We need you support!
Our prime minister has taken the time, in his busy schedule, to target a new public enemy: Us, Akevot Institute. Netanyahu has been putting pressure on the Swiss minister of foreign affairs to withdraw his office’s funding of our work to expand public access to archives in Israel.
Netanyahu’s attack on Akevot Institute is a result of a smear campaign against us by far-right group, Ad Kan. The prime minister is directly in charge of Israel’s government archives. He’s the person responsible for the fact that more than 90% of the records kept in the Israel State Archives are closed to the public. He’s responsible for the fact that more than 99% of the records in the IDF and Defense Establishment Archives are closed to the public. But, instead of fixing the problems in the institutions he’s responsible for, he wages war on citizens for a political gain.
In the past five years, we have been working on creating a digital archive of records relating to the conflict, which we use for research and to support human rights defenders. Together with hundreds of partners in the community of archivists and archive users, we are also pushing a public campaign to expand public access to government archives and have them follow the law and regulations on allowing such access.
The public effort to rectify the major issues is gaining momentum. It has already made some impressive achievements. But it is far from over. We continue to fight arbitrary decisions by archive officials to keep from the public - with no legal authority - records that should have been opened, and to have files whose restricted access period, as stipulated in the Access Regulations, has expired, opened for public access. This is the work Netanyahu is trying to undermine.
Today we need your help. We need you to join our fight against this attack. We need your donation to signal to Netanyahu that his cynical attempt to harm Akevot and the work civil society does to increase transparency and freedom of information and enhance democracy won’t go unchallenged.
Who we are
Hundreds of millions of documents are buried in Israeli government archives, waiting to be opened for public access. We at Akevot Institute work to put access to archives on the public agenda. After all, it’s our right, as citizens, to access the information.
More than 90% of the historical information contained in the files stored in Israeli government archives is currently inaccessible to the public, even when the restricted access period the law places on it has long since expired. Whether it’s government decisions on remote communities or the settlements, documents on the Yemenite Children Affair, historic government discussions on matters of religion and state, or Israeli policy in the West Bank, government archives are a treasure trove of Israeli history, and they belong to the country’s citizens. And yet, the vast majority of the records are locked away and kept hidden from us all.
Ever since 2014, Akevot Institute has worked to advance a public agenda based on recognition that the government archives belong first and foremost to the public. We consider opening archival materials for public access, in keeping with the law, a public duty. This principle informs our work to enrich research and public knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to bolster efforts to defend human rights using archival materials, and to promote access to government archive records by the public at large.
Our annual budget is some ILS 400,000 all of which is transparent on our website and legally obtained from private donors, foundations, and the Swiss government. Your support and contribution, even if modest, will help us send a clear message to Netanyahu that his attack won’t go unchallenged.
What we do
Alongside our own research and our work to support human rights defenders with archival records, our largest program is the one devoted to expanding public access to the government archives. We work with activists, groups and organizations to expand public access to the archives, through engagement with the authorities, the media and various professional organizations. We have identified the major barriers hindering public access to the records. We challenge arbitrary decisions to keep archival records sealed without justification or legal power to do so, and we are helping foster a community of archivists and archive users in order to tackle problems together.
We have much more work to do, but the goal is one, to return the historic records of the State of Israel - documents produced by public servants, with public funds, for public purposes, to their rightful owners - the public. We have no intention of taking Netanyahu’s attack lying down. With your support and solidarity we can continue our work to take back our past.
So why is Netanyahu taking aim at us?
It turns out that our work for access to archives is stressing Netanyahu so much that, as revealed in Haaretz, he has approached our donors, demanding they pull the plug.
The prime minister has sole purview over Israel’s government archives. He is responsible for their many flaws. When Netanyahu tries to block our funding, he’s trying to undermine the broader effort to open government archives to the public. Egged on by figures in Israel’s far-right, Netanyahu is attacking our legitimacy, our work and our funding. With all due respect, we’re not going to give him the satisfaction.