Israel has long fought against its most vocal critics. But what we see unfolding now both in terms of repressive laws and also of strategic attacks coming from the far right is unprecedented in recent history, and thus warrants our close attention. In particular, both the state and the ultra-right are targeting Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israel Defense Forces members who step forward to offer testimony about and graphic evidence of the nature of the occupation.
Breaking the Silence (BtS) asserts, “Of the vast injustices of occupation, high ranking among them is its sole means of implementation: through force and violence. In order to control the civilian population in Palestinian territory, the IDF is compelled—like every other military ruler—to use force in order to foment an atmosphere of constant fear, which ensures that the subjects remain submissive and docile. During our military service in the occupied territories, we became intimately familiar with the profuse mechanisms of control Israel employs on the Palestinian civilian population.… We want a moral Israel and a moral army. That is why we want the IDF to cease being an occupying army.” For this it has been called “the most hated group in Israel” and has been attacked by “the country’s national police department, the defense minister, the education minister, and even the president himself.”
The Knesset is now debating a law targeting the group, one that calls it “a subversive organization acting to change Israel’s policy by ways that are not part of the acceptable rules of a democracy and by exerting international pressure that causes Israel damage.” It is not clear how speaking out and giving witness are “not part of the acceptable rules of a democracy,” but it is clear that what some Israeli politicians fear is that BtS is both challenging Israel’s strange brand of “democracy” and appealing in powerful ways to the international community to bring justice to Israel where Israel has failed.
The Guardian reports reports on the law and makes the key distinction: