Is the New Group That Shows the IDF as Do-gooders All It Seems?

New movement, Zionists Breaking the Silence, is a response to groups who criticize the IDF, but others stand to benefit.

At the beginning of this year, the French Supreme Court accepted a petition submitted by Dr. Yehuda David, an Israeli physician who had previously been convicted of slandering a former patient, named Jamal al-Dura.

This was yet another round in the legal battle that has been ongoing since an interview David granted to a French journal about four years ago. In it, he said that all the wounds displayed by Jamal in front of the television cameras after his son Mohammed had been killed - at the Netzarim Junction in Gaza, in September 2000 - resulted from an operation David himself had performed on the father eight years earlier, and not as a result of the shooting incident in which Mohammed was killed.

After David’s acquittal in the court, the Israel Hayom freebie celebrated the victory.

“Dr. Yehuda David went all the way with his truth. The Supreme Court in France decided: He was right, and the father of the child Mohammed al-Dura was lying,” the paper declared.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contacted David to congratulate him, and said this was “an Israeli victory over the series of stories told by Palestinian propaganda [sources], which is spreading all over the world.”
A few days later, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a recommendation to provide financial assistance to Israeli citizens who fight for our national honor in the courts.

For all the celebration, anyone who reads the French ruling will discover that the court did not really maintain that David’s version was correct. “The evidence does not enable us to determine perfectly and unequivocally that the wounds from which the man suffered were caused prior to 2000,” wrote the judges.

The French court had the impression that “Dr. David’s words were said in good faith, based on the data in his possession,” and ruled that this was acceptable within the context of freedom of expression.

Riding the waves of his controversial acquittal, David recently announced his intention to run in the Knesset elections for the Habayit Hayehudi party. This campaign has been accompanied by the launching of a new movement, Zionists Breaking the Silence, which David is making every effort to claim is not connected to his political ambitions.

According to David, the movement is “apolitical” and only “seeks to expose the true face of Israel Defense Forces soldiers and the defense establishment.” He says his decision to form the new group was the result of an exhibition and the launch of a new book by Breaking the Silence - a movement involving Israeli soldiers who speak out about their service in the occupied territories. The book and exhibition were launched about a month ago in Berlin, and David feels they aim “to reinforce the connotation that an IDF soldier is equal to a Nazi soldier.”

The launch of the Zionists Breaking the Silence campaign, headquartered in the Zionist Organization of America premises in Tel Aviv, was accompanied by an exhibition of photos in which IDF soldiers are shown helping Palestinians or making humanitarian gestures toward them. Two billboards with similar messages - in the Tel Aviv Port and on the Ayalon Highway - were also erected as part of the movement’s launch. David says he received most of the pictures in the exhibition from the IDF Spokesman’s Office. However, judging by the reaction in that office, he apparently passed himself off as a private individual and didn’t bother to tell the staff that he needed the photos for a political campaign.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office says: “The request was presented to us as the request of a private individual and not for an organization. The person was sent materials from various humanitarian events, such as IDF assistance in Haiti and Japan, and trucks bringing assistance to Gaza. An investigation of the request found no connection between David and the Zionists Breaking the Silence organization.”

The response of the director general of Breaking the Silence, Dana Golan: “The result of initiatives of this kind is that additional soldiers are choosing to testify before us regarding the situation to which they were exposed during service in the territories. I thank Yehuda David for the wave of new members joining [our] organization.”


Daniel Bar-On