NGO under probe after reportedly gathering classified information on IDF

The logo of the NGO Breaking the Silence. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

( The controversial left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence is under investigation for reportedly attempting to glean classified information from former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Breaking the Silence actively worked to place people in classified units in the IDF in order to gather information that it could use in its activities against “the occupation.” Additionally, activists from the group interviewed IDF veterans on issues related to military secrets, and not human rights.

Channel 2 gained the information about the group using hidden camera footage filmed by activists from the right-wing NGO Ad Kan.

Breaking the Silence has long been controversial in Israel. The NGO attempts to expose alleged IDF human rights abuses in the disputed territories by using testimonies of former IDF veterans.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said security officials are now investigating Breaking the Silence’s actions.

“Breaking the Silence has crossed another red line,” Netanyahu said. “The defense establishment’s investigative bodies are looking into the issue.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the IDF has opened an investigation into whether or not Breaking the Silence had gained classified information from former soldiers. 

In a statement translated from Hebrew, Breaking the Silence said regarding investigation that "the prime minister has turned Israel's security service into a political tool, and this is the real and dangerous cross of a red line that needs to be investigated. The prime minister's attempt to shut the organization down and to hurt soldiers who oppose the occupation needs worry anyone who is concerned about the future of the state of Israel."

Yet Breaking the Silence’s alleged actions have been criticized by lawmakers from across the political spectrum in Israel.

Israeli Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze'ev Elkin (Likkud) said that he is “disturbed by the findings” by Channel 2 and that the activity as presented has “nothing to do with an ideological debate about what is happening in Judea and Samaria.” Instead, there is “grave concern that Breaking the Silence was used as a spy mechanism against the IDF, and this requires immediate investigation…and if needed prosecutor of those who are guilty,” said Elkin.

MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) echoed this sentiment, saying that “instead of the declared operation of human rights activism,” Breaking the Silence is engaging in “subversive activity of the collection of classified and sensitive intelligence information” that is gathered for an unknown entity and for an unknown purpose.

“This organization has long ago crossed the line between legitimate criticism and destructive activity that blackens Israel in the world. These guys have lost the right to speak in the name of morality,” said Shmuli.

Posted on March 18, 2016 .