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May 14, 2015 8:04 pm

Former AP Journalist Expands on Criticism of ‘Breaking the Silence’ Report: ‘This is Not Journalism, It’s Propaganda’

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IDF Soliders along Israel-Syria border. Photo: wiki commons.

Israeli-Canadian journalist Matti Friedman expanded on his recent criticism on Facebook of a report by Israeli nongovernmental organization Breaking the Silence about the conduct of Israeli troops during last summer’s war in Gaza.

Friedman called the report “propaganda,” and questioned the group’s integrity of mission and motives.

“The activists from Breaking the Silence aren’t journalists, and their report is not intended to explain, but to shock,” he wrote in an article published by the Jewish-interest magazine Mosaic. “It’s propaganda.”

Friedman — whose recent claim to fame was an article he penned damning the Western media’s obsession with its Israeli-Palestinian conflict narrative that went viral — questioned the integrity of Breaking the Silence’s mission statement.

“For a group ostensibly trying to influence Hebrew-speaking Israelis, why invest so much to produce, at considerable expense, an English translation of all 237 pages of this report?” he asked.

Additionally, Friedman also questioned the bias of the group’s funders, which include a Danish Lutheran group, a French Catholic group and the governments of Switzerland and Norway.

“Do Norwegian taxpayers fund-raise an organization that encourages, say, British soldiers to reveal British army wrongdoing in the international press?” he asked.

“Breaking the Silence’s money is foreign, not Israeli, and the primary customers for its product are foreign, not Israeli,” he said.

He also noted an internal contradiction in the report itself, which appears to claim lawlessness among IDF troops who fought in Gaza.

“The soldiers regularly mention leaflets, ‘roof-knocking’ rockets, phone calls, warning shells, warning shots, lists of protected sites like U.N. facilities, and drones vetting targets for civilians before an airstrike,” he wrote.

Friedman also criticized the English rendering of the report from its original Hebrew, saying editors and translators could have been “more knowledgeable or careful: there is confusion between mortars and artillery … and between a platoon and a division … and one editor believes that an M16 rifle is a weapon mounted on a tank.”

Friedman’s commentary comes on the heels of a social campaign online by soldiers speaking out against the Breaking the Silence report, which purportedly comprised testimonies from over 60 soldiers who fought Hamas in Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip last summer.

In his earlier round of criticism for the report posted on Facebook, Friedman said, “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.”

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  • Those individuals responsible for demonizing the IDF should a) be indicted for slander through International law b) those IDF personnel stripped of their status and court marshaled for issuing slanderous information about Israel. In short treasonous gossip. What sentence does Israel impose on such personnel?

  • Posting this article on my own FB wall.

    What is propaganda? Mistranslations. Factual inaccuracies. The money trail. Who is the group targeted by propaganda? What are the compare-contrast norms of reference? Use of subjective terms.

    Am going to have to become more familiar with Matti Friedman’s work. Yes, fair, balanced and lots of good old common sense. Wish a lot of my left-leaning ‘friends’ practiced the latter when discussing Israel.

  • Top brass in the UK and USA military praised the IDF for its efforts to avoid harming civilians, compared to other armies in similar situations. I doubt that the 237 page report found space to mention this important comparison.

  • Elle

    Every soldier that contributed to “Breaking the Silence”
    should be dropped into areas governed by Islamists-just to give them a basis for comparison-you understand.

    • Ephraim


  • Barrack Hussein Obama face it – Israel is Jewish territory and it is not negotiable.
    The Arabs already have 75,000 sq. miles of Jewish land (5-6 times the size of Israel) that they confiscated from the million Jews and their children they expelled from Arab countries in the past 90 years. They also have the Jewish territory of Jordan.
    I think you do not have your facts straight – Israel belongs to the Jews.
    The Quran states it clearly.
    Israel is a Jewish State its territories are non-negotiable. It has been a Jewish country for over 4,000 years.
    The Arab-Palestinians are the occupiers. All they want is to destroy the Jews. They educated their children and the masses to commit terror and violence against Israel. The dance in the streets when the twin towers in 9-11 collapsed and 3,000 Americans died.
    It is amazing how you and many others choose to ignore that the Arab countries have expelled over a million Jews and their children from their countries in the last 90 years. Jews who lived there for over 2,000 years. The Arabs confiscated their assets, businesses, homes and real estate 5-6 times the size of Israel – 120,440 sq. km. or 75,000 sq. miles which is valued in the trillions of dollars.
    Any Arab who is not happy to live under the Israeli government can move there.
    Study your history; Muhammed in 627 about 1,500 years ago beheaded 700 Jews in Medina which was a Jewish town in Saudi Arabia, he killed all the men took the women as slaves and raped their daughters. This is just the tip of history.
    Do you want more study the complete unbiased history objectively.
    YJ Draiman
    There was never an Arab-Palestinian State in Greater Israel and there will never be – face it.
    The Ottoman land records of Palestine confirm that the Arabs did not own land, the were sharecroppers. Over 90% of the land was owned by the government the balance was owned by absentee wealthy Arabs from Lebanon who sold it to the Jews at premium prices.
    It is time to implement population transfer for all the Arabs.
    who create violence, riot and attack Jews and anyone else. They could be relocated to the home and land of the million Jewish people and their children, expelled from Arab countries or Jordan.
    YJ Draiman.
    Tell the White House official to return occupied Texas and other states to Mexico and the rest of the United States to the Indians.
    The Jews have a history with Israel going over 4,000 years. The Americans have only a few hundred years of occupation and deliberate destruction of the Indians.
    YJ Draiman.

  • Reform School

    With apologies to Zippy and J. Fred Muggs, AP is so thoroughly infested by APE-minded reporters it is no shock that Friedman’s presence is neither appreciated nor earned.