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December 21, 2015

Foreign Affairs Goes Silent on Anti-Israel Group

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The following letter was sent to Foreign Affairs Nov. 23 2015, but went unpublished:

"Dear Editor:

Violeta Moura’s photo gallery and accompanying article on “Breaking the Silence” (“Israeli Soldiers Break Their Silence,” November 18) omits far too much about this essentially anti-Israel group that claims to report alleged abuses by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

“Breaking the Silence” (BTS) has been described by NGO-Monitor, an organization that tracks non-governmental organizations operating in Israel, as dedicated to providing non-Israelis with defamatory, often unsubstantiated allegations about the IDF. The group has consistently refused to provide authorities with evidence for its allegations, despite the Israeli army’s order requiring members to report any violation of regulations that results in harm to noncombatants and investigate substantial charges.

Moura rightfully notes that the group’s allegations are presented anonymously, but she repeats uncritically—in a photo essay with pictures of BTS members—its claims that the anonymity in question is for protection. While she briefly notes “accusations that the stories are fabricated,” she quickly repeats—without detail—the groups assertion it “use[s] a rigorous investigative method to corroborate all claims.” What exactly this method is neither BTS nor Moura say.

Instead of providing Israeli authorities with evidence to back charges of Israeli military abuse of non-combatants, the group conducts speaking tours before anti-Israel audiences far from the borders of the Jewish state.

“Breaking the Silence” bills itself as an Israeli non-profit. However, it receives substantial funding from European groups and governments opposed not only to Israeli policies, but in some instances to Israel itself. Some of the groups’ donors, such as Broederlijik Delen, a Belgian Christian charity, also fund openly anti-Israel organizations. Moura’s article omits this important background. These tactics raise questions about the group’s objectives, as does the source of their funding.

The group’s unsubstantiated allegations that the IDF commits crimes and regularly uses disproportionate force runs counter to expert testimony from independent military sources. After an American military delegation visited Israel following the summer 2014 Hamas-initiated war, then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey stated that Israel “went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.”

Similarly, a 2015 report by the High Level International Military Group—which includes former chiefs of staff of German, Italian and Spanish militaries, among others—concluded that “Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.” The group concluded that Israel’s adherence to the laws of war—while fighting an enemy that does not share its moral compunctions—was “scrupulous.”

Foreign Affairs readers examining the “Breaking the Silence” photo gallery would learn none of this. The essay broke the journalistic standard of fully disclosing the “who,” which could have offered answers to readers looking for the feature’s “why.”

Sincerely,

Sean Durns
Media Assistant
CAMERA—Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America"


Posted by SD at December 21, 2015 10:34 AM

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