Court to debate whether NGO Breaking the Silence should reveal its anonymous sources

Breaking the Silence has vehemently rejected the allegations and calls to investigate the group, describing them as part of a right-wing smear campaign.

May 21, 2016 18:05
2 minute read.
Breaking the Silence organization

The offices of the Breaking the Silence organization in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: REUTERS)

An Israeli court will launch hearings to decide whether left-wing NGO Breaking The Silence, which delivers anonymous testimonies from soldiers on abuses in Palestinian territories, should be forced to reveal its sources, the group said Friday.

The state attorney is demanding that Breaking the Silence reveal its anonymous sources, saying that using unnamed sources allows the group to "spread lies" and makes it impossible to probe alleged cases of abuse by IDF soldiers, AFP reported.

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The group has been thrust into the media spotlight following a video released in March by one of its volunteers, which showed an Israeli soldier in Hebron fatally shooting a subdued Palestinian attacker.

Yehuda Shaul, co-founder of the NGO, said the hearings were an attempt by the government to shut down the NGO, and stated that having anonymous sources is critical to protecting the identities of its sources who may face negative backlash for their actions.

Deliberations on the issue will begin Sunday in the Petach Tikva Magistrate court, with state attorneys expected to argue their case against the group.

Breaking the Silence has been in hot water following the release of the Hebron shooting video, which prompted many government figures to suggest that the group may have stolen classified information in its reporting.

In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the NGO had "crossed a red line" after an investigation done by Israel's Channel 2 revealed that the organization may have been collecting classified information on the IDF.

Shortly thereafter, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered an investigation to ascertain whether Breaking The Silence had indeed received classified military information, and if it made use of such data in its activities overseas.

"When they insert all sorts of components that are actually operational secrets... If they make use of that abroad, that is very severe," Ya'alon said. "If they spread that abroad, that is treason. If they only keep it to themselves, then who safeguards this material? Why do they need to know which vehicles we use, in the air or on the ground, and why do they need to receive operational techniques?”

Breaking the Silence has vehemently rejected the allegations and calls to investigate the group, describing them as part of a right-wing smear campaign.

"An act like this will shut down Breaking the Silence," Shaul told AFP. "No soldier will speak anymore if he knows that the next day he could potentially end up in prison."

A statement by the justice ministry on Friday said that "Israel believes there is a public interest of the highest degree in clarifying suspicions against the suspect and other involved parties".

Yaakov Lappin and Daniel J. Roth contributed to this report.

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