Posts Tagged ‘Breaking the Silence’


The past months have witnessed an unprecedented series of attacks on Israel progressive, peace and human rights groups. Right-wing organizations, many with close ties to the Netanyahu government, have worked to paint these groups as “plants” for foreign powers, or even as traitors. Back in December, the Foundation for Middle East Peace issued a statement in support of these groups, and we reaffirm that support today.1446906402_152994b6ec_z

No group has faced more frequent or aggressive attacks than Breaking the Silence. This group of veterans who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the West Bank and Gaza gathers
testimony from other soldiers, goes to enormous lengths to corroborate those testimonies, clears them all with Israel’s military censor before publishing and then uses those testimonies to explain to Israeli citizens what the occupation is and what their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and parents do when they serve there.

Breaking the Silence opposes the occupation, and their purpose in gathering and publicizing these testimonies is to make Israelis understand both the human rights violations that occur as a result of the occupation and experiences of the soldiers whose job it is to maintain it. Because they are IDF veterans, and all of their testimonies are gathered from other veterans (including many who do not share the views of BtS), they are special targets of the right.

On March 17, Israeli Channel 2 aired a report based on information gathered by Ad Kan, an organization of right-wing settlers with a history of using deceptive methods to build their cases against progressive Israeli groups. Yet Channel 2 aired their charges unquestioningly. According to Breaking the Silence:

“The report showed footage of members of BtS, filmed with hidden cameras by moles of Ad Kan who infiltrated our organization. Among the false claims in the report was the argument that BtS collects confidential information that could potentially endanger the security of the state. Another grave claim was that we persuade pre-military youth to enlist in specific IDF units to collect intelligence and spy on the IDF from within. The implications of such claims led to public turmoil and accusations that BtS members are guilty of treason, in the words of Defense Minister Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon. Needless to say, both of these claims are false. They are also malicious and slanderous and it is highly disturbing that they come from the highest political echelons.”

In response to these attacks, Breaking the Silence has published a response, and answers to some of the questions that these accusations have raised: Read more at Facts On The Ground, FMEP’s blog

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The struggle of Natan Sharansky and his fellow refuseniks for freedom in the Soviet Union was an inspiration to human rights activists around the world. But his recent article, “Breaking the separation wallSilence Is No Human Rights Organization – and I Should Know,” where he criticizes Breaking the Silence, reveals that his experience does not necessarily give him insight into the norms of democracy and human rights. Read more in Ha’aretz

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Appearing on Walla! TV in Israel, Yuli Novak, the Executive Director of Breaking the Silence lays out, in a clear manner, the case Breaking the Silence is making. She takes on the tough questions of why the group speaks abroad and its attitude toward BDS, and shreds the opposition’s arguments about Breaking the Silence’s EU funding.

It’s worth praising Walla! as well. This is the sort of TV journalism we do not see in the United States. The interviewer asks the tough questions in a respectful manner, and neither party shies away from the issues. Yes, the voices are raised, but anyone who has been to Israel knows this is standard fare.

The interview is in Hebrew, but the accompanying English subtitles are very good. Yuli Novak, and the rest of Breaking the Silence are the best of Israel. It says a great deal not only about radical rightists like Im Tirzu, but also about the Netanyahu government itself that they are hostile toward or ashamed of Breaking the Silence. They should, instead, be treated like the patriotic heroes they are.

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Recently, the right wing Israeli group Im Tirtzu created a highly inflammatory video singling out leaders of four leading Israeli human rights groups as “plants” by foreign powers seeking to undermine the State of Israel and supporting terror attacks. The video has been widely condemned as incitement to violence against these individuals and their organizations. The Foundation for Middle East Peace quickly moved to support our Israeli colleagues, as did many other organizations.

Still from Im Tirtzu’s video showing mock “files” on Israeli human rights leaders

Still from Im Tirtzu’s video showing mock “files” on Israeli human rights leaders

The groups – B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Hamoked, and the Public Committee Against Torture In Israel – are among the many peace and human rights NGOs that are increasingly targeted by hateful rhetoric and even by anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset, much of which has been spurred by Im Tirtzu and their allies in the Likud and Jewish Home parties, the two largest parties in Israel’s governing coalition.

Defenses of these human rights workers and condemnations of Im Tirtzu have come not only from the Israeli left and its supporters, but also from key officials in the Israeli government, military and intelligence communities. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog

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This review was published by Inter Press Service, under the title, “How Israel Sank into the Quagmire of Apartheidgoliath

WASHINGTON, Dec 20 2013 (IPS) – When one writes a book about Israel, one must expect that it will be analysed not for its quality but for its ideological bent.

The critique will generally be based on whether or not the work is “balanced,” which usually means whether the reviewer feels their own point of view was given a fair hearing in the book. On this basis, Max Blumenthal’s new book, “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel”, was doomed to failure before it was ever published.

But that expectation, which seems so especially prevalent for any book about Israel, is bound to fail because Blumenthal’s book is not an attempt to ask what Israel is. Rather, it is an effort by a journalist to answer the question of why Israel is what it is today.

The bulk of Blumenthal’s research was done simply by being in Israel and talking to the people there. He offers us a series of snapshots that don’t reveal new and hidden facts about the issues that made headlines in Israel, and often beyond, during his four years of research for this book.

Rather, they sum up and coalesce into a picture of an Israel drifting increasingly to the right, descending into fascism and with an opposition that is increasingly being boxed in and weakened. (more…)

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Eden Abergil’s photos on Facebook, depicting her having just a wonderful time with bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners, are contemptible. Unfortunately, the outrage has done nothing to prevent the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from depicting Abergil as an aberration, the proverbial “one bad apple” among the wholesome fruit.

One cannot blame the IDF; any military or governmental body would do the same. But one need go no further than to

Eden Abergil in some of her Facebook pictures

read the testimonies from dozens of IDF reservists to find that this is as far from an isolated incident as Israel is from Australia.

Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence) has been spreading those testimonies far and wide for years now, incurring the wrath of the Israeli government. But the ad hominem attacks that have been launched against the group have yet to discredit even one testimonial from one soldier. Not surprisingly, they haven’t really tried, merely calling the soldiers names but never trying to address the substance of their remarks.

We’re letting the face of Abergil become the face of an isolated IDF soldier gone awry. Her actions were deplorable, but Shovrim Shtika, B’Tselem and other Israeli groups have been reporting on the callous and sometimes cruel actions of IDF soldiers for a long time now. (more…)

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