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May 30, 2015 / 12 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Breaking the Silence’

Israeli Ex-Soldiers Angered over Breaking the Silence Claims Against IDF

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

By Matti Bernhardt

A group of former IDF soldiers, incensed over an Israeli NGO’s claims that they abused Palestinians during last summer’s fighting in Gaza, have taken to social media to fight the allegations.

Under the hashtag #my_truth in Hebrew, the soldiers, many of whom faced heavy fire from Hamas and other terrorist groups during the 50-day Operation Protective Edge, have begun posting stories of cases showing how they went to great lengths to avoid harming Palestinians. They also mentioned cases in which civilians took part in terrorist activity.

The goal of this initiative is to counter damning anonymous testimonies by other troops published by the NGO Breaking the Silence, which frequently publicizes claims that the IDF mistreats Palestinians.

Breaking the Silence touts itself as an organization of ex-soldiers who collect testimonies from troops who served in Palestinian areas since the start of the Second Intifada.

While claiming their goal is to “raise awareness over the everyday reality of serving in the occupied territories and to create a discussion about the cost of military control over a civilian population for so many years,” the NGO refuses to post the names of the soldiers who testify. They have also refused to pass along their accounts to the IDF’s Military Advocate General’s Corps for investigation, despite repeated requests by senior IDF officials.

As well, the latest report was itself published first in English and released to the foreign media. Breaking the Silence members routinely go abroad to share their testimonials on IDF activities, instead of taking their case directly to the IDF or civilian courts.

The latest counter-initiative to the NGO report began after Israeli left-wing Meretz MK Zehava Galon posted one such hostile testimony last Tuesday on her Facebook page.

In the allegation that she posted from Breaking the Silence, Galon quoted the following: “the unit identified two figures walking in an orchard around 900 meters from where we were posted. The figures were two girls. The observation post could not see them well, so the commander sent a UAV. The UAV marked them as dangerous. The unit directed an aircraft who fired on the girls, killing them. When the bodies were checked they had no weapons on them,” the allegation said.

Such accounts, which purport to show the IDF in a bad light, have prompted numerous counter claims from other IDF soldiers, who have attempted to portray a more positive view of IDF activities during the foray.

After reading the Breaking the Silence pamphlet, former IDF soldier Matan Katzman wrote on his Facebook page last Thursday that “during Operation Summer Rains in Beit Hanoun [in the northern Gaze Strip in 2006], we entered a house with a couple living in it. We asked them if they’re involved with Hamas, they said “no, not at all.” We asked them if they have weapons in the house, they said “no, not at all”. We stayed in the house for a couple of hours. When we left, we moved the couch and discovered an IED.”

The informal pro-IDF campaign by former Israeli soldiers also cited examples of humane and respectful behavior towards non-combatants during operations in the Judea and Samaria.

Avishai Shorsham recalled in a testimony that he wrote of his service on his Facebook page on Wednesday, that “During an operation in the Nablus Kasbah, while we are in the middle of a stakeout, an old man who lived in the house felt sharp pain in his chest. Without accordance with our orders, we evacuated him in the middle of the night while endangering ourselves.”

According to the organization’s website, the recent Breaking the Silence pamphlet was produced with the “generous support” of such foreign organizations as Christian Aid, Dan Church Aid, Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Secretariat and Open Society Foundations founded by George Soros.

Related story: IDF Officer Reports from the Gaza Front (Video)

NGO Monitor: Negative Testimony from ‘Breaking the Silence’ Meets Quota for Grant Makers

Monday, May 4th, 2015

IDF veterans who provided negative testimony for the leftist NGO “Breaking the Silence” may not realize they are also participating in an effort by the group to fulfill a funding quota for bad stuff against Israel.

According to a report by the NGO Monitor, a number of grant-making agencies who provide funding to leftist organizations in Israel have made their patronage contingent upon the groups’ abilities to obtain a minimum number of negative “testimonies.”

“This contradicts Breaking the Silence” declarations and thus turns it into an organization that represents its foreign donors’ interest, severely damaging the NGO’s reliability and its ability to analyze complicated combat situations,” said the report.

One example is the foreign leftist Oxfam group, which signed an agreement with Breaking the Silence, according to the NGO Monitor watchdog organization.

According to that agreement, the Monitor reported, BTS was to conduct interviews with “as many” soldiers as possible who would testify regarding [Israeli] “immoral actions] that violate human rights.

The entire report can be read by clicking here.

UK Jews Invited British J Street Into its Inner Sanctum

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Yachad, the United Kingdom’s version of J Street, has just been admitted into the official inner sanctum of British Jewry, the Board of Deputies.

The Board of Deputies is a rough equivalent of the much longer named Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. That organization rejected J Street’s bid for admission late last spring. The BoD  has many more member organizations, although each represents a much smaller total number of Jews than does the American counterpart.

Officially the BoD describes itself as “the voice of British Jewry: a cross-communal, democratic, grassroots organization, and thus the authoritative first port of cal for Government, media and others seeking to understand Jewish community  interests and concerns.”

Every single synagogue and Jewish communal organization in England is entitled to name a deputy to the BoD. There are close to 300 members. The question voted on was whether to admit Yachad as one of those Jewish communal organization membership groups.

With 196 votes cast on Sunday, Nov. 16, there were 61 votes against admitting Yachad and 135 in favor, eking out just five votes over the necessary two-thirds majority.

Four of the five members of the Executive voted in favor of Yachad’s admission, according to an insider. The sole Executive vote against Yachad came from Jonathan Arkush, who is reputed to be a frontrunner for the position of president of the Board, a position which opens in May, 2015.

One member of the BoD spoke out fervently against the admission of Yachad to the group.

Jonathan Hoffman, a BoD deputy for half a dozen years representing the Woodside Park Synagogue, beseeched the large group to remain committed to the ideals of the BoD Constitution which requires the entity to “advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing.”

Hoffman made clear: Yachad is the antithesis of the BoD’s constitutional requirements and instead undermines them at every opportunity.

Hoffman provided several concrete examples of why Yachad should not be voted in as a member of the British Board of Deputies.

One reason he provided, and he drew heavily on an account given by a person who experienced it firsthand, is that Yachad’s main activity in Israel is arranging trips into Judea and Samaria with a horrific group whose sole goal is to denigrate the Israel Defense Force, a well-known group called ‘Breaking the Silence.’ The information provided by this organization – with Yachad’s apparent full support – blamed Israel for every problem and the Palestinian Arabs for none.

A second example provided by Hoffman was the irrefutable fact that Yachad supported the upgrade of the status of “Palestine” at the United Nations. This was particularly galling, given the BoD had assiduously lobbied members of Parliament against this alteration.

Hoffman rounded out his opposition to the inclusion of Yachad by pointing out that the the group has never condemned a boycott of Israeli goods, nor has it ever bothered to explain that Hamas targets Israeli civilians. Instead, “Yachad portrays the Security Fence only as something which harms the Palestinians. Yachad is silent when it comes to the number of Israeli lives the Fence has saved.

Taking the larger group to task for absurdly insisting that the BoD needs “to embrace Jewish organizations with whom we might disagree,” Hoffman demanded to know whether those voting in favor of embracing Yachad have no red lines at all.

Hoffman ended his statement by urging his fellow deputies to vote against Yachad membership to the Board.

“At this time – above all times – Israel needs support from the Diaspora. The last thing Israel needs is the vilification, denigration and falsehoods routinely seen from Yachad.”

Sadly, Hoffman’s prediction that his plea would be in vain was correct. The Board of Deputies has admitted Yachad as a full membership organization.

Defense Minister Yaalon Discusses 8200 Refusal Letter

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon mentioned today the anti-8200 (Military Intelligence) letter, while speaking at the International Cyber Conference at Tel Aviv University.

Yaalon said that the letter was not about conscientious objection, but was written for political reasons.

He revealed that most of the 43 people who signed the letter do not do any reserve duty, only a couple of them were actually involved in SigInt on Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and the last time any of them did any reserve duty at all was back in 2009.

New Israel Fund Tries to Explain its Way Around BDS Ban

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

New Israel Fund (NIF) executive vice president Rabbi David Rosenn took disingenuousness to new heights during a talk held Wednesday evening, June 18, at the Jewish Center of Princeton, when he told the audience he refrained from using the term “occupied” territory to avoid “the hot button.”

In fact, Rosenn admitted that areas beyond the ‘green (1949 Armistice) line’—or Judea and Samaria, more accurate Biblical references he refused to use—are not considered Israel proper by him or NIF and therefore the NIF does not sponsor organizations which operate or are headquartered there. Yet NIF continues to be one of the largest funders of B’Tselem—the Israeli Information Center of the Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Either Rosenn missed B’Tselem’s actual name (it includes ‘in the Occupied Territories’) or he simply omitted the distinction between Jewish organizations in the territories – which they don’t fund – and non- or even anti-Jewish organizations, which they do fund.

B’Tselem is also the organization responsible for giving Arab Palestinians video cameras to record IDF responses (but only the IDF responses) to disrespectful and sometimes violent instigation. The number of recorded alleged IDF ‘violations’ dropped dramatically once the IDF armed soldiers with cameras to capture entire (rather than partial) incidents.

Despite a polite, restrained albeit particularly well informed line of questioning—this is Princeton, after all—Rosenn resorted to semantics, suggesting a distinction exists between organizations supporting the international Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel (BDS) movement—a clear violation of NIF’s stated policy—and organizations located in Israel calling for the boycott of “Settlement” products.

Really? After fielding several questions to clarify the NIF position, Rosenn, who had earlier claimed that the NIF needed to be “vigilant” in deciding which organizations to fund, attempted to dismiss concerns saying “if [NIF] focused on BDS, we wouldn’t be able to realize our mission.”

Perhaps it would surprise Rabbi Rosenn to know that NIF-grantee Adalah provides legal representation for several Arab organizations that promote BDS in Europe as well as in Israel. Perhaps not.

The NIF is also a “proud sponsor” of Breaking the Silence (BtS), an organization of former IDF soldiers apparently so damaged by the effects of war that they were unable to go through chain-of-command to report abuses and IDF policy violations, but found themselves more than capable of confiding in the UN commission that produced the fraudulent and now-debunked Goldstone Report.

Even HaAretz, Israel’s widely read left leaning daily, discredited the group in 2009 citing the BtS agenda as “purely political.”  How a political agenda, particularly one based on fictional events, “supports issues that are in the public good”—the primary definition of an NGO—is anyone’s guess.

There’s no doubt that some NIF grantees are doing respectable, perhaps even good work.  The problem is NIF is funded from outside of Israel and some of the sources are sketchy at best.  This concern precipitated new legislation in Israel that has forced the NIF to be more diligent in adhering to its own guidelines.  Even so, the relationship between NIF and the historically anti-Semitic Ford Foundation drew the attention of investigative reporter Edwin Black who follows NIF money in “Financing the Flames.”

How NIF funding decisions are made remained elusive, with Rosenn saying only that a professional grant department was responsible.

The biggest surprise of the night came when Rosenn asserted that all criticism of the NIF emanated from reports in NGO Monitor, a respected watchdog group that was instrumental in bringing the NIF funding to the Israeli public, and from JCC Watch founder Richard Allen. Allen’s gripe, according to Rosenn, with NYC Federation’s John Ruskay is what led to his attacks on the NIF.

Mass Shofar Blast Against Anti-Israel Enabling on April 29

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

If a small group of grass-roots Jewish organizations have their way, more than one hundred protestors will assemble in New York City on April 29, 2014, each carrying a shofar. On cue, at 5:30 in the afternoon, rain or shine, all will raise their curved rams’ horns, long and short, and wail to the heavens in visceral unison producing a piercing spectacle of protest. The cacophonous alarums will continue their outcry until the shofar blowers feel they have made their point.

What are they protesting? It is their communal leadership.

The dissident shofar blowers will assemble in front of the 59th Street headquarters of the UJA-Federation of New York. The Federation’s beneficiary, the Jewish Community Relations Council, is the chief organizer of the Celebrate Israel Parade scheduled for June 1. The upbeat procession of floats, runners, and marchers is normally a public show of Jewish unity in support of Israel. But this year, the parade has become a maelstrom of disunity over the participation of the controversial New Israel Fund and other groups which recent revelations now link to the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement and the campaign to delegitimize Israel internationally.

The outrage in some American, Jewish, and Israeli circles over the NIF’s inclusion in the highly visible parade, formerly known as the Israel Day Parade, may be more than just a passing horn blast. The discontent may be energizing a historic decision among American Jews. Just what constitutes the Jewish mainstream? Is American Jewry about to set limits on its open tent of inclusion, a precept the community wears as a badge of honor?

More than a few American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by such groups as the J Street lobby, the New Israel Fund, and other organizations that constitute a powerful, well-funded minority able to wage war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people. “These groups are anti-Jewish,” says Judith Freedman Kadish, special project director of Americans for a Safe Israel, “and they are funding groups that are anti-Semitic. They just veil their actions by saying they are trying to influence public policy and an occupation.” The accused organizations and their defenders in the Jewish media and within the Jewish activist community vigorously insist their activities are simply democratic dissent aimed at solving Israel’s problems.

The New Israel Fund, enabled by taxpayer subsidies of its 501(c)(3) status, has been a pivotal funder of the BDS movement that wages economic war against Israel. Until 2011, the NIF was a lead supporter of the Coalition of Women for Peace, which established a global BDS infrastructure. According to NIF financial records, in 2008 alone, the NIF bestowed $93,457 upon the Coalition of Women for Peace. Over a period of years, NIF financing of this organization reached a strong six-figure sum, which included both direct grants and those where the NIF acted as a go-between for other donors–a technique they called “donor advised funding.”

The NIF no longer provides money to the Coalition of Women for Peace. Now, the CWP is strong enough to gather its monies from other sources. But detractors say — the irreparable damage was done. Moreover, the BDS movement today is fortified by a conveyor belt of brutality and oppression accounts–some legitimate, some exaggerated, some invented — force fed to the world by agitation NGOs, including many financed by the New Israel Fund.

NIF’s financial records for 2012 indicate that it granted $109,615 to Breaking the Silence, $255,477 to B’Tselem, and $209,161 to Adalah. These three groups are among dozens of NIF grantees that critics accuse as operating on the front lines of anti-Israel information and distorting the facts about international law as it affects Israel. Numerous Knesset members and Israeli military men have gone on record to decry the NIF as a well-financed, foreign, multinational NGO, hell-bent on “destabilizing the Israel Defense Forces” and erasing the Jewish identity from the State of Israel.

‘Breaking the Silence?’ I Was Silenced.

Friday, April 4th, 2014

On March 31, I attended a disturbing lecture at Washington University in St. Louis. It was co-sponsored by St. Louis Hillel at Washington University and J Street U. The speaker, a former Israeli soldier with the group “Breaking the Silence” (BtS), misrepresented and demonized the Israel Defense Forces, Israel, and Israeli policy. BtS is known for bringing in speakers like this, so I could not understand why Hillel and J Street U had sponsored a talk whose only purpose appeared to be to misinform audiences and instill hostility towards Israel.

As an Israeli reservist who had been stationed in the West Bank, I sat in disbelief as the speaker described attitudes and policies that were entirely divorced from reality.

The former soldier, Oded Na’aman, claimed that Israeli soldiers are trained to oppress the Palestinians individually and as a people, that they maliciously mistreat Palestinians in the West Bank, and that they are taught to make Palestinians fear Israeli soldiers. He argued that there are no civil rights for Palestinians and that the Jewish people who now have a state use their power to oppress Palestinians.

I had no idea what he was talking about or what motivated him to lie.

He did not describe the Israel or IDF that I know so intimately.

As a reservist and a soldier, I had been stationed in the West Bank. My job was to protect the Palestinians’ human rights, coordinate humanitarian aid, and tend to the needs of civilians living in the West Bank. I always felt that Israel’s concern for the welfare of the Palestinians was impressive, and I was proud to be part of it.

My experience taught me that even during wartime, Israel made it a priority to meet the needs of Palestinians even though they had made themselves enemies of the State of Israel by launching the second intifada.

I recall that during my service in Hebron, I had to adhere to international humanitarian law and ensure that the soldiers in the Judea Brigade were educated about the Geneva Convention and the rules of engagement—or face punishment. We sometimes went beyond these strict rules to help Palestinians. Once, when I served in my unit’s headquarters, we arranged a complex operation so that my unit, with the help of another unit, could save the life of a Palestinian boy living in Gaza whose mother had died. We did some investigating, and discovered that his uncle lived in Ramallah. In a special operation in the middle of the night, we moved the child to his uncle so that he would not be left alone in the streets of the Gaza Strip.

It was torture for me to sit there quietly and listen to the distortions of this former soldier who had served during the most violent period of the second intifada (2000-2003), when suicide bombers and snipers were wantonly murdering Israeli men, women, and children. But he never described the terrorism that forced the IDF to take measures to protect our families.

If he has complaints about the IDF, he should be an activist in Israel. Soldiers don’t always do the right thing or live up to the IDF code. They should be disciplined. Israel’s policies can be debated. But Israel is constantly examining itself critically, and debates in Israel are energetic and promote the full variety of views. Why, then, would he come to the U.S. to complain about his own army?

I think I know why. It’s because there are groups who are parading him around to tell half-truths and lies to defame Israel. When he was asked that very question during the question-and-answer period, he said, “I came here to tell Americans what their tax money is funding.” He said that attacking Israel with F16s is not the right answer, but that Israel needs to be pressured. I wondered what kind of twisted thinking would make a person who lives in a vibrant democracy, where he can campaign for his political positions, instead ask outside forces to pressure his country? What motivated him? Is he a post-nationalist who doesn’t want Israel to exist at all?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/breaking-the-silence-i-was-silenced/2014/04/04/

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