It’s time to pull the mask off Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence (BTS) is not, as some may believe, an organization merely dedicated to uncovering what some would prefer be swept under the carpet. Rather, as was revealed in a Channel 2 expose last week, BTS has been actively and premeditatedly collecting classified operational and intelligence information from serving and recently released IDF soldiers, an act that is not only possibly illegal, but, in the wrong hands, could have serious ramifications for Israel’s national security and endanger the well-being and lives of Israeli soldiers.

The expose aired video footage filmed clandestinely by the NGO, “Ad Kan”, which showed conversations between BTS activists and former IDF soldiers who were asked to share their personal knowledge about highly sensitive IDF equipment, maneuvers and procedures, including questions about IDF efforts to uncover deadly Hamas terror tunnels and the methods of IDF units operating in the Gaza Strip.

It also highlighted efforts by Breaking the Silence to influence teens pre-enlistment, encouraging them to apply for placement in specific IDF units that would later provide valuable information to BTS. One recorded BTS activist, referring to BTS co-founder Michael Menkin, stated: “I knew Michael from high school… He told me, listen, go serve in the Civil Administration and come back in two years with the evidence for the testimonies”.

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These new revelations should not simply raise eyebrows. They should shock you to the core.

Imagine a right-wing NGO that conspires with ideologically affiliated teens prior to their enlistment to carefully select military units that can forewarn of IDF intentions to remove settlements. No doubt there would be a wide-scale public outcry, and rightfully so.

The same standards should be adhered to for BTS’s ideological activists who are potentially endangering the personal safety of IDF troops.

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Breaking the Silence claims to champion human rights, stimulate public debate and expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the West Bank. If so, of what relevance is sensitive information about IDF tactics far from the West Bank? Furthermore, once collected and housed in its Tel Aviv offices, how does the organisation secure this information from being used detrimentally by BTS’s funders, some of which are European organizations who support the boycott of Israel and seek the de-legitimization of Israeli soldiers – in Israel and abroad?

In a televised interview following the broadcasted expose, Breaking the Silence CEO Yuli Novak, who in recent months has found herself responding over and over to damning revelations and accusations about BTS’s tactics, stuttered, rolled her eyes, and side-stepped questions, without providing plausible explanations, other than the stock reply that the anonymous testimonies BTS publishes “pass IDF censorship”.

Encouraging Israelis to break the law by divulging sensitive information, regardless of the political narrative being supported, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I wholeheartedly invite Breaking the Silence to operate within the bounds of our democracy to create much needed societal change, rather than waging a vicious international campaign of slander against Israeli soldiers through slanderous reports and testimonies. These reports provide fodder for damaging internationally distributed reports such as those written by Goldstone and Schabas. Such defamatory reports by Breaking the Silence are counterproductive in that they are mostly anonymous, devoid of background context and fail to demonstrate an understanding of the dangerous and complex situations Israeli soldiers and officers are required to deal with.

As Oscar Wilde was quoted as saying, “A mask tells us more than a face”. Breaking the Silence has shown the world its true face

About the Author
Matan Katzman is co-founder and chairman of My Truth, an organization comprised of Israeli reservists who speak up openly about their army experiences in order to share the true values of the IDF. He represented My Truth and Israel in the European Parliament, has shared his experiences on dozens of college campuses across the US, and speaks regularly to a wide array of audiences in Israel. He is a company commander ranked captain in the IDF reserves.