Breaking the Silence (BtS) describes its mission as “expos[ing] the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories….pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled” (emphasis added). In sharp contrast, many of the organization’s activities center around presentations and appearances outside Israel.
Reportedy, BtS originally refused to discuss its work with foreign reporters, but since then, the NGO has reversed course. Yehuda Shaul, co-founder of BtS, gives different reasons in defense of its intensive efforts outside Israel. In December 2006, Shaul said, “Sometimes, when you want to deliver messages to the inside, you must go outside” (translated from the original Hebrew by NGO Monitor). Shaul has also claimed that “When I was in the Occupied Territories you could have said that I’m an American soldier…I owned an M-16… I shot grenades that were not produced with Israeli money but with American money. Everyone, especially Americans, has a responsibility to know what’s going on in the world.” He also said, “Everyone can do what they want with the information but we must provide the information to anyone who wants to hear. People who are anti-Semite don’t need us to be anti-Semite but people who are blinded need us to open their eyes.”
- Claiming to address Israeli society, the NGO’s lobbying and media advocacy focus on international audiences, including presentations in Ireland, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and the United States.
- Shaul claims that seventy percent of BtS presentations occur in Israel, “mainly for youth groups before they are drafted in the army.”
- Co-Director Mikhael Manekin’s tour of the United States in January 2011 included discussions, such as “Occupation and the Future of Israel’s Democracy,” with audience members that included the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United Nations and the First Secretary of Pakistan to the United Nations.
- Representatives of BtS tour university campuses and have appeared at Princeton, Harvard, Brown, NYU, Columbia, Penn State, Brooklyn College, and UC Santa Cruz, among others. A November 2011 event at University of Pennsylvania was hosted by the pro-BDS, anti-Israel group Penn for Palestine (formerly Students for Justice in Palestine).
- BtS was the subject of an exhibit at the Army Museum in Stockholm in March 2011. As part of the event, Itamar Shapira, a member of the organization, stated: “With a cry to the Israeli society that sent us. Look what we have done; look at the world price that we are paying for holding the occupied territories – basically holding millions of Palestinians, with no rights, within military occupation…. It’s important for us to expose that. We are the oppressors, we are the ones that are violating human rights on a daily basis. We are creating the terror against us, basically… This is a war against civilians, a war against society” (emphasis added). The exhibition, a display of images and videos of combat soldiers in the West Bank, was presented in collaboration with the Christian Peace Movement, Diakonia, and the Swedish Church.
Foreign government sources account for 76.3% of its budget in 2010. Foreign funders include the UK, the European Union, Spain, Medico International (Germany, Switzerland), Broederlinjk Delen (Belgium), Christian Aid (Great Britain), Dan Church Aid (Denmark), Ford Israel Foundation (USA), ICCO (The Netherlands), MISEREOR (Germany), Moriah Fund (USA), Oxfam Great Britain, Sparkplug Foundation, SIVMO (Netherlands), and Trocaire (Ireland). In 2007 – 2010, Breaking the Silence received $307,949 in grants from New Israel Fund (NIF – 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).