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Monday, May 4, 2015
NGO Monitor: Europe to Breaking the Silence: Bring Us As Many Incriminating Testimonies As Possible

Europe to Breaking the Silence: Bring Us As Many Incriminating Testimonies
As Possible
NGO Monitor
May 04, 2015

On May 4, 2015, the political advocacy NGO Breaking the Silence (BtS)
published a booklet of testimonies concerning the Summer 2014 Gaza conflict.
(As of the morning of May 4, it is only available in Hebrew.) It stands to
reason that this publication is meant to support the UN’s “Schabas”
investigation and bolster attempts to bring charges against Israeli
officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC). As with many other BtS
publications, this report lacks all credibility and objectivity. Likewise,
the extensive foreign funding that Breaking the Silence receives, as well as
its international political activities, highlight the problems with this

Despite the NGO’s claim that its mission is to address Israeli society, BtS
lobbying, media campaigns, and frequent appearances in Europe and the United
States target international audiences. Next month (June 4-14), BtS activists
will appear in Switzerland to present their political agenda at an event
organized by supporters of pro-BDS groups.

European Funders and Their Agenda
-The publication was written with direct and indirect funding from a number
of foreign governments. According to BtS, “this booklet was produced thanks
to the generous contributions of: Christian Aid, Dan Church Aid, Human
Rights and International Law Secretariat, Open Society Foundations,

Donor Organization Donor Country Funding for 2014 (NIS)
Christian Aid United Kingdom Unknown
Dan Church Aid Denmark 309,486
Human Rights and International Law Secretariat Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark
and the Netherlands 382,953 + an emergency grant, amount unknown
Trocaire Ireland 72,377
Open Society Foundations Private- George Soros Unknown

- Contrary to BtS’ claim that “the contents and opinions in this booklet do
not express the position of the funders,” NGO Monitor research reveals that
a number of funders made their grants conditional on the NGO obtaining a
minimum number of negative “testimonies.” This contradicts BtS’ declarations
and thus turns it into an organization that represents its foreign donors’
interest, severely damaging the NGO’s reliability and its ability to analyze
complicated combat situations.

- A screenshot of a document from 2009 (obtained from the Israeli Registrar
of Non-Profits) shows how the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Dutch
church-based aid organization ICCO (primarily funded by the Dutch
government), and Oxfam Great Britain (funded by the British government)
required Breaking the Silence to obtain negative testimonies (full
translation available from NGO Monitor):

See here for original source.

[Translated into English by NGO Monitor staff]

Oxfam: the company [BtS] signed an agreement with Oxfam, a British
organization, to conduct interviews with “as many” soldiers as possible who
will testify regarding [Israeli] “immoral actions” that violate human
rights. In 2009, the British organization donated 74,595 NIS to the

ICCO: the agreement obligates the company to interview at least 90 soldiers
a year, to prepare testimonies of female soldiers, document everything that
is happening in Hebron and publish an “encyclopedia of the occupation”. The
company received 42, 000 euros from the organization in 2009. The agreement
is signed by both parties.

British Embassy: In this case as well, the donation is aimed at documenting
and interviewing soldiers talking about the territories. The British embassy
donated 271,891 NIS to the company in 2009.

- On August 2, 2014 the Human Rights and International Law Secretariat
(jointly funded by Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands)
transferred “emergency funding” to nine NGOs, including BtS, in order to
document “human rights and international humanitarian law violations during
the course of Israel’s ongoing military offensive on the Gaza Strip.”

- BtS’s donors in 2013-2014 include the European Union, Misereor (Germany),
Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Norway, AECID (Spain), Dan Church Aid
(Denmark), ICCO (Netherlands), CCFD (France), Human Rights and International
Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the
Netherlands), Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK), SIVMO (Netherlands), Rockefeller
Brothers Fund, Open Society Institute, and New Israel Fund.

Initial Analysis
-BtS makes sweeping accusations based on anecdotal, anonymous and
unverifiable testimonies of low level soldiers. These “testimonies” lack
context, ignoring the fact that during the 2014 Gaza War heavy fighting took
place between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, and that soldiers faced
grave danger throughout the conflict from rockets, mortar shells, and
terrorists emerging from tunnels dug beneath private homes. These
distortions and erasures dovetail BtS’ ideological agenda and fuel
delegitmization campaigns against Israel.

-A careful reading of the testimonies reveals that IDF soldiers conducted
themselves according to the norms expected of soldiers (Israeli or from
other democratic countries) when faced with the challenges of high-intensity
fighting. The testimonies (if indeed reliable) that portray questionable
incidents should be fully investigated. In such instances, the testimony and
relevant individuals should be referred to the Military Advocate General
Corps, which can order an investigation to be opened. That BtS did not
approach the MAG Corps raises serious questions regarding the NGO’s motives.

- BtS’ allegations that the IDF operated according to a principle of
“minimum risk to our forces, even at the cost of harming innocent civilians”
together with “an attempt to terrorize the Palestinians” and that “serious
questions arise as to the moral norms that guide IDF operations” do not
tally with the testimonies, and are nothing more than an attempt by the NGO
to portray the events in line with its political agenda.

- In its introduction, BtS fails to mention that terrorist groups in Gaza
launched rockets, dug tunnels, and placed almost all of their fighting
positions in civilian areas in Gaza, including mosques, schools, and
hospitals. Thus, the organization provides a partial portrayal of the
rationale that guided the IDF. Additionally, BtS does not explain that the
IDF used multiple methods of warning civilians to leave areas of fighting in
a way that is above and beyond the norm among Western countries. Methods
included leaflets, phone calls, and “roof knocking.”

- In many cases, the testimonies and the headlines create an impression that
soldiers wanted to commit crimes. For instance, a testimony titled “I really
really wanted to shoot her in the knees” actually describes how terrorist
groups used civilians and animals to attack IDF troops. Another testimony
mentions that the IDF attacked Wafa Hospital, but neglects to mention the
terrorists operating from within the hospital.

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