A group of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans who are trying to expose the truth about IDF actions in the occupied territories, have been accused of posing a threat to Israel by the country’s top politicians.
Politicians accuse the group called ‘Breaking The Silence’ of slander and defamation not only of the Israeli Defense forces, but the State of Israel itself.
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The group say that their mission is essential to stopping violence in the region by helping to end the military occupation of the Palestinian territories and that they are trying to bring awareness to issues that are not covered by Israeli media and are not made public.
They say their mission is primarily an informational and educational one. According to the organization’s official website, it collects and publishes testimonies of the soldiers that “have served in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since September 2000” as well as holding lectures and other public events devoted to the issue. It also conducts tours of Hebron and the South Hebron Hills region to show Israelis the reality of living in the occupied territories.
The aim of the whistleblowing NGO is to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories” and to “stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality,” in which this everyday life is controlled by the IDF soldiers, Breaking the Silence says on its site.
According to the organization, “cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years,” with a “deterioration of moral standards finding expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement.”
According to Haaretz, the organization has so far collected evidence from more than 1,000 IDF soldiers.
The group says that the IDF deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians during 2014 Gaza conflict and brings soldiers testimonies as a proof.
“The instructions are to shoot right away… be they [Palestinians] armed or unarmed, no matter what,” one such testimony published by Breaking the Silence said.
“The working assumption states: anyone located in… areas IDF took over is not [considered to be] a civilian,” another testimony stated.
“Israeli soldiers, [the] Israeli army is controlling the Palestinian people through the barrel of the gun. Bringing more guns and more tanks and building higher walls will not bring us security. The only thing that will bring us security is ending the military occupation,” Avihai Stollar, a member of Breaking the Silence, told RT as he explained the NGO’s goals.
However, the organization’s activities are strongly criticized by many Israeli top politicians, which accuse Breaking the Silence of slander and defamation of the IDF and the State of Israel itself.
On Sunday, Yair Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid party, accused the NGO of defaming Israeli soldiers and announced that he would propose a bill banning groups that promote a “boycott of Israel” to receive fund from abroad. According to Lapid, such measure would contribute to fighting against Breaking the Silence.
“That is not criticism; that is undermining the foundations of the state. Organizations like Breaking the Silence have crossed the red line between criticism and subversion,” Lapid said during a press conference commenting on the NGO’s activities.
“These are the people with Hamas behind them trying to endanger the core existence of the State of Israel,” he added.
At the same time, a petition against Breaking the Silence launched by the Yesh Atid party together with some activists from the IDF was signed by more than 600 Israeli soldiers and officers and 60 members of the Israeli parliament, the Jerusalem Post reported. Many IDF officers tried to disprove the statements published by Breaking the Silence.
One of the reservists, Avihai Shushan, even established an organization aimed at collecting testimonies countering the claims of Breaking the Silence.
Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Education Minister Naftali Bennett banned the IDF and Israeli schools from engaging in any form of cooperation with Breaking the Silence.
“The activities of Breaking the Silence have slandered Israel abroad and they [Breaking the Silence members] have made it their goal to hurt their brothers who defend us,” Bennett said and Ya’alon denounced the group’s claims as “hypocrisy and deceitful propaganda.”
‘A threat to democracy’
Breaking the Silence members say that the ‘witch hunt’ against them was launched by politicians, who pose a danger to democracy.