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Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories
September 14, 2016

Q&A About Breaking the Silence

+ Why Do You Speak Abroad?

➔ The vast majority of our work takes place in Israel. All of our testimonies, publications, lectures, and tours, take place, first and foremost, in Israel and in Hebrew.

➔ The occupation and prolonged control over another nation, are not internal Israeli issues. The debate on Israel’s policies in the territories takes place internationally unrelated to Breaking the Silence. Though the sole Israeli voice heard abroad on the subject is that of the right-wing, which says to the world: if you support Israel, you also have to support the occupation and the settlements.

➔ A blaring example of right-wing bodies who lobby to advance the prolongation of the policy of occupation abroad is the Yesha Council, which employs a special emissary overseas (Chief Foreign Envoy) whose role is to promote the settlement enterprise.

➔ We at Breaking the Silence won’t accept that the voices of the right-wing and the settlers represent Israel abroad. Not all Israeli citizens support the occupation and the settlements and the world must know this.

➔ We believe that it is our duty to take responsibility for the actions that we carried out ourselves, and that are carried out in our names, in the territories. We don’t place criticism on IDF soldiers (we are IDF soldiers!), neither in Israel nor abroad. We criticize the policy in the name of which we were sent to serve in the territories, that must change. We believe that in sounding this voice we are providing a service of vast importance to the status and image of the State of Israel. We wish to spread a different message around the world, according to which supporting the occupation harms Israel, and that support for Israel must also include opposing the occupation.

+ Who Funds You? Why Do You Accept Money from Abroad?

➔ We publish the full list of Breaking the Silence’s donors on the organization’s website annually. We have been 100% transparent since our establishment. Our funding comes from individual donors and various funds – private, state, and otherwise. All of the countries that fund us are countries that are friendly to Israel.

➔ As with all Israeli human rights organizations, Breaking the Silence also doesn’t receive any funding from the state. In contrast, many right-wing organizations enjoy generous financial support from Israeli taxpayers’ funds.

➔ The funds that support Breaking the Silence are provided by some of Israel’s closest allies such as Holland, Denmark and Switzerland. These countries invest hundreds of millions of euro in Israel’s scientific, technological, agricultural and economic development. The right-wing is trying to label such states as Israel’s biggest enemies, thus causing serious diplomatic and economic damage to the State of Israel.

+ Why Do You Lie?

➔ We don’t. For over a decade of operations we have collected and published testimonies from more than a thousand male and female soldiers and officers. Throughout the course of our work, none of the testimonies that we have published have been proven false.

➔ The rigorous verification process that each one of our testimonies undergoes prior to publication has proved itself reliable time and time again. The research team in charge of collecting and verifying testimonies, is composed of veteran soldiers who have undergone a long and professional training process (an example of this is Likud MK Oren Hazan’s testimony, in which he tried to deceive us and we succeeded in exposing him as a liar). There are additional false testimonies that have been passed on to us over the years, in attempt to undermine us. All of them were identified, discarded, and never published.

➔ Recently two videos were presented that allegedly “expose the lies” told by a BtS guide during a tour of ours to Hebron. Confronted by such baseless allegations, we presented video testimonies, photos, and numerous testimonies, which prove that the items addressed during the tour, to our regret, did indeed occur. We proved, once again, that while right-wing figures excel at populist slogans, we present solid verified facts.

➔ The tours that we conduct are eight hours in length and include much information. Those hounding us from the Right, extract a brief sentence from a broad context and present it as a lie.

➔ We’re aware that the soldiers’ testimonies place a mirror before the public that reflects a dreary reality. Yet, to our regret, this is the reality that we experienced during our military service in the occupied territories, and this is the unpleasant reality about which we speak.

+ Do You Speak About and/or Support BDS?

➔ Breaking the Silence has never supported the movement to boycott Israel, nor have we ever been funded by the movement (and more generally speaking, it’s worth knowing that the boycott movement doesn’t support any Israeli institutions).

➔ We believe that the path to ending the occupation must include a vital public discussion on the moral price paid by Israeli society in order to continue this regime.

➔ We believe that the legitimacy of the State of Israel must be preserved, and that the central factor undermining this legitimacy, in the eyes of the international community, is the prolonged occupation.

+ Why are the Testifiers Anonymous?

➔ The testifiers are not anonymous. The testimonies are given in face to face interviews, and the testifiers’ identities are known to the interviewers. As part of the verification process, the testifiers’ identities are also verified. Dozens of Breaking the Silence’s testifiers have revealed their identities before the public, and their video testimonies can be found on the organization’s website.

➔ It is important to bear in mind that exposing oneself as a testifier comes with a social cost in Israel, as exemplified by the harsh comments and threats from which the organization and its members suffer. In order to protect and defend our testifiers from this wild unbridled incitement, their personal details are not publicized, so long as they’re uninterested in exposing themselves. We are obligated, first and foremost, to the soldiers who decided to join us and break their silence.

➔ All of our testimonies are carefully reviewed by the Israeli Military Censor prior to publication.

➔ The pictures painted by the thousands of occurrences described in the testimonies published to date, touch upon Israel’s and the IDF’s systematic policies in the territories. Specific testifiers’ details are not the heart of the matter. What’s most important is that the reality raised by the various testimonies is the same reality, whether the soldier served in Nablus, Hebron, or any other place throughout the territories, within any unit.

+ Why Don’t You Work with the Army?

➔ Breaking the Silence’s goal is to expose the public to the soldiers’ testimonies and the reality in the territories. We believe that the mission of policing and ruling over another people for 48 years, was imposed upon the IDF by Israeli society. As such, the decision to change this mission rests in the hands of Israeli society, not in the hands of the army.

➔ The soldiers’ testimonies are intended to expose the public to the heavy moral price paid by Israeli society in order to maintain military control over the Palestinian civilian population. This is done in hopes of prompting opposition, and bringing about a future for Israel that does not include ongoing control over the Palestinian population.

+ Why Are You So Controversial??

The testimonies published by Breaking the Silence hold a mirror before Israeli society and the image staring back is not pleasant. The work we do is professional and our credibility is high. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a portion of the public’s responses are harsh. At the same time, a large part of the public understands the importance of the publication of these testimonies. Each year, more and more soldiers reach out to us in order to break their silence, and we reach more groups and communities that want to hear about the reality we experienced as soldiers who served in the occupied territories.

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