On May 3 and 4, J Street U held an exhibition of photos by an Israeli non-governmental organization called Breaking the Silence, whose goal is to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.” I applaud its desire to better Israeli society, but I do not feel the same about the accusations that have come out about the organization.
BtS has been accused of libel and manipulation. For example, BtS co-founder Yehuda Shaul was caught on film telling a tour group that settlers in the West Bank poisoned Palestinian wells, a biased claim which was later completely debunked. Many Israeli soldiers have come out claiming that their testimonies were recorded without their permission, falsified, or taken out of context. The organization has also refused to submit any of its information to a military prosecutor in order for its claims to be checked; while much of the material is protected by source confidentiality, some is not — and BtS has not released any of it. This is suspect for an organization that claims to want to reform Israeli society, and particularly to reform the ways of the Israeli army.
I have no interest in censoring Breaking the Silence; it has every right to speak to students about its views. But students must question the validity of what they hear. And if we are to truly better the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, we cannot rely on anything but the facts.
Contributed by Princeton University CAMERA Fellow Leora Eisenberg.
This article was originally published at the Daily Princetonian, Princeton University’s campus paper.
This extended version of this article was republished in the Huffington Post on May 16th.