight of their activities.

At the time, military sources described the information as
“explosive” from a security and foreign-policy point of view,
and claimed that part of the reason for the secrecy about the
database was to avoid embarrassing Israel’s relations with the
U.S. In the wake of reports about the database, the Movement
for Freedom of Information in Israel and Peace Now petitioned
the district administrative court in Tel Aviv, demanding that the
database be released for publication in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Law.

Last week the Tel Aviv district prosecutor’s office submitted a
pre-petition response including a statement from Brigadier
General Mike Herzog, Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s chief of
staff. Herzog and the prosecution asked the court to bar
publication of the material. They claim that while they have no
quarrel with the principle of freedom of information they seek
to invoke Chapter 9A of the law to prevent publication “for fear
of harming state security and foreign relations.”

In his statement, Herzog argued that, “At the present time,
public disclosure of the material could cause injury,” about
which “we are unable to expand upon.” The attorney’s office
even asked the court for an in camera session, without the
presence of the petitioners, during which the state would
explain the basis of its claim. Judge Michal Rubiyet issued a
decision on the matter.

Ref: Haaretz

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