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History Detectives

We were flattered and gratified by Benny Morris's appreciation of our book Foxbats over Dimona: the Soviets' Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War, and hope indeed that--in his words--we have come closer to an approximation of the historical truth ("Provocations," July 23).

Since the book went to press, some new evidence has emerged that further confirms our thesis from several angles, including additional testimonies to Soviet preparations in May 1967 for a paratroop drop, as well as a naval landing, in Israel. The most dramatic of these, however, was a statement by the chief spokesman of the Russian Air Force, posted on the website of the Russian Defense Ministry, asserting that in 1967, a Soviet pilot flew "unique" reconnaissance missions over Israel in a MiG-25 "Foxbat."

This is about as close to an official document as one can hope for under the prevailing circumstances. As in several cases that we cite in the book, this startling disclosure of a hitherto secret operation apparently was included inadvertently in a statement that was published in a completely different context: the anniversary of the test pilots' school from which the pilot graduated. It illustrates the point we emphasized, that full and direct documentation of the Soviet plan in 1967 is still being suppressed--to the extent that it ever existed and was not destroyed. We do not share Morris's expectation that such material will soon, or ever, be systematically released from former Soviet archives, nor his willingness to await such release in order to set the record straight.

Indeed, our experience even with U.S. and Israeli archival sources for the period encountered only somewhat less selective declassification. Criticism of our findings merely on the grounds that no basis for them has yet been exposed in Soviet archives is, therefore, not merely fallacious. It is also disturbingly dangerous, because it implicitly admits the Orwellian nightmare whereby the absence, prostitution, or suppression of archival evidence can and should be allowed to excise entire chapters from history. The alternative, to which we have tried to contribute, is to cross-check and piece together, cautiously and painstakingly, the myriad and often random references now available from other sources, in order to assemble a picture that evolves gradually toward the actual facts as they occurred. Our approach is discussed at greater length in the first chapter of Foxbats.

Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez
Jerusalem, Israel