Emergency Grant Approved for Breaking the Silence

In early January, NIF approved a $20,000 emergency grant for Breaking the Silence (BtS) – an organization of veterans who speak out about their experiences as soldiers serving in the Occupied Territories – following increased attempts to silence the group.

Early last month, following threats by right-wing activists, the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court issued an order preventing a lecture by BtS from taking place at a local bar. The order followed a request from the Be’er Sheva police, who had received information that right-wing figures planned to violently break up the event, and had said that they would be unable to protect the bar and its patrons. Police also put pressure on a Tel Aviv bar, which was due to host a Breaking the Silence event, to cancel under the pretext of the owner’s lax security procedures. On both occasions BtS refused to give into threats and the events went ahead as scheduled.

Later in December, Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon banned BtS from attending army events or visiting bases, claiming the group operated with “malicious motives”.

The following day Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that BtS has been barred from the Israeli school system.

Breaking the Silence was also targeted in Im Tirtzu’s vicious video which labelled the leaders of BtS and other Israeli human rights organisations as “moles” planted by foreign countries and hinted that these groups assist terrorism.

Several prominent members of Israel’s security establishment spoke out against recent attempts to silence BtS. Most prominent was the independent advertisement taken out in Haaretz by former IDF major general, Amiram Levin: “Breaking the Silence guards IDF soldiers in the impossible place in which politicians have abandoned them … the instructions to silence ‘Breaking the Silence’ harm and weaken the IDF.” He went on to state that “the IDF must encourage Breaking the Silence and those like them, to speak out without fear in the IDF and in Israeli society.”

Breaking the Silence and other human rights groups are under threat. We are proud to support BtS and other such organisations who ensure that there is an independent voice reporting on government activity as a check and balance on potential abuses of power. Their efforts are critical now.

Update 6/1: In meeting entitled “The activities of  Breaking the Silence against the citizens of Israel and Israel Defence Forces soldiers”, Knesset Committee decides BtS should be barred from campuses. Read more here.

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January 2016