Breaking the Silence is part of the problem in the Israel debate

By Josh Bacon, January 6, 2014
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The Christmas week is traditionally a time for anti-Israel forces in Britain to display their wares, often accompanied by theological attacks against the Jewish people and religion. This year, for example, St James’s Church celebrated with a 26-foot replica of the Israeli security barrier (presented as a wall), as part of their Bethlehem Unwrapped festival.

In keeping with the theme of Palestinian victimhood, the main purpose of the barrier — to protect Israelis from mass terror — has been erased. This “festival” is co-sponsored by charities that have exploited the language of morality and human rights to attack Israel for many years, including Amos Trust, Holy Land Trust (HLT), Interpal, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)-UK, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and War on Want.

In this environment, one might expect that Israelis and Zionists, including those on the left of the political spectrum, would oppose these attacks on moral grounds. However, this is not always the case. One group, Breaking the Silence, (BtS), has announced plans to create a “stronger presence” in the UK. But instead of working against demonisation, they are part of the problem, providing a thin veneer of Jewish justification for campaigns that single out Israel by exploiting human rights and other moral claims.

BtS consists of a small group of Israeli zealots who claim to “expose the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories … pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled.” On this basis, they receive a great deal of cash (3.7 million shekels in 2012), largely via European government budgets.

Breaking the Silence is a small group of zealots

BtS publications feature select “testimonies”, alongside a biased and controversial political interpretation of the conflict, including erroneous charges of “war crimes” and “violations of international law” allegedly committed by Israeli soldiers. Palestinian attacks, including the most recent murders of Israelis, are largely missing.

As detailed research by NGO Monitor has shown, in its books and presentations, BtS tailors the accounts of low-ranking soldiers to fit a predetermined conclusion that Israeli policy is the “intimidation, instilling of fear, and indiscriminate punishment of the Palestinian population.” The discredited Goldstone Report on Israeli “war crimes” is quoted repeatedly on such unsubstantiated allegations.

This political agenda is widely supported by blatantly anti-Israel groups such as the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which hosted a “special event” in co-operation with BtS on October 21 2013. Jewish Voice for Peace, which promotes boycott, divestment, and sanctions, and seeks to “drive a wedge” within the Jewish community, co-sponsored a BtS event in California.

While claiming to “hold up a mirror to Israeli society,” BtS is now pursuing yet another non-Israeli venue. At the expense of European taxpayers, a UK tour will provide fertile ground for virulent anti-Israel campaigns by radical NGOs and their supporters.

Following his appearance at Limmud UK, BtS’s Avner Gvaryahu told the JC that the organisation has refrained until now from activities in the UK because “the debate is so polarised.” Yet the activities of BtS are inherently polarising, and by distorting and erasing the complex realities, they will add more fuel to the anti-Israel campaigns.

Josh Bacon is head of the Israel and Arab Desk at NGO Monitor

Last updated: 11:35am, January 6 2014