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June 26, 2013 1:32 am

IDF Captain Breaks the Silence on Smear Campaign

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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Captain Barak Raz in the field. Photo: Tazpit News Agency.

An Israeli IDF spokesperson recently blasted Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO that claims to expose alleged wrong-doings of the IDF, in a Facebook post this past Friday, June 21.

IDF Captain Barak Raz, the spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Division, wrote that Breaking the Silence, which receives significant funding from several European government agencies and foundations such as the Norwegian embassy and Christian Aid, “engages in nothing, but NOTHING, other than a smear campaign targeting the IDF.”

In an exclusive interview with Tazpit News Agency, Raz explained that he had had “enough with the nonsense that this organization [Breaking the Silence] represents.”

“Breaking the Silence is an immature and unprofessional organization,” he told Tazpit News Agency. “At the IDF we deal with many organizations that hold counter views, but they communicate with us – there is an open e-mail and phone exchange, and verification of issues that come up. Breaking the Silence does not engage in any of that and prevents the IDF from properly addressing any of their claims.”

Founded in 2004, Breaking the Silence collects and publishes testimonies by former Israeli soldiers who served in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem while also conducting monthly tours of Hebron and the South Hebron Hills. Many of the participants who join the tours are university students visiting from abroad including a number of Europeans.

On their website, Breaking the Silence states that the soldiers’ testimonies are intended to show a “much more grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of Israel’s security.” These testimonies and reports are directed to and often carried by international media.

One video testimony shows a former female IDF soldier describing herself acting as a monster while serving in Hebron, adding that she was not the only soldier to act in such a manner.

Captain Barak Raz in the field. Photo: Tazpit News Agency.

According to Raz, there are several problems with these testimonies. On his Facebook post, he states that the IDF has standing orders, regulations, and an ethical code that soldiers must abide by. “These not only require soldiers to act according to the law, but also to report instances when things were otherwise,” he writes. “Instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes, these soldiers simply blame the army for what they did wrong,” he elaborated to Tazpit News Agency.

Furthermore, he continues: “The information used by Breaking the Silence by and large seems to derive from two sources – unverifiable hearsay or accounts from anonymous former soldiers who, sometimes, they themselves deserve to be behind bars in military prison for what they did!”

Breaking the Silence could not be reached for comment at the time of this article’s publication.

Raz said that his response to Breaking the Silence came from a more personal vantage point, although nothing that he said in his Facebook post hadn’t been formally stated by the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.

“The social media platform gave me the opportunity to express my view more personally, from my gut – and to stimulate a different kind of discussion between people across the political spectrum. I have many different followers on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, from the right and left and it’s important that they meet and communicate,” Raz explained. “Social media is a means of accomplishing that kind of discourse.”

“For me open dialogue is important, and that is exactly what Breaking the Silence does not engage in. The organization is counter-productive; it offers no solutions and misconstrues reality to fit its own political agenda – smearing the IDF.”

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  • Frank Adam

    When I see somebody being embarrassed at the appalling Arab mismanagement of Arab affairs this last century I might lose some sleep about Israel’s pecadillos which given the provocation she has suffered these 65 years has been remarkably restrained.
    In many respects Israel’s secret weapon is the file of Arab faults: incompetence, crass big headedness, failure to treat non-Arabs and kaffirs in general as equal in respect….

  • Vivienne Leijonhufvud

    How far will the propaganda machine go? Smearing the IDF is counterproductive. Israel must defend herself, the IDF are highly trained, committed to Israel and do a good job. Discipline is high, I am rather tired of all the bad press coming from around the world about Israel and her Defense forces. I don’t live in Israel, at times I wish I did. This Nation is a Nation under International Law and like any other nation must have a strong defense force, particularly as Israel is surrounded by numerous fanatical Islamic countries.

  • Loren Griffith

    In every single case where this group has made a claim that could be investigated – the results were universal. The people claiming it weren’t there and in most cases the event didn’t even take place.

    “Breaking Silence” lies EVERYTIME they claim anything at all

  • dante

    sympathy for IDF soldiers is not the goal of BTS. the goal of BTS is to vilify the IDF and Israel. there is not an army, i.e., a fighting army, that holds itself to higher moral standards and adheres more faithfully to those standards than the IDF. that doesn’t mean that compared to an ideal or utopian standard, Israel will appear to have performed well. (the situation with which Israel is confronted is complex and defending its people from barbarous attacks inevitably means imposing hardships upon innocent people. and, it must be said that savage attacks upon Israeli civilians do, on occasion, result in unacceptable retaliation. the near-universal condemnation of any Israeli defensive measures gives added impetus to the retaliatory impulse.) the game of Israel’s enemies and their accomplices is always to hold Israel to unique and unrealistic standards and to decontextualize Israel’s situation and its actions.

  • I visited Hebron on a Breaking the Silence tour last summer and what I heard was definitely not a smear of the IDF. The stories I heard from soldiers were rather more complicated and personal, stories of soldiers caught between policies directing how IDF troops respond to certain incidents that were morally and ethically puzzling to them — violet provocations of settlers and their inability to intervene in such situations. If anything, Breaking the Silence should help more people have sympathy for the situation young IDF soldiers find themselves in.

    • A Zionist

      If BtS was really about ensuring the IDF behaves properly and exposing soldiers who abuse their position, why does BtS not engage with the IDF directly?

      Instead, BtS engages in activities in Europe. They are feted, honoured and presented as celebrities. While BtS may have started with the aim of ensuring the IDF is a “moral army”, today BtS acts in a way that demonises and de-legitimises the IDF and the Jewish State of Israel. Their appearances abroad confirm that their aims have little to do with wanting to preserve and protect the IDF. Additionally, as have been argued, BtS does not give any real data that can be investigated. In cases that have been reported, it has been low ranking soldiers who have disobeyed orders, for example, stealing credit cards. They were not ordered to do so by officers and certainly not senior IDF officers.

      Unfortunately, there seems to be a peculiar trait among Jews which is to behave against the best interests of Jews. Some of the worst persecutors during the Spanish Inquisition were Jewish converts to Catholicism. During the 19th century, Jews were presented as “moral witnesses” and present Jews and Judaism as degenerate. The 20th and 21st centuries also have Jews who despise Jews and the Jewish State. They speak: “As a Jew I . . . ” whether it is Jewish Voice for Peace or other “Jewish” organisations. Dr Kenneth Levine has hypothesised that this behaviour may be a form of “Stockholm Syndrome.”

      I have not come across anything that BtS have said that makes me believe that their first objective has more to do with narcissism than with exposing faults within the IDF.

      Soldiers who are traumatised – and the IDF is not an exception – have recourse to mental health services. What occurs during war and terrorism is war, will traumatise. However, this is not the purpose of BtS. Their aim is to denounce, vilify, demonise and de-legitimise Israel and the IDF. BtS has the opportunity to show their aims; and what they chose to do is to promote an image of the IDF, OUTSIDE of Israel. There can be only one conclusion: BtS prefers its celebrity status rather than defending the Jewish people living in their Jewish homeland.

  • EthanP

    Unfortunately, in a free country like Israel that has near universal military conscription, your going to draft malcontents. While Israel has problems, as do all country’s, we must remember that “Breaking the Silence” represents a small radical fringe that would destroy their own country.

    • So a spokesperson for Zahal says something so the newspaper assumes it to be true and does not allow for the accused to have there views represented in your article. I was a volunteer in Israel on the Gaza boarder during the Six day war. I lived in Israel for a number of years and experience more than once Katyusha rockets landing in my community and I worked with Jewish settlements who experience terrorist assaults and death of their children as a result. I have degrees from both YC/YU and from Bar Ilan. I am embaresed by the policies of the Israeli State regarding the Palestinians. I have never supported the settlers nor their warped understanding of Halacha regarding settling the land.

      Israel has security concerns, but they will never have security at the point of a rifle.

      To all Jews;

      Mi ha’ish
      Hachafetz chayim
      Ohev yamim
      Lir’ot tov

      Netzor leshoncha meira
      Us’fatecha midaber mirma

      Sur meira
      Va’asei tov
      Bakesh shalom

      The gun is not rodeph shalom and calling opponents as smear tactics is not Bakesh Shalom, Pointing to our sinful practices when factually provable is not mirma.

      If anything it is Hochiach tochiach et amecha.