Breaking what silence?
In exploiting the allegations of human rights violations for political propaganda, groups such as BtS and their funders are not in any way contributing to the moral imperative of preventing such abuses.
Security Wall Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Eleven years ago, in September 2001, the UN Human Rights Commission brought more
than 5,000 officials from 1,500 organizations to Durban, South Africa for a
conference that adopted a strategy of political war against the Jewish
nation-state based on obscene falsehoods like “ethnic cleansing” and an “alien
domination” of the “indigenous Palestinian population.” The program of action is
promoted by a multi-million dollar industry led by dozens of NGOs that exploit
the language of human rights as a weapon targeting Israel. Since Durban, the
NGO-led activity has produced the Goldstone Report, with numerous false
allegations of “war crimes” during the Gaza war, and numerous similar attacks.
These fuel the campaigns of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) seeking to
isolate and demonize Israel.
In this political warfare, Israeli groups,
largely funded from abroad, such as “Breaking the Silence” (BtS), play a central
role. In late August, they issued a publication that appeared in newspapers
across Australia and the UK, based largely on anonymous “testimonies,” which
were then quoted without independent verification by foreign journalists. The
report was filled with allegations of IDF misconduct and what the organization
refers to as a “pattern of behavior” of soldier misconduct that it claims to
have “uncovered” through its research.
The stated aim of BtS, whose
campaigns are made possible by major support from European governments and the
New Israel Fund, is to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday
life in the Occupied Territories.” However, in many of its activities,
BtS courts the international media rather than presenting its allegations to the
Israeli government or the IDF for investigation through due process of law. And
in a country whose democratic debate features every possible dimension and point
of view, and where there are more opinions than citizens, it is also unclear
just what “silence” this organization is attempting to break.
process, BtS’s campaigns to discredit the IDF have turned the organization into
an invaluable ally of those NGOs behind the “Durban Strategy” – with the
explicit goal of “the complete international isolation” of Israel, using
repeated accusations of “war crimes,” “genocide” and “apartheid.”
August 2012 report was first published by an Australian journalist eager for a
scoop. As a result, these claims are now receiving sensationalist headlines in
Australia, generating the type of demonization of Israel that the Durban
Strategy envisaged. Similar activities have taken place in Europe and
North America, including on many university campuses, and are often accompanied
by speaking tours.
To its credit, Australia’s Jewish community responded
to the BtS road-show by highlighting its many failures. Danny Lamm, president of
the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, labeled their research and findings
to be “anonymous... devoid of critical detail and untested by any kind of
In its latest report, BtS focuses on allegations
regarding children, following a similar campaign by a highly politicized
organization known as Defense for Children International-Palestine Section
BtS claims that its testimonies are from a “time perceived as
calm and uneventful from a ‘security’ standpoint,” and that “the reality that
emerges from the testimonies shows that harsh treatment of Palestinian children
continues unabated, and despite the overall security situation.”
the report makes no mention of the central role that Palestinian children and
minors play in the ongoing deadly attacks against Israeli citizens. According to
the IDF, 2011 had the highest incidence of rock throwing since 2005 – almost
always involving Palestinian children. Both DCIPS and BtS immorally portray this
activity as benign, despite the many cases in which Israeli civilians have been
wounded or killed.
For instance, in September 2011, Asher Palmer and his
one-year-old son were murdered when Palestinian youths attacked their car by
throwing rocks. But providing information on such attacks does not coincide with
BTS’s political agenda.
At times, the group has gone further still, even
suggesting that Israel is ultimately to blame for terror attacks against its
civilians. In an exhibit at the Army Museum in Stockholm in March 2011, Itamar
Shapira, a member of BtS, declared “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.” Shapira’s comments expose the humanitarian facade.
exploiting the allegations of human rights violations for political propaganda,
groups such as BtS and their funders are not in any way contributing to the
moral imperative of preventing such abuses.
Rather, they themselves
engage in conduct that is immoral and fail to fulfill the humanitarian mandate
that they espouse.
The writer is professor of political science at
Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor.