|Lt. Col. (ret.) |
I provide this statement in order to make plain my views on the overseas activities of the organization Breaking the Silence.
I do so as a journalist of more than 46 years' experience, dealing with national security and military affairs, as a retired Lt. Colonel in the Paratroops division of the Israel Defense Forces, and as a recipient of the Chief of Staff Distinguished Service Award for my participation in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. I stand firmly behind every word that follows.
1) The very name Breaking the Silence is a deliberate, wanton misnomer. In the State of Israel, there is no 'silence' to be broken when it comes to matters of military conduct and ethics. Ours is an open society, the safety of which is ensured by the I.D.F. The I.D.F. has open channels through which all substantive complaints of operational impropriety are considered and investigated to their appropriate legal conclusion. Generally, though not always, this is via the Military Advocate General's Corps. (M.A.G.), an organization that enjoys a large degree of independence from the chain of command; particularly on matters of conduct and ethics and the legal aspects of warfare. No claims of misconduct need to be taken abroad, therefore. The M.A.G. Corps regularly submits its findings for the consideration of legal bodies of the highest standing overseas.
2) Given that such channels are open internally, and that the M.A.G. Corps has repeatedly offered to cooperate with Breaking the Silence, there can be no justification for the dissemination of unsubstantiated claims abroad.
3) By ignoring the channels available to them at home, whether deliberately or not, Breaking the Silence, regrettably, serves as the certification of kashrut for much of the anti-Israel activity overseas. They provide an imprimatur for anti-I.D.F. views in foreign seats of academia.
4) Breaking the Silence leaves foreign audiences with the impression that the alleged, errant act of one soldier, proven or not, is indicative of the ethos and the norms of the I.D.F. entire. This is false and libelous.
5) Given the ever intensifying delegitimization campaign against the State of Israel abroad and considering that much of that cynically centers about the work of the I.D.F., Breaking the Silence actively cultivates, perhaps unwittingly, both anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism among those with an already strong prejudice against the State of Israel and its citizens. Of particular danger is the false impression cultivated on campuses overseas.
6) As an individual who has dealt with military matters in times of war and in times of peace, both in uniform and as a civilian, I attest to the following absolutely. To the very best of their ability, the I.D.F. and the general security apparatus of the State of Israel consistently demonstrate probity and dispassionate professionalism when investigating any substantive complaint of military misconduct. They do so even as military operations are carried out. They do so by legal examination, undertaken by lawyers, throughout the planning, the execution and the consequence of any operation.
7) I have personally witnessed missions, both aerial and on land, that were aborted in order to spare the lives of uninvolved, innocent civilians proximate to a designated target; often at risk to our soldiers and officers. I therefore state that restraint and high regard for the international codes of conduct on the battlefield are the true hallmarks of the I.D.F. Those hallmarks cross all lines of politics, religion and gender within the I.D.F.
8) By continuing their activities abroad, Breaking the Silence demonstrates that they have no desire to correct the problems they claim to seek to remedy.
9) I urge Breaking the Silence to approach, and to coordinate with, the appropriate military and legal authorities in Israel, and to submit all claims for their review in order to facilitate a thorough investigation of every alleged act of misconduct.
10) I support the rights of all to come forward with criticism and complaint about the I.D.F. but they must do so here in Israel so that any wrongdoing may be corrected and punished if necessary. I have the highest confidence in the thoroughness of any investigations undertaken domestically.
Ron Ben-Yishai is a retired Lt. Colonel in the IDF paratroopers division. As a journalist for over 46 years, Mr. Ben-Yishai has covered some of the most volatile conflicts both within and beyond the borders of Israel. He was the first Israeli correspondent to broadcast live from Baghdad in 2003. He has reported from Lebanon, Yemen, Tunis, Egypt, and Libya. His work has received him several awards including the "Life Time Accomplishments" Award by the Tel Aviv Journalists Association in 2008.
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