What Does the Shin Bet Have to Hide?
60 years have passed since the Wadi Salib incident: riots that broke out in Haifa in July of 1959 to the backdrop of distress and ethnic discrimination against North African immigrants. Authorities, with Shin Bet intervention, harshly suppressed the riots. The Shin Bet has published an official account of the incident based on documents from that era, but, despite the length of time that has passed, refuses to release related documents to researchers and the public.
On 1.1.2019, ACRI filed a suit to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on behalf of Dr. Shay Hazkani, who is researching the integration of Jews from Arab and Eastern countries in Israel. In 2017, Dr. Hazkani asked the State Archive for access to archival information about the Shin Bet’s activities in the Mizrahi sector, including activities in the ma’abarot, or transit camps, and attempts to prevent the Wadi Salib riots from happening. The Shabak rejected his request, stating “national security” concerns. ACRI Attorney Avner Pinchuk sued for the release of archival materials related to the riots. He further asked for the Shin Bet to publicize their de-classification procedures and to proactively publish archival material that is 50 years or older, as required by law.
In the past, there was a 50-year time limit after which archival Shin Bet material was to be de-classified. But, since that time limit has passed, the organization has ignored the law and refused public access to archival material from the founding years of the state. In 2010, following public pressure and HCJ lawsuits, the time period was extended to 70 years. Currently, the government is requesting an additional extension to a total of 90 years.
Attorney Pinchuk: “Both a number of former Shin Bet officials and everyone who has managed the State Archives over the past 20 years have admitted that there is no justification for the sweeping closure of Shin Bet materials. In democratic societies, there are certain things that must remain classified, even for a long time. However, the Shin Bet does not reveal anything. Publicizing archival material is important in order to avoid repeating past mistakes, to promote an equal society, and protect human rights.”