Is there glasnost in the New York Times Jerusalem bureau now that Jodi Rudoren has decamped for the United States? Yesterday the Times ran an article by Isabel Kershner about the government attacks on the courageous Israeli veterans’ organization, Breaking the Silence.
[Avihai] Stollar, 32, is now the research director of Breaking the Silence, and at the center of a furor that is laying bare Israel’s divisions over its core values and the nature of its democracy.
The article echoes a lot of the nationalist criticism of Breaking the Silence, and also includes a militarist justification for the group — “Breaking the Silence strengthens the I.D.F. and its morality,” says a former commander — but also some information:
The Israel Democracy Institute’s annual survey for 2015 found that the military was the national institution that earned the highest level of trust among Israeli Jews, with a score of 93.4 percent.
Critics of Breaking the Silence emphasize that the group is partly funded by donations from European governments, which they say amounts to meddling in Israel’s internal affairs. The critics also accuse Breaking the Silence of feeding into international boycott efforts against Israel through its activities like photographic exhibits and lectures abroad…
The group’s opponents question why it does not deal with its concerns internally. The Israeli military has a system for investigating allegations of misconduct.
Official attacks on Breaking the Silence have been the order of the day for years. At December 13’s Haaretz/NIF conference in New York, two Zionist heroes, Reuven Rivlin and Tzipi Livni, condemned Breaking the Silence from the podium, because Avner Gvaryahu of Breaking the Silence was also speaking at the conference.
And meantime some on the left are dismissive of Breaking the Silence as a shooting-and-crying organization: our friend Ofer Neiman saying: BtS “may serve Israeli interests quite well, and be used to fend off sanctions and attempts to isolate the regime.” True; but Breaking the Silence has also provided important testimonies about atrocities and war crimes, including the last Gaza slaughter. Co-founder Yehuda Shaul brought many westerners (including co-author Weiss) on their first tour of apartheid Hebron and the settlements in the Hebron Hills.
It takes a lot of courage to speak out against the dominant voice in your society — especially when you are wearing the uniform and telling the truth can lead to military punishment. If you want to understand Breaking the Silence’s global impact, look at “Blue Handed,” a deeply disturbing play by the pseudonymous [email protected] Ha’@m in the latest Massachusetts Review — based on a nightmarish Breaking the Silence testimony from 2007.
The main point is that the Mass Review scooped the New York Times. Electronic Intifada did so ten years ago. So did our site way back in 2006. But under the Rudoren regime at the Times, we never heard much of anything about Breaking the Silence (besides glancing references here and there). This organization of outspoken, articulate, compelling young Israeli men and women which isn’t even on the radical edge would have been the perfect subject of a profile for the last decade. Only now are they making the pages of the country’s agenda-setting newspaper.