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May 5, 2015 8:29 pm

Former AP Journalist Blasts ‘Breaking the Silence’ Report on Israeli Conduct in Gaza

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Matti Friedman wrote a detailed criticism of the recent report by NGO Breaking the Silence on the conduct of Israel's soldiers in last summer's war. PHOTO: Matti Friedman Facebook.

Former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman on Tuesday wrote a scathing criticism of the recently issued report from NGO Breaking the Silence on the conduct of Israeli soldiers during last summer’s Gaza war.

In an extended Facebook post, Friedman blasted the report, and simultaneously tried to put it in context.

Friedman began by addressing testimony presented by Israeli soldiers in the report, to the effect that their compliance with the laws of war was much more lax than it should have been. He noted that “War is awful” and “people come back feeling upset about things they’ve seen and done. Some observers are reliable, and others aren’t.” He said that “Some of the things described in the report no doubt happened as they were described. Others didn’t. Infantrymen at the bottom of the hierarchy often don’t understand what they’re seeing, or the reasons for what they’re doing, and I’m speaking from experience.”

According to Friedman, such orders that might seem too aggressive at the ground level would make more sense the higher one goes up on the ladder of the military hierarchy.

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“For example, open-fire regulations at a particular time could seem too aggressive given your limited understanding of where you are.” But, he said, “If you have all of the information at your disposal – and no soldier does – you might understand why.”

Yet, things are different for the higher military echelons who, by nature of their positions, have a better understanding and vision of the total battlefield. “A target shelled for reasons unknown to you might have been shelled for good reason after all. Or not. You don’t know, and in many cases (but not all) it’s a mistake to think you do.”

Because of that inherent inability to understand the total battlefield, Friedman says that, “drawing broad conclusions about Israeli military practice from ‘testimonies’ of this kind is irresponsible.”

He also had criticism for the journalists who reported on the findings of the Breaking the Silence report and assigned credibility to its content. “I hope that most intelligent people have stopped taking international press coverage of Israel too seriously,” said Friedman.

He also criticized their methodology. “Professional journalists looking at this report, and at similar reports, should be asking… Compared to what? IDF open-fire regulations are lax – compared to what? Civilian casualty rates are high – compared to what? Compared to the U.S. in Fallujah? The British in Northern Ireland? The Canadians in Helmand Province?”

He added that, “‘Lax’ and ‘high’ are relative terms. If Israel is being compared to other countries in similar situations, we need to know what the comparison is. Otherwise, beyond the details of individual instances the broad criticism is meaningless.”

Regarding Breaking the Silence, Friedman noted that while it was once an organization made up of IDF veterans trying to “expose Israelis to the nature of service in the occupied territories in order to have a political impact on Israeli society,” it was no longer such an organization.

“Now it is something else,” said Friedman, since its funds come largely from European donors, making it an organization, “which serves mainly to provide international reporters with the lurid examples of Israeli malfeasance that they crave.”

Because of the fact that Breaking the Silence is no longer attempting to address Israeli society, its motives and reports must be suspect, Friedman said. And so long as it acts in the interests of foreign powers, rather than Israelis, “Israelis will continue to live without the strong left that we need – one that comes from Israel, is part of Israel, and is concerned with bettering our society, not with posturing for an audience abroad whose hostile obsession with us has nothing to do with us at all,” Friedman said.

Friedman drew attention last summer for an extensive critique of the AP’s coverage of Israel, published by Tablet magazine.

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  • manley kiefer

    Most people believe in what they want to believe. foor them the fact are irrelevant.

    • manley kiefer

      Sorry,I should edit the errors in what I write before sending

  • Aurora

    I suggest a visit to this link, and read the comprehensive analysis of what happened in Gaza beach

    http://www.thomaswictor.com/category/hamas-operation-on-gaza-beach/

  • David Goshen

    I have only one question .Was Matti Friedman actually in Gaza during the last Gaza War and saw things first hand.
    If his information send ,third ,forth,hand etc it is questionable how much we can rely on what he has to say.
    It would have been more useful if the report he refers to was published with his article.

  • Ben

    I would like to hear anyone in the Israeli army (from common soldier to the president) to provide an explanation for the bombing of beach, where kids were playing football. What overall strategy can justify this?

    • Alex

      While I don’t fit the criteria of your request, I will attempt to offer some perspective on the tragedy of the 4 boys.

      Firstly though lets bear in mind that people witnessing/involved in traumatic events, can be confused or in shock etc, emotions can take over which can affect their perception of what happened, resulting in inaccurate/flawed testimony.

      “The fixation on witnesses reflects the weight given to personal testimony. As shown by recent studies, this weight must be balanced by an awareness that it is not necessary for a witness to lie or be coaxed by prosecutorial error to inaccurately state the facts—the mere fault of being human results in distorted memory and inaccurate testimony. ”

      http://agora.stanford.edu/sjls/Issue%20One/fisher&tversky.htm

      so the above article (linked to above) provides some insight to this, and this inaccurate testimony appears to be the type of testimony Breaking the Silence takes as factual , also of course people make mistakes, even in warfare.

      For example the main media perspective is that the “4 boys were killed playing soccer on the beach”

      possibly in the rush to be first to get the story in print, not a lot of research is done on the story and witnesses accounts are taken at face value.

      in the news report linked to below, we have “four Palestinian boys playing hide and seek on the beach”

      http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2014/s4052421.htm

      The BBC report (below) by Lyse Doucet, contains further information, where Lyse appears to present an informed and balanced report.

      an Israeli warplane (some reports say an Israeli gun boat)hitting a navel container at the Gaza port facilities, this as can be seen is situated, not on the beach but on the start of the sea wall that provides protection to the boats in the port.

      Also the 4 boys were scavenging for scrap metal according to Lyse, so perhaps not playing soccer on the beach or playing hide and seek. another report has 4 boys playing near a “shack”

      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28334215

      a navel container then , would belong to Hamas. probably a drop off point for smugglers to unload weaponry etc, they have smuggled in by fishing boat. so it is a legitimate target. according to the IDF they had received “intelligence pointing specifically to that location”

      It would seem then that a legitimate Hamas target was hit in the first strike and that a tragic error was made in the second.

      The question I have, is why these boys were allowed to play/scavenge around a Hamas navel container in a time of war in the first place.
      with no warnings given to the children about it , no warning signs / danger tape in place around the navel container etc, no Hamas guard keeping people away.

      “A witness who identified himself only as Abu Ahmed said the boys had been scavenging for scrap metal when the first shell hit a nearby shipping container used in the past by Hamas security forces.”

      http://ukmediawatch.org/2014/07/17/peter-beaumont-in-gaza-20-articles-18800-words-not-one-report-on-hamas-human-shields/

    • This incident was fabricated by Hamas to blame the IDF for something they did not do. Read info here:
      http://www.thomaswictor.com/was-the-gaza-beach-incident-a-setup/

    • Tony Riley

      The IDF had warned families living nearby to stay indoors as it was going to be operating in the area.

      According to the parents of one of the children who was killed, they had been told by their parents to stay in their rooms, but had slipped out.

      The IDF was shelling a shipping container that Hamas used to store munitions.

      The children were mistaken for adults by the gunner on-board the Israeli warship.

      It was a tragic accident.

    • Joy Noseworthy

      Well it is simple. It was a set up by the Arabs. The boys had already been killed. The other was a actor part of the plan. Research into the video, the testimony and other reports have proven a set up. Look into it yourself. If you are interested in the truth that is.

    • A lie makes it’s way half way around the world before the truth has time to……Churchill. And that was in his lifetime!

    • Alan

      Ben, that actual incident has been well proven as a staged and cinical event by Hamas!

  • Nadia

    For me they are big traitors and losers. I can tell them it to face in Hebrew too. And in few other languages too. In all times traitors were getting death sentence…. for me would be enough send them along with lefti wing to aza.

  • Tim Horgan

    Erskine Childers wrote this brillint report as far back as 1961 for The Spectator-

    http://www.users.cloud9.net/~recross/israel-watch/ErskinChilders.html

  • Charles Martel

    If it is between Israeli soldiers living and Muslims dying I vote for the Israeli soldiers living.I doubt Muslim soldiers stay up at night worrying about Jewish lives!

    Watching the Shia and Sunnis kill each other should alert Jews where they stand in the battle with Islam.

    Jews must remember that they have but One country where they can defend themselves.Waging wars of self defense sometimes require that you do not get caught up in a Morality Play.The world will not spend a minute mourning the Jewish state!

  • Ignorance is TOXIC

    Breaking the Silence is run by former ISRAELI SOLDIERS who allow other ISRAELI SOLDIERS to give testimony about their service in the West Bank and Gaza so OTHER ISRAELIS, like their own family members, know what they are asked to do…to create pressure to stop forcing Israelis to do it. All the BS you people spew out of ignorance is mind-blowing. Go to their website and read it and view it for yourself. Stop blindly commenting and defending what you no idea about.

    • My name is Yishai

      It WAS ORIGINALLY run by former Israeli soldiers.
      NOW its masters sit in BERLIN and THE HAGUE.
      Look at the left side of this comment. That’s how BIG BOYS write their name.

  • Judy

    http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/

    Tell the truth and stop hiding behind that Zionist rubbish

    • Yishai

      This column is about journalism as a profession.
      It’s not even about BTS credibility, but the way journalists eat up their reports and conclusions.
      As for politics, it seems like he’s trying to improve the left, rather than prove the right.
      Where’s the “Zionist rubbish”?

    • chris

      Propaganda and false information as usual from the Irish…even Gadaffi -no friend of Israel-told the facts that it was the Arab states which were really responsible for the refugee problem..how come they did not settle in Arab states as Jews did in Israel and as every other Refugee does all over the world..because the pro-Palestinian fools insist on keeping them as a political fodder,Damn all those who use the Palestinian in this way including every ignorant fool,specially a westerner who support this terrorists state to come into existence…the devil is really happy with the haters of this people.. Down with the barbaric people who have not an ounce of love in them,and Long live the people of the book,the Jews! never ever should there be another Tyrannical Arab state created,specially one that never ever existed and one which sole existence will be to destroy the Jewish one!

  • A Local Rabbit

    That “Breaking the Silence” is a bigotted group with a message-statement bias is clear from its name. They must maintain that there is a conspiracy, an international conspiracy, involving control of the “media” but one or more unnamed groups. (Guess who.)

    As far as I can tell, killing civilians during combat is not a war crime. Killing civilians deliberately is a ware crime, killing civilains with disregard may be a war crime, depending on the circumstances.

    Because they dropped leaflets warning the civilian population of Gaza, knowing that the racist-Palestinist, Muslim supremecist group would be warned of imminent troop actions, I don’t think that the IDF or the Israeli government can be seriously accused of war crimes. (Although the members of Hamas can.)

  • Tzviah Mock

    The NGO Breaking the Silence Report, has willingly left out many questions?
    1)Why did Israel, with it’s formidable military power, not use it’s airforce to wipe out Gaza?
    Certainly, compared to other Countries at War, this has been done.
    2) Comparatively speaking, what would other Countries Military Forces do, if their Countries or Citizens were showered with thousands of Rockets? The U.S,. Britain, France, Sweden, Australia, Argentina?
    Would the NGO’s be judging these Countries actions the way they are now reporting on Israel’s.

    Israel has behaved as morally as possible during a War they did not want which was forced upon them by HAMAS.
    Because of this restraint, they will likely face the same War in a few years, because HAMAS is already using foreign funding to rebuild their Assault Tunnels into Israel.

    Where are the NGO Reports on HAMAS’s culpability?

    Someone should Break the Silence and report on HAMAS’s
    conduct.

  • Enezio E. de Almeida Filho

    They should move their office to Gaza!

  • Jack

    I come from a Canadian family that has stands for freedom and the right sort of integrity if telling the truth about reality.
    Freedom of the press id alive and well in the West and Israel, just look at the plethora of choice in news sources and credible editorial response.
    That doesn’t exclude the inclusion of the less than honest in the crowd.
    Just the contrary.
    “I hope that most intelligent people have stopped taking international press coverage of Israel too seriously,” said Friedman.
    Indeed. In fact intelligent people must look at the lopsided bias with a heavy dose of black farce/comedy psyche just to protect themselves from the lies told!
    After all, to accept the actions and statements of the likes of Hamas and abu Abbas at face value is really, REALLY STUPID.
    COMICALLY stupid.
    At lest it helps me to see things in that light.
    Because the likes of Hamas are criminals, and psychotically so.(excuse my grammar)

  • robert davis

    I compared medias’lies against Israel to the french army’s lies against Dreyfus in 1895 : the army put allof its strength to destroy Dreyfus with fabricated documents,endless interrogations and even putting hin in chains on the place where he was sent out the island of the devil in a 4m2 room for ,years. When eventually the famous writer Emile ZOLA and the people who fought bitterly to free him and succeeded to bring him back to france and return him to court with all the evidence against another officer(esterhazy)what ahappened? he would still not be innocented,just “pardoned” for a crime he did not commit. And what happened to the traitor,christian office hesterhazy? NOTHING!!!suddenly the enormous,huge offence became…NOTHING! He was not even jailed! The reason? political strength which today spells GEO POLITICS.As long as Israel will be geo-politically weak because of the presence of”palestinians” whom europe wants to replace jews in Western Palestine the medias will replace truth with LIES! To return truth to its right place then return arabs to jordan.

    • Daniel Sabag

      Well said

  • David
  • This article — defending acts that are, in many cases, undefensable when looked at by the common person, not the military strategist whose goal is to win at any cost — seemed pretty biased to me.

    War IS hell….and I get that.

    In war both sides do AW(e)FUL things…to each other and to themselves.

    And some of those AW(e)ful things are, if the goal is win-at-all-costs, some of those things are justifiable. But to say that if you had the whole picture you would agree with what was done (by both sides) is HOGWASH.

    • Yishai

      This article is about journalism. Specifically, it’s about laziness of writers, who take NGOs’ reports and assign them both credibility and weight they don’t deserve. Where did you see defence of acts?

  • Last night on Al Jazeerah UK this very subject came up. I was astonished at the IDF boys who slandered Israeli practice in war. Further more if anyone had been following last years campaign ‘Operation Protective Edge’ and I am referring to International journalists such persons should have been aware Israel warned those in war zones to vacate their homes. These boys did not mention this fact or the fact that Hamas used civilians as shields. Naturally Qatari owned Al Jazeerah jumped on this report from these boys again another example of propaganda against Israel. These boys need court marshaling for providing distorted facts to Al Jazeerah. Al Jazeerah US is now under scrutiny for its anti-simetic bias and women’s rights. I have no choice where I am but to view ALJ and Euronews, neither station gives the whole picture.

    • Tzviah Mock

      These IDF Soldiers criticizing Israel’s practice during a War commenced by HAMAS, can only do so, because they are fortunate enough to be living in Israel, where their freedom of speech is protected in a Democracy.

      If they were living in GAZA, and criticized HAMAS war policies, they would be tortured and executed.

      No Army is perfect, but they should keep in mind, Israel did not start or want this War. Israel was protecting them, & their families from HAMAS rockets.

      These Soldiers should be disciplined. There is a limit to free speech when in the Military, or even once you leave the Military. They should not be allowed to air their grievances on Al Jazeera.

      We will never see Al Jazeera, with Hamas soldiers airing their grievances. Did these IDF soldiers wonder why, or did they think HAMAS acted appropriately?

    • michael

      He said they bombed civilian targets for recreation!!!!!! Stfu!!!!!

  • Isaac Brajtman

    I hope somebody takes notice

  • brenrod

    its time to treat those taking foreign money to libel the Jews and Israel, as criminals. Pogroms of the past were always preceded by such libels and therefore those uttering the libels are collaborating in attempted murder and genocide. Such libel endangers Jewish children. The Jewish children murdered in France are incited by the libels of these soldiers, they must be charged with collaboration in murder, just like any other criminal.

  • SARA RIFKA

    THIS TOPIC IS HARD TO JUDGE…….WAR IS WAR….AND, AS FAR AS SIGHT STATES……THEY ARE NOT COPYING THE AGGRESSOR…..THERE IS MORE WAR IN THE SILENCE OF MEN LIKE OBAMA PUTIN SPONGE BOB FROM N, KOREA AND MORE…..DON’T SWALLOW THE NEWS….DON’T SWALLOW THE HATEFUL MEWS FROM THOSE WHO HATE US…..

    THE FIGHT IS FOR LIFE……..ISRAEL IS THE BIGGEST ASPECT OF THIS AND FORGET THE JARGON ON WHO IS WORSE THAN THE OTHER…..WE ALREADY KNOW THIS…….

  • Genghis Cohen

    In 1947, I was one one of the men in the street who were incredulous about the U.N. partition plan for Palestine. We men in the street, like the infantry in the field, could not grasp the total picture. In 1947 the man in the street still had faith in the U.N., so we failed to grasp that the U.N. portion allotted to Israel was deliberately indefensible. As soon as it went into effect in 1948, Israel was attacked by the surrounding Arab States. To the surprise of Europe and the U.N., Israel defeated them and took the land needed to make it a defensible state. But, where successive military attacks failed, Israel’s enemies now employ virulent propaganda. By surviving against all odds then and now,Israel will eventually gain the grudging admiration of whatever passes as the civilized world.

  • Hamas made sure that Israel was fighting with one hand tied behind its back, since there is no official Gazan army and the policy is to deliberately place civilians – preferably children – in the firing line to act as human shields. The name of the organization, “Breaking the Silence” is telling, what silence? Who is ever silent when it comes to attacking Israel? A more appropriate name would have been “Join the Cacophony”. Listen to what Richard Kemp, himself a soldier, has to say about how the IDf behaves in conflict situations.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    An honest journalist speaking free of the fetters of NGOs, mainstream media outlets–refreshing!

  • manley kiefer

    -there are no angels – so take your choice of which angels you prefer.

  • rachel robinson

    They must have forgotten the idea that “all is fair in war” etc.
    I find it hard to believe that the Israeli soldiers said what is quoted, it was such a horrible thing that all those missiles were aimed at the centers of populations, and I do not believe that the soldiers did not think that their families and their countrymen were not in a horrible danger. I object to any inquiry whatsoever of how Israel fought this war, whatever they did was not only justified but required, and too bad that only 2200 or so died in Gaza. That number should have been ten times higher, maybe then they would stop killing Israelis.

  • Vivarto

    Why is it legal for Israelis to receive money for subversive purposes from foreign powers?

    • Yishai

      Lazy legislators and over-sensitivity to what is fair in democracy. Short comparison between the American and Israeli political systems:
      In the US, a congress man who won’t take the oath can’t serve. In Israel some serving MK’s won’t recognise the very state they are supposed to serve. In the US, receiving political donations from abroad is illegal. In Israel, it’s common practice. In the US, whole sectors of the population that are spread uniformly across the country don’t get represented and their alternative votes don’t count in the two party system. In Israel, there are dozens of represented parties and forming a government has to take that into account.
      So blocking foreign influence is easier said than done…

  • myra vero

    Finally somebody is objective.

  • nelson marans

    It is noteworthy that in the detailed and virulently anti-Israel report, purported violations of moral codes but not necessarily of international law, that the NGO refused to disclose the names of the soldier critics of the actions of the military in Gaza. Certainly, the military was aware of the treacherous tactics used by Hamas and the required response.

  • Reform School

    The days AP reports critical of its agenda were tolerated went the way of dinosaurs, pterodactyls and dodo birds.

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/494799._Dumbth_

    photobucket.com/images/Loose lips sink ships

  • art

    Braeking the silence like nif, b’teleem, etc. are foreign funded organizations dedicated to destabilizing and delegitimizing Israel

  • Mickey Oberman

    Not much has changed in 2000 years.

    It seems the preaching of the ‘Prince of Peace’ had little influence on the irreligious pagan hordes.

  • Palestinians Rights
    Palestinians want their rights from Israel and the world
    The Jewish left and the world want to give Palestinians their rights.
    Do they understand that Rights means: respect, tolerance, responsibility, fairness and equal treatment, one-person one vote, and civil and religious rights…..?
    Palestinian men, women and children have no rights in Palestine society.
    Palestinians solve their social and political differences with each other through murder.
    They want rights from Israel but for each other there are no rights? I don’t understand?
    What will they do with these rights? Save them? Sell them?

    Robin Rosenblatt
    22 Yarnall Place
    Redwood City, CA 94063
    650.6319270
    robin@longhornproject.org
    http://longhornproject.org

  • On patrol in Jabalya, a small city in Gaza

    While patrolling a side street with 3 three other soldiers we had a group of 20 to 30, 7 to 8 year old Arab children following after us throwing mud and stones at us, never very accurately or forcefully. They would also as small children do, run close to us tempting us to catch them. They were very fast and we seldom caught them. When we did the sergeant would tell them in Arabic, ” You should be ashamed of yourself, why are you not in school”. I didn’t think he was bridging the culture gap.

    One afternoon while patrolling that same street, we had the normal bunch of kids behind us. We found it was far easier to ignore them rather then catch them. But, on that day we passed a coffee house were several male Arab adults were sitting. They saw what the children were doing and began to yell at them, the children yell back. This went back and forth several times an escalated to trading insults.

    Then the adults told us in Arabic and gestured to us to shoot the children. These children were related and known to these adults. After the patrol, I check with the sergeant, who spoke Arabic, not believing what I saw. He confirmed to me, that the adults had told us to shoot their children.

    I don’t understand how anyone can live peacefully next-door to neighbors like that.

  • Carl

    Well stated! Too bad the world’s “journalists” and politicians have no real interest in the truth when it comes to Israel. The standard they compare Israel to – unique among all other nations – is absolute perfection.

  • Well done. Exactly what needed to be told for a very long time now.
    Keep it up.

    Henry

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