Author of IDF ethics code said helping break ‘Breaking the Silence’

Author of IDF ethics code said helping break ‘Breaking the Silence’

Asa Kasher said to donate $123,000 to two organizations that campaign against controversial IDF testimony-collecting group

Asa Kasher attends a conference at the Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, June 11, 2017. (Flash90)
Asa Kasher attends a conference at the Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, June 11, 2017. (Flash90)

A nonprofit organization founded by the author of the Israel Defense Forces’ ethical code has reportedly donated $123,000 to two organizations dedicated to fighting the left-wing organization Breaking the Silence.

Prof. Asa Kasher, who was awarded the Israel Prize for his work on philosophy in 2000, told the Haaretz newspaper, “I support educational activity which rejects Breaking the Silence’s modus operandi.”

Kasher created the Yehoraz Association NGO in memory of his son Yehoraz, an IDF major who died in 1991 after falling from a cliff during a hike in the Sinai desert.

According to Haaretz, financial statements from the Yehoraz Association reveal a gift of NIS 351,118 ($99,664) in 2015-2016 to Reservists on Duty and of NIS 87,000 ($23,000) in 2016 to My Truth.

Both organizations campaign against Breaking the Silence and seek to defend the reputation of IDF soldiers.

Breaking the Silence — an Israeli NGO that publishes the testimonies of former Israeli combat soldiers who report on human rights abuses allegedly committed by members of the IDF against Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — has raised the hackles of Israeli officials and drawn criticism from those who question the authenticity of its mostly anonymous testimonies.

Earlier this month, in a move that potentially paves the way for legal action against Breaking the Silence, the Knesset green-lighted in a preliminary vote an amendment to Israel’s defamation laws that would allow civil lawsuits against activists and organizations that malign Israeli soldiers and military activities.

Screen capture from video in which Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff described how he beat a passive Palestinian protester in Hebron, filmed at a rally in April, 2017. (YouTube/hakolhayehudi)

The vote followed a recent controversy over a confession given by Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff at a April 2017 rally that he beat a Palestinian “in the face and chest until he was bleeding and dazed” during his military service in the West Bank city of Hebron.

An investigation into the allegations saw prosecutors initially conclude that the incident never took place and that Issacharoff lied. But just two days later, Breaking the Silence released footage from the March 2014 episode that showed Issacharoff escorting a handcuffed Palestinian with bruises on his face. The NGO said that the Palestinian in the newly uncovered footage was not the same man that the police had interrogated in their case against the spokesman. Hadashot news subsequently tracked down Faisal el-Natche, the Hebron resident seen in the new footage, who confirmed Issacharoff’s version.

It was Reservists on Duty that provided a video in which members of Issacharoff’s unit claimed he fabricated the Hebron incident. However, the head of the organization later admitted that the comrades who appeared in the video calling Issacharoff a “liar” had not been present during the incident in question.

Kasher is also the author of a draft ethical code for Israel’s universities.

Head of the Jewish Home party Education Minister Naftali Bennett leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Last December, Education Minister Naftali Bennett asked Kasher to draw up a document laying down the lines for acceptable behavior by academic lecturers regarding political activism during teaching sessions.

Under the proposed code of ethics, which Kasher presented earlier this year, lecturers would be prohibited from promoting their political opinions during teaching sessions and from participating in, or calling for, support of academic boycotts against Israeli institutes, a measure that has been pushed by pro-Palestinian campaigners around the world.

The code also calls for academic institutes to establish a unit to monitor political activity on campus.

Haaretz quoted Kasher saying his code for the Education Ministry did not “bar academics from enjoying civil rights outside the university.”

In June, a committee of university heads said in a statement that the education minister, head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, was intent on “violating academic freedom.”

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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