Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapir said Israel’s kibbutz movement had “lost it” because it invited a controversial left-wing organization to speak at a convention for teenage members of the movement who are about to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.
In a Facebook post published Friday, Lapid lamented the movement’s decision to include members of Breaking the Silence — a group that collects mostly anonymous testimony from veteran IDF combatants about alleged abuses they witnessed or took part in during their military service in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip — among the speakers signed on to address the teenagers during the annual event at the Sea of Galilee.
“This year, they decided to invite a special artistic program — the members of the organization Breaking the Silence, who traverse the world backed by foreign funding, and vilify the State of Israel by means of anonymous testimony,” Lapid said.
“Because this is the menu that the slandering organization has to offer to young people ahead of enlistment — evidence that there is no way to verify, accusing the IDF of war crimes that never happened.”
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, lashed out at Lapid on Saturday night, accusing Lapid of pandering to right wing Israeli in the hopes of garnering potential future voters.
“What can a politician whose motor ran on hatred of ultra-Orthodox, whose American consultant explains that if he does not reconcile with them he can shelve his dreams of becoming a prime minister, do?” Yachimovich wrote in a Facebook post.
“And how to integrate this challenge with the new challenge: to cut to the right? Here! We’ve found the answer! Kibbutzim-left-wing-Breaking the Silence — all smell like juicy prey.”
Yachimovich noted that nearly 100 percent of kibbutz youth enlist in the IDF, and that “the percentage of those who join combat units is above and beyond their percentage in the population, as is the number of plots they occupy in military cemeteries.” She added that besides Breaking the Silence, members of the right-leaning NGO My Truth — which seeks to challenge the narratives propounded by Breaking the Silence — were invited to speak at the kibbutz movement’s convention as well.
“It turns out that there are those who count on the youth to open their eyes and ears to a full range of opinions, and formulate their own moral position,” Yachimovich wrote. “But what need does [Lapid] have for facts?”
Breaking the Silence angered many Israelis when it published a report in May accusing the IDF of having caused an unprecedented number of civilian casualties through indiscriminate force during last year’s summer war between Israel and the Gaza Strip-based terrorist group Hamas. The IDF responded to the rights group’s report by saying it was “committed to properly investigating” all claims against it, but also cautioned that Breaking the Silence’s method of gathering evidence was “faulty.”
Since the NGO was founded in 2004 by soldiers who served in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, it has regularly locked horns with Israeli political leaders and military brass, who accuse it of harming Israel’s image abroad.
Gaza-based sources claimed 2,100 Palestinians were killed and tens of thousands more left homeless as the IDF battled against Hamas in the coastal enclave. Israel, which lost 66 soldiers and six civilians in the conflict, maintains that the high civilian death toll in Gaza was due to fighters there embedding their military infrastructure in residential areas.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.