- On June 6, 2014, the Israeli political NGO Breaking the Silence (BtS) held a 10-hour event in Tel-Aviv, marking its 10-year anniversary. During the event, BtS activists and supporters read “testimonies” of ex-IDF soldiers who had served in the West Bank.
- Despite occurring in Israel, and although BtS claims to “to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories…and to stimulate public debate,” the event and the anniversary were directed mainly toward international audiences. This is part of BtS’ wider practice of focusing on lobbying and advocacy outside of Israel, justified under the argument that “Sometimes, when you want to deliver messages to the inside, you must go outside.”
- There were no more than 200 attendees at the event, many of them foreign journalists and European officials. The event did not receive significant media coverage in Israel.
- EU Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, attended. The EU, one of BtS’ long-time funders, donated 858,555 NIS in 2012-2013.
- In contrast to Israeli media, the event received wide international media attention, including in The Guardian, NBC News, and Christian Science Monitor.
- As with most of BtS’ materials, the testimonies recited at the event and those that appeared in The Guardian lack context, present a partial factual picture, are politically biased, and erase the complicated reality in the West Bank. Rather, they reflect a distorted interpretation of the conflict in order to advance the political agenda of BtS activists.
- This exploitation of testimonies for political aims fuels BDS and other international delegitimization campaigns against Israel.
- Within Israel, BtS is perceived as highly partisan and unwilling to hear opposing views. This was confirmed in an incident during the event, in which an ex-Israeli soldier was denied the opportunity to speak and removed from stage by security guards when he attempted to “testify” positively about his service in the Israeli army.
- In response to this incident, BtS responded with an unprofessional personal Facebook attack against the individual. Further unprofessional and uncivil comments were posted by BtS officials, resulting in further condemnations of the NGO from the Israeli public.
Click here to read Prof. Gerald Steinberg’s interview with ARD German Radio (June 6, 2014).