‘Breaking the Silence’ Now Banned from Schools, Bennett Says

YERUSHALAYIM -
IDF tunnel
MK Naftali Bennett. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Education Minister has banned speakers from “Breaking the Silence” from all schools, even if parents approve such events. A letter sent to parents of students in the Harduf high school district by the Northern District Office of the Education Ministry made clear the new policy.

A report in Yisrael Hayom said that the letter was sent in the wake of a meeting that was set for twelfth grade students at that school several weeks ago, but was broken up by school administrators. The meeting was set to take place as part of a symposium on the Israel-Arab conflict. Parents protested the school’s shutdown of the meeting. The report quoted parents as saying that “to the best of our knowledge, Breaking the Silence is not an illegal organization. It is not the job of the Education Ministry to act as a censor.”

Meanwhile, soldiers in the IDF unit in which leftist activist Dean Issacharoff served told Yediot Acharonot that they were considering suing Issacharoff for slander, after prosecutors closed a case against him for beating a Palestinian when he served as an IDF reserve soldier. “We knew he was lying,” the soldiers said. “In the wake of the case, we gathered all the soldiers and investigated the situation, on the off chance that something may have happened, something that our commanders missed. But it never happened. He simply lied and defamed us and now we are considering suing him for the damages he caused us. We served in Chevron, in Operation Protective Edge, and we always acted in as respectable a manner as possible given the circumstances, and that means no hitting, and certainly no torturing.”

Issacharoff is a spokesperson for the far-left Breaking the Silence organization. In a video that was released by Breaking the Silence earlier this year, Issacharoff is seen describing an incident in Chevron in which he abused an unarmed Palestinian, as an IDF officer serving reserve duty four years ago. Soldiers, including Issacharoff, were trying to arrest the Palestinian, who was resisting in a non-combative manner. “My commander asked me to handcuff the suspect, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do. He didn’t speak Hebrew and I didn’t speak Arabic. So I grabbed him by the neck and began kicking him in the face and the chest, until he was bleeding.” The point of the video was to show the “corrupting influences of the occupation on IDF soldiers,” Breaking the Silence said.

However, the only corruption in the video was that of Issacharoff who testified about his crimes, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said at the time, and an investigation was opened into the matter. Nearly six months after the story was first published, State Attorney Shai Nitzan said Thursday that the case was being closed due to a lack of evidence. A key figure in the decision to close the case was the Palestinian who was allegedly the victim of Issacharoff’s alleged violence, Hassan Jolani, who testified that the events Issacharoff described never happened.

This was despite Issacharoff’s insistence in questioning by police and prosecutors that he had indeed beaten a Palestinian in February 2014. But that did not impress investigators. “Based on the lack of evidence we find Issacharoff’s claims to be false, and there is no blame here in his actions.” In the wake of the dismissal of charges, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a social media post that the case proves that “Breaking the Silence lies and spreads bad rumors about our soldiers. In the wake of this case we received another proof of this.” Commenting on the decision, Shaked said that “it appears that the Breaking the Silence spokesperson is a liar who seeks to defame Israel to the world. I have true respect for the members of his unit who were not prepared to join him in his lies.”

“Dean caused us terrible damage,” the soldiers said. “We were very hurt by this. Friends and family accused us, and we had to explain that it never happened, and we were not always successful.”

In a statement, Breaking the Silence said that it was “not surprised” by the decision. “What started as a political order by the Justice Minister to investigate this matter has ended with a political decision by the State Prosecutor. Shai Nitzan has turned into a political tool of the Justice Minister. It is clear that if this case had reached the courts, the real truth would have emerged.”