06 August 2008

07 August 2008 - Breaking the Silence: Send Money

Three times in the past several days I have received emails from Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that leads tours through Hebron and spreads tales of Israeli atrocities far and wide.

The emails, which were evidently sent to the group's open mailing list, report that the Israel Defence Force has blocked the group for several weeks from entering Hebron by issuing a military decree. They go on to add that the organization has appealed the decree to the Israeli Supreme Court, and asks recipients "for your support in this important struggle."

What kind of support, you might ask? Signatures on a petition? Protests or public demonstrations? Letters to the Israeli government or Israel's overseas representatives?

No, none of these--only money:

"This moral struggle is also a legal one and as such demands great resources....

"Donations can be by checks made out to "Breaking the Silence"..."

Now, this kind of appeal is the kind of thing advocacy groups do all the time in the constant and necessary hunt for cash. And Breaking the Silence is not running some kind of racket--they don't charge for their tours. (They didn't for mine, anyway.)

But the interesting fact here is that they have been operating tours in the past several weeks despite the military decree.

This would explain the fact that some of the guides were arrested by the IDF during the recent tour of Hebron conducted for the South African human rights delegation--a fact that was reported without appropriate context by journalists at the time, as if the guides were being punished merely for trying to tell their story to the world.

If BTS knowingly led foreigners into a closed military area, they have themselves to blame for the arrests; if they deliberately courted arrest to make a political point, they should have said so. They also could have caused harm to their guests or to others.

Did the South Africans know they were breaking the law? They may not have cared anyway--some may have enjoyed it more if they knew they were--but there's no denying that the decree has legal force under the international law of occupation, as long as it has a valid security justification. Presumably this justification is what BTS is challenging, but it ought to have challenged the decree first before marching civilians into a conflict zone.

Unless, of course, they knew exactly what they were doing, and hoped the arrests would have the maximum propaganda effect on their visitors. Or their donors.


At 4:16 PM, Anonymous An Israeli said...

Military decrees are standard operating procedure in the Territories. They are issued like candy, sometimes with a security justification, a lot of times without, as a means to silence protest by Israelis and Palestinians and a show of support for Palestinians by Israelis.

Just about a week ago Ha'aretz reported that Gabi Ashkenazy, the Israeli Chief of Staff, admitted that there's no security pretext for the Separation Wall around the settlement of Tzofin, and that the reason for the wall was so the settlement could expand. As a result, he said that the military should not be involved in the outline of the wall because it's a political, not a military decision.

When the highest military official admits to something like that, and when the cost of relocating that segment of the wall is estimated around 50 million NIS, one doesn't have to make such a giant leap to see that "regular" decrees are often without any substantive merit, just like the decree regarding visitors to Hebron.


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