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