Australian Zionists fear Israeli group Breaking the Silence and its message on IDF immorality


Posted by: The Ugly Truth

This is an in­struc­tive story of how main­stream Aus­tralian Jew­ish groups are pet­ri­fied that a) the pub­lic will hear crit­i­cal and truth­ful views about Is­raeli be­hav­iour in the West Bank and b) a de­sire to “pro­tect” Jews from even un­der­stand­ing what Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion means.
A fea­ture ap­peared in The Age and Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald last week by Ruth Pol­lard which de­tailed shock­ing new al­le­ga­tions by IDF per­son­nel and their be­hav­iour against Pales­tin­ian chil­dren. Mur­doch’s Aus­tralian also cov­ered the rev­e­la­tions. The Aus­tralian Jew­ish News was out­raged, pro­vid­ing a space for Zion­ist spokes­peo­ple to damn all the al­le­ga­tions:

“An­other Is­rael-bash­ing head­line”, “a fla­grantly one-sided piece” and “thread­bare and un­sub­stan­ti­ated ­allegations”.
Just a hand­ful of com­ments from com­mu­nity lead­ers and the Is­raeli em­bassy this week fol­low­ing the ex­ten­sive cov­er­age in the Aus­tralian media of a re­port is­sued by Is­raeli vet­er­ans group Break­ing The Si­lence (BTS) about the treat­ment of Pales­tin­ian chil­dren at the hands of the IDF.

A state­ment was re­leased by Danny Lamm, Pres­i­dent of the Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil of Aus­tralian Jewry:

“How sad it is that once-great broad­sheets like the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald and The Age have been re­duced to fea­tur­ing crude pro­pa­ganda on their front page.
Their story al­leg­ing mal­treat­ment of chil­dren by the IDF re­lied on state­ments sup­pos­edly made by ex-IDF per­son­nel to the vet­er­ans’ group ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’. But the thrust of these state­ments is a re­hash of re­ports pub­lished in pre­vi­ous months by a group of British lawyers who vis­ited Is­rael’s mil­i­tary courts and by the NGO, De­fence of Chil­dren In­ter­na­tional, and they ap­pear to be based on the same or sim­i­lar sources.
The state­ments pub­lished by ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’ were char­ac­terised by the Her­ald and the Age as “tes­ti­monies” but in fact they are anony­mous, non-spe­cific as to times and places, de­void of crit­i­cal de­tail and untested by any kind of cross-ques­tion­ing. The pho­tographs of cry­ing chil­dren lack any de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion or con­text and are cal­cu­lated to play to the emo­tions of read­ers, not to in­form.
It is im­pos­si­ble for the IDF, or any or­gan­i­sa­tion, to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of such a gen­er­alised na­ture, es­pe­cially while Break­ing the Si­lence in­sists on main­tain­ing the anonymity of all of its sources and with-hold­ing other rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion. One sus­pects that their com­plaints are not being made with a view to hav­ing them in­ves­ti­gated and ad­dressed but solely for their pro­pa­ganda ef­fect.
If Break­ing the Si­lence is gen­uine in its com­plaints and is not sim­ply seek­ing to pur­sue a po­lit­i­cal agenda, it has a moral duty to make all rel­e­vant ma­te­r­ial avail­able to the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral or the Mil­i­tary Ad­vo­cate, who have re­peat­edly of­fered to in­ves­ti­gate any com­plaints as soon as they have some­thing con­crete to in­ves­ti­gate. They have never shrunk from in­ves­ti­gat­ing, and where ap­pro­pri­ate pros­e­cut­ing, spe­cific al­le­ga­tions of wrong-do­ing that have been re­ferred to them.
Sadly, many Aus­tralians will have read this story in a su­per­fi­cial way or merely viewed the head­line and the pho­tographs. They are being left with the false, in­deed ridicu­lous, im­pres­sion that the IDF is a se­ri­ous abuser of chil­dren’s rights, in­deed the most se­ri­ous abuser of such rights in the Mid­dle East. There is not a word in the story about the sys­tem­atic in­doc­tri­na­tion of Pales­tin­ian chil­dren at school and through the media and the de­lib­er­ate use of chil­dren as com­bat­ants and ter­ror­ists by armed Pales­tin­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions.
It was also telling that a gen­uine and sub­stan­ti­ated re­port about a mas­sacre of ap­prox­i­mately 300 civil­ians by the Asad regime in Syria the pre­vi­ous day was rel­e­gated to a minor story on page 7 of the Her­ald and was un­ac­com­pa­nied by pho­tographs of dead and dying Syr­ian chil­dren, which are dis­tress­ingly easy to find on­line.”

Other Jew­ish “lead­ers”, in­clud­ing AIJAC head Colin Ruben­stein and Labor MP Michael Danby, added more sound and fury:

Michael Danby told J-Wire: “I felt The Age cov­er­age was worse than the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­alds as their head­line was more bi­ased and the graph­ics used were larger and more emo­tive.”
Speak­ing at the open­ing in Mel­bourne of the Is­raeli Film Fes­ti­val, Danby said: “I was not sur­prised to see the Fair­fax share price plum­met­ing. On days when hun­dreds of civil­ians were being killed in Syria, The Age and the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald were re­hash­ing un­ver­i­fied re­hashed pro­pa­ganda against Is­rael.” He ap­pealed to Greg Hay­wood, the chair­man of Fair­fax to ex­plain why his chain gave such promi­nence to this story.”
Colin Ruben­stein: It was pro­foundly dis­ap­point­ing to see Aus­tralia’s lead­ing broad­sheets – the Aus­tralian, Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald and Age –  so un­crit­i­cally re­peat­ing the lat­est re­hashed  pro­pa­ganda from the con­tro­ver­sial left-wing Is­raeli NGO Break­ing the Si­lence.
There is lit­tle new in­for­ma­tion in the re­port. It is es­sen­tially a repack­ag­ing of some 30 ex­ist­ing so-called “tes­ti­monies” of for­mer sol­diers from the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s files in a politi­cised at­tempt to por­tray the IDF as sys­tem­atic abusers of Pales­tin­ian chil­dren, and gain head­lines.
More­over, of the 30 tes­ti­monies cited in the re­port, about half iden­tify no ac­tual wrong-do­ing – only that some sol­diers were un­com­fort­able with cer­tain per­fectly legal tac­ti­cal de­ci­sions such as con­duct­ing late-night ar­rest raids on homes.
Even in the un­likely event that the 15 or so in­ci­dents of al­leged wrong-do­ing, oc­cur­ring over six years, in this re­port were fully con­firmed, this would not alter the fact the IDF re­mains prob­a­bly the most moral army in the world. This is not merely slo­ga­neer­ing but a re­al­ity based upon the rig­or­ous stan­dards it im­poses upon it­self and the self-polic­ing mech­a­nisms in place.

Break­ing the Si­lence then re­leased a re­sponse to all the crit­i­cisms:

In re­sponse to a re­cent pub­li­ca­tion by the Is­raeli vet­eran or­ga­ni­za­tion Break­ing the Si­lence, Dr Danny Lamm, pres­i­dent of the Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil of Aus­tralian Jewry, bla­tantly at­tacked us – vet­er­ans of the Is­raeli De­fense Forces – call­ing the pub­li­ca­tion “crude pro­pa­ganda”…. 
From Dana Golan [Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor – Break­ing the Si­lence]
Dr Lamm in­sin­u­ates that the tes­ti­monies pub­lished by Break­ing the Si­lence are not cred­i­ble, sug­gest­ing that they are man­u­fac­tured by the or­ga­ni­za­tion 
“solely for their pro­pa­ganda ef­fect.” The anonymity of the tes­ti­monies and the fact that they are al­legedly “untested by any kind of cross-ques­tion­ing” is his sole ev­i­dence.
Break­ing the Si­lence is an or­ga­ni­za­tion of over 850 Is­raeli vet­er­ans – male and fe­male com­bat sol­diers and of­fi­cers who served in the IDF in the harsh­est days of the last decade. Our pub­li­ca­tions meet the high­est stan­dards of in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism. All un­usual and ex­cep­tional tes­ti­monies must be cor­rob­o­rated by two in­de­pen­dent sources be­fore pub­li­ca­tion; and anonymity, as every jour­nal­ist knows, is a con­di­tion for ex­po­sure of wrong-do­ing. As any vis­i­tor to the web­site can see, dozens of vet­er­ans have in fact tes­ti­fied with­out anonymity, their names and faces re­vealed on cam­era.
Now we vet­er­ans won­der how some­one who pur­ports to be a sup­porter of Is­rael can make such in­sid­i­ous al­le­ga­tions against us, ques­tion­ing our loy­alty and in­tegrity. How can some­one who is sup­posed to have our backs then at­tack us from be­hind? From where, we ask, does Dr Lamm draw the chutz­pah to sling mud at us, sol­diers who were lying in the mud to pro­tect the coun­try in whose name he swears from afar? We won­der what mo­ti­vates a Di­as­pora Jew pre­tend­ing to love Is­rael to dis­credit us, vet­er­ans who con­tinue to risk our lives in its de­fense and give our time and en­ergy to for­tify its moral stature.
 Con­cern for Is­rael and its democ­racy can­not be the fac­tor dri­ving an as­sault on its civil so­ci­ety. At­tacks on Is­raeli vet­er­ans are cer­tainly not mo­ti­vated by love for Is­rael and its peo­ple, for these vet­er­ans are Is­rael. Dr Lamm’s as­sault, it ap­pears, must have a dif­fer­ent set of mo­ti­va­tions. In­stead of serv­ing his com­mu­nity and lend­ing sup­port to Is­rael, he serves his po­lit­i­cal mas­ters. A vocal op­po­nent of the peace process, it seems that Dr Lamm has for­got­ten his place as a Di­as­pora com­mu­nity leader. We would never dare in­ter­fere with the in­ter­nal af­fairs of his com­mu­nity, let alone in the au­da­cious way in which Lamm in­ter­feres in ours.
While the ques­tion of whether and to what de­gree Di­as­pora Jews should ad­vo­cate their views on in­ter­nal Is­raeli af­fairs is an open one, beat­ing on Is­raelis of other po­lit­i­cal con­vic­tions is not. Lamm’s arm­chair Zion­ism pon­tif­i­cat­ing from afar, while true Is­raelis put their lives on the line, im­poses cer­tain re­straints on his en­gage­ment. A de­cent per­son would re­gard this also as rea­son for some hu­mil­ity in opin­ion. It is pre­cisely be­cause we have been on the front lines that we un­der­stand that the fu­ture of our coun­try de­pends on its moral for­ti­tude no less than on its mil­i­tary might.
It is no won­der that Lamm fails to rec­og­nize this as surely the view from Aus­tralia is dif­fer­ent from that of real-life Is­raelis who re­al­ize the Zion­ist ideal with their sweat and blood and not merely with their job ti­tles. Zion­ism, for us, is about the will­ing­ness to make bold sac­ri­fices for the se­cu­rity and fu­ture of the Jew­ish state. For im­pos­tors like Lamm, it is an in­stru­ment for pro­mot­ing a po­lit­i­cal agenda, the con­se­quences of which we will have to bear, not him.
Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Break­ing the Si­lence on be­half of our mem­bers,
Lieu­tenant Dana Golan – Bor­der Pa­trol (Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Break­ing the Si­lence)
Cap­tain Mikhael Manekin – Golani In­fantry Brigade
Lieu­tenant Noam Chayut – Nahal In­fantry Brigade
Lieu­tenant Oren Kalis­man – Spe­cial Forces, Para­troop­ers
First Sergeant Yehdua Shaul – Nahal In­fantry Brigade
First Sergeant Avi­hai Stol­lar – Kfir Brigade
First Sergeant Tal Wasser – Oketz
First Sergeant Achiya Schatz – Du­vde­van
First Sergeant Ayal Kantz – Spe­cial Forces, Nahal Brigade
First Sergeant Nadav Weiman – Spe­cial Forces, Nahal Brigade
First Sergeant Shachar Zemach – Spe­cial Forces, Nahal Brigade
First Sergeant Hil­lel Cohen – Com­bat En­gi­neer
First Sergeant Guy Klein – 7th Ar­mored Brigade
First Sergeant Yoni Levi – Spe­cial Forces, Gi­vati Brigade
First Sergeant Gil Hil­lel – Sachlav, MP

The re­sponses by the Jew­ish es­tab­lish­ment are noth­ing short of mean­ing­less in­tol­er­ance. And para­noia. In­creas­ingly the re­al­ity of Is­raeli crimes are en­ter­ing the main­stream and all they can do is bleat about pro­pa­ganda and Is­raeli moral­ity. Fewer and fewer peo­ple be­lieve this in 2012. The Break­ing the Si­lence com­ments are in­ter­est­ing and strong though per­son­ally I’d rather the de­fence of Zion­ism wasn’t in there. Re­gard­less, it’s an im­por­tant or­gan­i­sa­tion and chal­lenges the con­cept, still laugh­ably used by Is­rael de­fend­ers, that the IDF is the “most moral army in the world.”
I thought this would be the end of the story but then this week I re­ceived an email (I’ve pub­lished it all below, re­mov­ing any rel­e­vant names) that re­veals at­tempts by the sup­pos­edly more lib­eral wing of the Jew­ish com­mu­nity to en­cour­age peo­ple not to at­tend Is­rael/Pales­tine re­lated talks in Aus­tralia be­cause their minds must be cor­rupted. Or some­thing. It reeks of big­otry and fear.
It’s no won­der many peo­ple, in­clud­ing me in a new book After Zion­ism, now cam­paign for a whole­some chal­lenge to the Zion­ist and Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties. If even lis­ten­ing to dif­fer­ent points of view from Is­rael is too much for sup­pos­edly sen­si­tive Jew­ish ears, be­liev­ing that re­form of Is­rael and the Di­as­pora is pos­si­ble, and the oc­cu­pa­tion ended, is dan­ger­ously delu­sional think­ing. Zion­ism it­self is the prob­lem here:

———- For­warded mes­sage ———-
From: Daniel Crook 
Date: Sat, Aug 25, 2012 at 2:20 PM
Sub­ject: [mel­bogs] Please Read {01}
To­mor­row night Hashy are host­ing an event where the au­di­ence will hear from two speak­ers, one of the speak­ers is Micha Kurz, who is the co-founder of a NGO in Is­rael called ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’. Hear­ing this came at quite a shock to me and I want to highly en­cour­age any­one think­ing of going to read this email be­fore you go and show your sup­port. ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’ are highly crit­i­cised for being an anti-Zion­ist and anti-Is­rael or­gan­i­sa­tion, and are also crit­i­cised for being left wing ex­trem­ists. Taken from their web­site we can see that their mis­sion state­ment is to “ex­pose the Is­raeli pub­lic to the re­al­ity of every­day life in the Oc­cu­pied Ter­ri­to­ries”, which is not nec­es­sar­ily the issue at hand, but rather the issue lies in their ap­proach, way that they at­tempt to do this, and what it cre­ates in peo­ples un­der­stand­ing and be­liefs about Is­rael, Zion­ism and the IDF.
Anti Is­rael sen­ti­ment is grow­ing through­out the world, as we see on our own uni­ver­sity cam­puses, and ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’ are po­ten­tially fu­elling a lot of this opin­ion. ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’ rely on the use of very ex­treme ex­am­ples, in­clud­ing in­ter­views, tes­ti­monies and imag­ing, to show and un­cover what they term the shock­ing re­al­i­ties of Is­rael and the IDF. They are highly crit­i­cised for pro­vid­ing a non-Zion­ist and highly over-sim­plis­tic view of the is­sues at hand and pre­sent a pic­ture of IDF ac­tions against Pales­tini­ans that is com­pletely re­moved from and ig­nores the larger Is­rael-Pales­tin­ian con­flict, which as a re­sult adds in a se­ri­ous way to the world wide anti-Is­rael sen­ti­ment that af­fects our lives as Zion­ists in a se­ri­ous way. In short, the ex­am­ples that they use to ful­fil their mis­sion are very ex­treme and are taken out of con­text, they crit­i­cise the IDF and the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment with a very one-sided agenda, and also in­clude no pro­duc­tive stance about a more pos­i­tive di­rec­tion for Is­raeli so­ci­ety.
A very dif­fi­cult ques­tion re­sounds in me, do we re­ally want to be sup­port­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is often crit­i­cised for being anti-Zion­ist and that through its ac­tions and the lack of per­spec­tive that they pre­sent cre­ate huge amounts of an­i­mos­ity and ha­tred to­wards the State of Is­rael, in­clud­ing its de­fence force and its gov­ern­ment, as well as its peo­ple and sup­port­ers. I am not sug­gest­ing that the ex­am­ples they use should be ig­nored, as I be­lieve that in Habonim Dror we need to un­der­stand the re­al­i­ties of ac­tions taken in Is­rael by the IDF, but we need to place these un­der­stand­ing its con­text of the larger his­tor­i­cal pic­ture and also strive to find a more ac­tive, pro­duc­tive and cre­ative an­swer for the fu­ture of the Is­rael-Pales­tin­ian con­flict, rather than the sim­plis­tic and nar­row in­sight that ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’ has to pre­sent to Jews and non-Jews around the world. In my mind what they are doing is no bet­ter, and prob­a­bly a lot more de­struc­tive than the mind­less ha­tred that or­gan­i­sa­tions like the So­cial­ist Al­ter­na­tive cre­ate to­wards Is­rael and Jews.
I am by no means an ex­pert on the or­gan­i­sa­tion, and my un­der­stand­ing is some­what lim­ited, so after read­ing this email I highly en­cour­age you to do your own read­ing and re­search and make up your own mind, but I do ask that if you choose to go please think care­fully about whether you wear a Habonim Dror Chultzah as it is a big state­ment about our move­ment and our ap­proach and be­liefs in Zion­ism and the fu­ture of the State of Is­rael.
You can also have a look at this web­site for ‘Aus­tralians for Pales­tine’, who are the or­gan­i­sa­tion host­ing Micha Kurz and very much con­nected to ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’. http://www.australiansforpalestine.​net/​67184
Below is a few quotes that I found from var­i­ous ar­ti­cles on­line, but as I said be­fore please do your own read­ing, and please don’t hes­i­tate to talk to me about your thoughts:
The ex­hibit is com­pletely one-sided and por­trays Is­rael un­fairly. The pre­sen­ta­tion lacks any con­text or pro­por­tion­al­ity what­so­ever. It does not pre­sent — or even at­tempt to pre­sent — the com­plex­ity of the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion in the West Bank and Gaza. Rather, the ex­hibit seeks to pre­sent a dis­torted image of Is­rael, its peo­ple and its de­fense forces. In short, it is noth­ing more than anti-Is­rael pro­pa­ganda under the guise of art/so­cial crit­i­cism. The fact that ’Break­ing the Si­lence” in­cludes Is­raelis is of no mat­ter; they rep­re­sent a fringe within Is­raeli so­ci­ety that have come to the United States with a mis­guided mes­sage in order to gain pub­lic­ity and fund­ing not avail­able to them in Is­rael. In re­al­ity, they do not care or un­der­stand the dam­age that the ex­hi­bi­tion will do to Is­rael.
– Asaf Romirowsky
We should have known all the facts at that time. But since we didn’t we now are stat­ing that our of­fi­cial view­point is that pro­grams and or­ga­ni­za­tions that sup­port such pro­grams that de­mo­nize and cause ha­tred for Is­rael should not have a place on the Is­rael on Cam­pus Coali­tion. For that rea­son, we vote to re­move the UPZ from the Coali­tion for its sup­port of the ‘Break­ing the Si­lence’ pro­gram.”
-Matthew Wag­ner
“Break­ing the Si­lence,” re­peats a view that is often heard on the ex­treme Left of the Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and speaks of the na­tion’s mea­sures of self-de­fence as il­le­git­i­mate and il­le­gal. The speak­ers are Is­raeli vet­er­ans who be­lieve that the Is­rael De­fence Forces coun­tert­er­ror­ism mis­sion is, as prac­ticed, de­hu­man­iz­ing and im­moral.
– Ameinu, North Amer­ica

Daniel Crook
Habonim Dror Aus­tralia Inc
Fed­eral Rosh Chin­uch (Head of Ed­u­ca­tion)
הבונים דרור אוסטרליה
ראש חינוך

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