Jerusalem, Israel – Over the past few weeks, the Israeli government has gone on the offensive against human rights groups who have publicized allegations against Israel for many months, without any concerted Israeli response.
One of these rights groups which gained attention of late has been “Breaking the Silence”.
This Israeli group held a press conference on April 1, 2009 in Sderot, one mile from Gaza, in which they announced that the British government had financed them to survey more than 1000 Israeli soldiers who had taken part in last December/January Israeli military incursion into Gaza, in order to “find evidence of Israeli war crimes against Gaza civilians”
An organization known as the Rabbis for Human Rights facilitated funding from the Spanish government to hold a conference this past Wednesday in which the Breaking the Silence organization promised to bring about thirty testimonies of Israeli soldiers who had witnesses crimes against Gazan civilians.
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Rabbis for Human Rights had claimed that it had brought such testimonies to the attention of the Israeli army. However, the Israeli army spokes man issued a strong statement, saying that “testimonies were never presented” to the Israeli army from Rabbis for Human Rights or from “Breaking the silence:”
Neither were testimonies brought to the Wednesday conference – only anonyms statements by Israeli soldiers that they had heard of abuse of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers.
However, the damage was done, and the impression left by the Rabbis for Human Rights in the world media is that Israel must have conducted atrocities against civilians in Gaza.
Most importantly, some board members of the Rabbis for Human Rights have reacted with disappointment that the “Breaking the Silence” group, after all of its publicity, could not and would not provide even one affidavit from an Israeli soldier who witnessed any atrocity by an Israeli soldier.
At the same time, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the British Ambassador to Israel to express Israel’s “outrage” at the UK sponsorship for the “Breaking the Silence:” campaign.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has issued an internet accessible 164 page report, “The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects”, which examines the biases of non-government organizations that have been issuing reports against Israel since the recent conflict.
On the central issue of how Palestinians used civilians as human shields, this Israeli government report noted that prominent human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, claimed to have no evidence of Hamas’ utilization of this practice.
The Israeli report also quoted Hamas operatives who openly bragged that they had launched rocket attacks from schools.
The report also described incidents “in which Hamas activists requested children to wheel carts laden with rockets, in case IDF forces noticed them.”
Numerous examples are provided, including televised speeches of a Hamas legislator who encouraged women, children and the elderly to use their bodies to protect Hamas military sites against Israeli attack.