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FAS Note: Avner Cohen is the author of Israel and the Bomb, a history of the Israeli nuclear program. As described in the following letter, his work has been the subject of considerable legal and political controversy in Israel. As of February 2001, no reply to this letter had been received.

Avner Cohen, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scholar
Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland
School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-1811, U.S.A.

25 July 2000

Mr. Elyakim Rubinstein
Attorney General
29 Salah ed-Din Street
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Sir:

1. This letter seeks to clarify my situation with respect to Israeli legal authority. Specifically, this letter addresses five central topics:

2. I am in contact with MK Zehava Gal-On and MK Naomi Chazan, both of whom are members of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense. My understanding is that MK Gal-On has already approached your office in connection with this matter, specifically to State Prosecutor Edna Arbel.

3. On July 5, 2000, I wrote a detailed letter on this subject to MK Dan Meridor, Chairman of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense. In my letter to MK Meridor, I asked not only for his aid in resolving this matter, but also for an independent investigation of the activities of the MALMAB in my case over the past decade.

4. My sincere hope is that this letter will lead, in a quiet and effective manner, to a conclusion of this matter which has made things difficult for all of us.


5. Essentially, what is called "the Avner Cohen affair" refers to the ten year conflict (1990-2000) between myself and various elements of the security apparatus, above all the head of the MALMAB, Yehiel Horev. The subject of the conflict was the research, writing and publication of my book Israel and the Bomb (New York, Columbia University Press, 1998).

6. Although this conflict involved, regrettably, a significant personal dimension, its central point goes to the very heart of Israeli democracy: the tension between the policy of nuclear "opacity" (amimut) and the foundations of democracy. To put it another way, the conflict is about defining the boundaries of discussion and the freedom of academic research on the subject of Israeli nuclear policy, in such a way that it does not endanger national security, on the one hand, or the open-democratic character of the State, on the other hand.

7. I need hardly add that this central topic, and its application and consequences for nuclear policy, is part of the academic field in which I specialize.

8. On this matter of principle, my views differ profoundly from those of the MALMAB. In my opinion, the MALMAB adheres to an anachronistic position that has been rendered obsolete by the political and social realities of Israel in the year 2000.

9. One expression of the MALMAB's views appeared in the press this week (Haaretz, 23 July 2000). The MALMAB office wrote a letter to the district court in Jerusalem that was considering release of documents from the Vanunu trial, expressing opposition to their publication. In his letter, the MALMAB representative wrote that "Every introduction of the [nuclear] topic onto the public agenda is likely to serve the purposes and various interests of those who seek to damage the security policy of the State of Israel."

10. This letter is eloquent testimony to the MALMAB's complete lack of awareness as to the limits of its authority in a democratic society. Since when is the MALMAB responsible for restricting the speech of those citizens who are interested in placing these and other issues on the public agenda? Who appointed the MALMAB to oversee the public domain in the name of security and to supervise free expression in the State of Israel?

11. I have every reason to believe that this outlook is also behind the MALMAB's activities in my case, as described below, and that the MALMAB is opposed to every mention of the nuclear issue in public, not merely those factual matters that damage the security of the state. From its perspective, any public discussion of the nuclear issue is itself a blow to state security. This point of view was brought to bear in my case, and it is a serious blow to freedom of expression in a very concrete, unreasonable, disproportionate way that exceeds the MALMAB's authority.

12. A description of the conflict between the MALMAB and myself, including the use of the military censor as an instrument to prevent public discussion of the subject, would be too lengthy to provide in this letter. But for purposes of background, I am attaching a chronology that includes the central incidents of the past decade. To complete the picture, I am attaching several pages that were included in my Supreme Court petition of 20 April 1995 that present the factual basis of that petition.

The Current Situation

13. At the end of November 1999, I received an official notice from the Israeli Police Unit for International Investigations through attorney Mibi Muzer (legal adviser for Schoken, the Israeli publisher of my book), indicating that the investigation against me on suspicion of "violating censorship" had been closed, and that no indictment would be presented. The reason for closing the case, the notice indicated, was that "the circumstances do not justify continued investigation and/or prosecution."

14. I naively thought that this notice represented the views of all those who were involved in the case, including the State Prosecutor. This was also suggested to me personally by very senior members of the Israeli Police. It seemed logical to me, since it was a reasonable conclusion to the controversy, both in terms of its intrinsic justice, and in terms of averting damage to the good name of the State of Israel.

15. In principle, I viewed the notice as a slight shift in the policy of the Israeli government on this whole matter, and a certain "rehabilitation" for me personally. That is how I described it in the epilogue that I added to the Hebrew edition of my book (pages attached).

16. With this I considered my case closed, and I was certain that I could come and go as a free man, without being arrested or interrogated, since the affair was altogether over.

17. To my astonishment, it turned out that the affair was not over. The latest chapter of this long and winding saga took place at the end of this past June. I was invited to participate in an academic conference that was to be held on 11 June 2000 that was organized by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Bar Ilan in honor of the publication of the Hebrew edition of my book by Schoken Publishers.

18. Several hours before boarding my flight to Israel, I spoke by telephone with Mibi Muzer, the legal adviser of Schoken Publishers, who advised me that there was a significant possibility that if I came to Israel I would be arrested for interrogation. With a heavy heart, I decided not to come to Israel under these circumstances.

19. Further developments, and various reports in Haaretz and Yediot Ahronot, present a different picture from that of the Notice from the Police. It turns out that Yehiel Horev, the head of the MALMAB, claims that the case against me had been closed by mistake. According to the report in Yediot Ahronot, Mr. Horev was in contact with the office of the State Prosecutor and asked that she consider prosecuting me for "espionage or some other serious security violation."

20. The developments from the beginning of this month [July] were only partially reported to me. MK Naomi Chazan intended to raise my case for discussion in the Knesset Subcommittee on Security Services of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, but a few minutes before the meeting of that Subcommittee, MK Dan Meridor spoke with MK Chazan and told her that the subject had already been discussed by Mr. Horev in another Subcommittee, and that the position of the security authorities was that if I came to Israel I would be brought in for interrogation. MK Meridor did not speak at length with MK Chazan and they have been unable to speak in further detail since then since MK Meridor left for the Camp David Summit.

21. My present situation is Kafkaesque. On the one hand, officially, the case is closed and I know of no pending indictment against me. On the other hand, I am receiving impressions, hints, leaks and reports that the moment I arrive in Israel I might be arrested immediately and taken to interrogation.

22. This cannot be. A citizen is entitled to know his status with respect to the legal authorities, and to receive official notification concerning it. If the investigation against me was concluded "by mistake," and the Police are to reopen it, then I have a right to know about it and to receive formal notice about it. It is also important to me to know what factual changes, if any, occurred between November 1999 and June 2000 that would require reopening the case.

23. From various press reports, it appears that the decision will be made by the State Prosecutor, that it has not yet been made, and that even when it is made, you will be able to change it. Permit me to elaborate some of the considerations and points that should be taken into account in deciding my case. It is important to me to present them from my point of view.

Banning of the Research and the Petition to the Supreme Court

24. At my own initiative, I submitted the first draft of an article on the topic of my research for review by the Censor, Brig. Gen. Shani at the end of 1993. At first, the Censor refused to review the material. But at the end, he agreed to do so. After long months of deferral and delay, he banned publication of the article in its entirety.

25. I appealed this arbitrary and unreasonable decision to the Supreme Court, at which I was represented by Gilead Sher. My petition was directed against the Military Censor and the Minister of Defense.

26. The petition was argued before the Supreme Court in September 1994. The justices did not issue a ruling immediately, but rather urged the parties to arrive at a reasonable compromise, since a ruling on the matter would take a long time.

27. In accordance with the Court's recommendation I undertook, to the best of my ability, many extended efforts to find a practical compromise, including preparation of a new draft that was submitted anew for review by the Censor. This time too the entire article was banned in its entirety by the Censor with the support of the MALMAB.

28. During this extended struggle, it became clear to my attorney and me that it was not the Censor who was stubbornly pursuing the case against me, but the MALMAB. We received reassuring signals from the Censor, but it was the MALMAB who was calling the shots.

29. At the beginning of 1995, after all efforts at compromise had proved fruitless, I despaired of achieving anything in this way, and with my attorney Mr. Sher, I withdrew my petition from the Supreme Court. I explained the reasons for this decision in a personal letter to the judges, which is attached.

30. As stated, from 1995 until 1998 I continued my research in the United States, and I published my book there. For further details please see the attached chronology.

The Arbitrariness of the Censor and the MALMAB

31. To my knowledge, this case is the first instance in the history of the State of Israel in which a full-length academic work, written by a researcher without access to official secrets, was prohibited from publication in such a sweeping manner. An academic work is not equivalent to a story in the newspaper, and they should not be treated the same. And the fact that the author does not have access to official secrets and therefore is not violating the constraints that are imposed on employees of the security apparatus who seek to publish their own personal accounts is also an important consideration.

32. I am not aware of any Israeli researcher in my position, who resides permanently in the United States (I have been a U.S. resident since 1990), who submits academic material for review by the Censor. I am unaware of any precedent for this. In contrast, there are numerous Israeli academics active in strategic and historical studies and political science who have published numerous studies, articles and books that relate to Israel's security, including the nuclear realm. To the best of my knowledge, many of them have not even tried to gain the Censor's approval for publication, and following publication, nothing was done to them.

33. To the best of my knowledge, the last time (and one of the very few times) that someone was prosecuted for violating censorship was in the middle of the 1960s (it was Maxim Gilan, editor of the newspaper Bul) and this was a journalist, not an academic researcher.

34. Israeli journalists who publish extremely sensitive information from time to time without submitting it to the Censor are punished only in extreme cases and only by a fine imposed on their newspapers. In most instances, the Censor is satisfied with issuance of a letter of warning.

35. I am also aware of specific cases of Israeli journalists, working for foreign newspapers, who publish highly sensitive information without presenting it to the Censor in advance. For example, an Israeli journalist wrote an article (under his own name) in the Sunday Times of London a few weeks ago on the attempt to fire cruise missiles from an Israeli submarine. In the past, the same journalist has exposed particularly sensitive information, such as the full name and address of the Mossad agent in the Vanunu affair known as "Cindy." Publication of such extremely sensitive information, that clearly damages the national security, did not merit any action from the Censor or the MALMAB. They were absolutely ignored.

Some Specific Considerations Concerning the Research

36. I would emphasize with respect to my book and the underlying research that at no point did I violate any formal agreement to protect state secrets that were provided to me in the course of some employment, nor did I ever obtain information by any illegal means. I obtained all the information and the documents from the official archives of Israel and the United States, and all the documents I used are open to the inspection of anyone under the laws of the countries where they are located. I conducted interviews with various people, and whenever I was warned that a certain detail could not be published, I did not publish it.

37. As an expert in the field, I believe I know the difference between information that is properly classified and that which is not. Based on this knowledge, I removed from my work many sections that I thought could have damaged state security. My published work is far from reflecting the full scope of my knowledge and understanding of the topic.

38. The subject of this research was deliberately circumscribed as a political history of the Israeli nuclear program up to the year 1970. There is nothing in the book that refers to the 30 years that have passed since then. It is difficult to understand how publication of 30 year old political information could damage state security today.

39. I would stress that I have refrained from introducing technological, organizational, or military details. My work focuses principally on the political realm. I did this so as not to damage, or to disclose details that could damage, state security. Certainly, this has been clear to readers, and it was noted, for example, by journalist Aluf Benn in his review of the book. (Haaretz, 27 June 2000).

40. Moreover, it appears that those individuals who have full knowledge of the secrets of the matter and of its history in particular, and who carefully read the book, are of the view that there is nothing in it that would threaten state security. This was stated to me explicitly by Prof. Yuval Neeman, Prof. Avraham Hermoni, Prof. Israel Dostrovsky, and others.

Public Considerations

41. No one knows better than you that freedom of research is a basic legal right that is defended by the Israeli democratic system. The Supreme Court has on several occasions treated freedom of research as a right distinct from freedom of expression and the public's right to know, which serve as the basis for freedom of the press. Academic research is elevated far beyond the publication of transient news information, and its contribution to society is far greater. The conduct of the Censor in an arbitrary, unreasonable, disproportionate manner, devoid of political or security logic, seems to reflect an extremely narrow, anachronistic, and undemocratic view held by a number of officials in the Israel nuclear complex that any and all publicity threatens the policy of nuclear "opacity" which Israel has upheld for decades.

42. Some people within the defense establishment have tried to portray me as an extreme ideologue who holds anti-nuclear views or who favors nuclear "transparency." First of all, these claims are far from the truth, as anyone who looks at my book can tell, and second, these assertions concern personal opinions, not facts.

43. Substantial public policy and political considerations dictate that this whole affair be quietly terminated. The attempt by the MALMAB to persist in his vendetta over publication of the book is likely to cause serious long-term damage to the reputation and good name of Israeli democracy.

44. The war that has been declared upon me by members of the security apparatus is actually causing great damage to the policy of opacity. The whole effort simply draws increased media attention in Israel and around the world to the very subject that the MALMAB so stubbornly wishes to conceal. Furthermore, if the MALMAB is so fiercely opposed to publication of the book, that tends to confirm its contents are absolutely correct and based on sources of the first rank. This whole dispute only lends the book greater weight and converts from just another academic work, part of which is documentary and part of which is speculative, into the most authoritative source on the Israeli nuclear program.

The Personal Damage I Have Suffered

45. The final points I would like to make are in a more personal vein. Though I have settled in the United States over the past decade, I have not renounced my close ties to Israel. But in recent years I have been unable to visit my mother Adina, a 74 year old Holocaust survivor, as a result of the campaign against me, nor to visit my only sister who lives in Israel.

46. My work as a researcher has also suffered. I am unable to attend academic conferences in Israel, and I have acquired a reputation as an "untouchable" through the efforts of officials in the security system who have approached conference organizers and persuaded them not to invite "criminals" to their meetings.

47. The personal damage to me is, of course, quite difficult to bear. The separation from my friends, my family and my homeland takes its toll, and I really feel like a "political refugee." I consciously selected a research topic that is considered "taboo" by many in Israel, and although I committed no crime in collecting the information and developing it, members of the security apparatus and especially the MALMAB attempted to enforce my silence through the use of the Censor. Since this was not successful, they have engaged in a personal vendetta against me, seeking to block me from coming to Israel.

48. I am not exaggerating when I say that the MALMAB and other security elements have determined to prevent me from continuing my research on this subject in Israel and thus, while presuming to speak in the name of the Rule of Law, to silence my voice in Israeli public discourse on the nuclear question.

49. Here there is another public interest. Because to silence me is essentially to silence public discussion of this topic by threats of interrogation and arrest, insinuations, leaks and twisted accusations that recall McCarthyism in America of the 1950s rather than an enlightened democracy of the third millennium.


50. I request from your office a full clarification of my status with respect to the legal authorities of the State of Israel. Is there in fact a pending investigation against me? If I come to Israel will I be summoned to interrogation? Are those hints and leaks to the press accurate?

51. In my humble opinion, the time has come to conclude this affair in the spirit of the decision made by the Police in November 1999. In this way, the conflict could be brought to an end without damage to Israeli democracy or to essential security interests of the State of Israel. In any case, I do not believe that a renewed police investigation would turn up any new factual information.

52. I don't know what there might be to interrogate me about, but if nevertheless there is a need to interrogate me, I am fully prepared to be interrogated, with my full cooperation, at the earliest opportunity. The interrogation could be conducted in Washington, D.C. by a representative of the Israeli Police or anyone else who might be appointed by Israeli legal authorities.

53. Alternatively, I am willing to be interrogated in Israel, as long as my personal freedom is guaranteed in an arrangement between my attorney and your office.

54. In view of my absolute distrust of the MALMAB, based on past experience and his behavior of the past decade, I request that some agency other than the MALMAB render judgment on the results of the interrogation. This could consist of an ad hoc professional body, whose membership would be agreed upon by both sides, that would review the results of the interrogation and the behavior of the MALMAB. I would suggest that such a body include disinterested public figures such as Gen. (Res.) Ami Ayalon, Prof. Israel Dostrovsky, and the like.

55. I request that your office examine the activities of the MALMAB and its director's handling of my case during the past decade including, in particular, whether he exceeded his authority to such an extent that it constituted a violation of law, and whether his activities are consistent with the norms of democratic government.

56. In any event, I request that my right to be heard by you or by the State Prosecutor be preserved.

57. I would like to reiterate that this is not a purely legal matter. It has important ramifications for Israeli democracy, especially for defining the boundaries of public discussion on the nuclear matter, and for [other] sensitive political matters of international consequence.

58. For sake of these matters, and in the interests of justice and logic, I hope that it will be possible to conclude this affair without further interrogation.

Mr. Yossi Beilin, Minister of Justice
Edna Arbel, Esq., State Prosecutor
MK Dan Meridor, Chairman, Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense
MK Amnon Rubinstein, Chairman, Knesset Committee on Law, Constitution, and Justice
MK Zehava Gal-On
MK Naomi Chazan

Avner Cohen, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scholar
Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland
School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-1811, U.S.A.

4 September 2000
4 Elul 5760

Mr. Elyakim Rubinstein
Attorney General
29 Salah ed-Din Street
Jerusalem, Israel

1. This letter supplements my July 2000 letter to you. I have recently learned that discussion of my case is anticipated in the very near future which, together with consideration of my request to come to Israel in September, will also include "larger" questions in my case that have arisen at the request of security officials on the one hand, and as a result of my earlier letter to you on the other.

2. To my dismay, circumstances do not permit me to present my case to you, or your staff, directly. It has been agreed with attorney Devora Chen that I would present the essential facts in writing and deliver them to you prior to the upcoming discussion.

3. As I noted in my prior letter, I do not trust the MALMAB. I fear that due to the lack of a presentation from my side, only partial, tendentious information, brought to you by the MALMAB, will be available to you during your deliberations on my case.

4. As stated, I would like to present here a brief chronology that will clarify the circumstances in which I worked and the activities of the MALMAB that are known to me. This is for two purposes: (a) to show that the fact that I did not submit my book to the Censor was not an act of "taking the law into my own hands" but resulted from the lack of any alternative and the complete lack of cooperation from the Censor, who served as the "mouthpiece" for the MALMAB; and (b) to substantiate my claim that the MALMAB exceeded its authority in the handling of my case.

5. It should be noted that the activities of the MALMAB are not known to me first-hand in their entirety. It will be clear to every reader of the chronology what I learned from personal experience, and what I learned from the press. It should noted further that I have relied solely on journalists known to be particularly reliable with sources in the security system and whose words almost certainly reflect the truth, such as: Ronen Bergman, Emanuel Rozen, Shlomo Nakdimon, Reuven Pedahzur, and others.

6. As one example, I would cite an article that appeared in Haaretz on 4 August 2000, by Ronen Bergman entitled "The Last Attack on Opacity." It was based on sources in the office of the MALMAB and explained that the MALMAB director was fighting me in his capacity as "guardian" of Israel's nuclear opacity. As I have stated, there is nothing in my research whatsoever that would jeopardize state security. But the book itself, from start to finish, is a challenge to opacity, and for that they try to silence me.

7. Another startling fact that emerges from this article is that those unnamed security personnel conducted real-time surveillance against me, making strenuous efforts to discover what I know, and with whom I was speaking. This fact­- that I was and am subject to surveillance here in the U.S. and that my conversations are being monitored­- is shocking by any standard.

8. There are a few other things that I want to mention in my letter to you. It has become known to me that the Office of the State Prosecutor is wrestling with the legal question of whether to prosecute me under one of the serious security statutes in the criminal code.

9. I wish to say that such an action would have far-reaching consequences for freedom of research, freedom of the press, and Israeli democracy generally. Henceforward, every journalist who reports information that he received from a secret source could expect to be prosecuted for espionage or some other security violation, something that to my knowledge is without precedent in Israel, and that has no counterpart in any enlightened democracy. And of course this kind of approach would nullify the protection of sources enjoyed by journalists and recognized in law and by the Supreme Court. The State of Israel cannot permit itself to prosecute the one who publishes the information but to leave the secret "source", the one who provided the secret information, the real "spy", untouched. Such a decision would open a Pandora's box and would end who knows where. I am not speaking here about my own case at all. Of course, Israel also cannot act in an arbitrary manner, deciding that it will pursue cases in some sensitive areas, but that other sensitive areas that also entail damage to state security, and publications in those areas, may enter the public domain.

10. I would also like to note my continuing astonishment at the intervention of the MALMAB in my case. To the best of my knowledge, it is the GSS (Shabak) and the Police that are responsible for investigating Israeli citizens who are suspected of security violations, not the MALMAB. Certain facts cited in the attached chronology suggest that the MALMAB did all this in order to evade parliamentary criticism of his actions, in the past month.

11. I believe that the material below is of relevance. It is presented with the utmost brevity.

Edna Arbel, Esq., State Prosecutor
Devora Chen, Esq., Office of the State Prosecutor


General Background


Avner Cohen (AC) received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. Taught Philosophy as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Washington University in Saint Louis. Despite job offers in the U.S., returns to Israel to teach philosophy at Ben Gurion University and subsequently at Tel Aviv University.


AC begins his research on philosophical views of the nuclear issue. With his colleague Professor Steven Lee, he edits a volume on the subject of nuclear deterrence and ethics. The two become known in the academic community for their work on this topic. The collection of articles in published in the U.S as Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Humanity (Rowman & Allenheld, 1986). AC works on a Hebrew edition, "Humanity in the Shadow of the Bomb" (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1987).


AC spends nearly two years in the U.S. teaching and researching the subject of nuclear proliferation. Upon return to Israel, he delivers a series of lectures on Army radio that are published as "The Nuclear Age as Ethical History." AC presents research proposal to the MacArthur Foundation in the U.S. The research is to focus on the roots of the nuclear taboo in Israel­- the relationship between policy and culture. The proposal is granted.


AC takes a sabbatical leave at M.I.T. With Dr. Marvin Miller, he organizes a project on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East: dangers and prospects. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait changes AC's conception of his work. He and Miller intend to write a book jointly on nuclear proliferation and arms control in the Middle East, in which AC would focus on the historical aspects and Miller on the scientific aspects.

First Contacts with Security Personnel


AC arrives in Israel and begins interviews and research on the nuclear history of Israel. The ground rules are clear and the "red lines" are indicated by each interviewee. Whatever is said that is not intended for publication is not published. AC receives permission from each interviewee to publish everything that is published. The MALMAB summons him for a preliminary inquiry. A man from the office of the MALMAB requests details about the research. AC answers that the research is to be carried out mostly in the U.S. with an American colleague, and it is at its beginning. He indicates that the security of the state is important to him, and that he will consider submitting the work to the Censor prior to publication. AC meets with the Censor, Brig. Gen. Shani (hereafter: "Shani"). He informs Shani of his intent to write the work and to submit it to the Censor for clearance. Shani says that despite the sensitivity of the topic he believes it should be possible to arrive at a resolution allowing publication.


The MIT Project presents, in its second year, an American-Israeli seminar on nuclear proliferation. Participants include Israeli Mks (Efraim Sneh and Naomi Chazan), retired senior officials (Shalhevet Freier, Gen. (Res.) Tamir), and academics. The existence of the seminar generates considerable suspicion and anxiety in the security system and the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. The newspaper Maariv publishes an article on February 10, 1993, with the headline "Israeli Nuclear Weapons ­ Just Talk" At the end of the article there is a reference to an academic who is considered by the security system as a "security threat" of whom it is said that "there are countries where they would do away with someone like that." The reporter confirms to AC that he is the subject of this reference but refuses to disclose who said them. MK Naomi Chazan presents a query in the Knesset regarding what was said. The response of the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister, presented by Mr. Eitan Haber, is that the Minister regrets these words and does not agree with them. Since the reporter refused to disclose who said them, there is nothing further to be done.

Submission of Material to the Censor

October 1993

AC submits to the Censor an article on the political history of the Israeli nuclear project up to 1967. The article deals exclusively with the internal political aspects. There is no technical or military information concerning the nuclear capability in those years. It is based on unclassified information collected in various archives in Israel and the U.S., and on interviews with various people, most of them well-known Israelis, who presumptively would not disclose information that would damage national security. No use of made of classified documents, nor was information ever gathered in an illegal manner. AC has never held a security clearance, and has no other access to information other than that acquired in the course of his research. AC emphasizes that despite the uncertainty of his obligation to submit the article to the Censor, he did so out of a desire not to damage the security of the state, and based on the past assurances of Shani that the purpose would be to clear the article for publication, not to suppress it.

November 1993

AC arrives in Israel at the beginning of the month for an academic conference. He meets with the Censor and asks him to return the article with modifications, and to discuss with him the details that may be published and those which may not. The meeting is arranged in advance with Shani, based on the understanding that there was a reasonable possibility that the work of the Censor would be completed by this time. During his stay in Israel, an official letter is provided to AC informing him that the Censor has no intention of reviewing the article, except upon completion of the entire book, since the article was presented as part of a more complete book on the topic. Until the writing of the book is completed, AC is forbidden to publish the article. He is also informed that his actions have violated criminal law up to the present day. AC retains the legal services of attorney Gilead Sher (hereafter: "Sher"). Following Sher's intervention, Shani agrees to review the article independently of the book.

February 1994

Up to this point AC faces delay and procrastination on the part of the Censor. In conversations with Sher and others Shani explains that the material was reviewed by security personnel outside of his office, but he again expresses confidence that it will be cleared for publication. Prof. Kenneth Oye, director of MIT's Center for International Studies, writes to the Censor to request clearance of the article and expedited review. The returns the entire article without review. The explanation given is that the article had been distributed to researchers in the field for their review before being cleared. (This is a customary practice in the academic world, similar to pre-publication peer review.) Sher sends an urgent letter to Attorney Nili Arad, the head of the Petition Department [BAGATZ] in the Justice Ministry.

March 1994

After further discussions, including a special trip to Israel by AC at his own expense to meet with the deputy censor, it is determined that the Censor will reconsider his decision not to review the article and to disqualify it completely.

April 1994

AC extends his stay in Israel an additional month in order to meet with Shani himself. The meeting is postponed by Shani, and when it finally takes place, Shani hands a letter to AC and to Sher in which he reiterates his decision not to review the article at all and to prohibit its publication entirely. Sar again tries to persuade Shani in further discussions. Inquiry is also made with Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai (Mota) Gur, who promises to look into it, but does not respond further to AC and Sar. Sar and attorney Amir Kidri petition the Supreme Court on behalf of AC. Justice Hashin issues a conditional order directing the Censor to justify his refusal within 40 days.

August 1994

After repeated requests and delays lasting 117 days from the decision of Justice Hashin, the government's response is presented. At the initiative of the Attorney Nili Arad, the head of the Petitions Department at the Justice Ministry, negotiations are renewed on withdrawing the petition in exchange for the Censor's review of the article. But the security demands from the Office of the MALMAB make the research impossible from AC's point of view. These demands include a prohibition against speaking about his research with colleagues, and against sharing with them any material concerning it. The demands of the MALMAB prevent the possibility of any compromise at this stage.

September 1994

The Supreme Court meets behind closed doors on the petition. AC is granted permission to speak, but most of the government's arguments are heard while AC and his attorneys are outside the courtroom. AC arrives with a newly edited version of the article, in a form different from the original and with fewer sensitive points, to his understanding. He responds to a proposal from the bench and acknowledges his readiness to immediately submit an entirely new version of the article. AC also presents to the Censor galleys of an article on the subject that has been accepted for publication by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The Censor again promises to review the material promptly.

October 1994

The Censor again completely bans the material that AC submitted to him, based on the same justifications as previously.

December 1994

After consultations between AC and Sher following the Censor's latest decision, AC decides to withdraw his petition. In a personal letter he explains to the judges that a lack of resources, the absence of public attention due to the closure of the hearings, and the fact that article in its present form is becoming outdated [due to new archival discoveries] compel him to withdraw the petition. This notice is presented on 10 January 1995. Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly clear to AC that it is the MALMAB that is behind the opposition to him and that the MALMAB will do everything to prevent publication of the article. AC decides not to make any use of the article he wrote at all, and to continue his research in the U.S.

Following the Petition:

February 1995

AC arrives in Israel. He is detained at Ben Gurion Airport by senior Israeli Police oficer, the Deputy Commander of the International Investigative Unit, Nitzav Mishne Shimon Sharvit for purposes of an inquiry concerning his research and censorship. AC again clarifies that the article that was banned will not be published. He refuses to detail his future research plans, and confirms that he intends to continue his research in the U.S. AC becomes aware that he is under surveillance, and that his telephone conversations are being monitored.

August 1995

AC is again detained at Ben Gurion Airport and subsequently summoned to Israeli Police interrogation by Shimon Sharvit. He is asked whether he will submit his research in its final form to the Censor. AC refuses to commit to do so.


AC signs a contract for publication of his book with Columbia University Press in New York. The research continues, and a draft is prepared for publication.

Spring 1998

Brigadier General [Tat Nitzav] Hazi Leder, representative of the Israeli Police in Washington, contacts AC. At a meeting of the two, Leder conveys a message from the MALMAB that if the book is published without clearance by the Censor, criminal proceedings may be instituted against AC. AC explains that at this point that is not possible. He further explains that since the Censor refused to review the article, there is no reason to expect that he will review the book. Also, AC writes a letter explaining that there is nothing in the book that would damage state security.

September 1998

The book "Israel and the Bomb" (in English) is published in the U.S. The newspaper Haaretz publishes an editorial about the struggle of the MALMAB against publication from the beginning of the research. The editorial criticizes activities of the MALMAB as unjustified and undemocratic.


Schoken Publishing House purchases the publication rights to the book in Hebrew. In November 1999 the Israeli Police announces that the investigation for violation of censorship that had been opened against AC is closed. The reasons for closing the case are tersely explained: "Circumstances of the incident do not justify further investigation and/or prosecution." AC believes that the affair is over.

June 2000

In retirement interviews in the press during May 2000, Shani describes AC as "an apparent criminal" who "if he enters the country, the legal authorities will need to deal with him." AC is invited to an academic conference at Bar Ilan University to celebrate publication of his book. Telephone calls from the office of the MLMB to the organizers and participants of the conference try to prevent them from inviting AC, presenting him as a "criminal." AC himself is informed a few hours before boarding a plane to Israel that if he comes there is a likelihood that he will be arrested and he will not be permitted to leave the country freely. AC cancels his trip. Ronen Bergman writes in Haaretz on 13 June 2000 ("The Censor Doesn't Grow Up") about the efforts of the MALMAB to prevent the conference at Bar Ilan University celebrating publication of the Hebrew edition of AC's book. He reports that if AC comes to Israel, he may be accused of serious charges of espionage (as opposed to the violations of censorship on which he had been told he would not be prosecuted). He reports, as does Shlomo Nakdimon in Yediot Ahronot on 14 June 2000, that the head of the MALMAB, Yehiel Horev, is pressuring the State Prosecutor, Attorney Edna Arbel, to indict AC on serious security charges, and that he had prepared "a persuasive case" against AC that he had provided to Attorney Arbel. The conference at Bar Ilan University takes place despite the pressure from the MALMAB, but without AC present.

July 2000

AC turns directly, and through Mks Naomi Chazan and Zehava Gal-On, to MK Dan Meridor, since the activities of the MALMAB are under his jurisdiction. He requests that a committee of Mks investigate the matter. MK Chazan requests that it be addressed in the subcommittee on security services of which she is a member. As a result of strange and suspicious circumstances, however, this does not occur. Moments before the subcommittee meeting is to take place, MK Meridor informs MK Chazan that the matter has already been addressed by another subcommittee (without indicating which one) and that the MALMAB "updated" the members on the matter. Thus it is clear that the MALMAB presented his version of events before the MKs who were not fully informed on the matter, and none of whom were familiar with AC's version or in a position to contradict the MALMAB's version. In this way, the MALMAB avoided being seated in a meeting opposite MK Chazan, who is active on the matter and familiar with its details. Thus it becomes clear that the MALMAB does not believe in, or prefers to prevent, parliamentary criticism of his activities and performance. AC sends letters to the State Prosecutor, and to various other parliamentary and political figures.

August 2000

AC's legal representative turns to the State Prosecutor with a request that AC be permitted to come to Israel for a school reunion without being detained upon departure. A response is delayed, and a day prior to AC's planned arrival in Israel, the reply is received that it is impossible to guarantee that AC will not be arrested, and that it appears there are grounds to interrogate him concerning his actions. AC's representative asks the crimes AC is suspected of be specified, but the Office of the State Prosecutor declines to specify them prior to AC's interrogation.

October - December 2000

AC's legal representative seeks several times to arrange a meeting with the State Prosecutor, but his requests are not answered. Following the intervention of MK Zehava Gal-On, AC's representative receives a response indicating that his prior inquiries had not been received, and a meeting is set as he requested. At the present time, AC's letters to Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein concerning the activities of the MALMAB have not been answered, except to note that his charges are being reviewed.

Translation and HTML: Steven Aftergood

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