After Six-Day War, Israel Censored Textbooks and Newspapers – and Tried to Silence Haaretz's Correspondent

Declassified documents show Prime Minister Levi Eshkol supported wiretapping ministers' phones to prevent leaks, but said in that case, he would 'decree silence on myself in romantic matters as well'

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Prime Minister Levy Eshkol and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan visit an Israeli army camp in the West Bank with other officials after the Six-Day War, 1967.
Prime Minister Levy Eshkol and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan visit an Israeli army camp in the West Bank with other officials after the Six-Day War, 1967.Credit: Ilan Bruner/GPO

In the months following the Six-Day War in 1967, a significant portion of the ministerial discussions was devoted to the education Arab pupils would receive in the occupied territories.

Documents detailing the minutes of these meetings were declassified by the Israel State Archives on Thursday. Yaakov Sarid, then the Education Ministry director general (and father of Yossi Sarid), reported that his ministry had censored dozens of Arab textbooks, including math books, that contained inflammatory material.

Ministers also sought to impose censorship on Israeli newspapers that didn’t toe the government line or that published leaked security information. Reading the minutes of the discussions, one discovers that Education Minister Zalman Aranne expressed surprise with the military censor’s decision to allow the publication of a cartoon by Ze’ev (Yaakov Farkash) showing an Arab teacher throwing the Jewish education minister out of his classroom. “It would be proper if the newspapers wouldn’t deal with the Education Ministry, but with the Arabs,” he said.

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, meanwhile, tried to get Haaretz’s military correspondent, Ze’ev Schiff, fired. “I asked my bureau chief to look into the possibility of suspending his right to be a military reporter,” Dayan said. “How can he be a military reporter if he doesn’t observe the state’s security laws?”

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan fly over the West Bank after the Six-Day War.Credit: ILAN BRUNER/ GPO

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol added, “I see Schiff walking around in the dark corners of the ministries I remember a case in which there was a meeting until very late, and when I came out I saw Mr. Schiff standing under a bush. He was waiting there and had known about the meeting.”

To prevent leaks of security information to journalists, Dayan proposed tapping government ministers’ phones. Eshkol thought this was a bad idea, but said he wouldn’t oppose it.

“I don’t think that if I wanted to give information, I would necessarily use my home phone,” he said. “I would go to a public phone, or I’d sit in a café or I’d just say something to someone and tell him to pass on the information. That’s why wiretapping won’t solve the problem.”

Still, he said, “If it is decided to wiretap ministers, I will cooperate with the move. But then I will have to decree silence on myself in romantic matters as well.”

Along with censoring books and newspapers, the ministers discussed taking action against various people deemed to be “inciters,” and the minutes include talks on deporting some of them. In one such discussion, Justice Minister Ya’akov Shapira spoke of a Muslim cleric who along with his assistants was accused of incitement against Israel. “I would take these guys and send them to the Sinai desert; that too, violates the Geneva Convention,” he said. “I would settle them in Sharm e-Sheikh, so they could roast in the sun.”

Police Minister Eliyahu Sasson said that lacking another option, “We’ll send him and five others like him to Mitzpeh Ramon.”