Speaking Out about Breaking the Silence
The intense international campaign by Breaking the Silence (BtS) resulted in a strong rebuttal from an official of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, and in this context, NGO Monitor is providing additional background information and analysis on BtS and this issue.
As shown in NGO Monitor’s detailed research reports, BtS presents a highly distorted perspective, distributing unverifiable “testimonies” by former IDF soldiers. BtS’ framing and context of these testimonies reflects the group’s strong ideology. The NGO ignores the moral complexity of IDF actions in the West Bank, instead presenting Israeli counter-terror operations and procedures as intended to “punish, deter, or tighten control over the Palestinian population” or to create “intimidation, [the] instilling of fear, and indiscriminate punishment of the Palestinian population.”
In contrast to addressing its allegations to the Israeli public, BtS creates external pressure on Israel through presentations and campaigns abroad, contributing to boycott efforts and threats of legal action against Israeli officials (lawfare). In recent years, BtS members have appeared at the Irish Parliament, in the Netherlands, the US (in an event attended by diplomats from Pakistan and the UAE), Germany, Australia, Switzerland and other countries. This is accompanied by a many presentations on US college campuses.
As stated on the BtS website, these activities are enabled by foreign funding, including direct and indirect government support from Spain, Norway, the EU, the Netherlands (via ICCO), and Ireland (via Trócaire). Private funding is provided by the New Israel Fund (NIF) and by George Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI), among others.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, commented, “The NGO’s stated aim is to ‘expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.’ But as the evidence clearly shows, BtS uses the money it receives from European governments, largely through secret processes, for ideological campaigns outside of Israel. And their allegations ignore the complex moral dilemmas facing IDF soldiers every day. Such behavior of both the NGO officials and their donor enablers led to the sharp criticism from the IDF and many other Israelis.”
“Every violation of the law and of the IDF’s ethics and values is reprehensible and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” continued Steinberg. “However, ‘testifying’ to BtS does not morally or legally absolve former soldiers of any illegal acts, or erase their obligation to report incidents through the proper legal processes. Their campaigns targeting Israel before audiences with no means to verify the allegations are fundamentally immoral.”