Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (R) waits for European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini ahead of a meeting at King David Hotel.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely declared war on the left-wing Breaking the Silence NGO on Tuesday, calling for an “urgent meeting” in the ministry to come up with steps to counter the group’s actions in Switzerland.
On Thursday, Breaking the Silence, which presents anonymous testimonies by IDF soldiers about alleged IDF misdeeds, is scheduled to open an exhibit in Zurich. According to watchdog group NGO Monitor, the exhibition is sponsored by the Swiss Foreign Ministry, the Zurich Municipality and several church groups.
“We cannot accept a situation whereby an organization whose entire purpose is to sully the names and reputations of IDF soldiers is operating internationally in order to cause serious damage to the State of Israel’s image,” Hotovely said. “The Foreign Ministry will continue its extensive activity against those elements working against Israel both at home and abroad.”
She said she had also directed Israel’s embassy in Switzerland to immediately consider ways of working against the exhibition.
Breaking the Silence stirred up controversy last month when it accused the IDF of indiscriminate fire at Palestinians during last summer’s war with Gaza – a practice it said ran contrary to the army’s past policy of minimal force.
To support its claims, the group compiled testimonies from 60 soldiers who fought Hamas during Operation Cast Lead into a 237-page report titled “This Is How We Fought in Gaza.”
Hotovely’s intervention is not unprecedented; the Foreign Ministry has previously asked the British, Spanish and Dutch governments to stop funding Breaking the Silence.
Yehuda Shaul, one of the organization’s co-founders, said the exhibition – which includes testimonies and pictures – tells the story of daily reality in the territories.
“We are proud to bring the exhibition to Zurich, after it was displayed dozens of times across Israel, in order to bring about a true discussion about the values of the state,” he said.
Shaul said it was unfortunate that “extreme right-wing organizations” – such as Israel Sheli, which Bayit Yehudi MKs Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked established years ago – “continue to harm Israeli democracy by working to silence the voices of soldiers carrying out their right and obligation to tell about the reality hidden from the public.”
Also unfortunate, he said, was that official government bodies were giving a hand to an “anti-democratic campaign” that not only harmed human rights groups in Israel, but “blackens the face of Israeli society through the world.”