Two more retired high-ranking security officials on Tuesday signed on to a campaign expressing support for Breaking the Silence, a controversial NGO that collects testimony from Israeli veterans of alleged human rights abuses within the army.
In an ad in the liberal Haaretz daily titled “I too am breaking my silence,” former Shin Bet security service director and navy commander Maj. Gen. (res.) Ami Ayalon, and retired Northern District police chief Deputy Commissioner (ret.) Elik Ron wrote that Breaking the Silence, which is at the center of a fierce debate on the limits of free speech in Israel, strengthens the IDF and its morality.
“In the difficult conditions forced upon the IDF, the army must fight day in and day out to promote and maintain a high level of morality,” the ad read. “Breaking the Silence protects IDF soldiers in the impossible place in which politicians have abandoned them. The instructions to silence Breaking the Silence harm and weaken the IDF.”
Much of the text was taken from a similar ad published under the same title by retired Major General Amiram Levin last Friday.
The message included a call for the army to support the organization, but also a jab at the group’s international activity: “The IDF must support Breaking the Silence and those like it in making their voice heard without fear in the IDF and in Israeli society (and only in the IDF and in Israeli society).”
Ayalon and Ron also personalized their messages, making them relevant to their respective experiences in the security forces.
“As someone who was a fighter and a commander in the IDF, and today as a citizen who believes that the IDF is a moral army only as long as fighters serving in it tell about what they saw with their own eyes, I am breaking my silence,” wrote Ayalon, who also served as a member of Knesset for the Labor Party from 2006 to 2009.
Referring to his service and command of special forces units in the army and the police, Ron wrote that he is “sure that in this way, the IDF can prove a high level of openness and morality — and therefore, I break my silence.”
Another former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin, last week wrote on Facebook that while he was opposed to Breaking the Silence’s activity abroad, “they provide another, important mirror to our actions.”
“Even if they can make us angry, even if they are sometimes inaccurate or don’t do their jobs correctly – their contribution is very important,” Diskin wrote of the group’s activists.
Last week, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said he would ban the group from appearing in Israeli schools, while Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said 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 last 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.
The channel, which is state-licensed, 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 event that “no other army in the world is as moral as the IDF.”