The Truth About Breaking the Silence
Whenever someone tells me that they want to improve Israeli society, I’m all for it. I get excited about helping the Jewish state better itself. There’s still a lot to do, and we should always be looking to improve things where and when we can.
So, when Breaking the Silence (BtS) came to my campus, I should have been thrilled. After all, the group claims to want to improve Israeli society. But knowing what I did about the organization, I was upset that a group that de-legitimizes Israel through lies, distortions and falsehoods was coming to my school.
BtS’ goal, according its website, is to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.” To do so, it uses testimonies by IDF soldiers decrying the Israeli government.
But many Israeli soldiers cited by BtS have claimed that their testimonies were recorded without permission, falsified or taken out of context. BtS’ website has a whole section on transparency, but fails to mention that some of the interviews were recorded without the soldiers’ knowledge.
“They didn’t mention that they were going to record me,” said Josh Levitan, one former IDF soldier. Even soldiers who served with BtS’s main Diaspora spokesperson, Avner Gvaryahu, have claimed that he is making his claims up. “I was there every night during the period he [Gvaryahu] talks about,” said one former member of Gvaryahu’s unit. Nothing happened “the way he describes,” the soldier said.
If all of this information is public, I have to wonder why student organizations that claim to support peace are so interested in bringing BtS to campus — because, in reality, BtS holds opposing goals. BtS has consistently shown that it wants to “improve” Israel by slandering it, and by using false or coerced testimonies to delegitimize it. By bringing BtS to our campuses, we tacitly support their work.
Yes, we should support any endeavor that encourages transparency and truth-telling in Israel. But BtS does not do either.
In fact, BtS is so interested in foreign audiences that it spends enormous amounts of time and energy translating its reports into English, so that they can be published in international newspapers like the Washington Post, instead of in Israeli papers — where they could reach people who could actually change Israeli policy.
Please note that censoring BtS is not my intention, as the group certainly has the right to tell American college students its view of the conflict. But students must absolutely question the validity of everything they hear. If American college students truly want to do good, they cannot rely on whatever an organization is telling them, regardless of their political affiliation. Instead, they must rely exclusively on the facts — and this is something that BtS doesn’t want.
The author is a CAMERA Fellow at Princeton University.