SYDNEY (JTA) – Australian Jewish officials lashed out at a group of former Israeli soldiers who reported abuses they witnessed while serving in the Palestinian territories.
The front pages of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers on Monday carried a report on the Aug. 24 release of testimonies by 30 former Israeli soldiers who belong to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli nongovernmental organization that has amassed more than 850 testimonies from soldiers about military abuses in the Palestinian territories over the past decade.
It cited allegations of maltreatment of Palestinian children by the soldiers, including “forcing them to act as human shields in military operations.”
The newspaper reports triggered a scathing response Tuesday from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s president, Dr. Danny Lamm, who described it as “crude propaganda” and challenged the testimonies, which he said were “anonymous, non-specific as to times and places, devoid of critical detail and untested by any kind of cross-questioning.”
“Sadly, many Australians … are being left with the false, indeed ridiculous, impression that the IDF is a serious abuser of children’s rights,” Lamm said.
But Dana Golan, the executive director of Breaking the Silence, fired back Wednesday, accusing Lamm of “insidious allegations against us” and scolding his “armchair Zionism” for “questioning our loyalty and integrity.”
“It is precisely because we have been on the front lines that we understand that the future of our country depends on its moral fortitude no less than on its military might,” she said in a statement co-signed by 15 ex-soldiers.
Lamm was backed by Zionist Federation of Australia President Philip Chester; Labor lawmaker Michael Danby and Dr. Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, who said it was “profoundly disappointing” to see Australia’s leading broadsheets “so uncritically repeating the latest rehashed propaganda.”
“Even in the unlikely event that the 15 or so incidents of alleged wrongdoing … in this report were fully confirmed, this would not alter the fact the IDF remains probably the most moral army in the world,” Rubenstein said.
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