Parents of fallen soldiers call to outlaw Breaking the Silence
'It's okay to criticize the IDF, but not lie,' says father of Staff Sgt. Yehonatan Yaakov Einhorn; 'It's time for the gov't to break the silence of the sane people of Israel, and remove this anti-Israeli organization from the agenda,' says mother of Sgt.-Maj. Amit Bosidan.
Parents of fallen soldiers sent a letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday protesting against IDF veterans organization Breaking the Silence and urging him to work to outlaw the group.
Since its founding in 2004, the group of former Israeli soldiers has collected testimony from more than 1,000 veterans who described improper or illegal behavior against Palestinians.
"In recent days, it was publicized that Israeli organizations, funded by foreign governments, are behind the persecution of IDF soldiers. While they are fighting the enemy - these organizations do everything they can to collect testimony against them, to put fear in their hearts, to turn them into 'war criminals,'" the parents say in their letter.
The defense minister barred Breaking the Silence from entering IDF bases, but the bereaved parents say that is not enough.
"The director of Breaking the Silence was interviewed today and said that 'our money comes from Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands and is being managed in Ramallah.' This is a statement that should shake the State of Israel to its very core. Can it be that our children are exposed to harm from organizations that are run from Ramallah?" the parents went on to say in their letter.
The letter was signed by parents of seven soldiers who were killed in Israel's wars: Maj. Benaya Sarel's parents Shalom and Michal; Mazal Gidoni, the mother of Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni; David Einhorn, the father of Staff Sgt. Yehonatan Yaakov Einhorn; Haim Tzemach, the father of Staff Sgt. Oz Tzemach; Moshe and Ora Degorker, the parents of Sgt.-Maj. Barak Degorker; Yigal Noah, the father of Staff Sgt. Oren Simcha Noah; and Geula Bosidan, the mother of Sgt.-Maj. Amit Bosidan.
"All hope was lost," said Michal Sarel whose son Maj. Benaya Sarel was killed in Rafah during Operation Protection Edge and became one of the symbols of that war. "It pains me and it's difficult for me to see how they are undermining the military, the friends who fought alongside them, and the values of the IDF and the State of Israel."
The parents say they feel that they need to speak out against what they see as the spreading of lies and slander against the IDF.
"Regardless of being a bereaved mother, I feel that what Breaking the Silence is doing is terrible," Michal said. "How is it possible that officers are doing holy work, endangering their lives - and then they are being besmirched? I'm saying: If you have any complaints, or you saw something wrong - turn to the military, go to the IDF's criminal investigation division."
"I remember, a week before he was killed, Benaya told me how a hungry Palestinian approached his troops, and he gave him his soldiers' food. Is there anything more moral than that?" she said.
Shalom Sarel, Benaya's father, agreed. "Our son behaved in a super-moral manner, even while fighting among civilians, and gave food to hungry children," Shalom said. "This is how we raised him."
"The fact we're bereaved parents doesn't give us special privileges, but the moral strength of the people of Israel is important to me and is important to withstanding the fighting. There's something amoral about Breaking the Silence's behavior ... taking a few isolated cases out of thousands of incidents is not fair and it is a moral injustice," he added.
Haim Tzemach, the father of Staff Sgt. Oz Tzemach, explained why he signed the letter. "We're a country that lives by the sword and fights for its existence on a daily basis. We cannot allow lawbreakers from the right or left to endanger the state's security," he said.
David Einhorn, the father of Staff Sgt. Yehonatan Yaakov Einhorn, added, "You can criticize the military, but (Breaking the Silence) is lying and being used as a channel and a tool to pass information about us to our enemies - this is a group that betrays the State of Israel, and it has no place here."
Moshe Degorker, the father of Sgt.-Maj. Barak Degorker, is frustrated by Breaking the Silence. "When I hear about it I say, 'Damn it, people are training, going to fight for the entire nation of Israel.' What they're doing hurts the soldiers - and particularly those who sacrificed their lives."
Geula Bosidan, the mother of Sgt.-Maj. Amit Bosidan, added. "These people are a foreign element among the people of Israel, the destroyers of the IDF - it is time for the leaders of the country to break the silence of the sane people of Israel to these baseless accusations, and remove this anti-Israeli organization from the agenda."
Adva Cohen contributed to this story.