Jewish Agency chairman and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky said Tuesday that the anti-occupation organization Breaking the Silence is collaborating with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
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Addressing the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, Sharansky said that the group, which collects testimonies about human rights violations from combat soldiers who have served in the occupied territories, “is not a human rights organization but a BDS organization.”
Breaking the Silence, which has been at the center of a public storm in recent weeks, has repeatedly expressed its opposition to BDS and denied any connections to the movement.
Sharansky, a former "Prisoner of Zion" who spent nine years in a Soviet jail, was particularly critical of the organization for taking its grievances abroad.
“We must have had more respect for the authorities in the Soviet Union because whenever we had complaints about human rights violations there, we would publish them abroad, but at the same time, we would make the Soviet authorities aware of them and demand that they investigate them fully,” he said.
Breaking the Silence maintains that it does bring its complaints to Israeli authorities but these are largely ignored, and for that reason it has no choice but to air its grievances outside the country.
Sharansky was addressing a special session of the Knesset committee on global anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel. While attacking Breaking the Silence, he also voiced criticism of a controversial new bill that would regulate organizations just like it that receive funding from foreign governments.
“I don’t understand how that law will help us fight Breaking the Silence,” said Sharansky. “If, for example, Breaking the Silence doesn’t get money from abroad but rather from a donor in Israel – does that make it a human rights organization? Of course not. “
Referring to Breaking the Silence, he called on all those organizations engaged in Israeli public diplomacy efforts “to fight against those who try to use the flag of human rights to slander the State of Israel.”