A retired IDF major general on Friday took out an advert in the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz in support of “Breaking the Silence,” a controversial organization that collects testimony from Israeli veterans of alleged human rights abuses within the army.
Under the headline “I am also breaking my silence,” Amiram Levin used the half-page ad to both express his backing for the group and to malign those who seek to outlaw it.
“‘Breaking the Silence’ guards IDF soldiers in the impossible place in which politicians have abandoned them,” wrote Levin in his statement, adding that “the instructions to silence ‘Breaking the Silence’ harm and weaken the IDF.”
The retired soldier, whose posts included head of the IDF Northern Command, commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit and deputy director of Mossad, added: “The IDF must encourage ‘Breaking the Silence’ and those like them, to speak out without fear in the IDF and in Israeli society.”
Levin is not the only high-ranking former defense official to come out in support on the group. The former head of the Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, this week wrote on Facebook that while he was opposed to the group’s activity outside of Israel, “they provide another, important mirror to our actions.”
“I don’t like their activity abroad and the fact that they are not satisfied with the control and justice system in the State of Israel. But they provide another, important mirror to our actions. Even if they can make us angry, even if they are sometimes inaccurate or not doing their jobs correctly – their contribution is very important,” Diskin wrote.
This week, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said he would ban the group from appearing in Israeli schools, while Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Sunday that he would prevent the organization from entering army grounds. In a bitter Knesset face-off, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that opposition leader Isaac Herzog condemn the NGO.
President Reuven Rivlin this week also came under pressure from a small television channel, the Heritage Channel, which censured him for attending Haaretz’s conference in New York at which members of “Breaking the Silence” also appeared.
Channel 20, which is state-owned, accused the president of “spitting in the faces of IDF soldiers.”
Rivlin’s own remarks at the conference appeared to counter the criticism of the IDF by “Breaking the Silence,” telling the audience at the left-wing event that, “No other army in the world is as moral as the IDF.”
“Once in a while the obvious should be said, especially in these days of dangerous terrorism. The IDF does everything in its power to keep the highest standards possible,” Rivlin said. “For that we are very proud, very proud of them. And really owe them all our support and appreciation.”
Marissa Newman contributed to this report