IDF soldier at West Bank checkpoint at Gush Etzion Junction..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
New legislation aiming to outlaw NGO Breaking the Silence sparked outrage on the Left on Thursday.
The bill – initiated by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) and supported by MKs from Kulanu, Shas and Yisrael Beytenu – would declare Breaking the Silence an “illegal organization,” meaning that its property can be confiscated and anyone who belongs to the group, grants it services or operates under its auspices will have committed a crime and could be imprisoned.
Usually, the defense minister and security cabinet decide who is an illegal organization – like they did with the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch in November – and not the Knesset. The defense minister can cite to declare an organization unauthorized if it is inciting or if it is encouraging through its charter, publications or speeches to use violence to eliminate Israeli laws, to act with hostility toward the government or its ministers, to destroy government property or to undertake acts of terrorism against the government or its workers.
Breaking the Silence collects testimony from former IDF soldiers, many of whom claim that Israel committed war crimes. The group has long been controversial for its questionable methodology, frequently unsubstantiated and unverifiable allegations and its practice of airing its claims abroad instead of bringing them to the Israeli legal system.
Moalem-Refaeli said Breaking the Silence is a “subversive organization acting to change Israeli policies not through the acceptable rules of the game in a democratic country, but by putting international pressure to harm Israel.
“The organization claims to be a legitimate group to raise Israeli awareness about problems with the IDF’s behavior toward the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, but in practice, they do not deal with the IDF and law authorities, as senior officers have asked them to many times,” she stated.
The Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman posited that if Breaking the Silence wanted to fix problems with the IDF’s behavior, it would go to the authorities in Israel instead of “slandering Israel around the world.”
Moalem-Refaeli also said the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement gets significant and active support from Breaking the Silence and is connected to violent demonstrations in the West Bank, in which IDF soldiers were attacked physically and verbally.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin said, “Stalin would be proud of this bill.”
“This is relentless political persecution,” she said. “It endangers the lives of those who oppose the government’s occupation policy, and is an additional sign of Israeli democracy being replaced with violent fascism.”
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) suggested that the Right “copy the laws Saudi Arabia uses to kill people who speak out against the government.”
Svetlova called the bill a danger to democracy greater than the dangers that the Right say Breaking the Silence pose.
“The people who cause boycotts of Israel are the Messianic Right. This cannot pass, and even the Right knows that this is battering Israel’s democracy,” she said.
The bill has yet to be brought to a vote in any forum. There is a six-week waiting period before it can be put on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda, only after which can it be brought to the Knesset.