On March 9, the Goethe-Institut in Tel Aviv will host an event titled “Freedom of Press and Freedom of Speech.” The event description asks: “What is the role of NGOs in an open society? What is their social contribution? Should they be specially protected?”
The Goethe-Institut is supported by the German government. According to its website, the Institut “conveys an up-to-date picture of Germany and thus ensures a realistic and nuanced perception of our country abroad. To this end we receive institutional funding from the Federal Foreign Office” (emphasis added).
Its Israeli website names Goethe-Institut as the “official culture center of the Federal Republic of Germany and acts on its behalf around the world… [In Israel] we are active in all aspects of intercultural dialogue between Germany and Israel” (emphasis added).
Yuli Novak, executive director of Breaking the Silence, is one of three panelists at the event.
The others are Israeli academic Zeev Sternhall, who in 2008 was physically attacked in his home, and German journalist Markus Beckedahl, who in 2015 was briefly investigated by the prosecutor general for treason. (The investigation was halted “for the good of press and media freedom.”)
The juxtaposition of Breaking the Silence alongside the other panelists tacitly endorses a false narrative of victimization, persecution, and silencing that this NGO and its allies are perpetuating in order to shield the NGO from scrutiny and critical analysis.
The absence of any speakers to counter Novak’s political and highly controversial position, in an event sponsored by a German government–funded institute, is problematic and inconsistent with the democratic principle of informed debate.