Examining Breaking the Silence

June 23, 2015 by  
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To be the only democracy in the Middle East, possessing the most moral army in the world, is a noble aspiration.

 As with all other aspirations, fulfilment is a continual challenge requiring endless vigilance, particularly at a time when even the latest Israel Democracy Index (presented to the President of the State of Israel by the Israel Democracy Institute) confirms Israel’s low standing on elementary democratic norms such as civil liberties (20th out of 28 countries* measured, ie the lowest of self-styled Western Democracies). As to morality and war, Israel remains in a minority of democratic states in both maintaining a near 50-year old occupation, and in resisting open and objective enquiry into its actions in the face of criticism and condemnation, both internally and externally.
Thus, your correspondent’s categorisation of Breaking the Silence as “an extreme left-wing group of Israeli former soldiers which specializes in accusing the IDF of every war crime and atrocity under the sun [who] spend their time in “schmutzing” (smearing) the IDF in particular and Israel in general [in an] orgy of self loathing & hatred […] enthusiastically lapped up by the media and those whose sole purpose is to delegitimize the Jewish State” needs some examination if he is not be accused of paranoia and self-victimhood.
Those who are familiar with Israeli society know the untouchable status of the IDF. The IDI annual report see above consistently ranks it as the most trusted institution in the country. A good army record is essential for employment and advancement in Israeli society. Politicians and generals compete to make the most bellicose of statements, not forgetting to add their own – sometimes unsavoury – military credentials. Swimming against that tide brings with it ostracism and contempt, as your correspondent demonstrates. So whistleblowing – a dangerous but essential occupation in any democratic society – is particularly hazardous in Israel, where paranoia may not yet be a national characteristic, but victimhood and xenophobia increase daily, as a brief glance at the Israeli media will confirm.
What emerges from a study of the testimonies published by BTS is chilling in its banality. These are everyday stories of the effects of war and occupation on ordinary young men and women who find themselves in a parallel universe where anything goes, where rules of engagement are often unclear and worse, and civilian life and property have importance only if their owner passes the test of ethnicity. How else to explain a regime of impunity where beating a Palestinian child – or worse – carries a lower punishment than eating a ham sandwich in uniform? Where the only questions raised about hundreds of dead women and children is whether they “ought” to have been in a particular place when massive armaments were brought to bear from land, sea and air. Where IDF doctrines such as Dahiye, Hannibal, and Mowing the Lawn – which place civilian lives secondary to massive military force – are routinely invoked with hugely disproportionate and indiscriminate outcomes? As Publishers Weekly – not known for its anti-Israel sympathies – said of BTS’ most recent publication Our Harsh Logic: “Random brutality, Kafkaesque bureaucracy, hatred, and dehumanization: that’s the face of Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza as described by disaffected soldiers in this troubling oral history [which] conveys a truth about the inescapable ugliness of Israel’s military rule over its neighbors.”
Difficult as it is to contest this situation when objective or judicial membership of internal or external enquiries has long since been abandoned in favour in favour of hand-picked supporters, and international critique rejected as evidence of the world’s hatred for Israel (and Jews in general), Breaking the Silence offers a medium for those whose consciences can no longer allow them to preserve the “secrets” that most Israelis prefer to suppress. Yes, occupation and war are hell, but any State which aspires to a superior morality needs to confront its conduct and make it clear that crimes – especially war crimes – cannot go unpunished. That is what these brave young men and women are doing, and all those who wish Israel well should applaud their courage, rather than retreating into tired mantras about hatred and delegitimisation.


As Mr Justice Brandeis – a proud and distinguished Jewish Justice of the US Supreme Court – once said: sunlight is the best disinfectant. And, as we all know, shooting the messenger is simply an attempt to hide from reality. Let your correspondents and others confront these claims and their consciences, rather than attempting to conceal them. And let your readers download BTS’ site  http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/ and judge for themselves.


Yours etc
Mark Goldberg
Dover Heights
*The first consideration in selecting the countries was geographic location, to ensure that different regions were adequately represented. We also included several countries that are not democratic but are located near to Israel or share certain political features with it. 
Geographically, the countries comprised 
 > five in the Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the US, and Venezuela
> nine in Western Europe: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, 
Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK
> three in the FSU the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Russia),
> six in the Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria,
and Turkey
> four in Asia and Oceania: China, India, Japan, and New Zealand
IDI Report 2014


3 Responses to “Examining Breaking the Silence”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Yes, the best disinfectant is indeed sunlight, so why engage in obfuscation? If Israel is such an immoral society, why should the BtS testifiers not break their silence and then head off to greener pastures? Clearly, their testimonies could not tolerate sunlight and these silent heroes are also lacking in the testimonial department.

    Before using yiddish, learn a few words, like schmutz; it is not smearing like schmaltz, rather it means filth or dirt. And the BtS whistle blowers silently drop dirt on their country to BtS, an organisation that prostitutes itself to various non-Israeli nations and organisations to gather filth on Israel. It is the filthiest of lucre that BtS exchanges for treason and support for anti-Semitism.

    Oh, and the article. Lots and lots of accusations. But examples and instances that can be verified and rectified, none. The most amazing thing about the accusations is that they are fearlessly made in a society that is decried as undemocratic. Accusations that ignore the testimonies of military experts from all over Europe. Accusations that are not made in Israel which the BtS is supposed to be trying to reform, but in the EU and US. And most amazingly, the accusing mob is completely at liberty to say and go when the country on which they dump is at war.Yeah, the one the Arabs started in 1948,but then its best to be silent about that.

  2. Rami Reed says:

    The true nonsense of your claims lie in the fact that your complainants are anonymous. You do not give times, dates, units and names of the perpetrators. Furthermore your main aim is to spread your claims outside Israel and not to Israel authorities. These actions makes it impossible for the Israel authorities to examine, bring perpetrators to justice and even to make changes if needed. If you truly want to strive for.morality in the army, you bring it to the army and tje citizens and not make displays in Switzerland or Germany. These actions are aimed at simply giving voice to Israel haters and Jew haters and I know and so do you is what you really want.

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