Breaking the Silence (Shovrim Shtika)


Registration“Company for the benefit of the public” in Israel, founded in 2004.



  • Breaking the Silence (BtS) “collects testimonies of soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifada,” claiming that the “testimonies portray a…grim picture of questionable orders in many areas regarding Palestinian civilians [which] demonstrate the depth of corruption which is spreading in the Israeli military…Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny that which happens in its name.
  • Active in promoting “war crimes” charges against Israel. These charges were based on anonymous and unverifiable hearsay “testimonies.”
  • Although claiming to address Israeli society, the NGO’s lobbying and media advocacy focus on international audiences, including presentations in Europe and the United States. Yehuda Shaul, BtS co-founder, defended this practice: “Sometimes, when you want to deliver messages to the inside, you must go outside.”
  • Conducts tours to Hebron and the South Hebron Hills to “witness first hand the dire situation.” Criticized by Israeli police officials for “antagoniz[ing]…settlers in the hope that the settlers will attack them.”
  • In the aftermath of the brutal Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, Breaking the Silence tweeted, “Hamas’s attack and the events unfolding since yesterday are unspeakable. We could talk about their cruel and criminal actions, or focus on how our Jewish-supremacist govt brought us to this point.”
  • In April 2023, Breaking the Silence was a signatory on a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General urging the UN to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. According to the letter, the IHRA definition “opens the door to labeling as antisemitic… findings of major Israeli, Palestinian and global human rights organizations that Israeli authorities are committing the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians.”
    • The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, adopted by nearly 30 countries and counting, represents the international consensus definition of antisemitism, as well as how to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism. An example of the latter includes denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • In January 2022, Breaking the Silence was a signatory on a statement condemning the decision by the Israeli Ministry to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. The statement called on the donors of the designated NGOs to “maintain and even increase their funding…Defunding the designated NGOs based on unsubstantiated allegations and designations will cause irreparable damage to Palestinian civil society at large and would undermine decades of humanitarian and human rights work.”
  • In October 2021, Breaking the Silence was a signatory on a statement condemning the decision by the Israeli Ministry to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. According to the statement, “The Minister of Defense’s designation of prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, among them our colleagues in the Palestinian human rights community, as terrorist organizations, is a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work.”
  • In 2018-2020, Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) were implementing partners on an EU grant regarding Israel’s “forcible home entries.” (See more on the grant above.)
    • According to the funding appeal, “…the military justice system grants nearly complete impunity for Israeli security forces personnel and their conduct” regarding “Forcible Home Entries (FHEs)” (emphasis added). The project intended to address these supposed deficiencies by “Appealing decisions to close investigations on a case-by-case basis” and “Filing petitions to High Court of Justice on specific cases and principled matters” (emphases added).
    • As part of the project, in November 2020, the three NGOs published a joint report titled “A Life Exposed: Military invasions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank.” The report, which discusses the “practice of raiding Palestinian homes in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem),” falsely claims that “The existence of two legal systems that apply to two separate national groups, as illustrated in this report in the context of the rules governing entry into the private domain, supports the claim that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid in the West Bank” (emphasis added).
  • In July 2019, Breaking the Silence was a signatory on a letter to the President of the German Bundestag calling to revoke a joint resolution defining BDS campaigns against Israel as antisemitic.
  • In 2017, Breaking the Silence published the book Kingdom of Olives and Ash, “to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, this anthology explores the human cost of the conflict as witnessed by…notable writers…in collaboration with Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence.” The book is part of Breaking the Silence’s campaign to create international pressure on Israel.
  • In June 14, 2016, Israeli new site NRG published a video documenting BtS co-founder, Yehuda Shaul, telling tourists in Israel that “Yeah, One of the villages, this village actually, its new that they came back, because few years ago the settlers basically poisoned all the water cisterns of the village…” This allegation is completely unsubstantiated, and was never proven. It appears to be based on a single compliant from 2004 which investigated by the Israeli police and was closed due to lack of evidence. (See below: Anti-Israeli campaigns using Breaking the Silence).
  • On January 11, 2016, Israel’s leading nightly news program on Channel 2 aired footageof Ezra Nawi, a radical activist from the NGO “Ta’ayush,” visiting the offices of Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence (BtS). There, a BtS employee provided Nawi with NIS 1,400 in cash. It is unclear what services were rendered to warrant such a payment, but Channel 2 showed footage of Nawi writing checks for Palestinians, ostensibly for taking part in protests that he, himself, planned.
  • In May 2015, NGO Monitor revealed that following the 2009 Gaza conflict, several BtS donors conditioned the transfer of money to the group on its ability to gather a minimum number of incriminating “testimonies” against the Israeli army.
  • The report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the 2014 Gaza War, headed first by William Schabas and then by Mary McGowan Davis after the former’s resignation over his undisclosed paid work for the PLO, quotes extensively from anonymous testimonies of Breaking the Silence. After the report was published, Hamas terror organization published a press release where it claims that “the report ignores the explicit confessions on war crimes the Israeli soldiers and officers made during and after the aggression, in which they stated they had received direct instructions to target civilians. Many soldiers affiliated to the Israeli organization of ‘Breaking the Silence’ confirmed such Israeli orders.”
  • In 2010 BtS published a highly tendentious book titled Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier testimonies 2000-2010, which claimed to provide a counter to the “official Israeli position” on IDF actions in the territories. NGO Monitor analysis has revealed that this book was rife with methodological problems and appeared to tailor the testimonies to predetermined “analyses” that falsely claimed that Israeli actions are not aimed at self-defense but at “terrorizing the civilian population.”
    • This book was later re-published under the title Our Harsh Logic and translated into Swedish, German, and Dutch. The launching of the book in the various languages served 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 implying that Israel is ethnically cleansing “area C.”

Apartheid Rhetoric

  • Breaking the Silence is part of a network of NGOs that promote artificial and manufactured definitions of apartheid to extend the ongoing campaigns that seek to delegitimize and demonize Israel. (Read NGO Monitor’s Policy Paper “False Knowledge as Power: Deconstructing Definitions of Apartheid that Delegitimise the Jewish State.”)
  • In May 2023, Breaking the Silence was a member of the “advisory committee of experts and activists” for Amnesty International’s report “Automated Apartheid.” The report erased the terrorism and public safety concerns that drive Israeli policy, as well as the ways in which technological advancements allow for less intrusive security measures, as well as targeted companies providing camera equipment to Israel as part of Amnesty’s ongoing BDS agenda. (Read NGO Monitor’s Report, “Amnesty’s War on Israel Joins Its War on Technology.”)
  • In December 2022, Breaking the Silence was a signatory on a statement claiming that the “occupation and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories have made Jewish supremacy the de facto law of the land and the new government seeks to adopt this into their official policy.”
  • In February 2022, Breaking the Silence signed a statement defending a report published by Amnesty International accusing Israel of apartheid. According to the statement, “The debate around the crime of apartheid of which Israel is accused, and its geographical scope, is not only legitimate, but absolutely necessary. We wholeheartedly reject the idea that Amnesty International’s report is baseless, singles out Israel or displays antisemitic animus.” In February 2023, Breaking the Silence signed a second joint statement condemning EU High Representative Josep Borrell  for rejecting Amnesty’s report as antisemitic. The NGOs claimed to be “deeply concerned about the escalating instrumentalization of allegations of antisemitism…The European Commission should refrain from validating and fueling such instrumentalization in any way.”
  • In May 2021, Breaking the Silence participated in a conference in the Israeli Knesset titled “After 54 years: Between occupation and apartheid.”
  • In December 2020, Breaking the Silence and The Israeli Centre for Public Affairs (a new NGO employing former Breaking the Silence staff) published “Highway to Annexation,” repeatedly accusing Israel of constructing an “Apartheid Road.”
  • In March 2020, Breaking the Silence alleged, “Israeli officials are now actively promoting an apartheid reality which itself blurs the lines, and our position [of not participating in ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ events on campus] may therefore have to change in the future accordingly.”

ICC Activities

  • On its website, Breaking the Silence distorts the principle of “complementarity,” a legal principle that states that the ICC is only authorized to investigate when a country’s judicial system has proven unwilling or incapable of prosecuting cases that fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction. Breaking the Silence attempts to discredit Israeli courts and investigations, stating that the “investigation of low-ranking soldiers allows Israel to present a semblance of objective investigation mechanisms before international investigative bodies. With regard to international law, this could prove to be an obstacle in launching external investigations of Israeli actions. Low-ranking soldiers are thus being used as ‘human shields’ by policymakers facing international demands for external investigations.” (emphasis added)
  • In February 2021, Breaking the Silence Executive Director Avner Gevaryahu published an article titled “The best way to avoid an ICC probe: Don’t commit war crimes.” In the article, Gevaryahu alleged that “Military operation after military operation, Israel has ignored the black flag — a warning sign of immoral orders which ought to be defied — that flies over the rules of engagement dictated by its government cabinet and the IDF’s top brass.”
  • On May 13, 2015, the Israeli news site Ynet reported that ICC Prosecutor Bensouda expressed a desire to utilize Breaking the Silence publications: “Bensouda said her office was trying to get a copy of the [Breaking the Silence] report ‘to see how it can assist us in the preliminary examination phase’” in her review of the 2014 Gaza war.

Legal Troubles

  • In January 2021, two IDF soldiers filed a lawsuit against Breaking the Silence and a former member of their tank crew for defamation and “spreading lies and fabrications.” According to the lawsuit, the defendant provided Breaking the Silence with “false testimony, fabricated or edited the events in a way that their actions, which were done in accordance with guidelines and operational needs, were completely taken out of context and depicted as cruel war criminals.”
  • In March 2020, Ad Kan, on behalf of a group of senior IDF commanders, filed a petition with the High Court of Justice demanding the Attorney General open an investigation into Breaking the Silence for allegedly “collecting sensitive military intelligence that, if made public, could put national security at risk.” In October 2020, the High Court of Justice dismissed the case.

Foreign donations based on annual financial reports (amounts in NIS)

2018-2020 amounts based on NGO annual financial reports; 2021-2023 amounts based on quarterly financial reports submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits.

European Union762,341124,7971,251,869389,256452,980647,187
Trocaire (Ireland)221,774157,956144,070117,381119,087108,669
DanChurch Aid(Denmark)203,208258,739236,922276,789269,622
Broederlijk Delen(Belgium)154,789142,469240,310160,927164,762
Switzerland 612,129771,798826,369599,074402,538292,418
CCFD (France)37,80042,771
NGO Development Center-NDC (France, Sweden, UN Women, World Bank)1,216,0911,167,5611,312,3531,719,3761,289,812
Medico International (Germany)49,59356,10056,53558,25662,520
Misereor (Germany)412,368390,305381,955391,020389,415445,885
AECID (Spain)56,26599,996135,745
SIVMO (Netherlands)34,65557,735
CAFOD (United Kingdom)132,200173,73889,21294,40292,587
Zivik (Germany)215,206
Sigrid Rausing Trust418,095417,986
Rockefeller Brothers Fund213,204213,960
Open Society Institute690,000705,030
Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP)35,28934,702

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Further Reading