Background on Breaking the Silence and Ben-Gurion University
In June 2016, the administration of Ben-Gurion University rejected the attempt by a faculty group to award the Berelson Prize for Jewish-Arab Understanding (NIS 20,000 or $5000) to the NGO known as Breaking the Silence. In explaining the decision, President Rivka Carmi stated that Breaking the Silence “is an organization that is not in the national consensus, and the giving of the prize is liable to give the appearance of political bias.” The university added that “a prize signifies recognition and respect that imply taking a stand and lending support. This is not part of the university’s mandate, since it includes individuals holding diverse opinions. It is certainly not within the purview of one department to speak in the name of the entire institution.”
In response, Israeli media reported that a number of donors decided to halt their donations to the university – claims that appear to be incorrect: One of the donors last donated in the early 1990s, while the other asked to rescind his uncle’s inheritance, a request without any legal basis.
NGO Monitor’s analysis of Breaking the Silence activity shows that NGO cannot be said to promote “Jewish-Arab understanding.” This political NGO polarizes Israeli society and fuels anti-Israeli campaigns around the world. The organization comprises a small number of political activists, exploiting the complex dilemmas facing IDF soldiers and stripping events of context, in order to advance political agendas and lobby outside of Israel. Terms such as “human rights” and “coexistence” are used by Breaking the Silence activists, but this does not justify claims that the organization advances these issues
For example, on June 14, 2016, the Israeli news website NRG published a video documenting a Breaking the Silence official telling tourists that “the settlers basically poisoned all the water cisterns of the [Palestinian] village…”. In June 19, 2016, the Turkish news website Anadolu, repeated the allegations, citing “Israeli anti-occupation organization ‘Breaking the Silence’” and adding a blood-libel claiming that a “rabbi call[s] to poison West Bank water.” PA President Mahmoud Abbas then repeated these allegations in a speech to the European Parliament (June 23, 2016), but retracted them a few days later. Similarly, Breaking the Silence did not retract its allegation regarding a poisoned water cistern, but claimed that the incident was the result of a mistranslation.
Other examples can be seen in the NGO’s international activity: In October 2015, a Breaking the Silence representative gave a number of lectures in Scotland to the SNP Party’s Friends of Palestine and to the NGO “Medical Aid for Palestinians.” The former supports a Palestinian “right of return” and BDS, while the latter was involved in antisemitic campaigns.
In May 2015, a former CEO lectured to the coalition of left wing parties in the European Parliament (GEU/NGL), which supports a full boycott of the Israel.
There was also an October 21, 2013 presentation at the virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The presentation first aired on the official Iranian TV channel under the title “Israeli War Crimes.”
According to the NGO’s 2015 annual report, its budget was NIS 4,937,792, of which 4,893,023 were donations. Of that, at least 85% originated outside of Israel.
More than half of the donations came from foreign governments: Directly from the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxemburg, France, Norway, and the EU; and indirectly via church aid organizations by Belgium, France, Germany, and Ireland. Private donors include New Israel Fund, Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (which also funds Zochrot, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Who Profits).
To read more about Breaking the Silence, click here