On Sunday, October 20, 2013, former executive director of Breaking the Silence (BtS) Dana Golan was interviewed on “The Sunday Edition” with Michael Enright (CBC Radio). This interview, discussing the publication of BtS’s book Our Harsh Logic, was rife with distortions and misrepresentations.
The new book is actually an edited version of the 2010 book Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier testimonies 2000-2010. NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis of this book revealed that, in contrast to the far-reaching allegations, BtS “testimonies” reflect confusion on the part of individual soldiers, junior officers, and low-level units. The alleged misconduct, while objectionable, if true, rarely amounts to more than nuisance complaints and petty violations. The inflammatory accusation of “an offensive policy that includes annexation of territory, terrorizing and tightening the control over the civilian population” is manufactured by BtS, and remains unproven.
Golan repeats these baseless accusations in her interview, and also misrepresents the stated goal of her own NGO. Examples include:
1. Golan states, “the goal [of BtS] is to reveal the nature of occupation and create a moral discussion in Israel and around the world about the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territory and to create resistance to the occupation” (emphasis added).
In contrast, BtS’ website states that it is an “organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life” (emphasis added).
2. Based on the findings of the book, the host of the radio program states that BtS’ has found that “Israel’s harsh tactics continue unabated to this day.” However in the book, the vast majority of the testimonies are from the height of the Palestinian mass-terror campaign against Israeli civilians (2000-2005). The failure to distinguish between or analyze the differing contexts and Israeli security policies over the past decade further reflects BtS’ primary ideological and politicized objectives, which are hidden behind the rhetoric of morality and international law.
3. Golan claims that BtS is “talking about facts.” However, the analysis they append to the testimonies is not “facts.” For instance, allegations that Israeli tactics are designed to “preserv[e] the control of the IDF on the Palestinians” and to “intimidate” Palestinians are not proven and reflect BtS’s ideology and political goals.
4. Golan describes her sole experience participating in a search of a house saying that after the search she asked the commander “if I can clean up” and being brusquely denied. However, in many cases IDF soldiers did clean up after staying in a Palestinian house. This is actually mentioned in a number of BtS testimonials.
5. Further demonstrating Golan’s lack of knowledge of IDF procedures is her portrayal of settlement civilian coordinators as civilians who give orders to the IDF. In reality, settlement security officials are part of the official army chain of command, and are formally subject to the orders of the local army commander. They are also subject to military justice if they violate the law, abuse their authority, or deviate from operating procedures.
6. Golan claims that IDF intimidates the Palestinians by “disrupting the day-to-day life of the Palestinians” and by creating a feeling of “being chased.”
These two claims are a complete distortion of IDF orders and tactics:
a) A basic military concept is “breaking routine,” referring to changing the military’s routine in order to make their movements less predictable and susceptible to attack (i.e. by changing patrol routes, changing the time and duration of patrols etc.). The disruption is to the IDF’s routine, not that of the Palestinian civilian population, as suggested by Breaking the Silence.
b) The IDF orders state that the “the feeling of being chased” applies only to wanted terrorists, whose exact whereabouts are unknown, while reducing the impact on the general population. This is stated clearly in one of BtS’ testimonies: “The idea was that people, terrorists, would constantly see the army entering houses near them and areas near them and feel pressured, be afraid, keep switching hideouts, and also the aim was to prevent them from going out on attacks.”