Breaking the Silence may speak at Jewish Agency pre-army programs

Breaking the Silence might be included among the organizations that will speak at Jewish Agency pre-army programs.

 AN IDF soldier stands between an Israeli resident and protestors from the NGO "Breaking the Silence" in Hebron. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
AN IDF soldier stands between an Israeli resident and protestors from the NGO "Breaking the Silence" in Hebron.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The Jewish Agency for Israel encourages its Mechinot (pre-military preparatory specialized educational institutions) to invite speakers from different backgrounds – including extreme left organizations such as Breaking the Silence.

Pre-army program speakers

On May 10th, the Jewish Agency’s Mechinot chain, Mechinot Ofek, organized a tender for dozens of Israeli nonprofit organizations, to offer their services to the heads of these educational institutions at the Erez mechina in the city of Ohr Yehuda. Each of about 30 organizations that offered content and speakers to the heads of the mechinot is considered an authorized body – ideologically and at times also monetarily.

According to a participant at the event, among the vendors that presented, were far-left organizations. Among the organizations were Breaking the Silence, an organization active in promoting “war crimes” charges against Israel internationally. Another organization that presented at the event was Ir Amim, according to NGO Monitor, it does “European-funded Political Lobbying on Jerusalem.”

In March 2010, information about Ir Amim’s Jerusalem tours was removed from the Jerusalem Municipality website. A municipality spokesperson explained then that Jerusalem doesn’t publicize political tours, whether they are organized by right-wing movements or left-wing movements.

Bad influences?

One of the participants told The Jerusalem Post that “the fact that the Agency allows these types of organizations to present to young Israelis before their army service promotes them to gain legitimacy and [the] ability to influence trainees in mechinot with anti-Zionist ideas.”

A speaker talks during a ''Breaking The Silence'' event, at Tel Aviv University, January 17, 2016 (credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)A speaker talks during a ''Breaking The Silence'' event, at Tel Aviv University, January 17, 2016 (credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)

Most of the organizations weren’t from the extreme right or left – but there definitely is a variety: From the right-wing political spectrum, organizations such as the City of David or Cafe Shapira are included.

The Jewish Agency responded to the claims and said that “In preparation for the construction of the annual work plans of the Ofek mechinot schools, a day of exposure was held for the principals, where representatives from various fields can offer content. Among other things, on the day of the event itself, organizations from a variety of parts of the political spectrum can also present – provided that they operate in Israel according to law."

“The directors of the preparatory schools will later demand that a balanced educational program be built for the trainees, which will give expression to all parts of Israeli society, so that the trainees can get to know, understand and confront all the issues that Israeli society has to deal with.

The Jewish Agency

"Lectures of this kind, from all parts of the spectrum, are generally given free of charge,” the Jewish Agency said.

In a discussion with senior officials in the mechinot world, it is understood that certain ideological organizations or movements, from all sides of the political spectrum, offer free content, speakers or even tours and buses in order to influence young Israelis. “This is something very common, but heads of each mechina know that they need to offer a balanced program and not to expect something that is free to be delivered without an agenda.”

The "Ad Kan" organization, which wrote a report on Breaking the Silence's activities responded to the report: "We have often exposed the lies and manipulations made by Breaking the Silence. It is illogical that an organization who violates the IDF and the entire State of Israel around the world, would be allowed to speak to youth as part of their preparation for military service. Breaking the Silence has long crossed the line and serves as an anti-Israel factor." 

Breaking the Silence

"We are very proud of every single group that visits the occupied territories with us, in order to understand what a military control over a civilian population looks like - from soldiers who were there and broke the silence." Breaking the Silence said in a statement. "We invite the general public to join us on a tour and look reality in the eye."

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO established in the early 2000’s by veterans of the IDF. The organization allows Israeli soldiers or discharged personnel an opportunity to speak about their service anonymously and specify different human rights violations that – in their eyes – the IDF has allegedly made.

In 2015, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon banned the Breaking the Silence Group from taking part in any IDF activities, describing the organization as having malicious motives. Ya’alon said Israel “supports the combat soldiers and commanders who go out and fight for it, and we will know how to protect every soldier if any element persecutes or tries to harm them during visits abroad.”

In 2016, then Education Minister Naftali Bennett introduced a draft legislation to keep Breaking the Silence out of Israeli schools.