The Israeli Military Censor’s office has suppressed multiple media reports.
An IDF soldier was detained for 28 days after posting a photo of soldiers drafting at the central Reception and Sorting Base, N12 reported. The photo showed the military’s blatant violation of the Health Ministry’s instructions allowing gatherings of up to ten people.
The military conducted an investigation into the gathering after the photo that sparked national outrage was published, searching the soldier responsible for distributing the image. The IDF claims the soldier was detained for “not preventing the gathering” and not reporting it to his superiors.
The soldier himself claims he has brought the incident to the commanders’ attention, yet those ignored the violation of the ministry’s instructions. According to the report, no measures were taken against the soldier’s commanders.
Despite the IDF’s claims, one must doubt that the reason for the soldier’s detention was his inability to notify his superiors; it is highly likely that his detention was caused by him taking the photo, as the investigation began after the publication of the photo despite multiple witnesses at the reception base.
In Israel, all media publications relating to the military, its activities and dysfunctions have to be approved by the Israeli Military Censor. In 2018, the censor’s office prohibited the publication of 363 articles, redacting some 2,712 news items in total.
The censor’s office has previously suppressed multiple media reports concerning controversial IDF operations and civil rights violations. The year that saw the highest censorship of the press in the last decade was 2014, the year of the 50-day-long Gaza War, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
During the operation, more than two thousand Gazans and 68 Israelis lost their lives, with hundreds of Israelis and tens of thousands in Gaza being wounded. The civilian toll in Israel stood at 7 individuals, and the one in Gaza was estimated by the UN around 1,400. In 2014, 597 articles were barred from publishing, with a total of 3,122 news items being redacted.
On June 26, 1980, two years before the IDF invaded Lebanon, The Christian Science Monitor reported that “Israeli air and sea attacks on Palestinian and leftist positions in Lebanon are almost nightly events.” Reporting from Beirut, Helena Cobban then added that “a more sinister Israeli hand is seen behind some of the increased unrest throughout the country.”
According to Cobban, several terrorist attacks against Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Lebanon were claimed by a group calling itself “the Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners.” She suggested that the front, unheard before, was influenced by Israel, as car bomb attacks similar to the front’s were carried out against Palestinian mayors in the occupied territories.
In 2012, The New Yorker‘s David Remnick published a profile of former Mossad head Meir Dagan under the title “The Vegetarian.” According to Remnick, two Yediot Aharonot reporters—Yigal Sarna and Anat Tal-Shir—investigated a story that Dagan led a secret unit across the Lebanese border “whose mission was to instigate terrorist events that would justify an incursion.”
According to Remnick, Sarna told him that the military censor had “killed the story,” barring it from ever seeing the light of day. The FLLF operated in the years 1979-1983, killing hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. The attacks became less frequent following Israel’s invasion in 1982. In 2016, Haaretz published as well a profile of Dagan, this time explicitly mentioning the FLLF.
According to Haaretz, the complaint that reached the press named IDF chief of staff Rafael Eitan, Northern Command head Avigdor “Yanush” Ben-Gal, his intelligence officer Shlomo Ilya and Military Intelligence head Dagan. It reportedly reached then-prime minister Menachem Begin, who was busy with the upcoming election.
After the election, Begin handed the defense portfolio to Ariel Sharon, whose biography was tainted by the infamous Sabra and Shatila Massacre. In 1982, the Phalange militia was let into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, slaughtering up to 3,500 Palestinian civilians in less than 48 hours.
In 1983, Sharon was forced to resign after the Kahan Commission found he bore personal responsibility for “ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge” and permitting the Phalange militia’s entrance into the camps.
Lebanese and Palestinian sources knew about Sharon’s role in the massacre, about FLLF’s activity and about Mossad’s involvement. The Lebanon War was raging, civilians were being killed on both sides, yet the information was still swept under the rug for “security reasons.”
Hidden from the very taxpayers that funded it—both Israeli and American—the information on the security establishment’s activity is safely tucked away. As long as it is, the military is safe to do as it pleases.