Netanyahu Assails Group That Alleged IDF Wrongdoing in Gaza

Premier launched scathing attack against Breaking the Silence, an NGO comprised of IDF veterans.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a scathing attack on Tuesday against a leftist human rights organization comprised of Israeli army veterans who have collected testimonies from soldiers who served in the Palestinian territories.

The group, Breaking the Silence, caused a stir after it commissioned a report in which unnamed Israel Defense Forces soldiers alleged that Palestinians were used as "human shields" during Operation Cast Lead.

The organization receives financial assistance from a number of European Union governments, an issue that has recently become a diplomatic bone of contention in Jerusalem.

In a briefing to reporters who are accompanying Netanyahu on his trip to Europe, the prime minister said he expects all European governments to cease aid to groups of this kind.

"They are breaking their silence about the only democracy in the Middle East that has an independent legal system and an investigative press that does not cease dealing with these issues," Netanyahu told reporters shortly after his meeting Tuesday with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose government is one of the group's donors.

"There is no silence to break," the prime minister said angrily. "What are they talking about?"

Netanyahu criticized non-government organizations like Breaking the Silence and others for not documenting human rights violations in the Gaza Strip and other Arab countries.

"Why don't they break the silence over what is happening in some of the regimes in the Middle East?" Netanyahu said. "Let them do it in places in which there is silencing of others, like the Hamas regime in Gaza."

"In the case of Hamas, I have not seen the same enthusiasm and the same concerted effort to break the silence over what is happening in Gaza," the prime minister added.

The Foreign Ministry is lobbying European governments, including those of Holland, Spain, and Britain, to cut off its funding of the group's activities. Israel says foreign funding of the group is tantamount to interference in the country's internal affairs.

During his meeting with Brown, Netanyahu raised a number of sensitive issues, including efforts by some in Britain to charge IDF officers with war crimes for actions in the Palestinian territories.

"This is something that does not go hand in hand with morality and clear logic," Netanyahu told Brown. "Israel, like Britain, is fighting terrorism and is exercising its right to self-defense. There is no place for accusing IDF officers just as no one can accuse British officers operating in Afghanistan or Iraq. Ultimately, these things will also hurt [the British]."

Netanyahu urged the British leader to support legislation that would prevent legal action against IDF officers. Brown did not make any promises, telling Netanyahu noncommittally that he would look into the matter.

The premier also demanded that Brown publicly and clearly repudiate attempts to impose an academic boycott against Israel. On this issue, too, Brown was noncommittal.

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