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Introduction

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

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

EventLocationDate
Photo exhibitWilly Brandt Haus, Berlin, headquarters of German Social Democratic Party9/2012
Book release in GermanGermany9/14/2012
Tour of Midwest UniversitiesIncluding Bard CollegeFordham UniversityOberlin,University of Chicago, and Carleton CollegeFall 2012
Tour of West Coast UniversitiesIncluding UC Berkeley, Stanford, UCLAOccidental College, and UC San DiegoFall 2012
Australian book launchSydney9/2012
Breaking the Silence on ABC-TV's The DrumAustralia10/23/2012
Avner Gvaryahu speaking at the UNUnited NationsPublished 10/22/2013
Tour in West Bank with Peter Slezak, BDS campaigner and anti-Israel activistRadio National, Australia1/2012
Interview on German radioGermany2/4/2013
Campus presentationUniversity of Pennsylvania3/28/2013
Swedish book launchSweden4/16-22/2013
Breaking the Silence in "This American Life" (min 6:30 and on), radio program (NPR and others)USA4/19/2013
Limmud eventGermany5/2013
Conference titled "The Situation of Palestinian Children Detained in Israeli Military Detention System."The Graduate Institute, Geneva6/2013
Book launch at J Street conferenceWashington DC9/29/2013
University eventJohn Hopkins University10/10/2013
French translation of book, "Our Harsh Logic"FrancePublished 10/9/2013
ConferenceULB (Universite Libre de Bruxelles)10/14/2013
FRANCE 24's radio interviewFrance10/20/2013
CBC Radio, Sunday Edition, "Inside Israel's Army"Canada10/20/2013
UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian PeopleUN Headquarters in New York10/21/2013
University book tourIncluding Wesleyan,BrandeisHarvard10-11/2013
Public lectureCape Town, South Africa8/2013
Advocacy tourHarvard and New York University, as well as additional locations throughout Washington and California10-11/2013
Book TourBookCourt in Brooklyn, New York10/12/2013
University Book TourUC BerkeleyUCLA11/2013
LectureSt. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle
LectureLuxembourg1/10/2014
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 newspaper2/2014
University exhibitWashington University3/2014
Photography exhibitDublin6/19-29/2014
Panel discussionDublin6/25/2014
"Lunchtime talk"Belfast6/23/2014
Series of articles in international mediaFrance, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, and UKAugust 2014 (Gaza War)
Yehuda Shaul LectureUtricht, Neatherlands9/15/2014
Open Hillel conferenceHarvard University10/12/2014
University eventULB (Universite Libre de Bruxelles)11/5/2014
Oded Na'aman Speaking EngagementBoston College4/23/2014
J Street ConferenceWashington, D.C.3/21-24/2015
ExhibitionLuxembourg42128
Exhibition with testimonies from Israeli soldiersZurich, Switzerland6/4-14/2015
Book Launch in SpanishMadrid, Spain6/23/2015
Presentation by Yehuda ShaulAmsterdam, Holland9/9/2015
Lecture together with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)Glasglow, Scotland10/15/2015
Participation at a SNP Friends of Palestine Conference Aberdeen, Scotland6/4-14/2015
Talk with Avner GevaryahuBrandeis University, USA11/12/2015
New Israel Fund Conference New York, USA12/13/2015
Limmud ConferenceUKDecember, 2015
Lecture in DenmarkDenamrkDecember 2015
Lecture: Serving in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Avner GvaryahuHillel, Brown University, USAMarch 17, 2016
Lecture: “Breaking the Silence on the Realities of Israel’s Military Occupation”, Avner GvaryahuSan Diego State University, USAMarch 21, 2016
Lecture: Avner GvaryahuColumbia University, USAMarch 23, 2016
Lecture: Avner Gvaryahu Hillel, Columbia University, USAMarch 31, 2016
Salon Talk, Avner GvaryahuLondon, UKMay 18, 2016

Map of Activities