Backtracking, Minister Ya'alon Says Breaking the Silence Isn't Committing Treason

Defense minister however says that gathering of military information by anti-occupation organization is a security offense.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, February 2016.
Emil Salman

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday qualified a previous statement attacking the Breaking the Silence organization slightly, saying that gathering military secrets is not treason unless they are passed onto the enemy.

He asserted that Breaking the Silence, an NGO founded by IDF veterans, and the soldiers who had provided it with testimony had committed information security offenses.

On Monday Ya'alon said that the questions the organization asks soldiers that relate to militaty secrets constitute treason, whether the information is publicized or remains in the hands of the group. 

“When this information is maintained somewhere by an unauthorized organization it is a security offense,” Ya’alon said during an interview with Army Radio on Thursday. “If this information is also passed along to an enemy, it’s treason.”

When asked specifically about how he worded his statement on Monday, he replied, “I did not tie it to treason. I said that it is an offense, an offense regarding information security.”

Ya’alon said the NGO “acts according to a clear political interest against the occupation,” and that a report by Channel 2 revealed that the questions the organization was asking soldiers providing testimony about their military service were not authorized.

“A soldier who spoke about it also has no authority and may not provide the information, even a discharged soldier,” he said. “This information, when it is stored somewhere by an unauthorized body, is stored somewhere unprotected.”

When asked again if Breaking the Silence were committing treason, he answered, “We are looking into the matter.” He asserted, “Based on an initial examination, much of their information was indeed disqualified by the censor, they collected information without permission or authorization.” Ya’alon added there is a need “also to check the people who provided this unauthorized information.”

Ya’alon stressed that he was not seeking to silence the NGO. “I am not calling to outlaw the organization,” he said. “It is their right to express themselves. They can oppose my policy. I am prepared to argue with them. However, such behavior is obviously unacceptable.”

Breaking the Silence commented that Ya’alon was forced to admit publicly that soldiers who oppose the occupation by speaking out are not spies or traitors and do not hold any state secrets.

“After Ya’alon took back his dangerous, politicized and embarrassing accusation that Breaking the Silence is a bunch of traitors, it is only a matter of time until Ya’alon will be forced to take back as well the feeble charge of holding information,” the organization stated. “Breaking the Silence works in deference to the censor and its orders for over 10 years, and does commit any information offense.

"Breaking the Silence are soldiers and fighters, citizens of the State of Israel, who oppose the occupation and fight the far-rightwing government’s occupation policy, for the sake of the State of Israel.”