Ad Kan report exposes "Breaking the Silence's lies"

According to report, lies about IDF include claims soldiers fired at civilians, buried an elderly man alive, and damaged property for fun.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Breaking the Silence
Breaking the Silence
Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90

The ‘Ad Kan’ Organization published a comprehensive report last week exposing what they defined as "lies" spread by the Breaking the Silence operation after Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Breaking the Silence’s campaign, which attracted international attention, was based on a collection of 111 anonymous testimonies. As a result of these testimonies IDF officers and soldiers were investigated for possible war crimes.

In the end, the Military Police’s investigations into the incidents were closed and the soldiers were found innocent. Nonetheless, Breaking the Silence continued to publicize these testimonies even after the investigation found them to be false. Recently, ‘Ad Kan’ and two of the soldiers investigated by the Military Police filed suit for 3.8 million NIS against Breaking the Silence for libel and for the damage to their good names. Now, ‘Ad Kan’ is releasing for the first time, the complete results of their investigation which highlights the lies and internal contradictions of the testimonies published by Breaking the Silence.

Ad Kan’s report focuses on several incidents publicized by Breaking the Silence and emphasizes the incredulity of the alleged incidents. Moreover, the publication of these incidents demonstrates Breaking the Silence’s failure to carry out any fact-checking of the testimonies. Among the issues identified by Ad Kan include testimonies that contradict one another, cases where the witnesses later admitted under police interrogation that they weren’t even present at the alleged incidents, and accusations that Breaking the Silence systematically altered testimonies in order to reach their desired conclusions.

In May 2015, Breaking the Silence launched a campaign that quickly became one of the top stories in Israeli media and garnered international attention. The campaign included 111 testimonies, including 11 testimonies about specific incidents that could be verified by an external source. Over the years since then, Ad Kan gathered undercover information until reaching the soldiers in the various units involved in the anonymously reported incidents mentioned by Breaking the Silence.

The testimonies focused on two main areas of fighting: two artillery soldiers testified about incidents near Dir Al Balach and soldiers in the Nachal Infantry Brigade discussed incidents in Beit Hanoun.

Yaron Zeev, an artillery soldier whose testimony was published anonymously by Breaking the Silence, described how he and fellow soldiers intentionally fired from their tank at innocent civilians for no operational reason. He described this as being “like playing a video game.” According to him, they fired at civilian targets with no intelligence information, shelled civilian buildings in memory of a fellow soldier who was killed, and drove over civilian vehicles for no reason.

Following the publication of this testimony, Yaron and his fellow soldiers were investigated by the Military Police. There, it became clear that the alleged incidents never happened and that many of them could not have happened based on the construction of the tank and the weapons with which it was equipped. Zeev himself admitted under interrogation that the testimony he gave to Breaking the Silence was not truthful and that as a soldier inside the tank, he only saw a small part of what happened on the ground. Moreover, he admitted that he was never involved in the receiving of intelligence information and thus would have no knowledge of whether there was intelligence on a particular target. Lastly, he admitted that he was never the one to make decisions about opening fire.

During his interrogation, Zeev further described how Breaking the Silence systematically edited his testimony, “They simply removed or cutout the parts about how the platoon prepared to open fire.” He also stated to the Military Police investigator, “I must also mention that Breaking the Silence cutout and edited the testimony in order to extract the parts that were most relevant for them.”

Regarding the second set of incidents, Breaking the Silence published three testimonies, including five different version of an event where an elderly Palestinian man approached IDF soldiers in a suspicious manner and was killed. This took place in Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The testimonies were each published separately and attempted to conceal the details of the unit that was responsible. This was seemingly done so that a reader of the testimonies would consider them to be multiple incidents that demonstrate a pattern rather than just a single incident. The testimonies claimed that IDF soldiers verified the killing of an elderly Palestinian Arab man, buried him while he was still alive through the use of a digger, shot him multiple times after he was neutralized, denied him medical care, and more.

‘Ad Kan’ identified the relevant unit and questioned over a dozen soldiers and officers who were present at the incident to understand what happened. From the statements by the soldiers and officers, it appears that the soldiers responded properly to the incident and followed the established protocols. The soldiers were even praised after the fact by their commanders for their response.

The chronology of the events is as follows. A Palestinian Arab man approached the soldiers in a suspicious manner and did not stop even after been told to stop in Arabic and after shots were fired in the air. Even after he was shot in the legs, he behaved in a manner that led soldiers to believe he could be attempting to detonate an explosive device. After the man was neutralized, an IDF commander endangered his own life by checking, without protective gear, whether the man was booby-trapped with an explosive device. This was done so that a medic could provide care for the injured man. Only after an IDF doctor established that the man had died was it decided to bury him in the field by covering his body.

One of the witnesses who was interrogated by the Military Police, told the interrogator that the testimonies published by Breaking the Silence about the event were untrue and contradicted one another. ‘Ad Kan’ is also revealing now that the entire event was captured on video by a camera in the helmet of a soldier belonging to an elite unit that was present for the incident. The video shows that the testimonies published by Breaking the Silence do not accurately describe what happened in any way. These false testimonies published by Breaking the Silence led to multiple soldiers and officers being investigated through no fault of their own.

Breaking the Silence’s campaign also led to international outcry and damaged the international standing of the State of Israel. Currently, as the International Criminal Court looks into investigating Israel for war crimes in Gaza, it is quite possible that this decision is based upon the false testimonies published by Breaking the Silence. Similar false accusations by Breaking the Silence were ultimately included in the UN’s Goldstein Report about Cast Lead in 2009, and the UN Schabas report about Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.

Furthermore, following Breaking the Silence’s publication of these testimonies about Operation Protective Edge, the organization began receiving increased donations from European governments enabling it to double its budget. As has been previously published, Breaking the Silence has signed contracts with foreign governments to provide them with potentially classified testimony from IDF soldiers.

The ‘Ad Kan’ Organization emphasized, “Had Breaking the Silence made an effort to thoroughly fact-check the testimonies, or at least not manipulated and altered them, they would have reached the conclusion that there was nothing to tell. We were easily able to identify the lies and reach the truth by simply carrying out a legitimate investigation. The lies and distortions that Breaking the Silence tells about the State of Israel have tremendously damaged Israel as a whole, and these soldiers in particular.

“We hope that instead of mistakenly entrusting Breaking the Silence, soldiers will report any incidents to the proper authorities within the IDF so that they can be investigated, and the truth can be uncovered. Breaking the Silence took advantage of the naivete of soldiers in order to carry out an international campaign to besmirch Israel. While the damage has been done, we expect Breaking the Silence to remove the false testimonies from their publications and hope that the Courts will rule in favor of the soldiers who were harmed by Breaking the Silence’s lies”.