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Renowned Israeli Journalist: Breaking the Silence “Cultivates Anti-Semitism”

Breaking the Silence, a group that often makes unsubstantiated allegations about the IDF to foreign audiences, fosters anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, renowned Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai wrote Tuesday in an op-ed for the Times of Israel. Ben-Yishai, who is a decorated IDF veteran and has covered Israeli security affairs for 46 years, wrote his piece in support of the non-profit organization Our Soldier Speak.

Ben-Yishai argued that the group’s name is misleading, because there is no code of “silence” in Israeli military culture. In reality, a chain of legal authorities exists for addressing illegal and immoral behavior by IDF soldiers. Given these existing channels, “dissemination of unsubstantiated claims abroad” is unjustified.

Through its actions and statements, Ben-Yishai wrote, Breaking the Silence provides a justification for those who oppose Israel to maintain and promote their hostile views. And by giving the impression that individual acts of misbehavior are indicative of the overall culture of the IDF, 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.”

Throughout his career, Ben-Yishai witnessed numerous missions that were cancelled because of the excess damage they would cause to civilians ,”often at risk to our soldiers and officers.” This behavior, he wrote, is the “hallmark” of the IDF, rather than the isolated, unsubstantiated allegations publicized by Breaking the Silence.

If Breaking the Silence wishes to change the way the IDF operates, Ben-Yishai concluded, then it should bring its charges to the relevant authorities, but if not, and it continues its activities abroad, it “demonstrates that they have no desire to correct the problems they claim to seek to remedy.”

Similar arguments have been made in recent weeks by Left-wing figures such as Haaretz columnist and New York Times best-selling author Ari Shavit, and popular late-night comedy host Lior Schleien.

Gerald Steinberg, president of the non-profit organization NGO Monitor, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (Google link) on Wednesday that Breaking the Silence receives most of its funding from the European Union. An NGO Monitor investigation in May exposed Breaking the Silence for taking European funding with the explicit instruction that it incriminate the IDF.

Earlier this month, an international group of generals released a report showing that Israel adhered to the laws of armed conflict in last summer’s war with Hamas, and therefore conducted an “exemplary campaign.” The generals’ report criticized “the cumulative failure of international institutions and organisations to come to a more accurate assessment of events during the 2014 Gaza Conflict, their attempt to impose unwarranted legal norms, and their failure to make important moral distinctions between the adversaries,” noting that this failure “is a problem not just for Israel.”

That report largely echoed findings earlier this year by a group of American generals sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, who observed:

Contrary to accusations of widespread unlawful military conduct, we observed that Israel systemically applied established rules of conduct that adhered to or exceeded the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) in a virtually unprecedented effort to avoid inflicting civilian casualties, even when doing so would have been lawfully permitted, and to satisfy the concerns of critics. However, it is the conclusion of this Task Force that Israel’s military restraint unintentionally empowered Hamas to distort both the law and facts for their own purposes to the ultimate detriment of civilians’ safety, for which Hamas bears sole responsibility.

[Photo: Hadash Parush / Flash90 ]