Breaking the Silence deserves Israel Prize for manipulation
Op-ed: The organization’s director says soldiers’ testimonies of war crimes are not being investigated. But when the Military Advocate General wanted to investigate the few testimonies that do point to a suspected offense, Breaking the Silence demanded protection of sources.
Breaking the Silence director Yuli Novak is furious about the investigation against the organization’s spokesperson, Dean Issacharof, who stated that he had committed a war crime of beating a Palestinian until he bled. Why is he being interrogated of all people, Novak complained. There are, after all, hundreds of other testimonies.
I checked the “testimonies” Novak was referring to. And not just any testimonies, but the department of “selected testimonies,” which are supposed to be the most serious and severe ones. One of the testimonies deals with a three-year-old toddler who was left under the bed during a search using live ammunition. He wasn’t hurt. “We were shocked by it,” said the soldier who gave the testimony, adding that “it emphasized the procedures.” It’s definitely unpleasant and definitely sad, yet I had trouble understanding where the crime was and what exactly should have been investigated.
I went on to another testimony, which claims that the IDF ignored the ban on using the “neighbor procedure” (the use of non-combatant Palestinian neighbors and relatives to help arrest wanted suspects). It’s unclear when the incident happened, as an interim order was issued against the procedure in August 2002, and the High Court ruled against the procedure in 2005. But the claim that the IDF ignored the order is slightly odd. In 2007, for example, the Military Police conducted an investigation against Major-General Yair Golan, who served as deputy Judea and Samaria Division commander at the time, for violating the ban on the “neighbor procedure.”
The third testimony had to do with the “roof-knocking” procedure, which aims to warn inhabitants of targeted civilian homes of an impending attack. The soldier who gave the testimony complained that “the ’roof-knocking’ gives Hamas enough time to enter a tunnel or run between houses and disappear, but it’s a bit harder for a family with a grandmother sitting in the living room.” I couldn’t believe it. Why the IDF is the only army in the world which uses such a procedure to defend innocent people. Where exactly is the crime here? And what does Breaking the Silence want? Does it want the procedure to be cancelled?
I moved on to the video testimonies. Exposed faces. That should be more serious. Well, in the first one, the soldier testifies that while searching for a wanted suspect, he “grabbed the head of the family by his shirt and pushed him against the wall.” He even goes to the trouble of clarifying that “there was no punch, no slap.” What is there to investigate here?
In another testimony, Nadav Weiman, who became one of the organization’s leaders, says that a military rabbi preached before soldiers that the goal was to return to Nablus. I’m on Weiman’s side. I don’t want any preaching about returning to Nablus. But an investigation?
There are more serious testimonies, too. One in dozens. The Military Advocate General wanted to investigate the testimonies that point to a suspected offense, but the organization's members demanded protection of its sources. And now Novak is complaining that testimonies are not being investigated. She deserves the Israel Prize for manipulation.