Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday that he has forbidden Breaking the Silence activists from taking part in activities involving Israeli soldiers, saying they tarnish the Israeli army's reputation. The news came as Israel's President President Reuven Rivlin rejected criticism of his decision to speak at a Haaretz conference that also featured representatives from the group of former IDF soldiers that give testimony about their experiences in the occupied territories.
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In explaining his announcement, Ya'alon wrote that "If Breaking the Silence were really concerned about our morals, as we are concerned, they would be working directly with the IDF, instead of tarnishing the face of our soldiers abroad,"
Ya'alon said in a tweet on Sunday that the organization "had malicious motives and we will harshly fight such movements."
Breaking the Silence responded that "Ya'alon, a government minister, has crossed every red line of a democratic society when he decided lash out a group of soldiers who served in the [occupied] territories. For over 11 years, more than 1,000 soldiers from all branches of the IDF and all walks of Israeli society are sharing their personal testimonies, which have been investigated, vetted and okayed by military censorship, just to say out loud and with pride, without fear, what they did in the [occupied] territories during their army service."
The group said their organization would continue to work to preserve Israel's "safe existence" as a democracy. "[Ya'alon] has appointed himself minister of intimidation and silencing when he joined the incitement campaign being raged in recent months by right wing organizations again the Israeli democracy and anyone who dares call for an end to the occupation and the settlement enterprise."
Meretz chairperson Zehava Galon came to the defense of Breaking the Silence, accusing Ya'alon of practicing "McCarthyism" and saying the defense minister was uncomfortable with the fact that the IDF does not have a "monopoly on the information that comes out of the territories regarding the wrongful actions of the army."
Galon accused the defense minister of legitimizing incitement against a "transparent and serious" organization and the soldiers that participate in it.