Another major diplomatic leak has struck, but this time, it's not from WikiLeaks. Al Jazeera has obtained almost 1,700 internal documents from a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, from an unrevealed source. The diplomatic correspondence, dubbed The Palestine Papers, comprises "memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations," Al Jazeera said.
The news organisation has been given access to the 1,684 documents over the last few months and has "taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity." The documents date from September 1999 until September 2010 and are almost all in English, the language of the negotiations.
Al Jazeera has shared the documents with the Guardian, "in an effort to ensure the wider availability of their content," said the latter, but has not revealed the source of the leak to the paper. The Guardian has independently looked into their authenticity and received reassurances from former participants in the talks and by diplomatic and intelligence sources. The Guardian specified that the bulk of the documents are records and more drawn up by officials of the Palestinian negotiation support unit. Others are from inside the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus.
The documents will be published by Al Jazeera on its website throughout this week, minimally redacted to removed details which could identify the source. The Guardian's agreement allows it to publish up to eight documents a day in full on the paper's website. The Guardian emphasized that it retained full editorial control of its coverage.
Al-Jazeera's decision to publish all the documents seems to reflect a WikiLeaks-style belief in the importance of transparency in the Internet age. It will be interesting to see if the news outlet is hit by the type of criticism that the whistle-blowing website has attracted.
"We present these papers as a service to our viewers and readers as a reflection of our fundamental belief - that public debate and public policies grow, flourish and endure when given air and light," wrote Gregg Carlstrom, an Al Jazeera online journalist in 'Introducing The Palestine Papers.'