Finalists for Award in Memory of Nobel Laureate Wrongly Include Breaking the Silence

Jerusalem – Continuing the exploitation of “human rights” rhetoric, Breaking the Silence (BtS) has been selected by the European Parliament as a finalist for the 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – awarded to defenders of human rights and other freedoms. This blatantly political act debases the memory of Nobel Laureate Andre Sakharov, a courageous and unfaltering human rights defender, notes Jerusalem based research organization NGO Monitor.

“BtS is a fringe Israeli political group funded by European governments, and this nomination is immoral and a gross abuse of the principles of human rights and freedom of expression,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “Israel has one of the most open and vibrant democratic societies in the world – the members of this group do not promote human rights among Israelis; their audience is the international chorus seeking to demonize Israel and its defense against terror.”

“This is another sad day for those that care about human rights – this nomination is a major mistake,” Steinberg continues. “Real human rights defenders who have bravely challenged the dark regimes in Iran and Syria were passed over for this award so that BtS could be included. This is also an insult to the two nominees who truly meet the standards of fighting for human rights and freedom of expression – Guillermo Farinas of Cuba has conducted 23 hunger strikes over many years to protest repressive elements of the regime and censorship. Birtukan Mideksa is an Ethiopian politician and lawyer, currently in prison, who has fought for years for democratic principles and freedom of speech.

BtS officials have been widely criticized for joining the demonization campaign against Israel via anonymous allegations of “war crimes” in Gaza. Their allegations strip away the context of Palestinian terror and were based on hearsay and incomplete knowledge of the events. Statements included the disclaimer that “I can say I heard but didn’t actually see anything. I can’t really prove anything…Most of the commanding ranks wanted to maintain moral values …Again, I wasn’t witness to such cases but I heard people talking, that soldiers shot at people here and there.”

“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of European manipulation of Israeli political advocacy NGOs through secret funding. Last month the EU Parliament held a debate regarding a bill in the Israeli Knesset that would require NGO funding transparency. European officials should support transparency, rather than promoting anti-democratic processes.”

BtS’s campaign to win the award has included a letter of support from various NGO officials and political figures.  The winner will be announced October 21.

Adds Steinberg, “The ability of BtS to mount a major campaign in this competition is the best evidence of the vibrancy of Israeli democracy. In contrast, Mrs. Mideksa’s jail cell in Ethiopia is less conducive to such cynical manipulation of human rights rhetoric.”