Being Killed Without Knowing Why

Anyone interested in knowing how infuriating the demand not to publish the Winograd testimonies is should read those that have already been published.

The people who appeared before the Winograd Committee have a lot to hide. There are two possibilities: Either they lied to the committee or they lied to the public. The battle to block the publication of the testimonies, with the scandalous encouragement of the committee and contrary to two High Court rulings, is thus a shameful battle, demonstrating that these people do not realize that the information in their hands belongs to the entire public.

They led us into a futile war - and then they try to conceal from us what was behind it? To get killed - yes. But to know? - no. It turns out that even though the Freedom of Information Law has been passed, its underlying values have not been internalized.

There are two twisted premises here. First, that unclassified information is someone's private property, and second, that it is permissible to lie or hide information from the public. The doors the prime minister and others seek to close to the public are therefore very dangerous doors.

The official announcement issued by the Prime Minister's Bureau - "This is a tangible and immediate concern to the country's security" - is a cynical exploitation of the security Moloch and constitutes baseless fear mongering. The public, and especially the thousands of soldiers who went to war, deserve to know everything. The excuse of security damage, with the clear knowledge that the testimonies will be reviewed by the military censor before being published, is ridiculous. Any investigation of failures is liable to harm the state. The investigation of the finance minister also damages the state. So we should not investigate? We should not expose failures?

Anyone interested in knowing how infuriating this demand not to publish the testimonies is should read those that have already been published. It suddenly becomes apparent that the vice premier, Shimon Peres, was opposed to the war when he voted for it. This double standard that Peres maintains - one in public and one at the committee - is something the public should know about. It casts a heavy shadow on the candidate for the presidency. There is no connection between publishing these facts and causing security damage. On the contrary, the state's security requires that the public know that the people deciding to send it to war speak with forked tongues and conceal their real views from it.

The testimony of the former head of military intelligence, Amos Malka, that "the IDF atrophied for four to five years," and that the decline in the army's readiness derived from "excessive attention to only one issue: the Palestinians," is a fateful matter that the public should know about.

What is said in secret has no value and can only be attributed to the cowardice of those being questioned. Their argument that they would not have spoken as they did had they known their testimony would be made public indicates that they seek to continue to lie or to conceal vital information from the people.

What do they mean when they say they would have "spoken differently?" They would have continued to lie, to blur or hide information from the public? But this is precisely the reason why the committee was formed: to reveal the truth to the public. The argument that this will deter those who are questioned in the future is also unfounded. As in court, those who are called before a committee of inquiry are obligated to tell the whole truth, and it is the committee's duty to uncover the truth. This applies sevenfold when it comes to the state's top echelon and life-and-death decisions like going to war.

The battle against publication of the testimonies is merely a fight for the unmasked reputation of the interrogatees. The information they hold belongs to all of us. They are our public emissaries. The public pays their salaries and the rest of their benefits. There are countries, like Sweden, for example, in which every citizen is authorized to immediately examine any document issued by a public employee. In Israel, there is still the assumption that public information belongs to a select elite - that only they deserve to know and that the public should blindly rely on them and their judgment. We should go to war with our eyes closed and miss diplomatic opportunities unveiled behind closed doors because we don't know or understand. We should put an end to this patronizing and arrogant attitude.

Now, after the High Court has spoken in favor of the important petition by MK Zahava Gal-On, the doors must be opened widely. Without intending to do so, the Winograd Committee will thus record an important public achievement: From now on, the leaders and commanders will know that their actions will be transparent and that the public will no longer wait for decades to know where they erred and where, through falsehood and deception, they led it.