On May 4, 2015, the political advocacy NGO Breaking the Silence (BtS) published a booklet of testimonies concerning the Summer 2014 Gaza conflict. (As of the morning of May 4, it is only available in Hebrew.)
... this publication is meant to support the UN’s “Schabas” investigation and bolster attempts to bring charges against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
As with many other BtS publications, this report lacks all credibility and objectivity.
Likewise, the extensive foreign funding that Breaking the Silence receives, as well as its international political activities, highlight the problems with this publication.
Despite the NGO’s claim that its mission is to address Israeli society, BtS lobbying, media campaigns, and frequent appearances in Europe and the United States target international audiences. Next month (June 4-14), BtS activists will appear in Switzerland to present their political agenda at an event organized by supporters of pro-BDS groups.
...Contrary to BtS’ claim that “the contents and opinions in this booklet do not express the position of the funders,” NGO Monitor research reveals that a number of funders made their grants conditional on the NGO obtaining a minimum number of negative “testimonies.” This contradicts BtS’ declarations and thus turns it into an organization that represents its foreign donors’ interest, severely damaging the NGO’s reliability and its ability to analyze complicated combat situations.
BtS makes sweeping accusations based on anecdotal, anonymous and unverifiable testimonies of low level soldiers. These “testimonies” lack context, ignoring the fact that during the 2014 Gaza War heavy fighting took place between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, and that soldiers faced grave danger throughout the conflict from rockets, mortar shells, and terrorists emerging from tunnels dug beneath private homes. These distortions and erasures dovetail BtS’ ideological agenda and fuel delegitmization campaigns against Israel.
A careful reading of the testimonies reveals that IDF soldiers conducted themselves according to the norms expected of soldiers (Israeli or from other democratic countries) when faced with the challenges of high-intensity fighting. The testimonies (if indeed reliable) that portray questionable incidents should be fully investigated. In such instances, the testimony and relevant individuals should be referred to the Military Advocate General Corps, which can order an investigation to be opened. That BtS did not approach the MAG Corps raises serious questions regarding the NGO’s motives.
BtS’ allegations that the IDF operated according to a principle of “minimum risk to our forces, even at the cost of harming innocent civilians” together with “an attempt to terrorize the Palestinians” and that “serious questions arise as to the moral norms that guide IDF operations” do not tally with the testimonies, and are nothing more than an attempt by the NGO to portray the events in line with its political agenda.
In its introduction, BtS fails to mention that terrorist groups in Gaza launched rockets, dug tunnels, and placed almost all of their fighting positions in civilian areas in Gaza, including mosques, schools, and hospitals. Thus, the organization provides a partial portrayal of the rationale that guided the IDF. Additionally, BtS does not explain that the IDF used multiple methods of warning civilians to leave areas of fighting in a way that is above and beyond the norm among Western countries. Methods included leaflets, phone calls, and “roof knocking.”
In many cases, the testimonies and the headlines create an impression that soldiers wanted to commit crimes. For instance, a testimony titled “I really really wanted to shoot her in the knees” actually describes how terrorist groups used civilians and animals to attack IDF troops. Another testimony mentions that the IDF attacked Wafa Hospital, but neglects to mention the terrorists operating from within the hospital.
...and from NGO Monitor, "BREAKING THE SILENCE (SHOVRIM SHTIKA)", March 15, 2015:
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.”
Funding of BtS (in NIS)*
|Broederlijk Delen (Belgium)||270,024||150,667|
|Dan Church Aid (Denmark)||125,594||87,941|
|Human Rights and International Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands)||137,040|
|Medico International (Germany)||50,673|
|Sigmund Rausing Trust (UK)||157,150|
|Foundation for Middle East Peace||36,185|
|Open Society Institute||135,740|
|Rockefeller Brothers Fund||155,980|
|New Israel Fund**||72, 025|
*2014 funding based on information submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits; 2013 funding based on annual report.
** The New Israel Fund uses donations from Jewish donors to support BtS vilification of Israel.