On a recent trip to Israel, I had the pleasure of meeting the national bird of Israel, the ‘hoopoe,’ in a Tel Aviv park. While researching this bird, I learned that unlike most other birds, this one has an unusual and undesirable trait. John G. Kunstmann, in The Bird That Fouls Its Nest, writes, that although other birds do not befoul their own nests, the hoopoe does. Although many magnificent species of birds live, visit, and migrate throughout Israel, the hoopoe, is the national bird and is one of very few that has this unpleasant trait.
Lately, more and more as one reads the news, it’s as if Israel is the recipient of many rounds of target practice. Sadly, a good deal of it comes from within — attacking the State of Israel itself, like the hoopoe, fouling its own nest. A good deal of it is political, and depending on the buzzwords, one can gauge what side the speaker/or writer is on: occupation and settlements vs. Judea and Samaria. Now add to these buzzwords — West Bank, apartheid, Tikkun Olam, human rights, social activism. In fact, TIkkun Olam is often the buzzword misused for a questionable political agenda.
These issues have grown from their original place as Israel’s internal issues, and now have outreach to the UN, to colleges and universities throughout the Diaspora with a world-wide BDS movement involving academia and even the entertainment industry. Through the power of ‘suggestive news’ and social media there are distortions and the dispersion of lies into the cyber wind like uncontrollable feathers.
Although Jews account for so small a percentage on the world’s stage, there is tremendous disagreement on many issues. The sadness is that there are even Israelis, who claim to be ‘Zionists,’ for whom there is no boundary in their manner of and choice of criticisms! They wish to take down the entire country, mimicking the hoopoe bird’s undesirable trait.
THE IDF HAS BECOME SOMETHING TO ‘QUESTION!’
The organization, Breaking the Silence, [BtS] was established in 2004 shortly after the Second Intifada. Since then, it has managed to find IDF soldiers who claim they were asked to ‘do things’ that didn’t live up to their standards of right and wrong; they served like everyone else, but these people feel they are, just… ‘more moral’ than anyone else. They can’t sleep, they can’t live with themselves. As reported by NGO Monitor, this organization collects ‘testimonies’ of soldiers who served during the Second Intifada, and interestingly, some ‘testimonies’ are anonymous! Their claims concern questionable orders in many areas regarding Palestinian civilians, and suggest corruption which they claim is spreading in the Israeli military. Now there is more information about BtS- its funding and agenda.
HOW IS THIS OPERATION FUNDED? HOW WAS THIS REVEALED?
NGO Monitor has let the cat out of the bag and revealed the groups which are in the business of delegitimizing Israel, and which countries and NGOs fund them. NGO Monitor’s findings in detail about BtS’s financial status and funders can be found here and they are numerous!
The operation is funded for the most part by the EU and private donors such as Misereor (Germany), Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Norway,AECID (Spain), Dan Church Aid (Denmark), ICCO(Netherlands), CCFD (France), Human Rights and International Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands), Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK), SIVMO (Netherlands), Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Institute, New Israel Fund, and others. Foreign governments enable these efforts to continue, with the shear amount of money donated staggering, regardless of currencies.
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER – Why is the IDF any business of NGO’s and Foreign Governments?
Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor informs us that although the stated aim of BtS is to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life… as the evidence clearly shows, BtS uses the money it receives from European governments, largely through secret processes, for ideological campaigns outside of Israel.”
IDF members and officers have come forth to refute these allegations!
– In response to BtS, several hundred Israel Defense Forces (IDF) combat reservists and officers organized a committee called “Reservists at the Front,” headed by Amit Deri, a Major in the IDF Reserves. This group is currently [as of January 2016] working to file a slander lawsuit against BtS; one of the charges is libel. Major Amit Deri states that “over a long period of time we’ve collected facts that prove that BtS twists, manipulates, and sometimes even lies, slandering IDF soldiers and commanders in Israel and the world.”
The media reports two sides: At a Knesset session in December 2015, BtS was one topic of discussion. Turning to the Head of the Opposition, Isaac Herzog, PM Netanyahu “demanded he get up and emphatically condemn the BtS organization.” Herzog responded: “In certain cases, BtS crossed the line, but you must let people who fought on the front lines express themselves, in the right places. I am disgusted by these opinions, but I will fight to allow people to say them.” …So the questions remain- What are the ‘right places’ and what is ‘the line’ that ought not be crossed?
- In a very recent 2016 development Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out openly in favor of a controversial “NGO transparency bill” which states that if an NGO receives more than half its funding from a foreign government, its representatives must wear tags stating this when they appear in the Knesset. Netanyahu spoke about this bill during the Government Press Office’s annual toast for members of the foreign media in Israel. Although the US government immediately voiced opposition to this bill, Netanyahu compared the bill to a law enacted by the US Congress in January 2015. That law says that if representatives of an NGO that receives money from a foreign country are appearing at a congressional hearing, they must submit a written declaration about their foreign funding before the hearing. Netanyahu said that the American law is far more stringent than the Israeli proposal, because it applies even if the NGO receives only one dollar from a foreign government.
- The opposition, though not mentioning the IDF or BtB directly, claim that the “NGO transparency bill” is less than forthright and calls it hypocritical. Once again, though not mentioned, things that are internal become fodder for the world’s judgement and input.
Since the world via these NGOs has seen fit to weigh in on the behavior of an army that is not its own, I, for one, regarding BtS can’t wait to learn more about a well constructed lawsuit with more testimonies by IDF officers and reservists, especially since many of the BtS ‘testimonies’ are anonymous. And I hope the “NGO transparency bill” moves along and has ‘teeth.’ But I mostly question why I, or any American, Jewish or not, or any citizen of any nation in the world, should have input into the actions of a foreign army!
FOR REFERENCE: USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO REFUTE BTS CLAIMS
On Facebook, refuting all BtS stands for, Lt. Cl. Daniel Bitton writes:
I have decided to break my silence. My name is Daniel Bitton. I am married with three children and I am a citizen of the state of Israel. I have served in the Israeli army, and I am tired of hearing all the talk regarding the IDF and therefore decided to break my silence.
I served in Lebanon, in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
As a soldier – I had dozens of officers.
I was a commanding officer, and commanded dozens of soldiers.
I was a platoon commander in dozens of outposts and sectors.
Today I am a commander in a reserve unit that includes dozens of officers and hundreds of soldiers.
I had taken many courses with dozens of officers and soldiers from all scopes of the IDF.
I commanded and participated in hundreds of operational activities in all of the country’s borders, and I must say that I was never given an illegal order, nor have I ever committed or ordered someone else to commit any action in order to intentionally harm innocent civilians. I must say that the soldiers were all briefed before every operation or mission, however big or small the mission was, and I have always emphasized the values of the IDF to my soldiers.
I am proud of all those who were my commanding officers, and of all those who served with me and beside me. I was granted the right to serve, work and spend time with the best of our nation’s sons.
I am proud of our country, of our open democracy, which, in my opinion, provides a way to talk and criticize what is happening in it (if someone is experiencing something unethical.) However, we should not be raising funds from outstate organizations and foreign countries around the world, while spreading lies regarding the state of Israel and its citizens. Doing so, in my opinion, is the embodiment of evil against the state of Israel and its citizens.
In my military service, which, as I mentioned, is still ongoing, I have witnessed and was involved in incidents where there were conflicts with some parts of the population who are against the state of Israel. However, me and my soldiers were still able to behave according to the ethical boundaries of our unique state.
The examples of what I have seen and experienced regarding those conflicts are endless and I don’t want and can’t go into full details.
I will finish by saying that it is time to end our silence; time to be proud rather than be ashamed of our justice and our willingness to live in Israel in peace and safety.
The founders’ generation established our state. The following generation guarded our state during various wars that our enemies tried to destroy us. Now, we are glancing into the future, while we keep our mission clear: to live honorably, peacefully and safely.
I will end with a phrase from the Bible – Zecharia chapter IV:
‘Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit,’
Lt. Col. Daniel Bitton
In a Times of Israel article, another IDF member, Tuvia Book writes his own response regarding the Breaking the Silence organization. Tuvia served in an elite combat unit in the IDF, and is a respected ‘shaliach,’ licensed tour guide, PhD candidate in Israel education, and author. Here he breaks the silence.
Daniel and Tuvia represent the 99% of the current IDF and former IDF and reservists, who are adult citizens – they are at work, and raising families, attending college or are busy in their chosen careers. Their minds are not focused and fixated on the idea of notoriety, of whistle blowing. Perhaps the small crowd involved in Breaking the Silence did not think about the ramifications nor realize that like anything foul poured out, it’s impossible to shovel them back, like feathers in the wind. One of the latest slanders and the slanderer, comes from an ex-Israeli ‘Diplomat!’ His name is Alon Liel. In case he flew by you too quickly on his mission as an Israeli hoopoe bird, last October he spearheaded a petition calling for various foreign parliaments to recognize a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 lines. This idea, which somehow he desires, would bring Israel to its knees. Sadly, it’s also been reported that the money, the funding for BtS, and this proposal, has come from the NIF, the New Israel Fund. Alon Liel is the Ex-Foreign Ministry official in the article’s title, and some suggest that what he’s saying is breaking the law.
I’M AN AMERICAN!
As an American I must add — I am happy being an American citizen, an American Jewish citizen, and proud of so much that’s been accomplished throughout U.S. history.
- Yet, I am sad about America’s involvement in Vietnam, though I am not critical of its veterans and salute them for their service to the country.
- Yet, I am not proud of how the United States, and its armies of the past, treated our Native Americans, nor of how Native Americans are treated to this day.
- Yet, I am not proud of our entire history regarding slavery, and all the issues that relate to this time in history, whose tentacles continue in our society until the present day.
- Yet, more recently, I and other US citizens cannot be proud of any violations of physical and sexual abuse in the military, including torture, rape, sodomy, and murder that took place in Iraq in the Abu Ghraib prison.
That said, I don’t recall that we, in the US, have a ‘hoopoe bird’ mentality of wishing to take the country down from within, as the case seems to be of late, in Israel. The IDF is exemplary! American citizens also trust and know our troops do what they have to, to keep us safe. “War is hell!” I wonder if servicemen and women in every army in the world were interviewed, would they be willing to stand behind each and every action and decision of their military? Or would they prefer not to have their own dirty laundry, their own mistakes and embarrassments brought before the world’s evaluation, as BtS is so intent on accomplishing? Probably! But only Israel seems to have hoopoe birds within it, forming organizations, going outside themselves to the immediate world, garnering support!
Alon Liel spread his wings further and additional birdbrained schemes were discovered at a meeting he attended during which a secret taping was obtained. Among his many plans were these:
- the desire to influence Israeli public opinion using outside social activists.
- influencing the UN, to garner international attention to the Palestinian cause.
- using the ‘apartheid card’ even more strongly, hoping to create a ‘sports boycott’ of Israeli teams.
- boasting about his role in getting Brazil to refuse the appointment of Dani Dayan as Israel’s UN Ambassador.
- And he would like to see Israel suspended from the UN!
Isn’t this a bit much?! This ‘ex-Diplomat’ states in the article, regarding the repercussions of his actions: “I couldn’t leave my home for a whole week!”
“That’s all?” I think to myself. Wow — you’ve been so inconvenienced!
Perhaps Israel needs a new national bird.
Certainly, in the US we desire and promote a moral army and I am convinced we have one. I am quite convinced that Israel’s IDF has been and remains, a moral and exemplary army. As an American interested very much in Israel’s welfare, I do not think we, or any nation in the world has any business weighing in on the IDF or any other country’s army; has France or England or any South American nation asked any other nation lately for their opinion of that nation’s army?
This extraordinary introspection of the IDF by BtS, reminds me of the old advertisement for Levy’s Rye Bread, which the commercial claims, must ‘Answer to a Higher Authority!’ ‘Taint so! Other countries need to stay out of Israel’s business regarding the IDF.
Since the beginning of the State of Israel, the IDF has been considered worldwide as a military to emulate, and of which to be proud, a moral army that is respected. Haven’t we learned anything from the Altalena? Why would we want to again witness “Jew against Jew?”