Israeli NGOs Sound Off Against ‘Breaking the Silence’ Bill

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Breaking the Silence A booth of the leftist NGO, Breaking the Silence at the Tel Aviv University

Israeli NGOs Sound Off Against ‘Breaking the Silence’ Bill

Written by Ilana Messika/TPS on January 11, 2017

Several Israeli non-governmental organizations condemned Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s bill to ban “organizations that harm the IDF” from entering Israeli schools. The Knesset approved an initial reading of the proposal also known as the “Breaking the Silence” bill, Wednesday with 51 votes in favor and 17 against.

Yuli Novak, executive director of Breaking the Silence, the Israeli organization that publishes testimonies of IDF fighters who claim they violated the IDF Code of Ethics or international law during their military service, reacted to the vote saying “The Zionist Union faction alone makes up for 24 MKs. But against Bennett’s fascist and aggressive display, only 17 opposition lawmakers voted against, including four from Meretz. Shame on You!”

Novak also singled out the Yesh Atid party, offering condolences “for allowing [party leader Yair] Lapid to turn them into ‘useless rags’ in the service of [MK Bezalel] Smotrich and the Jewish Home party.

“You want to shut us up? End the occupation. Until then, we’ll be right here,” Novak steamed.

The bill, authored jointly by Smotrich and Jewish Home colleague Shuli Mualem and Bezalel Smotrich, enjoys support from MKs from nearly all Knesset factions. The measure “aims at giving the Minister of Education, who is responsible for Israeli students, the authority to prohibit individuals or organizations that are not part of the education system from conducting activities within educational institutions when such activities are of a nature that undermines the goals of education or are acting to harm IDF soldiers who are a consensual within Israeli society.”

A spokesman for Bennett said the bill, if it becomes law, would not be limited to left-wing organizations like Breaking the Silence, but also to right-wing groups that call on IDF soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlements  or refer to the IDF as the “Israel Deportation Force” instead of the Israel Defense Forces.

Human rights watchdog B’Tselem also slammed the bill, expressing “solidarity and approval [with Breaking the Silence] for standing strong against the attempt of the Minister of Education to censor and and muffle it.

“Laws will not succeed in hiding the reality of the occupation or in silencing its opponents,” said B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz.

Yair Lapid, who supported the bill, argued that organizations that slander the IDF are partners in the “industry of lies” that the Palestinian people presents to the world. He referred to a Palestinian protest entitled “March for the Peace” where participants exhibited pictures of Dalal Mughrabi, a PLO fighter responsible for the 1978 Coastal Road massacre in Israel.

“Breaking the Silence’s lies have been shown again and again. But to their supporters, even inside the Knesset, it does not matter. To them, Israel will always be guilty. They know perfectly well that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, one which consistently endeavors to respect humanitarian law.”

“I will not permit them to harm the Israel Defense Forces,” Lapid added on his Facebook page.

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