The Israeli NGO known as Breaking the Silence (BtS) describes its mission as “expos[ing] the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories…. pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled” (emphasis added).
Funders in 2012/2013 include European Union, Spain (via AECID), Netherlands (via ICCO), Belgium (via Broederlijk Delen), UK (via Christian Aid), Denmark (via Dan Church Aid), Germany (via Medico International), Ireland (via Trocaire), Norway, the Open Society Institute, and the New Israel Fund.
Through repeated allegations of “war crimes” and “violations of international law,” many of the organization’s activities reinforce the 2001 Durban Strategy, which crystallized the tactics of BDS (boycott, divestments and sanctions), delegitimizing Israel as “an apartheid regime,” and international isolation.
BtS makes sweeping accusations based on anecdotal, anonymous, and unverifiable accounts of low-level soldiers. These “testimonies” lack context, are politically biased, and erase the complicated reality in the West Bank. In addition, they reflect a distorted interpretation of the conflict in order to advance the political agenda of BtS activists, thereby fueling the international demonization campaign against Israel. (For a detailed analysis of this dimension, see “Breaking What Silence? A Critical Reading of Allegations from ‘Breaking the Silence,’” NGO Monitor Report, February 1, 2011).
Despite claiming to address Israeli society, BtS’s lobbying and media advocacy focus on international audiences, including appearances in Europe and the United States. Yehuda Shaul, BtS co-founder, defended the practice of generating international pressure: “Sometimes, when you want to deliver messages to the inside, you must go outside.”
Activities targeting international audiences, as shown in the following table, include:
- Speaking tours at more than 15 American university campuses, including in California and New York, where BDS initiatives were in progress.
- Numerous articles in international media platforms – in France, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and the US – during the Gaza War, contributing to demonization campaigns and false allegations of “war crimes.”
- An October 21, 2013 presentation to the virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, at which the Palestinian deputy representative to the UN asked BtS “to do more speaking engagements, particularly in the United States.”
- A photo exhibition, purporting to portray “the day-to-day reality of service” in the West Bank, accompanied by members of BtS who conduct guided tours through the exhibition. Promoting a June 2014 exhibit in Dublin, Yehuda Shaul claimed: “The photographs and testimony refute the false claim that the horrors of the occupation are the exception rather than the norm.” At the Stockholm Army Museum in March 2011, BtS member Itamar Shapira told a reporter, “We are the oppressors, we are the ones that are violating human rights on a daily basis. We are creating the terror against us, basically… This is a war against civilians, a war against society.” The exhibit has travelled throughout Europe and the United States.
- A highly tendentious book titled Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier testimonies 2000-2010 (later called Our Harsh Logic), which was translated into Swedish, German, French, and Dutch. NGO Monitor analysis has revealed that this book is premised on predetermined “analyses” that falsely portray Israeli actions as “terrorizing the civilian population.” The launching of the book in various languages serves as a platform for further demonization and delegitmization of Israel, including accusations of “racism” and alleged “political assassinations” of Palestinians, claims that Gaza is still “occupied,” and the implication that Israel is ethnically cleansing “Area C.”
- Participation in a June 2013 conference organized by Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS), a Palestinian NGO that is active in allegations of Israeli violations and advancing BDS campaigns. The event was aimed at “raising awareness on the situation of Palestinian children being deprived of their liberty,” and BtS representative Avihai Stollar alleged that “violence was part of the soldiers’ behaviour, when arresting minors.”
- In March/April 2013, Yehuda Shaul, met with a delegation from the South African Parliament, geared towards promoting a pro-BDS agenda in South Africa. According to the “draft report” of the delegation’s visit, “[Shaul] told the Committee delegation that during the war their mindset as soldiers was always ‘playing defence’ but in reality they were ‘playing offence’…For him, what became clear was that their main objective was to repaint the green line… He said that he agreed with the intention of the BDS movement but he felt that its approach could compromise the goal. He elaborated that internal work needed to be done, external work was also needed” (pp. 33-34, emphasis added).
- Participated in the “Open Hillel” Conference in Cambridge, MA (October 11-13, 2014). The conference sought to compel the large Jewish campus organization Hillel International to drop its guidelines that proscribe partnerships with groups that “[d]eny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders.” These guidelines are essential “to build an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”
- Regular English-language tours to Hebron and South Hebron Hills, also aimed at non-Israeli audiences.
Breaking the Silence International Activities
|Photo exhibit||Willy Brandt Haus, Berlin, headquarters of German Social Democratic Party||9/2012|
|Book release in German||Germany||9/14/2012|
|Tour of Midwest Universities||Including Bard College, Fordham University, Oberlin,University of Chicago, and Carleton College||Fall 2012|
|Tour of West Coast Universities||Including UC Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, Occidental College, and UC San Diego||Fall 2012|
|Australian book launch||Sydney||9/2012|
|Breaking the Silence on ABC-TV's The Drum||Australia||10/23/2012|
|Avner Gvaryahu speaking at the UN||United Nations||Published 10/22/2013|
|Tour in West Bank with Peter Slezak, BDS campaigner and anti-Israel activist||Radio National, Australia||1/2012|
|Interview on German radio||Germany||2/4/2013|
|Campus presentation||University of Pennsylvania||3/28/2013|
|Swedish book launch||Sweden||4/16-22/2013|
|Breaking the Silence in "This American Life" (min 6:30 and on), radio program (NPR and others)||USA||4/19/2013|
|Conference titled "The Situation of Palestinian Children Detained in Israeli Military Detention System."||The Graduate Institute, Geneva||6/2013|
|Book launch at J Street conference||Washington DC||9/29/2013|
|University event||John Hopkins University||10/10/2013|
|French translation of book, "Our Harsh Logic"||France||Published 10/9/2013|
|Conference||ULB (Universite Libre de Bruxelles)||10/14/2013|
|FRANCE 24's radio interview||France||10/20/2013|
|CBC Radio, Sunday Edition, "Inside Israel's Army"||Canada||10/20/2013|
|UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People||UN Headquarters in New York||10/21/2013|
|University book tour||Including Wesleyan,Brandeis, Harvard||10-11/2013|
|Public lecture||Cape Town, South Africa||8/2013|
|Advocacy tour||Harvard and New York University, as well as additional locations throughout Washington and California||10-11/2013|
|Book Tour||BookCourt in Brooklyn, New York||10/12/2013|
|University Book Tour||UC Berkeley/ UCLA||11/2013|
|Lecture||St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle|
|Yehuda Shaul interview during a joint investigation by ABC's Four Corners and The Australian newspaper titled "Stone Cold Justice," which claimed to reveal evidence that shows that the army is targeting Palestinian boys for arrest and detention."||ABC News/ The Australian newspaper||2/2014|
|University exhibit||Washington University||3/2014|
|Series of articles in international media||France, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, and UK||August 2014 (Gaza War)|
|Yehuda Shaul Lecture||Utricht, Neatherlands||9/15/2014|
|Open Hillel conference||Harvard University||10/12/2014|
|University event||ULB (Universite Libre de Bruxelles)||11/5/2014|
|Oded Na'aman Speaking Engagement||Boston College||4/23/2014|
|J Street Conference||Washington, D.C.||3/21-24/2015|
|Exhibition with testimonies from Israeli soldiers||Zurich, Switzerland||6/4-14/2015|
|Book Launch in Spanish||Madrid, Spain||6/23/2015|
|Presentation by Yehuda Shaul||Amsterdam, Holland||9/9/2015|
|Lecture together with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)||Glasglow, Scotland||10/15/2015|
|Participation at a SNP Friends of Palestine Conference||Aberdeen, Scotland||6/4-14/2015|
|Talk with Avner Gevaryahu||Brandeis University, USA||11/12/2015|
|New Israel Fund Conference||New York, USA||12/13/2015|
|Limmud Conference||UK||December, 2015|
|Lecture in Denmark||Denamrk||December 2015|
|Lecture: Serving in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Avner Gvaryahu||Hillel, Brown University, USA||March 17, 2016|
|Lecture: “Breaking the Silence on the Realities of Israel’s Military Occupation”, Avner Gvaryahu||San Diego State University, USA||March 21, 2016|
|Lecture: Avner Gvaryahu||Columbia University, USA||March 23, 2016|
|Lecture: Avner Gvaryahu||Hillel, Columbia University, USA||March 31, 2016|
|Salon Talk, Avner Gvaryahu||London, UK||May 18, 2016|